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The Truth about Set Crews and Cranes

If you have built a site-built home before, you are not likely familiar with what a set crew does or why a crane operator is important. These facets are unique to the modular home industry; and they are extremely important. The set crew is important in placing the modules onto the foundation and securing them into place accurately. And without an expert crane operator, there is no way to lift the modules off the tractor trailer truck and onto your building site. Set crews can be provided by the manufacturer or can be subcontracted by your builder.

Either is fine as long as they have experience with modular homes. However, often there may be some cost savings by hiring them directly or through your builder. Most crane operators are independent contractors, although manufacturers often have a list of operators they use regularly in your area. Regardless who recommends them, on the building site they are under the supervision of your general contractor. Upon arrival of the set crew, the set crew chief inspects the foundation for manufacturer's compliance and for any defects.

If there are any problems that cause further delays in the setting of your home, there are additional hours of time charged to you for the set crew and crane operator to wait or reschedule. If this is due to your builder's error, it is reasonable for him to pay these extra charges. Once inspected, the set crew guides and secures each module into place and removes transportation material from each module. Once the modules are in place, the floors are leveled and bolted to the floor centers.

In addition, the set crew places the steel columns for support in the crawl space or basement as outlined by the manufacturer. The set crew also sprays insulation in the perimeter walls and "marriage" walls where two modules come together to ensure good protection from the elements. And lastly, the roof system is attached and made flush to the home making it weather-proof. By the end of the process, the modular assembly is completed and protected from the outside.

The crane operator should be experienced in placing modular homes so that proper attachments to the modules do not damage the sections inadvertently. Set crews of course assist with this, but it helps to have a knowledgeable crane operator. Ideally, the crane operator has already surveyed your site prior to the arrival of the modular units and knows exactly where he can set up the crane.

The terrain and access should be cleared as part of your excavation to allow enough room for the crane to arrive and locate itself for your modular home placement. Most "sets" take either one or two days to complete depending on the home's size and complexity of design. Because the modular must be unwrapped from transport and connected together while exposed, weather can influence the assembly.

It is the set crews' responsibility along with your builder's role to protect your home during assembly from the weather. But assuming a good forecast, the modular home set usually proceeds quickly and smoothly. By the time the set crew leaves, your home looks as if it was built on-site practically overnight.

Michael Zenga founded ZN Custom Building in 2002 which specializes in building modular homes in the Boston, MA area. Michael Zenga is an expert in modular home construction including the management of site crews and crane operation.


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