Why I Love Modular Home Building by Tracen Gardner

Modular cabins in Texas? Yes, they work great for remote living needs. Site building can take forever to complete while modular cabins can be built quickly and relatively pain-free. Compared to site building, modular building is much quicker, requires a lot less energy, often times they are built better with more controls and oversight, and they are more flexible.

Modular Home by Reclaimed Space

Modular Home by Reclaimed Space

Building in remote locations can be difficult. The never-ending drive back and forth to the site. Every sub-contractor needs directions and possibly needs to be lead onto the ranch to find the actual build site. Every time the electrician has a question someone, usually the home owner, will have to drive to the site to discuss. Driving to the lumber yard for the forgotten 2x4 takes more time, more fuel, and personal energy. I started to build a cabin on my ranch, I had all the material in a container, and the site picked. Then I began to worry about how many weekends it would take me to "dry-in", how many times to meet sub-contractors, how many trips to the store, and realized it would be so much easier to make the trip once, with a complete cabin, built close to home.

Inside our build facility, loading a 14x28 model for delivery.

Inside our build facility, loading a 14x28 model for delivery.

When we build a modular home/cabin we typically visit the site 2 times before delivery, once for the initial consultation and site selection, and another time for final location and delivery route. All of our sub-contractors know where our build facility is located, they can easily send crews out to work without worrying about someone getting lost or stuck in a pasture.

All sub-contractors are supervised in a controlled environment. We are available for all design and building questions, our office is within shouting distance of our build facility, we can consult within minutes, in person, at the building. This saves innumerable mistakes and time. Because we are on site, we are able to do more quality inspections and make quicker design changes with better understanding.

A typical modular build takes 1 month to design (if needed) and under 2 months to complete. A site built home may take 6+ months to build, it will be exposed to all weather elements, and will have minimal oversight. We are able to build our homes on a clean concrete slab with a roof to shade and protect our men and materials. Ask any sub-contractor and they will assuredly tell you they would prefer to build under a roof than on an open field. The home would prefer to be built in a protected area as well, less environmental damage, and less concern about theft.

Reclaimed Space delivers a home to Marfa, Texas

Reclaimed Space delivers a home to Marfa, Texas

Modular building prevents damage to your site. The facility can easily handle all the trash and construction debris and dispose or recycle it properly. Because there is minimal site work associated with modular building, there will not be a huge mud pit around your home full of nails and plastic. Another advantage, much less traffic on your land, you will not have to repair your roads after the construction is finished.  There is no concern about who is on your property and when they may be out there.

The biggest advantage of a modular home over a site built home is it can be re-located. There are several reasons to move one, if it is a guest home that is sitting on the best location for the main house, if you change hunting leases, if you want sell it and keep the land, if you want to check out different potential building sites, and if you want to give it to your next generation. I also love not having all the concrete to worry about; removing concrete is costly. Our modular homes are pier and beam, wooden floors, and have a crawl space big enough for a person to do any needed mechanical, electrical, or plumbing repairs or additions.

When it comes to remote living needs, modular building seems to check off all the needs, wants, and requirements. It may cost a little more than a site built home, that is if you can find a qualified builder in your area, but the time that you save not having to drive so much, and the superior quality of construction makes up for the difference. 

Tracen Gardner on Tiny vs Small homes

I have noticed an increased social interest in Tiny Houses that made me think about some advantages and disadvantages of Tiny vs Small. My general assumption is that a Tiny House is @200sq.ft. or smaller, and probably on wheels. While a Small house is larger 200-1200sq ft. and sits on a foundation. 

Tiny vs Small 

Traditional "Tiny House"

Traditional "Tiny House"

Small Home by Reclaimed Space 

Small Home by Reclaimed Space 

The most obvious advantage to a tiny on wheels is the mobility they offer. Wheels under a house, how convenient if you plan to move it. I see stunning photos of tiny houses in the most beautiful settings but have yet to see one trucking down the road. I think most units find a good nest and stay put. So the mobility advantage could become a stability concern once your bird has landed in it's nest. Stabilizers, blocking, and wheel coverings are typically used to eliminate the "RV shake" and dress up your ride. I am always amazed by how many clever nooks and storage areas a person can create. Tinys tend to have lofts, which are cool but not always practical. Lofts make Tinys taller and less road-worthy. I am not a fan of the disproportionate heights some can grow. Seems to negate the advantages to being mobile, they struggle with crosswinds, height restrictions, and can have a general awkwardness of proportions that steal any hope of a true house-like appearance. No one wants to look like the Beverly Hillbillies rolling into town. Proportion and design is as important as functionality and cost savings.

