Finding Competent Repair Help

I am frequently asked for help finding someone who does good, affordable, repair work. I find that difficult because repair people tend to work in a very limited area and there is no way for me to hear about them. Many handymen won’t work on mobile homes which makes the problem more difficult. I refer people to Angie’s List, but their contractors work on site built homes and may or may not be willing to work on a mobile.

The best answer I have come up with over the years is to suggest calling the manager of a mobile home park(s) in your area and ask if they have someone they can recommend. You can also ask if their guys are allowed to do side jobs. If anyone has a better method, use the comment form to tell me about it.

I have thought about creating a space on this website where I could list recommended repairmen but am afraid of the possible legal and other issues. How would I know a recommendation (good or bad) was objective and came from a real customer? How would I keep up with the rapid turnover as people enter and leave the mobile home repair business. While it could be a valuable service I think doing it well would be very hard.

Why don’t handymen want to work on mobile homes? Making money at home repair requires accurate estimation of material costs and good labor estimates. Mobile homes are enough different than houses that someone who doesn’t work on them all the time may not feel comfortable estimating mobile home jobs. In addition, mobile home repair work will require a few different tools and different fittings and connectors. That increases parts inventory and adds time that must be spent looking for and buying the right parts. It also increases the chances of mistakes.

{ 18 comments… read them below or}
Cecil Ledbetter
I have just found this site as I am always doing things to my mobile home, simply because I have no other choice as I am not a wealthy man. I am a so called “jack of all trades & master of none”. My career has been in aerospace. I live in the deep south (Al.) and have had my share of experiences repairing our home. Some problems are solved some not. I agree, getting someone to work on a mobile home is very difficult; mainly because as you say material estimates and time estimates/difficulty and because you the owner , is going to expect results for the dollars and in Mobile home repair: fixing one problem can create many problems. I have recently remodeled my master bath and I mean down to frame. There were several things I would have liked to do and just couldn’t produce the will to proceed beyond the point I had just labored. When you began tearing out a regular home and you have basic knowledge of how homes are built, disassembly is relatively simple if you have basic mechanical skills. A mobile home is a whole different matter! The expense sometimes is much greater with mobile vs. reg. homes especially when you try to mate into one, two totally different construction processes. The bath restoration was finished with almost twice the begining estimate and only half the satisfaction as in certain situtations fixtures for mobile homes must be used due to size and the quality of these fixtures are very poor , compared to reg. home fixtures. In these experiences I found that the mobile home parts and repair stores can be helpful with advice if they are willing to give up some little tips of the trade. Luckily , I found a store where I purchase some of my fixtures, where the guy was just a country boy like me and was up to his ears in work and didn’t really need another project and he has been very dependable especially in warning me about ” If you do this: you are going to run into this”. It is one of those situations where if you can break through the shell, most people will help if they can; but be wary of those only after money and I have met my fair share of them also.

I have done, complete plumbing upgrades and repairs (which is a nightmare if the home has the grey pipe), underpinning, insulating, heating and air repair and replacement, interior remodeling with hardwood/laminate flooring, porches , etc. I am no expert by no means but I do have some experience, and I am always open to hearing advice and I am willing to share my experiences but legally that is all they are; just my experience. Also, I agree, at the time of the disaster or the “lord, I bit off more than I can chew” drama going on it is not funny; but afterwards can lead to some pretty humuros and entertaining commentary, good for parties, barbecues,etc.

SGF
We, too live in the west coastal area of AL and own two elderly mobile homes. They have had tender loving care but even with all that there are some repairs that need doing and we have been burned so badly by “so-called” contractors that we hesitate to trust anyone else. As a result we live with plywood over rotted subfloors, holes where the roof has leaked, and so on. The list of cob job repairs is a long one of shoddy and incompetent work. We are in our early seventies and cannot undertake heavy physical laborious jobs. I find that dealers, when contacted, do not wish to share their go-to information for repairmen. We do have two competent specialists, HVAC and outside plumbing. We have done nearly all our inside plumbing repairs ourselves and they have been many due to the inferior materials used back in the early 1980′s. I feel sorry for people forced by circumstances to live in a mobile home that they can’t afford to pour what little funds they can spare down a rat hole. It’s too bad that someone hasn’t figured out how to do MH repairs as a specialty and make a living from it without defrauding people in the process.
Paul
I tried running an honest repair business and couldn’t make it work. I could never bring myself to charge what it required to pay for all the part chasing, travel, tools, etc. Many people always want the lowest bid. Since quality is often invisible the guy doing an honest job looses. Part of the reason for building this site was so people could either do their own work or might be better able to choose a contractor.

Sher
Just found your site and it is great! You have answered alot of my questions, but the main one now seems to be to “repair or not to repair”. Does there reach a point in a mobile home where it does not pay to keep trying to patch and fix all of the little problems? However, some of the little problems are turning into major ones!
Such as ceiling leaks and a roof that has been patched and already re-roofed once. Skylights seem to be a major problem and have been patched numerous times around the edges. I would like to see a column addressed to the thousands of “seniors” who reside in mobile homes and have little, if any, access to “trusted” handymen who know how to deal with a mobile home’s specific needs.
Paul
Repair or not to repair is a difficult judgment call that depends on the individual situation. How long do they expect to stay in the home? How tight is their budget? Do they have tools/skills to make repairs. Would the park let them move in a new home? I could go on and on.
Anything that involves a water leak needs to be taken care of quickly. Mobile homes are terribly prone to water damage. It doesn’t take much water or time to do serious damage.
I am planning some repair tutorials written for people with little or no experience. Your comment/suggestion is helpful in planning what I should cover.
Thanks,
Paul

Terri
Paul ,
just found the site and love it. what a nice way to help others…
I was wondering if you might do a tutorial on relpacing mobile home windows and doors? I have a bottom section of window that somehow cracked on the inside pane from one side to the other. Do I need an entire new window now?
Paul
Thank you, Terri
I have been playing around with some window repair information. It may answer at least some of your questions.

