An Ongoing Clayton Mobile Home Review
After deciding to downsize, my husband and I along with our two young kids decided to move out of our 2,000sqft townhome and into a new 800-900sqft Clayton mobile home trailer. We tried to do a lot of research on mobile homes so we could know just what we were getting into. Through various websites/forums/reviews we pieced together some warnings, horror stories, ups and downs, and a lose idea of utility costs. Here is our honest on-going Clayton mobile home review from the time we moved in, to the present. Includes description of our interior and exterior, sale cost and utility bills, location, satisfaction, and our month by month repairs needed and changes made. Check back often for updates!
The Who and When:
Myself, my husband, very active 2 1/2 year old, fairly active 1 year old, one conure parrot. We purchased our mobile home in Mid-May 2015 and were moved in by Mid-June 2015.
2015 Clayton Mobile Home, model name “New Maple”. We did not pick our home, the park it’s in bought a bunch of them and installed them with the intentions of either renting or selling them. If I had to guess, ours is a base model. We are the first people to live in ours. End to axle is 14×70 ft. Actual size is more like 13.5X66 ft for a grand total of 891sqft or 812sqft if you just consider interior space. The “missing” 4 ft is the axel, which some models count as part of the length of the home. Misleading if you ask me… Despite the small size, it’s well laid out to accommodate 3BR and 2 full baths. For more on how we’re managing in this small space, read “Confessions of Living in a Smaller Home.”
Inside-The walls are 6” thick with an R-value of 19 and the interior is vinyl covered drywall. Ours is light tan, but we they come in different colors.
If you don’t feel like painting, then you never have to but you can paint over them just fine if you want. While you can hear from one side of the house to the other, it doesn’t let a lot of noise in from outside. The house has a central heat and AC system. The refrigerator, and electric stove are the only appliances and are energy efficient. I’ve embraced the challenge of not having a microwave, but I miss our garbage disposal (which we’ll add some day). Neither of us miss our dishwasher. There are 3 closets and one “utility room” with washer and dryer hookup. Every room has a window except for one of the bathrooms for a total of 7 windows (and one door window). This is enough to give us ample natural light. With the way the windows are staggered and since the sun rises on one side, and sets on the other side of the home, with the exception of one window-less bathroom, no corner of our home is without light. The front door is wider than the backdoor if you’re worried about fitting large appliances or furniture in. The bedrooms and hallway are wall to wall carpet, while
the kitchen, living room, and bathrooms are linoleum (wood pattern). Neither of these are high quality, but our children are tornadoes so we’d rather them wreck something inexpensive then live in fear of the day they wreck something pricey. Same goes for the faucets and sinks which are plastic and there’s sparse shelving in our cabinets. *More interior pictures can be found in the post How We’re Surviving Living in a Terrible T******.
The Outside-The roof looks like a typical roof with shingles. The siding is Vinyl and there are shutters on the front of the house. There are no gutters and no spigot on our model. The skirting is Vinyl and easy to remove. At the base is a pressure treated 2X4 that rests on what looks like roofing shingles. We were told this is done to allow for the ground to swell and shrink with the seasons/temperatures while still maintaining a good “seal”. Laid on the ground under the trailer is what looks like a large thick black tarp. It’s not fastened down, just resting loosely across the ground like someone casually tossed a tarp down. The wheels and axel are all under there as well just resting on the ground. The underside of the trailed is covered by a very thick/heavy black “tarp” (kinda reminds me of bubble wrap). Thankfully we haven’t had to cut into this belly wrap yet to see whats under it and how well it tapes back together.
Our 2015 Clayton mobile home cost us $42,000. As mentioned above, we didn’t pick the home and what it came with. The park we moved into had already bought it and installed it to sell. I assume this is a base model. We have a home loan which is similar to an auto loan (we have a title just like for a vehicle). From my understanding and experience, mobile home loans are difficult to qualify for and have shorter terms and higher interest rates than stick built houses. I think this is because of both the fast depreciation and the “stereotyped market” they sell to. With excellent credit our terms are 10 years at 6.5%.
