It never dawned on me when I began my own mobile home do-it-yourself projects, that I might run into this kind of difficulty. In today’s society, we have adopted an instant gratification attitude and I admit that I’m often no exception. The first time that I was told “we don’t carry those parts,” it literally took a few seconds to sink in. There was no offer to order said parts, nor further suggestions offered; the young clerk just stared at me expectantly, waiting for me to acknowledge his words and leave. I was there to buy a piece for my shower faucet and his words left me floored.
The hardware store had enough aisles of product, that I’d imagined they would carry everything under the sun – but I was wrong. Many mobile home owners soon discover that, while the big name hardware stores may carry everything (including the kitchen sink) for home repair, this courtesy isn’t extended to those of us who live in mobile homes. Part of the challenge in doing any kind of mobile home repair is actually finding the parts and tools that you need for the job.
The Mobile Home Curse
Many people turn to manufactured housing when they are looking for safe and affordable homes in the United States. Mobile homes are usually much cheaper to live in, whether you prefer to buy or rent, and make ideal homes for the single person, affordable homes for newlyweds or the perfect place for low-income families. The problem with mobile homes is that many of them are made with lower-quality materials than traditional homes. Particle board floors often wear down more quickly than the floors in standard homes and leaks often plague mobile home owners. Fortunately, a bonus to owning your own mobile home is that you can do your own mobile home repairs and renovations and do-it-yourself projects are usually quite easy and inexpensive.
One of the biggest challenges for those facing the mobile home do-it-yourself project is simply finding parts that will fit your mobile home. The main reason for this is because mobile homes are often made with supplies and parts that are a different size than the same items found in a standard home. This can often be a source of confusion because, while the part may seem identical to the untrained eye, mobile home parts are usually smaller and are often made of different materials than the same product that’s designed for the standard home.
The Importance of Measuring
This was one of the first lessons that I learned, early on, when I first got my mobile home and set about decorating it. Mobile home owners usually discover, quite quickly, that windows and doors of mobile homes tend to be a different size than those on standard homes. I found this out when I attempted to buy blinds for my mobile home and discovered that my windows were not the size that I believed them to be. Whoops – good thing the hardware store isn’t far from my house!
You might also find that this is a problem when you go to buy furniture or new appliances for your mobile home. Be forewarned that doorways are often more narrow in mobile homes and, in many cases, you will have to take the door off of your mobile home if you want to get that comfy wide couch into your living room. From personal experience, let me tell you that it’s no fun getting a large and heavy couch wedged into your doorway and, should I ever choose to move, I don’t think we’ll ever attempt maneuvering my treadmill back down these narrow hallways. Needless to say, mobile home owners quickly learn that the measuring tape is their best friend. When in doubt, pull out that tape and jot down the measurements – it can save you a lot of time and headache.
Some items that tend to be smaller in mobile homes may include (but are not limited to) the following:
Also keep in mind, when buying new appliances for your mobile home, that you need to measure your doorway to find out if you’ll need to take your door off, but you’ll also have to measure the area where said appliance has to go. As my mother recently discovered, many appliances are too large to fit into the cubbyholes in mobile homes. In her case, we had to do a little cabinet-trimming in order to fit her new refrigerator into her kitchen.
Plumbing Woes In the Mobile Home
Another problem that I’ve run into is finding plumbing parts for the mobile home in local hardware stores. I spent a good half hour searching for a bathroom faucet one day, examining various display models until I found the closest representation to what I currently had. I put the new faucet in my cart and continued on my way, only to find the exact same mobile home faucet at the very end of the aisle, mixed in around the plumbing tape. It was enclosed in plastic and about half the price of the standard house faucets. I couldn’t complain about that, right? Turns out that the reason it was so inexpensive is because the faucet is made out of plastic – it’s amazing how realistic they look until you actually start working with them!
I’ve also encountered problems with various valves – After my metal shut-off valves corroded and needed replacing in my bathroom, I went to the hardware store armed with the old valve. The clerk who assisted me examined the valve in disbelief before wandering off to search for a reasonable replacement; apparently they don’t make the particular size in metal valves anymore but, after some searching and examination on both our parts, we finally found plastic valves of the same size (which I’m proud to say worked very well). Needless to say, you learn to expect such problems when dealing with mobile home repairs. In order to replace parts in my shower faucet, I had to go to a specialty plumber’s supply shop though, in the long run, I actually found them to be cheaper than the big-name hardware store, so don’t write off those small ma and pa shops yet.
Additionally, when working on the plumbing in a mobile home, please bear in mind that there are many plastic parts that commonly resemble PVC pipe but, upon closer inspection, are usually smaller in size. When doing any kind of mobile home plumbing repair, always try and bring the replacement part with you, just so you can see how they measure up with the options available. You may be sorry if you don’t.
Where to Find Mobile Home Replacement Parts
Since I began working on my mobile home, I’ve come to learn that your best option for parts supplies is usually to locate a supplier that specializes in mobile home and RV parts. 9 times out of 10, they will either have the parts that you need, be able to order them, or will know where you can pick them up for a good price. Visiting a supplier that specializes in mobile home parts will save you a great deal of hassle, headache and gas, since you’ll probably be able to pick up most of what you need at the same place. Another bonus about buying from a mobile home parts specialist is that they will usually help you to get the right part that you need, rather than trying to help you find something vaguely similar in hopes of just getting a sale.
Specialty repair shops, such as the little ma and pa plumbing shop I visited for my faucet needs, will often carry mobile home parts. Depending on your store, you may find the parts to be cheaper or you may find them to be more expensive than other options. I always just tell myself that the difference in cost is justified, since I would have spent that much (or more), driving from store-to-store as I searched out better prices.
Hardware Stores are usually the last place that I look for mobile home repair supplies. Since I began doing my own mobile home repairs, I’ve discovered that they rarely have the parts that I need. Another interesting factor I’ve discovered is that, while we’re often led to believe big-name hardware stores have better prices, this isn’t always the case, particularly if you’re looking for a specific hard-to-find item. While these are great places to purchase tools and more general supplies, you may want to veer away from them for mobile home supplies.
Repairing or renovating mobile homes can be a fun and rewarding experience when done correctly. The first step to success is making sure you’re prepared when you go to buy your needed supplies. Did you remember your measurements? Are you bringing your replacement part? Did you map out your trip to the local mobile home parts specialist? Hopefully this little checklist will help cut some corners and alleviate potential hassles. Have fun!
Personal experience as a mobile home owner
Rating: 3 out of 5