Stick Built vs. Modular: Know the Difference

Stick Built vs. Modular: Know the Difference

Mike Ware

Hammond Lumber Company

Home Planning Center, Drafting and Estimating 

Years with Hammond Lumber Company: Since April, 2015

Years in Industry: 25+

Experience in the Industry 

During my career in the Residential Construction field, I have had many different roles, Carpenter, Lead Carpenter, Project Manager, Estimator, and now Residential Home Designer. While working in the field swinging a hammer, I saw firsthand the importance of paying attention to detail. As a Project Manager and Estimator that attention to detail was intensified.

I have seen the structural implications from improper flashing around windows, doors and deck ledgers, rotten sills and sheathing, missing house wrap, compromised insulation and mold issues. I have seen homeowners forced to pay thousands of dollars to repair damages that, in my opinion, and experience, were directly related to the “assembly line” process.

Buying into a Myth

Here’s a quick example of a situation I experienced a couple years ago disputing the myth of modular construction being so much cheaper than stick-built construction. When bidding on a project for a client that was choosing between a stick-built home and a modular home one of my colleagues provided the homeowner with our complete list of materials for their project. He explained to the homeowner why we used certain materials (for example – why we preferred one type of sheathing over the material the modular company suggested) and asked them to have the modular company figure the project using our suggested materials. Our cost to build the home was significantly lower than the modular home estimate, enough so that the homeowner had us build their home.

Breakdown Comparison

Here are just a few comparison points based on my experience –


  1. Stick built homes can be designed to fit your personal style and address any wants or needs you have of your home.
  2. Modular manufacturers have “stock” plans that they want to try and sell before customizing your design. Customizing your plan may require more engineering and is limited to module specifications.
  3. Varying from a stock modular design may also increase the cost as you are changing the “flow” of the assembly line process. Changing materials may also impact the overall cost; if the materials you choose for your home are not their “standard” materials, the additional cost of acquiring the materials will be added to your total.


  1. Stick built homes are generally designed to fit your lot, to maximize your views and provide a comfortable home.
  2. Modular homes are limited to the size of the module being transported. Road width and site conditions often limit vehicle size.
  3. There needs to be enough cleared area to unload the modular home modules, set them on the ground, then place them on the foundation with a crane. Stick-built homes will allow to minimize the environmental impact at your site.
  4. Some neighborhoods or developments do not allow modular homes.


  1. When hiring a GC to stick-build your home you are typically hiring them to oversee the entire process. They will generally work with the excavation contractor, the foundation contractor and all required sub-contractors, verifying that any site or foundation related concerns are addressed prior to starting construction. One hand in the pot eliminates finger pointing in the end should anything come up.
  2. Modular homes are built in a factory then set on an existing foundation. If there are any modifications needed to fit the foundation due to inconsistency, the ability to field modify the footprint is not there. Stick built homes can be adjusted as needed to minimize confusion and maintain schedules.


  1. Stick-built construction allows you to walk through your home as it’s being built and make last minute adjustments. For example, if the laundry room looks too small your builder can typically adjust as needed.
  2. Modular homes are built off-site eliminating your ability to see the quality of craftsmanship being used. Whereas stick-built construction affords you the option to see the project as it progresses along with the materials being used.
  3. Modular roof trusses are built with hinge points to allow the truss to be folded for transport. Roof trusses designed for stick-built homes will typically be one piece, eliminating the possibility of seeing the hinge line in your roof.
  4. Modular homes are limited in size and design by several factors; module sizes, transportation limitations, assembly and structural constraints are just a few.
  5. Stick built homes can better utilize manufactured beams, floor trusses and other structural components to better create the home you want.
  6. Your stick-built GC will typically be the contractor to build your decks, exterior and basement stairs, daylight basement walls, final site cleanup and address any punch-list items that are left at the end of the construction process. If the modular company is not the same contractor to build your daylight basement walls or install your deck who is responsible if there is an issue?
  7. While in transport there will inevitably be structural movement in a modular home, drywall cracking, insulation shifting, windows and doors coming out of square to name a few. Some of those concerns can be seen and addressed after the modular has been set but what about the issues behind the drywall?

Conclusion: Why Limit Yourself?

I have worked with many clients in all aspects of the construction of their new home and I cannot remember anyone not wanting to change a room size, relocate a door or remove a window at least one time during the construction process. Why would you limit your ability to modify what often is the biggest investment of your life?