Mobile Homes: A History

From the 1940s to the 1990s


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There’s some confusion these days about the politically correct term for houses that began their lives on wheels. Most people call everything from a house ­trailer to a double- or triplewide a “mobile home,” but the industry is trying to put the stigma associated with that phrase behind it. History holds the key to this identity crisis.

1940s: Eight-foot-wide house trailers provide homes for tens of thousands of transient workers and veterans returning from World War II. They’re built without government oversight, and quality varies widely.

Early 1950s: Ten-foot-wide version is dubbed the “mobile home” because it looks less like an aerodynamic car and more like a boxy house.

1960s: Doublewides debut.

1963: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) develops construction standards for mobile homes.

1973: Forty-five states have adopted the ANSI Standard.

1975: The term “manufactured homes” is coined as metal siding and roofing are replaced by wood siding and asphalt-shingle roofing to make the homes appear more like site- built homes.

1976: The first U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Code, “Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards,” sets minimum performance standards for roof strength, wind resistance, mechanical equipment, thermal ­performance, safety, and other construction details. It also divides the country into three climate zones and establishes insulation and window-type requirements for each zone.

1985: HUD adds code sections that set maximum formaldehyde emission standards for building products used in manufactured homes and requires that whole-house ventilation systems be provided as an option.

1994: The HUD Code is updated to include a revised thermal-zone map and increased insulation standards.

SOURCE: Your Mobile Home by John Krigger