Modular Buildings: Frequently Asked Questions

Modular FAQs

Have questions about modular buildings? Find out everything you need to know before you buy.

We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions from modular customers.

If you are going to spend the money to purchase a modular building, you want to know you’re getting a high-quality unit from a reputable supplier. Be an informed buyer.

permanent modular building

How is modular vs. conventional construction different?

A modular building is built in a controlled factory setting, while a conventional build is constructed onsite once the foundation has been poured. A modular building is delivered in pre-fabricated sections, known as modules, via flatbed truck and trailer to the site. Construction time is much faster with modular since site prep and production can occur simultaneously.

built in a factory

What are the benefits of modular?

It’s faster and cheaper than traditional construction. Modular construction typically takes HALF the time of traditional construction. That’s because there is no delay while waiting for the foundation to be poured and the framing to go up before construction of the building can begin.

Business owners appreciate the fact that they can have their business up and running in half the time and one-third of the cost that conventional construction requires.

Are modular materials lower quality than traditional materials?

Nope! There’s a common misconception that modular materials are cheaper, lighter in weight, and therefore, less sturdy. In the past, that may have been the case. But now, the modular industry is producing buildings of brick, steel, and concrete that are designed for permanent use. They are just as sturdy and high quality as those of a traditional build. The modules are actually designed with a higher level of precision and consistency because the process is in a controlled environment.

Is modular construction less expensive?

Yes. In most cases, a modular project is 10 to 20% less expensive than a stick build. But remember, just as with a traditional build, the fancier you get with custom features, the more you are going to pay.

How long does it take to complete a modular project?

It usually takes 30-50 days to design and build the modules at the factory. Once the modules have been delivered to the site, it can take as little as 3 to 5 days to complete construction (depending on the complexity of the design and the condition of the site).

modular versus site build construction schedule

What designs and floor plans can I choose from?

You can create or choose any design and floor plan you want. It’s up to you and the modular architect/builder you are working with. Modular floor plans can include all of the following: an apartment building, multi-family unit, multi-story unit or single unit.

What is the typical size of a module?

Modules usually range from 14 to 16 feet wide and 64 to 75 feet long. Some states have different requirements when it comes to size. But these sizes correlate with the maximum size a standard flatbed truck and trailer can accommodate.

How much should I expect to pay?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $100 a square foot. Keep in mind the complexity of your design, the materials you choose, and the custom features you add will increase your total price. Be sure to factor in additional costs such as site inspection and prep work, electrical and plumbing connections, and construction labor costs for your specific area.

Do I need to hire an architect to complete the project?

It depends on your modular supplier. In some cases, hiring a third party architect/builder is required (because they don’t have an in-house expert). But in other cases, some suppliers offer a turnkey service, where they handle the design, building, and installation process, from start to finish. Note: if you are responsible for choosing the architect/builder, make sure you find someone with modular building experience. The process is quite different from traditional construction.

modular with steps and ramp

What custom features are available?

The sky is the limit. Common custom features on modular buildings include awnings, shingles, large glass windows, decking, stairs, and landscaping. Architecturally, you can choose just about any style you want: contemporary, rustic, industrial, Victorian, Craftsmen, etc.

Is there a size limit for a modular structure?

No. Just as with a traditional construction, you can design your building to be as large as you want (with city approval, of course).

What work needs to be done once the modules arrive?

Typically, a modular building will arrive onsite 80 to 85% complete. The majority of the interior finish-out will be finished (walls, ceilings, paint, etc.) including the installation of all electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures. Windows, doors, trim, cabinetry and sometimes even appliances have also already been installed. It is mainly just the actual assembly of the modules left to complete. The modules are installed using a crane, which lifts and sets the structure on top of the foundation. Then, the roofing is erected and placed on top. All utility, electrical, and mechanical hookups are made. Then additional features such as stairs, ramps, porches or landscaping are completed. Depending on the size and scope of the design, the process can take as little as 3 to 5 days to complete.

delivery and assembly of a modular building

Is a permit required?

Yes. As with any traditional construction, a permit is required for a modular build.

The process looks like this: a design is drawn up. The plans are submitted to a third party engineering firm to ensure that the design is structurally sound. Once the design has been approved, it is submitted to the local building permit authorities.

Typically, your modular supplier will handle this process, but be sure to ask in advance. Permits can often delay construction time, so you want to get the process going as quickly as possible.

Can I add on to my current modular structure?

In most cases, yes. As long as a licensed modular builder/architect finds the existing structure to be structurally sound and feasible to add onto, you can create the addition you need.

What is the process for a modular project?

Once you have chosen a supplier you like, they will sit down with you to discuss design options. A good supplier will stay in constant communication with you throughout the process. If you decide to add certain features or make last minute changes, you want a supplier who will work to accommodate your specific needs.

What does the future of the modular industry look like?

According to experts in the industry, modular construction is booming and will continue to do so in the future. Because the process is faster and cheaper, it just makes more sense. Over time, as more and more builders adopt this model, the production process will be fine-tuned and will most likely become more automated, so that the process will be even faster and cheaper.

Have Questions?

For more detailed information on pricing, sizing, and custom options, read our Modular Building Buyer’s Guide.

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