Jean
Hi Paul, Your site is great. Our parents bought a mobile home in Tempe Arizona in 1978 as a means to reduce living costs and retire in warm weather. They have both passed away and my brother resides there. He lived with Mom for the past 10 years and did not work for a few years. She passed away in December of 2009. The city of Tempe gave him a grant to fix some items on the mobile home for safety reasons. He has decided to fix it, and has put quite a bit of money into it, now he is asking me to help pay for things so he can sell it. I have already given him $650 towards repairs. He is stuck paying about $500 space rental each month and wants to sell it and seems to be in trouble, as the places are not selling. He needs to fix it quickly and unload it. He borrowed money from his girlfriend for some repairs and can’t ask her for anymore. When is it time to just give up, or what more should we spend before calling it done. I say sell as is, but if a few hundred dollars would help him sell it for a few thousand more, I will give him that. Probably only another 250 more at the most. I have a lot of debt and will have to take it out on credit and don’t think it is worth it.

Thanks for helping seniors trying to live with dignity in their final years in mobile homes. My parents took care of things and never had debt, they always lived within their means, which was meager. It is sad that we are losing that generation. I am stuck on what to do about the situation. Thanks for for your help.
Jean
Paul
A 1978 is getting pretty tired. I can’t imagine any repair where a few hundred dollars would add thousands of value. I think this is the wrong time to be selling too. I have always heard the homes sit empty in the summer.
From what I have seen, the people who profit from renovating an older home like this are doing it for themselves, make a game out of getting the best deals on fixtures and materials, and don’t count the value of their time. If you have to buy materials at retail and/or hire help, the numbers don’t work.
In your situation my guess is the best solution is to sell for whatever he can get and move on. People in his situation tend to “use up” their friends and family on the way down. In your situation I think more help would just postpone the inevitable. It also puts you at risk in case your circumstances change.
Sometimes being mean in the short term is kindest in the long run. It can be hard to remember that when you are living through it.
Best Wishes,
Paul

Tony
If you could find a way to be compensated I would be happy to help people with mobile/mod homes. I have about 25 years exp and am from an area that has built them for many years.
Paul
Finding good, affordable help is a serious problem for people. From the number of requests I get I am sure a list of qualified repair people would be a hugely popular addition to the website. It might also create some serious income.
I could create a state/city list of repair people and their contact information. I could charge them a lot on the theory the cost would weed out the fly by nights. I could ask people who used their services to rate them and require a certain level of satisfaction to stay on the list. So far, so good.
Then I think about the ways that system could be gamed.
How do I know the person submitting a review actually had work done?
Is the reviewer one of those unreasonable customers all contractors run into.
What legal liability do I have if a recommendation goes sour?
Repair and renovation is complicated. It’s really easy for issues to arise between customer and contractor even with the best intentions and integrity on both sides.
I like trying to help people save money and improve their homes by learning to do things themselves. I do not want to spend my life doing contractor/customer dispute resolution.
That said, I am open to suggestions for how it might be done. It may be a case where something, even with problems, would be better than nothing.

Don Morgan
Yes, calling a mobile home park is a good idea and I recommend that to a lot of people. You can also call mobile home dealers and ask them who they use for repairs since a lot of mobile home dealers use independent mobile home repair contractors to repair new home problems after setup.

M A Lybarger
If a ’78 is tired then a ’74 is what? It was originally a very nice 14′ x 70′ but it’s not been taken real good care of by previous owners but I do what I can, I’m disabled and only work part time and I think I will call a dealer to see if I can get someone to REPLACE the bellyboard and whatever insulation needed. I’m sure there is no insulation around the duct and it may even be leaking. Animals were allowed to go under the home and have torn out all the bellyboard and a lot of the insulation. I was thinking of getting felt tar paper and whatever else I need to make the repairs but how to attach it? I have asked friends to help me with this to no avail, I even threatened I’d do it myself if they didn’t want to help but even that didn’t work. It DOES have a brand new HVAC unit. Yes the windows and doors let in a lot of cold even with the storm windows (I have all but one), It’s what I could afford at the time and I really don’t want to put a whole lot more into it but you do what you have to. It’s livable, no carpet just plywood cause the floors were breaking down. Easier to keep clean. Definitely gonna call a dealer. Thanks.
Paul
Tar paper isn’t strong enough to support the insulation and will just tear loose. It would also be REALLY hard to make mouse proof seams. A mobile home supply place will sell rolls of belly fabric. This is plastic with heavy nylon threads every quarter inch or so. You hang it with a staple gun. Click this link to see a picture and price.

Diana Pratt
Thank you, Paul. Love your site and suggestion. The underbelly is still sealed and we would hate to mess with that. What are the odds that snaking it out every 2 years wouldn’t eventually result in a catastrophe? Our plumber always warns us that we could end up with an expensive mess. He only charges us $60 but it feels like the presurgical warnings from the anesthesiologist – not likely but you might die.

Paul
If the setup crew did their job the way they are supposed to, you should be fine.
On the other hand, since you can’t keep living there without functional drains, what choice do you have?