This article is for informational purposes only, in no way does it recommend or advise doing this work without a qualified mobile home contractor and sufficient help present.
Moving a double-wide mobile home can be very dangerous and requires experience, skills and tools which most DIY homeowners do not possess. If you are attempting the breakdown yourself and have any doubts about the process at all, then please stop and get professional help.
Gloves, a hard hat and safety glasses should be worn by all persons working on the project. Do not work alone.
What is a Mobile Home Breakdown
Breaking down a mobile home means that the home is taken apart into modular sections at the roof, end walls, and floor before moving the sections to a new location. Sections are move by special trucks on axles and tires.
For the purposes of this article, we will assume that the home is being broken down on-site and being moved to a new location. Assuming that the homeowner has previously removed all of their furniture, personal belongings to a safe location.
How To Move A Double Wide Mobile Home.
Remove the skirting and all obstacles. Disconnect all of the utility services, water electricity and sewer. Hang the appropriate axles, tires and hitch assembly. Split the two sections. Lower the mobile home to the ground. Dismantle the foundation piers. Waterproof the home and finally book a date for transportation.
Do I Need A Permit To Remove A Mobile Home?
The first thing to do is to make sure that you don’t need a permit in your City, County or State. If a permit is required, get one. They will need the permit to be posted on the job site and the sewer and water capped off. The permit is cheap and can usually be pulled by the homeowner.
This job site will usually be inspected after the home has been moved to its new location.
A notice of commencement may also be required and posted onsite.
Is Moving The Home Possible?
Secondly, make sure that you can get the home off the property, many times the gates are too narrow, fences are in the way or sometimes the house has been there 30 years and things are built up all around it.
Look out for trees and low hanging branches. You may need to trim a tree or even have one removed. This can be expensive and surprising if not included in the original budget.
There could be power poles in the way with junction boxes and low hanging power cables. Sheds and garages may be present and often attached to the home.
You will need a wide area if the home needs to be turned. Mobile homes do not turn like an 18 wheeler. Notice as the front 2/3rds of the mobile home moves in one direction the rear 1/3rd of the home moves the opposite way.
How Much Will It Cost To Break Down My Mobile Home?
The cost of this project will be different if you are doing some of the work yourself. If you are using a contractor then I have laid out the cost estimate below:
I can only answer this question for my area which is central Florida, but here the main costs will include:
- Set up crew for one day (4-5 men).
- Skirting removal.
- Anchor removal.
- Polythene wrap and furring strips.
- Axle and tire rental. (slips)
- Utility Disconnect.
- Site clean up and dumpster if needed.
- Transporting the materials to the new site.
The cost estimation that I will cover here will be limited to the cost of hiring contractors and subcontractors who will be directly involved in the project of breaking down the mobile home and preparing it for transport to a new location.
- Permit cost $100 – $350
- Dumpster rental $350 – $800 (one time fee)
- Removal of attachments $300-$600 per day (3 men)
- Breakdown of home $3000 – $7000 (total cost)
- Tractor / bulldozer $400 – $1000 per day
- Materials less than $500
From the above list, it will cost a minimum of $4650 up to a maximum of $10250.
The breakdown process usually takes a whole day and around 5 people to do the job safely having the home ready for transport during daylight.
Extra costs that are not included or may be incurred:
- Cost of the Toter transport and escorts.
- Welding Hitches.
- Taking down and replacing fences and gates.
- Attachments (sheds, Garages, etc)
- Tree trimming or removal.
- Building ramps or bridges.
- Concrete removal and disposal.
- Use of a bulldozer.
- Raised Roof houses.
- Multi-level structures.
How Long Will It Take To Move the Mobile Home?
If you are using a breakdown contractor and crew they will usually complete the whole job in one or two days, clean up the site and remove the home from the property.
The speed of home removal may be a deciding factor in some situations. Time factors should be taken into consideration carefully if you have no other place to live.
What To Do First? – Doing Things in the Right Order.
If you have made to here and are going to continue with this project I have outlined the steps in order to make the job flow from start to finish. The order below also covers certain areas of safety first best practices that should be adhered to in order to prevent accidents.
Disconnect All Attachments.
Any screen rooms, steps and porches should be removed first.
Steps should be easy to remove away from the home and sometimes can be reused at the new location.
If a shed, screen room, or carport structure uses one wall of the home as a fourth wall, what will happen to it when it is disconnected from the mobile home?
There is a great deal to consider when moving structures. Some of this can be bad news for the homeowner as you may not be able to save some outbuildings. Also even if the building can be preserved, its current construction may not be able to be reused because of enhanced building codes in your area.
Remove The Skirting.
The next step is to remove the skirting from around the bottom of the house.
Once you are satisfied that you can get the home off the property, you need to remove the skirting to expose the underside of the house. Doing this will allow you to see the I beams and the axle hangers so that you can go on to the next task.
Vinyl skiting is easy to remove and dispose of with a screw gun and some snips.
