Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 277

Snow, Wind And Thermal Zones

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We all know the government enacted the HUD SEAL program back around 1976. But are you aware there's some other requirements that HUD placed on mobile homes that are important that you be aware of? This is Frank Rolfe with the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. We're going to talk about snow loads, wind loads, and thermal zones.

Episode 277: Snow, Wind And Thermal Zones Transcript

0:00:21.1 Frank Rolfe: We all know the government enacted the HUD SEAL program back around 1976. But are you aware there's some other requirements that HUD placed on mobile homes that are important that you be aware of? This is Frank Rolfe with the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. We're going to talk about snow loads, wind loads, and thermal zones. Now, what are these things? Well, when the government took over mobile home manufacturing, later on they decided that there were certain attributes of mobile homes that were also important beyond the simple fact that mobile homes were built in a factory to government specs and government tolerances. And they decided there were three key things that every mobile home need to have in order to be a safe place to live. And the first was called the snow load. Now, it makes complete sense why they would want to have a snow load minimum on a mobile home because some areas of America get a whole lot more snow. And as a result, we all know that snow has weight. And the concern was if we don't have a rating system in place for mobile homes, that mobile home roofs would not be able to handle that much weight. And they would, in fact, cave in.

0:01:31.1 Frank Rolfe: So the government decided they would come up with three different tranches of snow load. And when you look over the map, which you can see online, you'll see it's kind of interesting. You've got the South and their snow load is 20 pounds per square foot. Then you got the middle of America, that snow load is 30 pounds per square foot. And then you have the North, which is 40 pounds per square foot. But it doesn't come out quite like that because the 40 pounds per square foot is only in the states of Maine and Alaska. So most of the US is at the 20 pounds per square foot. And then you've got that 30 pounds per square foot in a limited number of states, only in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont. That's it. So otherwise, you're in good shape as far as heavy snow goes, other than the two that require the biggest snow load, which are Maine and Alaska.

0:02:32.0 Frank Rolfe: Now, what if you got the wrong home and the wrong snow load? Well, you can't do that. You've got to make sure that the mobile home, whether it be new or used, that it, in fact, is based on the correct zone. So you cannot move a home with a 20 pound per square foot snow load to a state like Colorado, because Colorado requires 30 pounds per square foot. And you can't move one out of Colorado. You can't truck that thing on up into Alaska because that requires 40 pounds. But you can go the other direction. You can take a snow load home of any of the higher zones. You could take a home all day long from Alaska, and you can move that on down to Texas and it wouldn't matter. So when it comes to snow load, you have to make sure you match your home to where it is. But you can always have one that requires or allows for much greater snow on a lesser zone. Then you've got your wind loads. Now, there are three wind load sections of America. There's zone one, zone two, and zone three. Now, zone one is most of the United States.

0:03:46.3 Frank Rolfe: So then where is zone two and zone three? They're all on the East Coast. If you look at the wind load map, you will see that it's very, very dissimilar to the snow load. The snow load is kind of spread out across America based on your latitude. But the wind load is all basically set on the East Coast. Now, why would that be? Why is that, the place where we have to really, really worry about wind? I thought it was Kansas and tornadoes, right? No. No, not the case. Because tornadoes can happen anywhere in America. And those are at forces that you really can't normally construct something to be safe in. But everything is based on hurricanes when it comes to wind load. So when you're looking at wind load, if you look at the wind load map, you'll see that most of America is in fact in zone one. And in fact, zone two and zone three are right next to each other, all on the East Coast. Three is the stuff that's right on the beach, right on the edge of the ocean. And then zone two is the stuff that's just to the west of that.

0:04:55.7 Frank Rolfe: Now as before, if you want to move homes between those zones, okay, we can take one that's built for zone two or zone three wind load and move it into zone one. But I cannot take something from zone one and move that into zone two or zone three. Therein lies the problem. But yet there's more than just snow and wind load. There's also thermal zone. Now what the heck is thermal zone? Well thermal zone is based on basically how much insulation that the home has. Now on thermal zones, it makes a whole lot more sense when you look at the US map. So zone one thermal are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Basically what we know is the American South and Southeast. So that's zone one. Zone two is California, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina. Now I myself am a little confused why California and Arizona are not in zone one. Because I would not think of them as being that much colder than the other states. So that kind of, I don't really fully understand that. But basically you've got a total of about 17 states that are zone one or zone two.