Utility Bills: We are almost excited to see what our utility bills end up being as we have heard horror stories of hundreds of dollars spent on heating in the winter. We’re hoping with 6″ walls and an R-value of 19, our home will hold heat better than older models and result in lower bills. Our entire house is electric: lights, water, heat, stove. In the summer we keep the AC temperature set to mid 70’s and in the winter the heat is set to around 70 degrees (with heat tape plugged in). For our bill costs we’re charged a generation charge+transmission charge+energy cost adjustment. Then we have “reoccurring fees” labeled as: customer distribution charge, distribution charge, electric universal service fee, administrative credit, cogeneration PURPA surcharge, franchise tax, emPower MD surcharge, demand resource surcharge, and MD environmental surcharge. CLICK HERE to see exact numbers and graphs of our electric bills month to month.
Water/Sewer Bills: We have 2 bathrooms, no dishwasher, our washing machine is HE front loading (not worth it, miss my top loading one) and we got our own spring water for drinking. On average we use between 8,000-10,000 gallons every 3 months which cost $30-45 including about 10-15% in reoccurring fees every 3 months. The Sewer is the same time frame and gallons as water and cost $65-80 including about 20% in reoccurring fees.
We moved to the mobile home community of about 200-300 homes in Maryland. We do pay a ground rent, that is literally just that, renting the ground, nothing else is covered in that. I was worried about the typical “trailer park stereotype” but to my delight this park does not fall into that. The management runs background checks and will deny applicants based on findings. They also have rules on outward appearances of home and yard, requiring written permission for permanent changes, and charging fines for neglect. I can think of ONE time where I saw a single piece of trash in the middle of the road and despite allowing small dogs (and there are many) I can honestly say I have NEVER encountered left-behind dog poop (I’m constantly in shock by this). It is a clean, well maintained park. Best of all, I feel safe here. Unfortunately I let people make me feel nervous about moving here and it being dangerous and more likely to have my car/home/shed broken into. After just a few months I find the neighbors to be pleasant and am not worried any more about theft here than where we moved from.
We love our home. Honestly, genuinely. We are thrilled with the smaller size and the lighter mental feeling of owning less stuff and having less space and stuff to maintain. Our spending is naturally curbed because we don’t have room for new stuff. Add in the fact that it’s cheaper (even with ground rent) than a stick-built home mortgage, and we are finally able to save money for the first time in five years. The Month by Month below isn’t meant to complain. We assumed $42K wasn’t going to buy us high quality. It’s more to share our experience and inform others of what they might be able to expect. Having a home loan, we don’t really “own” this home anymore than we did our 2,000sqft townhome, but yet it feels more like “ours” since technically we are closer to paying it off (lower cost and shorter loan). This feeling and the quality in general, makes us less afraid to do our own repairs, and learn about home modifications and customization through our own trails. It’s kinda fun.
The Month by Month Happenings (aka when stuff broke and what we learned):
May 2015 (Before we moved in)-
1) The linoleum floor had bubbling in several rooms. Clayton homes manufacturer rep came out and fixed this by removing the edge trim that holds the linoleum in place, pealing up the linoleum where it bubbled and then laying it down and letting it “rest” (flatten out) before putting the same trim back in place. Pretty simple. 2) AC unit broke twice within the first week. First time they said it was a leak, the second time some pin hole wasn’t pricked correctly. 3) The carpet nails poke through along the walls. In my opinion this was a scary one, especially with young kids. Pretty much if you stepped barefoot within an inch of wall you were getting pricked by a nail (enough to draw blood). Manufacturer said this was “normal” and that there was nothing they could “recommend” you do without potentially undoing the carpet nail fasteners. So we took a hammer and hammered sideways along the base of every wall to hopefully knock the nails down/over and not out. 4) Some things we chose to do immediately: A) Replaced all the light bulbs with 40W Utilitech LED “warm white” bulbs. At our local Lowes these cost about $6-$7/each. As far as LEDs go these were pretty cheap, so they only had a 2 year warranty but the packaging claims that if used an average of 3 hours a day then they will last 16 years and use only 6.5W. B) Put low-flow aerators on the faucets (0.5gpm).
