“Can I afford a stick built home? Maybe I should settle for a modular?”

If you think a modular house is your only building option, this article is for you. Building your dream home is one of the biggest financial and emotional investments you will make in your lifetime. Beginning the building process can be a little confusing.

To help you make an informed decision based on your personal needs and budget, we will explain the differences between stick built and modular homes.


What Is a Stick Built Home?

When you envision a new house being constructed, stick built, also known as on-site and site built, is what most likely comes to mind. It is the traditional and time-tested building method and gets its name from the fact that workers assemble the home stick-by-stick at the job site.

Fine Line Homes is a custom, on-site home builder that has been in business for over 44 years. View our Home Plans.


What is a Modular Home?

Workers assemble modular homes in three-dimensional sections, called modules, in a factory. Each module is then transported to the job site and set in place with a crane. Both construction methods follow the same building codes.


Will buying a modular house save you money?

Many people think modular houses always cost less than stick built homes. In reality, the price for a modular house and a comparable stick built home is almost identical. In fact, in some instances, your final price may actually be higher for a modular.


Here are two important factors you should consider:

1. Are there varying specifications in each home?

You must compare “apples to apples.” That is to say, both the stick built and modular must use similar quality components to get an accurate price comparison. As an illustration, you can usually expect upgrades such as granite countertops to carry a higher price tag than laminate countertops.


2. What’s not included in the modular company’s price?

Typically, the cost of a modular home only includes constructing modules, transporting to site, setting on foundation, and fastening sections together.

Therefore, purchasing a modular house requires you to be your own general contractor. In other words, you are physically and financially responsible for the site work, foundation, septic/sewer system, water, electrical, and all other utility connections.

These tasks require a lot of time and technical skill. Because most homeowners cannot do the work themselves, they must hire other contractors to do it for them.

Conversely, when you hire Fine Line Homes for your new home, we will help coordinate the construction process for you. We pass any additional cost over to you without a builder markup. We consider this an important service to our customers.


Mike and Debra Phelps As a first time home buyer, the whole process can be intimidating. The staff at Fine Line was there to offer guidance along the way. From helping with permits, lot layout, customizing home plans and personalizing features they were always right there.  Our reason for choosing Fine Line Homes, their people. Mike and Debra Phelps



Can a modular home be built faster?

Modular sections can be built faster than a stick built home. However, you should know this does not account for the modular house’s delivery, setup, and utility hookup time.

You may be tempted to think on-site construction’s slower timeframe is a disadvantage, but the extra time is actually beneficial for the homeowner. To demonstrate, as builders are constructing a stick built home, the owners have time to see the work in progress and make changes before the project is finalized.

People purchasing a modular house usually do not have this opportunity. Their modular comes out of the factory, onto the site, and that is it. Changes made later can be costly.


Shirl Brinser I could not ask for a better builder to walk me through a life altering change in my life. From start to finish, everyone at Fine Line made me feel there was nothing they wouldn’t do. For all the last minute changes and countless questions, no one made me feel like I was a bother. They not only built me a house they gave me a home. Shirl Brinser



Is a modular house the same quality as a stick built home?

In theory, the factory environment offers better quality control during the building process. The truth of the matter is, modular homes vary just like custom homes from different builders. Some companies cut corners and use inferior products. That is why—regardless of the building method you choose—it is important to ask a lot of questions, get references, and scrutinize your home’s building plan.


Differences between Fine Line Homes and modular houses:

Stick Built Our roof trusses are built in a factory and trucked to the job site in one solid piece where they are then set in place with a crane. This process gives you a very solid roof system.
Modular The roof trusses are built with hinge points to allow the roof system to be folded for transportation. In most cases you can see a ridge in the roof under the shingles at the hinge after construction.

Stick BuiltLVL Beam is installed in the basement to support the floor joists in the home. The posts are typically 10′ to 12′ apart.
ModularA “Marriage Beam” is installed to bring the separate pieces together and posts can be required in the basement as close as every 4′.

Stick Built The ductwork for a Fine Line home is run parallel with the floor joists and above the LVL Beam which makes your basement ceiling less obstructed.
Modular The ductwork is hung below the floor joists in the basement, resulting in a loss of head space and basement ceiling clearance.

Stick Built Heating system including Central A/C is standard and completely installed at the time of construction, including your ductwork.
Modular Typically inefficient electric baseboard heating is the standard source of heat in a modular home. Extra costs are usually added if you require ductwork for a central air system installed.

Stick Built Our roofs are installed with R-49 blown-in fiberglass insulation to maximize your energy savings year-round.
Modular Roof insulation for most modular homes is rated at R-30 or R-38, resulting in a less efficient insulating value.

Stick Built The walls of a Fine Line home come standard with R-23 blown-in fiberglass insulation and it fills the wall cavity completely, making your new home very quiet and efficient.
Modular The exterior walls of most modular homes are installed with lower value R-19 fiberglass insulation that usually isn’t blown-in. Resulting in air pockets around electric boxes and wiring. This can create a wall with drafts that you can feel coming through the electric receptacles on cold days.

Stick Built The ceiling of the basement is insulated with R-30 fiberglass insulation to keep your floors warm and the cool drafty air out.
ModularMany modular homes are built with no insulation in the basement ceiling. This leaves your floors feeling cold and drafty.

Randy and Cathy Hines | New Stick Built Home We are extremely pleased with our Fine Line home. From the planning to the construction to the fine tuning after move-in, everyone was easy to work with and strove to please us. Interior and exterior options make our home unique. We appreciate the quality workmanship throughout and the extra insulation afforded by the six inch exterior walls. We are certain re-sell will not be a future problem for us with the quality reputation Fine Line has had for years. Randy and Cathy Hines



Do you have building questions?

In conclusion, building your dream home is an exciting journey. As with any journey, having an experienced and trustworthy guide is critical to achieving your goal.

We hope this article has helped you understand the main differences between modular and stick built.

If you have any questions about the home building process, please contact one of Fine Line Homes’ friendly housing consultants.

To get a firsthand view of the products and processes we use, please visit one of our five conveniently located Design Centers/Model Homes in HarrisburgLewisburgHazletonSayre, and State College.

We look forward to meeting you.