Modular home vs stick built homes | What makes a better home?

January 14, 2020

If you’re like most people who are planning to build their own home, your head is probably swimming with terms that you’ve never heard before. And if you’ve landed here, you’re likely researching the differences between modular homes, which are produced indoors, shipped to the home site, and installed much faster, versus traditionally built houses (a.k.a. “stick-built” homes), which are built on-site and are subject to many delays—and more importantly, the benefits of a modular home vs stick built homes.

Modular vs stick built homes: how do you choose?


The term “stick built” refers to the linear, “first-this, then-that” approach to construction where one part, like finishing the foundation, must be completed before the next step, like framing, can begin.

In contrast, the process of producing a new modular home is non-linear in that the home is produced in a factory while the foundation is prepared for installation. This simultaneous approach results in a much shorter move-in ready timeline while providing a significantly higher quality home.  


Stick built homes, though traditional, have their share of problems. First and foremost is that construction can end up being one long succession of delays due to the need to schedule building around the availability of tradesmen. This can leave the unfinished frame exposed to wind, rain, snow, and all of the other weather a region can experience. Once wood gets wet it can be very difficult to thoroughly dry it out again, and this sort of exposure can be the start of a mold or mildew problem that’s difficult to get rid of especially once it’s sealed into the walls. Wood that’s exposed to the elements during assembly can cause it to expand and contract after it’s installed. These subtle changes can ultimately have a dramatic impact on the home’s airtight seal by making it easier for air to travel into and out of the home through cracks. Over time, as the sealing breaks down in stick built homes, they can become leaky and drafty, which increases the need for repairs and the costs of owning a stick built home, not to mention the loss of heating and cooling efficiency.

The chief advantage of stick built homes at the time they were invented were that:  

  • The construction materials were lightweight and could be shipped anywhere by rail and truck—a major factor in the plains states where wood wasn’t commonly available.
  • They were also easy to work with and didn’t require a lot of manpower to frame and lift the walls into position.
  • They could be erected very quickly, especially at a time when houses were simple and without plumbing or electricity.
Suspended floors like this one are all too common in stick build homes.
Suspended floors like this one are all too common in stick build homes.

The same isn’t necessarily true now when homes are larger and more complicated. A new stick built home needs to allow for water and sewer lines, wiring for power, and space for HVAC and AC systems in its design. Its construction schedule must allow subcontractors like the plumber, electrician, and AC installer time and space to work as well. All of these tradesmen may have multiple job sites to get to and conflicting schedules that can also cause delays. Modern stick built homes aren’t that quick to build these days and they tend to suffer a shortfall in quality when their schedule is rushed. In many ways, modular homes were developed to address the shortcomings of building a modern stick built home.

Modular homes are built in a factory rather than on-site.

In comparison, modular homes are:

  • Built indoors where every aspect of construction can be controlled and consistently reviewed.
  • Completed faster because, once the designs are approved, the foundation work on-site and the home's production can begin simultaneously. That way, once the home is built, the foundation is ready and installation takes place very quickly.
  • Crafted in controlled conditions free from outdoor elements like rain or snow. As a consequence, seals are much tighter, last longer, and water and air intrusion are reduced over the life of the home which lowers the cost of ownership. Moreover, a tighter building envelope results in better efficiency.
  • Homes are created by full-time employees of the company, which avoids labor delays and regional labor rate fluctuations due to labor availability. This speeds up the process, reduces costs, and provides peace of mind.
  • Assembled quickly and anchored securely. Home modules are sealed in a weather-proof envelope and shipped to the home site. Once they arrive, they are craned into place and secured to the foundation along with its roof in less than 24 hours. Once installed, making all of the utility connections and completing all of the finishing touches happens very quickly.  

If you're considering your options between a stick built and a modular home, it's important to consider key factors like the durability of materials and the experience level of your contractors. For most people, modular homes provide the benefits of predictable timelines, budgetary adherence, and construction quality that verifiably exceed most local standards.

For most people looking to build their own home, high-quality prefabricated modular homes offer a better value as they can be built with more control, to a higher standard, and more quickly than stick built homes. In fact, Dvele can deliver a move-in ready home in less than seven months.
Dvele prides itself on being a top tier prefab modular home builder. By choosing to customize a Dvele modern modular home, you’ll enjoy the benefits of our revolutionary process compared to traditional stick-built construction practices which haven’t evolved much in over 100 years. Contact Dvele today to get started building your luxury modular home.