June 2015- Cinder block piers/shims under the house weren’t touching the house underneath in several spots and a local contractor had to come out and re-shim underneath. I don’t know if it was installed this way or settled this way once we moved in. Since our park installed the trailer, this was something that they also fixed at no cost to us.
July 2015- Bathroom sink broke. The value inside the faucet broke so water was building up and leaking under the sink anytime water ran for more than 30 seconds. This may have been under warranty but since the faucets are such poor quality we decided to replace it ourselves with something better. *Later we thought we may have sped up the breakage by adding low-flow aerators because the water pressure at our park is very high.
August 2015- 1)
Clogged the main sewage line with baby wipes. We discovered this when EVERY single drain backed up and would only drain slowly. Since it was every single sink, tub, and toilet we knew the problem was in the mainline (all pipes meet together just before going into one pipe into the ground and attaching to the park septic system. $300 plumbing bill later and it turned out to be baby wipes…something we flushed down the toilet at our old home for 4 years with no problem. An expensive lesson in paying closer attention to what your park’s septic can handle. This happened every fall like clock work and finally the cutter came back out with a mass of tree roots….so turns out none of this was our fault, and now we’re really happy to be renting the land we’re on because it means this is also not our problem. 2) Kitchen sink broke. The very end that holds the aerator is screwed on and the plastic broke off around the screw. Like the bathroom this may have been under warranty but we replaced it ourselves with something better. *We wonder also if we sped up the breakage by putting on low-flow aerators when our water pressure is high. 3) Little leaks here and there under the sinks. This one there was a big notice when we moved in to occasionally check the fittings under the sinks as they can loosen a bit with the hot water running through the pipes. We failed to check them fast enough as so had some leaks and bubbling of the cabinet bottom material. Hand tightened them and leaking stopped. 4) “Decorative” strips that cover where the sheet-rock comes together began to “peal off” in some places. I believe they are only held on with thin finishing nails so it doesn’t really surprise me that if hit the right way these could come undone.
September 2015- We made it through all of September with no issues! Since our home didn’t come with any outdoor spigot/faucet we took this month to install one ourselves and you can read about that HERE.
October 2015- Few small issues this month, some probably due to our habits. We don’t have a dishwasher (and surprisingly don’t miss it) but also don’t have a drying rack because of the amount of space it takes up. Instead we use drying mats laid out on the counter next to the sink that we hang up to dry when not in use. Right where we place the drying mat, the counter has begun to swell where it meets the back wall. We took this as a sign to dry more dishes by hand, and also to take clear silicon caulking to all the places the counters touch the wall (kitchen, and 2 bathrooms). At the same time, we noticed that the side of the hanging wall cabinet immediately left of the sink it separating. Meaning the thin outer layer of “wood” that you see, is separating from whatever inner layer of “wood” they used (I’ve no idea what the material actually is, just that it is really really thin). I think this is builder error, making a layer too big so it buckles out? For this spot we haven’t done anything yet because you don’t notice it unless you’re really really looking. Also, the paper covering of the cabinets has begun to peal in one spot, right above where the baby lock is.
November 2015- Nothing to report! We spent the month building a couch and living room light…post coming soon because it’s turning out awesome and so perfect for the space! Didn’t know you could build a couch? Neither did we!
December 2015- This month focused on the master bathroom. The counter top edging is coming un-glued (probably from the humidity of the shower?), so now I realize how our counter tops our made (thin sheets that look like granite/marble glued in place). This doesn’t really bother us, and we haven’t done anything about it yet.
