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A “prefabricated home” is a house that is either partially or completely manufactured in a factory before being transported to a building site. If you’re shopping for a prefab home, you’ll likely be deciding between two types: Panelized or Modular construction. While both types are considered to be “prefabricated,” there are several key differences between panelized kit homes and modular homes:

What are Panelized Prefabricated Homes?

Panelized prefabricated house kits typically include a roof, wall panels, and floor systems that are all first assembled in a factory, then delivered to the home construction site. When building a panelized house kit, the foundation is laid first, then the panelized walls, floors, and roof that were manufactured off-site are put into place.

Watch a small crew quickly build the walls of a panelized house kit

Prefab kit homes from Mighty Small Homes, for example, use strong, factory-assembled Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) that make them highly-efficient. These SIPs make our homes airtight, even giving them the ability to withstand hurricane-force winds. Our SIPs also make every Mighty Small Home 2-to-3 times more energy-efficient than traditionally-built homes.

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What are Modular Prefabricated Homes?

Modular homes consist of prefabricated modules that are grouped and/or stacked to form larger home structures. Modular homes are completely factory-built in pieces, then those modules are loaded onto a truck and shipped to the construction site.

To be clear, a modular home is not a “mobile” or “manufactured” home. Modular homes are also referred to as factory-built, system-built, or prefab homes.

rendering of stacked container modular home with yard and garden

Containers are a popular type of modular home

One type of modular home that has been getting a lot of attention lately is the container home, which is typically made from modified and customized shipping containers.

Modular homes are appealing to some homeowners and builders because adding or removing modules to change the look or square footage is a lot easier than it would be with traditionally-built homes.

Benefits of Panelized vs. Modular Prefab Homes

  • Easier to Ship/Transport

    With panelized homes, the panels are loaded onto smaller flatbed trucks that can be taken nearly anywhere you want to build, even remote locations. Big plus.

    With modular homes, the modules must be loaded onto an oversized truck and driven to your location, so you need to find a manufacture relatively near you. They also can’t be driven to remote locations.

  • Faster Build

    Time is money, and panelized construction saves a lot of time over modular. Panelized homes can be put up in a matter of days, and they can be completely finished in as few as 6-10 weeks.

    Modular homes, on the other hand, typically take 3-4 months to complete. They also require large equipment to lift and place the modules on the home construction site.

  • Less Waste

    Both modular and prefab homes result in far less waste going to landfills, because much (or all) of the construction takes place in a factory. Lumber is cut by machine, which makes the measurements more precise, resulting in less lumber being wasted.

  • Stronger

    When it comes to strength of construction, it’s hard to beat panelized homes. They’re built in a factory and precision engineered to be airtight and strong. Our strong panel system ensures that Mighty Small Homes will last generations and stand up to severe weather threats, including hurricane force winds and heavy snow.

    Modular homes are constructed more like traditional stick-built homes, except that they’re completely built in a factory. Although they can be built with strong panels, most are not, which makes panelized a better option for strength.

  • Healthier

    All prefabricated homes are either partially or entirely built in a factory, so the materials aren’t subjected to rain and snow, which can result in mold, mildew, or rust. The airtight panels in Mighty Small Homes also keep dirt, dust, and allergens outside, providing a healthier living environment for residents.

  • Energy Efficiency

    Panelized homes, especially those with strong structural insulated panels (like those used in Mighty Small Homes), offer superior energy efficiency that can save homeowners up to 60% on their energy bills.

    Modular homes are also more efficient than traditional, stick-built homes, but most don’t offer the same energy efficiency as panelized homes.

Do Panelized Homes Offer More Design Flexibility than Modular?

rendering of a container modular home interior

The typical rectangular shape of container homes limits interior design options

The short answer is yes. Modular homes feature modules that are built in squares or rectangles, which are then stacked on-site according to the planned design.

This means modular homes typically have a sleek, boxy look that is appealing to some buyers, but limiting to others. Interior layouts of modular homes are also less flexible than panelized houses, because every module is built in a factory according to plans with strict, standardized dimensions.

If you’re looking for more flexibility and design options for both the exterior and interior of your home, panelized kit homes can be built in almost any style or aesthetic you can imagine because their floor plans can be easily customized with few limitations. Mighty Small Homes, for example, offers customized floor plans to match nearly any lot size, dimensions, or interior layout that a buyer desires.

What is the Best Kind of Prefabricated Home?

Choosing what kind of prefabricated house is best for you mostly depends on your style preferences and the logistics involved.

Panelized prefab homes are probably the most flexible choice, because in addition to being available in styles that match any taste, they are also easier to transport since panels can be loaded onto a smaller truck. Prefab house kits from Mighty Small Homes can be delivered nearly anywhere you want to build – from a secluded location in the woods or near a lake, to an urban lot in a crowded neighborhood.

4 photos of kit homes in different locations

Our panelized kit homes can be customized to fit various lot sizes and locations

Mighty Small Homes panelized house kits are also a great option for those seeking to lower their carbon footprint because of their sustainable construction and high-efficiency.

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Modular homes come in all sizes and can be as elaborate or as simple as you want, but, because they’re entirely built off-site, you’ll be limited in how you can customize. And because they’re built in square or rectangular modules, the modules must be loaded onto an oversized truck and driven to your location, so you need to find a manufacturer that’s relatively near you. They also can’t be driven to remote locations, so that’s something else to consider.

Mighty Small Homes Panelized House Kits Offer Unique Customization

Whether you’re looking to build the home of your dreams, a new lake house, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), or even a cabin in the woods, Mighty Small Homes panelized house kits can be customized to meet your needs.

To learn more about our models and the process of building one of our homes, please contact our team with your questions and we’ll be happy to help.