A double wide home being moved into position
September 30, 2021

Learn About Site Prep & Base Pads for Your Mobile Home

Base Pads, Foundations, and Why You Need Them

A while back we shared a blog with an overview of mobile home site preparation, and why it is such an important task when purchasing a mobile home.

We briefly mentioned base pads and some of the cost associated with them, but today, let’s look at the different base pad or foundation options you have when installing a mobile home.

a lot with grading work complete in preparation of placing a mobile home on the lot

Why You Want a Base Pad

Base pads are extremely important to help keep your mobile home level, water properly drained away from the house, and keep your structure secure. The top consideration in building your base pad is water drainage.

It is not hard to imagine which is better, putting your house on rock or putting your house on mud. If you lack a proper base pad, the ground under your house could turn to mud, destabilizing everything your house is sitting on. Water will disrupt the ground under your home causing shifting, making your home unleveled, and causing interior cosmetic defects such as cracks.

Not having a proper base pad is pretty much like not having home insurance or playing with your neighbors grumpy pit bill…you are just looking for trouble. The best way to solve a problem is to prevent it in the first place.

The nice thing about base pads is they usually aren’t all that expensive (more on that below) and the cost can often be rolled into your home loan or financed separately with a small personal loan if you’re paying cash and aren’t able to quite cover everything.

A dump truck dumping dirt on a lot

Caliche Base Pads are the Most Common

The most common and bank accepted type of foundation is referred to as caliche which is gravel with a lot of calcium carbonate (think lime stone). It is kind of like “nature made” cement.

To install this base pad there are few things that must be determined before you dump the gravel and get rolling.

First, the height of the pad must be determined. Height can vary based on local building code, property variants, and preference of the home owner. However, a good rule of thumb is about 4 to 6 inches above natural grade (natural grade is the level of the ground where you are working).

Double wide home being positioned on a caliche base pad

Next, the length and width will need to be determined which will be entirely based on the mobile home you are installing there.

A good base pad will be one foot wider and longer on every side than that of the home.

A little too large is always better than not large enough, so for a 14×76 home, a 16×80 base pad would be ideal. If you make it wider, it does make it harder to put in landscaping close to your home.

A basic caliche pad the cost can vary from $2,500-$5,000, a price dependent on the size of the pad, required height, and distance from the contractor and materials.

Concrete runner foundation being leveled for a Braustin customer

Permanent Concrete Foundation

The “next level” for base pads is a permanent concrete foundation. With this installation method, concrete runners are poured to create permanent anchor points and piers for your mobile home.

If you are getting a loan through the VA or FHA government programs, this foundation is one of the requirements. The cost is rolled into the loan, along with other required improvement costs, and can range from $6,500 to $12,000.

Concrete runner forms waiting for concrete to be poured

Other situations that may require the installation of a permanent concrete foundation are where city code or flood plains make them necessary.

For flood plains, an engineer will inspect and declare which type of pad will be sufficient for a mobile home.

City code varies by each city and can be quickly verified by calling the building and permit office to find all the necessary components based on your property.

Concrete leveling close up on concrete runners for a mobile home

Lastly, there are some situations where you might want to opt for this type of permanent foundation for the style of home you have purchased.

Homes with tape and textured walls are especially nice to have on concrete as they go a long way to help prevent stress cracks around doors and windows as the foundation shifts and settles over time.

Pier And Beam Foundations

A pier and beam foundation is a cost-effective solution that can be used in areas with concerns about flooding, heavy frost, and seismic activity. There are anchors placed in the ground that connect to steel trips and are attached to the beams used to construct your home. This solution is weather-resistant and fast to install and deploy when your home is placed on the site.

At a cost of just a few thousand dollars, the pier and beam foundation is not always considered a permanent foundation solution and might not be permitted in certain communities or regions. In addition, some homeowners consider it to be one of the less visually attractive foundation solutions. Before electing to use Pier and beam as the anchor for your home, take the time to contact the building and permit office in your municipality to ensure this is an approved foundation method in your community.

Slab Foundations

A poured concrete slab foundation has anchors embedded in the slab to attach your home to the concrete pad. Insulation can also be added to the basic concrete slab to increase comfort and limit temperature fluctuations as the ground temperature changes throughout the year. This foundation is typically very simple to install and will cost under $10K.

The slab foundation does function well in areas with potential flooding and can be insulated to provide temperature control and a reliable foundation surface in heavy frost areas. It is also a common foundation material in areas with seismic activity. However, this is not a foundation solution for lots that are contoured or sloped. Check with your local building permit department to ensure you understand any requirements for a concrete slab foundation in your area.

Basement Foundations

A basement foundation is a much more costly solution when placing your home. However, it offers benefits not provided by other foundations. The space is used to add living square footage to your home and can be used on lots that include a contoured or sloped surface and in regions where there is seismic activity. However, this is not an ideal option in places prone to flooding.

The cost of construction, up to $25K or more, based on the size of the foundation and the time needed to install the basement should also be considered when choosing the foundation for your home. Home information about the use of a basement foundation for your home can be obtained from local resources such as the building code department or permit department in the area.

Pit Or Crawl Space Foundations

A pit or crawl space foundation is a smaller version of a basement foundation that is not usable as living space. While it is less costly to create, the crawl space does provide added storage options and can be used to access the utilities, such as plumbing and electrical components, located under your home.

The pricing for a pit or crawl space foundation will range from a few thousand dollars to around $15K, based on the size of the space, and is one of the more lengthy installation processes. While this is also not a realistic foundation choice in areas prone to flooding, it can be used in locations that experience heavy frost or seismic activity. But be sure to evaluate any local codes related to this foundation and permit costs when comparing the total cost for your home and foundation choices.

Do I Need Engineered Plans?

In some instances, you will need to contract with an engineer to design and inspect various parts of the construction of your new single wide or double wide home. This is a requirement for loans through one of the available government agencies (FHA/VA).

It is also strongly recommended when dealing with things like high-sets (in floodplains), drop-sets and anything else that may be out of the norm for both your retailer and installer.

And finally, if you aren’t sure what base pad is right for you or have any more questions on buying or installing a mobile home, give us a call, and we’ll be more than willing to get you all the information you need.

This article was originally written Jan. 14, 2019, and was update March. 26, 2024, to ensure it has the most accurate information

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