All About Skirting

A part of every mobile home is that material that visually connects the mobile home with the ground, and that material is called “skirting”. It’s a unique feature of the mobile home product, and no other form of housing shares this one trait. Sometimes made fun of as part of the park stereotype, it serves a useful purpose and every park owner needs to know it A to Z.

Its function

Skirting has several important functions on a mobile home:

  • It hides the unattractive “underbelly” of the home which includes insulation, the “straps” that hold it to the ground, and the blocks that the home sits on. It serves the same function as the case on a toaster, to give pleasant aesthetics and to hide what’s underneath.
  • It serves to reduce the likelihood of the pipes freezing by offering an important wind-block to these pipes as they come out of the ground.
  • It serves to give additional energy efficiency by maintaining a stable temperature under the home and reducing any likelihood of cold drafts coming in through the floor.

The basic names of the parts

Corrugated vinyl skirting (the industry norm) has four components:

  • Starter Strip. This is the piece that runs along the ground and is where the bottom of the skirting section goes.
  • Skirting. This is what goes between the starter strip and top rail.
  • Top Rail. This is what the top part of the skirting fits into.
  • Trim “Cap”. This is what covers the top rail and makes it more aesthetically pleasing.

    The options and cost

    There are many different options when skirting a mobile home:

    • Corrugated vinyl. This is the Cadillac of the industry as far as most park owners are concerned – the type of skirting that we have all come to expect on new homes. The estimated cost would be $500 for the skirting, and another $500 in labor to install it.
    • Patterned vinyl. This is above the expectations of most community owners or residents, but it comes in basically two styles: 1) brick or 2) stone. It is arguably better looking than corrugated vinyl but it overkill in many situations. It’s also significantly more expensive, coming in at round $1,000 just for the material.
    • Rigidwall insulated vinyl. This is required by some municipalities that want to make sure that the mobile home has the least likelihood of suffering frozen pipes, as this is essentially thick, insulated skirting with vinyl on the exterior and dense foam on the interior. It’s popular in some norther markets. It’s also more expensive, at around $1,000 for material cost alone.
    • Masonry. This is a decorate type of skirting that is incredibly expensive and typically only seen in some markets like Florida. It’s literally stone, brick or some other type of material that is held together with cement (as shown in the photo). The cost is in the thousands and it’s extremely rare for anyone to commit this must cost to skirting (plus it pretty much precludes the home ever being pulled out).
    • Metal (typically from used building products store). Now we’re dropping down a few octaves in appearance. This is metal sheeting (typically off some old building) that you typically find in a used building products store. It’s sometimes patterned and sometimes plain. The material cost is around $400. The big plus of this over vinyl is that you can’t knock a hole in it with a weedeater.
    • Plywood (typically from used building products store). OK, this is the bottom of the barrel. Ugly and not long lasting. It’s around $300 for a stack of wood. And then, of course, you have to paint it one color. All in all, there’s no way to justify putting this on a home today.

    Other considerations

    There are some additional considerations that you need to be aware of:

    • Some municipalities require “venting” of the skirting, which means that you have to install air vents as required by ordinance.
    • You should always allow for expansion of the vinyl product. Vinyl skirting will expand and contract substantially in the summer and winter. That’s why you want to live an inch of two of gap in the strips. Have you seen the skirting in which the skirting is bowed out? That’s not because the home has settled, but because the skirting expanded and the installer left no space for it to do so.
    • You can often put modern vinyl skirting on an old home (even Pre-HUD) and it makes it look virtually new again (as long as you paint the home, too). Skirting is one of the most important aesthetic tools for bringing old parks back to life. So don’t scrimp on skirting if you can help it. That $300 plywood skirting job is not worth the $200 savings over mainstream vinyl.

    Conclusion

    Skirting is a vital part of the mobile home and equally important to community aesthetics. This list will give you a range of the terms, considerations and options, but always remember that skirting is very visible and you need to be a smart shopper.

Frank Rolfe has been an investor in mobile home parks for almost 30 years, and has owned and operated hundreds of mobile home parks during that time. He is currently ranked, with his partner Dave Reynolds, as the 5th largest mobile home park owner in the U.S., with around 20,000 lots spread out over 25 states. Along the way, Frank began writing about the industry, and his books, coupled with those of his partner Dave Reynolds, evolved into a course and boot camp on mobile home park investing that has become the leader in this niche of commercial real estate.