Then I manage to flood the bathroom…not realizing that when you disconnect the hot water line, you can NOT still use the cold water line…Oops…but in efforts to clean
up ALL the water, we learn something else about our home. The black trim board under the bathroom sinks (and also under all the kitchen cabinets) is easily removed with a swift kick without damaging the cabinets at all. The board is simply pressed plywood with a thin layer of painted black material on the front. We kind of liked finding this out (and that I’m banned from plumbing) because we’ve learned another way we can customize our home. For now we left the board off completely and it looks fine.
January 2016– We took the time this month to reseal around all the windows. This is something that is advised in the “home up-keep” packet we got upon purchase, and also something we did in our previous new construction townhome, so we weren’t alarmed. Simple tube of white caulking and done in an afternoon.
Similar to October the kitchen cabinets are pealing more. The new spot is the top of the cabinet right below the kitchen sink. We have baby locks on all our cabinets which makes us open the cabinet door from the top corner and not the knob. This cabinet often get opened with wet hands (scraping plates while washing dishes) and if not for that, I don’t think there would have been pealing-since not other cabinets have it. In hindsight, a garbage disposal (or not kids, haha) would have been a good initial investment.
Finally, the first home cosmetic “wear and tear” to really cause me dismay…the kitchen counter covered cracked. I assume this has to do with moisture getting under the thin counter layer and lifting the glue. I’m pretty bummed that this has already happened at under the 1 year mark. Being cosmetic it’s not a warranty covered thing. So far it’s not hugely noticeable, even being right at the edge, and hasn’t caused any issues. If this is the only crack for years then I’ll be fine, but it the trend continues I’m looking at new counters in the future (another perk of a small home, my entire kitchen counter is only about 11ft including the sink, so I’m not worried about the labor or expense, even when getting something more durable).
Had record breaking snow fall here in Maryland this month with a blizzard that dumped 2 1/2-3ft of snow. How did the house do? Totally fine! Snug as a bug in all the snow. Roof fine, windows fine, siding fine, no complaints what-so-ever.
February 2016- Nothing!
March 2016- Kids peeled another piece of interior trim off…nothing a few taps with the nail gun couldn’t fix.
April 2016-House is fine. Warmer temps means I finally begin landscaping!
May 2016-Kid peel off a piece of doorway trim…as thin and easy to reapply as other pieces in the house, just a different color. Here’s what’s behind it if you’re curious.
August 2016- Took the staple gun around and tacked back down a few pieces of interior trim that had come loose or off.
September-November 2016- Nothing.
December 2016-March 2017-
Whew-We! So I lumped these months together, and have revised this update multiple times as the story keeps progressing. Everything has gone smoothly these past 3 months except for the issue of water leaking in above our front door. What happened: Arrived home one rainy say to find a puddle of water at our front door, inside the house. Closer inspection showed water dribbling in from the top right corner and running down the frame, soaking into the wooden door spacers and leaving water marks on the sheetrock. From the outside it looked like water coming off the roof (we have no gutters) was going into the track that frames the door, and then leaking into the house. As a temporary band-aid we taped some trash bags above the door. We then reached out to our community management, (who also sold us the home), and asked if their maintenance guy would come take a look and maybe offer an idea of how to fix it. Within a few hours we had both an email and a phone call from the manufacturer himself, stating that they’d have a contractor come take a look as a courtesy (we’re just past the 1 year home warranty).
What was tried: Over the next 3 months, repeated visits from the contractor occurred and all the following was done:
- Replaced and sealed the flashing around the door’s exterior.
- Thoroughly checked our roof. They found 3 nails sticking up in the shingles above the door and believed this to be the entry point for the leak this time. Fixed those. (The contractor then took the time to walk our entire roof for us, and fixed a half a dozen more popped up nails that he found. He said there were a few odd shingles, nothing very alarming, but he documented them so the issue would be covered under our warranty).
- Replace ALL the water-damaged sheetrock on the interior of the home.
- Resealed the exterior porch light, from the inside, saying that sometimes if the hole is cut too big, this can be a leak point. While it’s didn’t look like water came in here, it was done as a cautionary.