Turn key or DIY?

Most people assume a tiny house is affordable, I always say, it is, if you DIY it. I have tried to price Tiny houses with the needed amenities and have always struggled to meet Tiny budgets. The amount of MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) required is the same as a Small home. The only cost difference is the amount of building material they require. Trailers are not cheap and usually require modifications that can be costly. To achieve tiny budget costing, the fixture and finish budget is always sacrificed. This usually means RV quality fixtures not installed by a pro. Once you trim quality from the project your home is quickly susceptible to depreciation. How many used Tinys have sold for anywhere close to their construction cost? None that I know. One thing I really like about Tinys, is how many young people I see building their own. For first time home owners, building a tiny is a great solution to today's rising entry home cost. It also gives invaluable experience in understanding construction principals and even real estate development. 

Advantages to going small

Small Modular Home by Reclaimed Space 

Small Modular Home by Reclaimed Space 

Some obvious advantages small homes have over Tinys. Permanent foundation, more space=more livable, transportable vs mobile, and they have a more traditional home appearance. Small homes tend to be finished with more stable foundations, set on piers or stem walls, some keep the skids and just block the corners (not preferred). They have a more "grounded" feel with less shake, and are less likely to be blown over in high winds.  The larger footprint allows for more traditional uses of space, less lofts and more dedicated bedrooms. Small houses have larger more equipped kitchens than Tinys. If you want to have interior space to entertain, Smalls always win. They have more opportunity for access to outdoor space. Most Tinys have only one entrance, maybe because they are on a trailer. Trailers are limited by weight on the amount of deck space a trailer can move. 

Even though this is in one of our smaller Reclaimed Spaces, this kitchen is complete and very usable.

Even though this is in one of our smaller Reclaimed Spaces, this kitchen is complete and very usable.

Interior of a small modular home by Reclaimed Space with a baby grand piano and seven foot sofa.

Interior of a small modular home by Reclaimed Space with a baby grand piano and seven foot sofa.

Transportable vs. mobile is an article by its self. A well built Small house can be moved many times, I shipped one from Austin to California, back to Austin, and then to a site overlooking the F-1 track. Another one was moved a total of 6 times in 2 years, both houses made it safely and had no structural or cosmetic issues or concerns.The cost to build a small is fractionally more than a tiny. Smalls do not require the purchase and modification of a trailer. This savings can be spent on foundation blocking, an eventual move or the needed move from the building location. My experience has shown me, that often times, Smalls are built better than Tinys. I find that most Smalls are constructed using industry standard materials and principals by licensed and insured MEP contractors. I say that because all the Tinys I have personally seen built were done completely by DIYers and their friends.

Food for thought

My preference is to build Small unless you see your home moving more than 6 times in the next 10 yrs. When you decide to build, always budget for licenced and insured MEP contractors for a longer house life expectancy. And remember, you are not "stuck" with a Small, it can be sold, it can become your guest home, mother-in-law, or be moved to your next hunting/land lease or purchased land.

These are just my thoughts, what do you think?

We Are Reclaimed Space

Hello, and welcome to our very first blog post! This is an exciting time for us to be able to share with all of you our knowledge and day to day tasks that we do here at Reclaimed Space. In addition to learning about Reclaimed Space, we hope to provide you with valuable information about sustainability, off-grid living and design. We hope you will find this blog both helpful and enjoyable! 

Let's get started with a formal introduction! Reclaimed Space is a custom modular home builder located in the heart of Texas (Lockhart, Texas to be exact). We've been in the business for over nine years, and have loved every moment of our time reclaiming and building cabins for clients all across the country. From studio spaces to commercial buildings, Reclaimed Space can build almost anything just for you! 

Owner Tracen Gardner and his K9 Lyla

Owner Tracen Gardner and his K9 Lyla

Founded by rancher and environmentalist, Tracen Gardner, Reclaimed Space began its humble beginnings from its mother company DIRTCO Construction. What began in 2007 as a unique project, eventually blossomed into the Reclaimed Space you see today. What we do is simple. We purchase, and or salvage, reclaimed materials such as barn wood, corrugated metal, shiplap, flooring and beadboard and use these materials to create had crafted modular structures that can be delivered anywhere in the United States. We'll talk more about how we salvage these materials and where you can find reclaimed materials of your own in future blog posts. Until next time!