Identification Keys

Identification Keys for Factory-Built Homes

By Ross Kinzler, Executive Director, Wisconsin Housing Alliance

Mobile Home: 
A mobile home was built prior to July 1, 1976. It is often constructed with a metal roof and metal siding although other siding and roofing materials may have been substituted in the years since construction.
Manufactured Home: A manufactured home is built to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A manufactured home may be built in one or more sections and will always have three distinctive components – a red label on each home section and a steel chassis under each home section. Wheels and axles are connected to the chassis for transportation.

(Note: The steel chassis may not be removed from the home.  However, some manufacturers utilize a truss floor system for homes going on basements in which the steel chassis is embedded inside the truss system.)

The third element is a data plate affixed inside the home on or near the main electrical breaker box and is printed on paper or foil stock 8½” x 11″ to 8½” x 14″ in size. This document will verify the following: Manufacturer’s Name, Trade/Model Name, Year of Manufacture, Serial Number, HUD Construction Code Label, and HUD Construction Zones. This is a metal label (RED in color) permanently attached to the rear exterior siding of each transportable section, per HUD Title 6 Regulations, effective June 15, 1976.

Modular Home:
A modular home in Wisconsin is built to the Wisconsin Uniform Dwelling Code (the state’s uniform code for one- and two-family dwellings). A modular home is generally built in two or more home sections and may be a one- or two- story home. A modular home is generally transported to the home site on a reusable carrier which has its own wheels and axles. It will have a seal bearing an emblem resembling the State of Wisconsin.
A Wisconsin modular home will also have a data plate which will disclose the information below. It’s location in the home is generally under the sink.

  1. Manufacturer’s name and address 
  2. Date of manufacture 
  3. Serial number of unit 
  4. Model designation 
  5. Identification of type of gas required for appliances and directions for water and drain connections 
  6. Identification of date of the codes or standards complied with 
  7. State insignia number 
  8. Design loads 
  9. Special conditions or limitations of unit 
  10. Electrical ratings; instructions and warnings on voltage, phase, size and connections of units and grounding requirements

Conformity to the one and two-family dwelling code and display of the state insignia also means the modular home (called a manufactured building in the statutes) is deemed to comply with all local building requirements except those related to zoning and siting. Section 101.75(2) provides:

(2) DISPLAY OF INSIGNIA REQUIRED. All manufactured buildings manufactured, sold for initial use or installed within this state shall display, in a manner determined by the department, the insignia issued or recognized under ss. 101.73 (7) and 101.74 (7). All manufactured buildings bearing such insignia shall be deemed to comply with the requirements of all building ordinances and regulations of any local government except those related to zoning and siting requisites including but not limited to building setback, side and rear yard requirements and property line requirements. 

Which Home is Better?
Which home is better, a modular home or a manufactured home? That question isn’t so easy. Generally, the materials used in any factory-built home are the same as those used in a site-built home. Every manufacturer has their own processes and techniques which they believe add value and quality to their homes. Low-, medium- and high-end homes exist in site-built, manufactured and modular homes.
A smart shopper will examine each manufacturer’s offerings to determine what is best for them. There is one sure thing – a factory built home which is designed and built to be first moved from the factory to the building site is inherently built stronger than any site-built home.