- Replaced the entire door frame and exterior flashing/surrounding siding. I can’t remember the correct name but they sealed the trim piece on both sides immediately on top of the door as they put it back on.
- Rechecked roof and confirmed our roof was in good shape. Resealed that trim/track piece immediately above door.
Not over yet: It’s March 22 and there’s still an additional check to go with #6 being the most recent attempt. Fingers crossed for the next rain!
Update: The #6 check was successful and the door has stopped leaking!
Despite what’s been a lengthy process, I’ve been impressed with the customer service of the person I’ve corresponded with from the manufacturer. Always prompt to reply to my emails and quick to get the wheels in motion for the contractors to come back out. Their contracting company has always been great and nice to work with. I feel some of our ease of resolving the issue is credited to having good management in the community that we live (who was also our sales rep), that helped us get in touch with a manufacturer when they could have just dismissed us. The time length has a lot to do with paperwork approval processing, scheduling (contractors are over 2 hours away), and waiting for rainy days with feedback. The leak has grown smaller, so hopefully after the most recent attempt it is gone completely. The contractor who has been working on mobile homes for over a decade did mention that water leaks are always the most difficult to hunt down. I’m so relieved we didn’t attempt to fix this water leak ourselves!
*Something we learned: Trim in mobile homes hides the nails used. However in between trim, the sheetrock is attached to studs using a hot glue. Effective to avoid additional nails in plain sight or tape as would be used in other homes, but that does make the sheetrock difficult to remove. Scraping equipment is needed to remove glue and stuck sheetrock before putting up a new sheet on existing studs.
April 2017-Back in January I shared a picture of the paper pealing from the front of our cabinets. I want to share that this has continued to get much worse, pealing from the cabinet doors as well. It’s happened to several doors now.
May 2017-July 2017-All good!
August 2017-Awoke to water coming in our kitchen window. This window is about 15 feet down on the front door, on the same side of the house. Sent an email to the same man from manufacturer that I had corresponded to about the front door. I was wondering if the leak was at all related to the door leak and what I should do. As always I got a quick reply. Despite being unrelated, and my house out of warranty window, the man graciously said he would send his maintenance man to look at it, along with the strong advice: GET GUTTERS. This was different from the contractor company that had come to fix the door. This man was from the manufacturer, and I believe is the same one who does /did walk-through and repairs on brand new homes. They did a beautiful job resealing the window and replacing the trim all around it. It never leaked again and we are planning to add gutters in the Spring 2018.
While he was here I asked about the paper pealing on my cabinet doors; could I purchase replacement ones or ones of a different material that wouldn’t peal so easily? He said I could do both but that our cabinet color was no longer made, so an entire cabinet replacement would be required. He then put our cabinet color in the work order and said if they had any of the discontinued color laying around he wrote down to send them our way. I really appreciated his kind gesture here but I honestly never thought they would actually spend their time and money to do this. To my surprise, a month and a half later a box showed up on my doorstep with three new cabinet doors!! I am extremely pleased and impressed with the Clayton Home manufacturer and their customer service! Note: I want to add that we had baby-locks on the cabinets at first which I think sped up the pealing because you open the cabinet with the corner where the lock is installed. With no baby-locks on these, I’m expected them to not peal as quickly.
September to December 2017- All good!
January 2018-April 2018- Still great other than the occasional trim pieces needing to be tacked back down.
October 2018- We say goodbye to our much loved Clayton Mobile home! When all was cleared out how did the home look? Well the carpets in the kids rooms were pretty bad looking but other than that I feel like it still shows well outside and inside. We leave with no ill feelings, bad memories, or regrets towards our purchase of and time spent in our 2015 Clayton home.
Hi there! I’m Kaley, prevailing parent and wife, but also just me; stubborn lover of DIY everything, outdoors, and chocolate. Read more about myself and my family under the “Parenting” > “About My Family” tabs.