0:06:25.7 Frank Rolfe: And the other 30 plus states, those are all zone three on thermal. So basically it's all your northern states that are required to have greater insulation. Of course it makes complete sense because mobile homes can be very, very expensive to heat, then you would want to have homes to the north with much greater insulation to hold down that home heating supply.

0:06:50.0 Frank Rolfe: Can you move homes within thermal zones? Again, as before, if you have a home that is in thermal zone three, then you could move it to zone two or zone one, but you're not really supposed to move a home from zone one to thermal zone two or three because that home would be deemed to not have the correct thermal properties. Now how does this code work? Well if you're buying a new home, it's simple because the manufacturer will match where the home is going to what the snow load, wind load and thermal zone requirements are. So new homes are not that complicated. Where it gets kind of weird are when you buy used homes because you want to make sure you're doing the right thing, but how can you? Well you need to check your title. The title will typically say what the snow load, wind load and thermal zone is of that house. So that's one way you can match it.

0:07:46.5 Frank Rolfe: You can also kind of guesstimate if you couldn't get a title, if you're buying an old used home and can't find the title. Now I don't recommend doing that necessarily, but you could kind of guess if you're buying a home that was originally placed in the north that it would probably be in thermal zone three and in probably snow load two unless it was in those two states where you have the higher snow load. And therefore you can probably be fairly safe in your bet. Because if I'm buying a home and it's located in Maine, well then I know that I probably got that 40 pounds per square foot snow load and if I take a home from Maine and move it to the South I probably would be fine. But if you read the law, the law is really based on the first delivery of the home.

0:08:35.9 Frank Rolfe: And I myself am not even sure exactly on used homes what HUD's requirements are as far as moving between those different zones on a used home. So if I bought a 1980s home which came in after HUD and it was located in one state, let's say it's in a thermal zone two, does that mean I can't move it to thermal zone three? I don't have the answer to that. And that's the key question on used homes, is you'll have to do your best bets on what you can and cannot do. And to get that information I would contact your State Mobile Home Association. They can probably tell you on that state what the requirements are. Because all of these zones cut across entire states with the one exception being wind load. Because not all of South Carolina, for example, is in the strongest wind zone. So, much of South Carolina is still in wind zone one but the stuff on the coast is on wind zones two and three. So I would talk to your state MHA and see what they say. You could also do copious research yourself online or you can even try and contact HUD perhaps.

0:09:48.3 Frank Rolfe: But as we all know in all of the bureaucracy that has become the mobile home industry, it's normally not that clear cut. It's hard to always get a straight answer. The best thing is just to use common sense. If you study those maps of where things are located at and where the zones fall, you'll soon see that you can probably make a pretty safe estimate when you're buying these homes of where they are supposed to go. Now do mistakes arise? Yes. Many people in the industry heard the tale of the person who bought some mobile homes from a factory and the salesman put down the wrong state on the sales contract and the homes were delivered that were not the correct snow load. What happened? The manufacturer, because it was a salesman's mistake, ultimately had to come out and change those homes by reinforcing the roofs to the correct snow load. So even on new homes, things can happen. But the important thing is you need to be aware of this issue. If you talk to most mobile home park owners, they have no clue that there's such a thing as a snow load or a wind load or a thermal zone.

0:10:57.0 Frank Rolfe: And additionally, many people are confused and they kind of do their own guesstimate of the wind load states, believing those to be the ones like Kansas, which we all think of because of the Wizard of Oz as being a heavy tornado state. They assume that's what it's all about when it's actually not. It's all about hurricane threat. So keep your eyes open. Look at the maps that you can find online. You'll be able to figure it all out to the best of your ability. When buying homes, whether new or used, ask the right questions. Make sure you've got the right zones for your homes and you should be fine.

0:11:29.0 Frank Rolfe: This is Frank Roth with the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.