Split brick is simple to remove. Down stack by hand and move it away from the home.
Block or brick skirting will need to be broken up with a sledgehammer and disposed of in a dumpster.
Stucco skirting is the most difficult to remove and clear up. It weighs 1000s of pounds and is spread onto steel lathes which can be very shape. Cut it into sections and dispose of the pieces in a dumpster. Make sure to remove any shape metal fragments from around the perimeter of the home.
Remove The Lap Siding From End Walls.
If the home has lap siding on the ends this needs to be removed and each piece numbered for future use. Usually, the contractor will wrap up the pieces and place them inside the home for transportation.
To remove the lap, first, remove the fascia and soffit pieces from the gable end peaks. These are usually just screwed into place.
Remove the siding starting at the top of the wall. Carefully number the pieces with a marker pen and stack them in reverse order. Tie up the piles of siding for transport to the new location inside the home.
Locate the Mobile Home Hitches.
If the hitches were removed and left under the home they may be good enough to reuse. If in good condition the hitches are bolted back into their original location. Usually, with older houses, a new set of hitches will be boltedonto the frame if the old ones all rusty and unusable.
Check under the front of the house for hitches. Sometimes the set-up crew will leave the hitches under the house other times they will be cut off.
If they were cut off, and are still under the home, pull them out. The cut ends will need to be plate welded, this welding should be done by a certified welder as it can be quite dangerous taking a mobile home down the highway.
If the hitches are under the house, pull them towards the front of the house. Line up the plates and bolt them back to the frame with at least 3/4″ bolts. Before using any hitch, make certain that the steel is in reasonably good condition. Sometimes the hitches are rusty due to laying in wet conditions under the home for many years.
If the hitches are not under the home, they can be purchased from a MH dealer or local contractor.
Disconnect the Anchor Straps on the Home.
Disconnect and remove the anchor straps, the stabilizer plates, longitudinal systems. Some of these parts can be used again if they are not rusty. Many new systems are bolted together and can be disassembled easily. Anchor straps are often bolted to the I beam and are also easily removed.
Most mobile homes have sidewall straps that hang vertically from the walls to the ground. If the home is being reused these straps need to be cut as close to the anchor as possible but at a minimum of 12 inches from the home.
Remove the Mobile Home Anchors.
Remove the actual anchors from the ground. Once the home is split apart they will be very difficult to access and will get in the way. These anchors will make holes in transport tires if the home is rolled over the anchor heads during removal. Anchors can also cause injuries to workers kneeling on the ground.
The best way to remove an anchor by hand is to dig down by the side of the shaft with a pair of post hole diggers. Once you have dug down about 3 feet the anchor will feel loose and can be turned out in an anti-clockwise direction.
Turn the anchor by inserting a 24″ piece of 2″ x 4″ into the anchor head.
The anchor straps are carefully disconnected or cut to leave enough room for future use so long as the straps meet the present 15-c installation code.
Disconnect the Utilities.
Have the power company turn off the power.
Make sure the power is off.
Don’t believe what anyone tells you!
Test it yourself!
Locate the meter box usually on a power pole. Turn the power off at the pole junction box.
Disconnect the electric wires from the junction box inside the home. Tape up any loose ends.
Disconnect the cross-over wires between the 2 sections. These are usually located at the front or back of the centerline, under the home. They can consist of snap-together connections or sometimes a small junction box. Label the wires if they do not already have markings.
Turn off the water supply.
Have the water turned off at the main by the local water company. They may need a few days notice.
Or, turn off the water supply if you have a well. There should also be a shut-off valve and a power box.
At the home, there should be a shut-off valve close to the mobile home inlet pipe, which is usually near the back door of the home.
Cut the line away from the work area, turn the pipe above ground with a 90-degree fitting and cap off the end.
Disconnect the sewer pipes under the home. The best way to do this is to cut off the pipes at the point where they emerge from the underbelly. Leave enough pipe showing for reconnection at the new location.
Don’t cut through hubs and fittings.
Trace the sewer pipe to the point where it emerges from under the home, allow an extra 4 feet outside of the home perimeter and cut the pipe off. This end is now open and exposed to either a septic tank or main sewer. Put a 90 degree fitting onto the pipe and cap the end.
Air Conditioning HVAC.
Pull the AC unit away from the house and disconnect the ductwork and the thermostat wire.
Remove all of the ductwork from under the house feel free to keep any of it if it’s in good condition but usually it won’t be up to standard for a new installation.
Telephone And Cable.
Telephone cables are not used these days on many newer houses but they can be snipped off in a convenient location close to the edge of the home and taped up for reuse.
Internet, cable TV and burglar alarm wires can be complicated and custom made. If necessary have them uncoupled by the cable company. A single coaxial cable can be cut and reconnected on site.
How Many Axles Do I Need On My Home?
Before the home can be split apart the wheels and axles need to be installed. Sometimes they are still under the mobile home but usually, the crew will bring a set of adjustable axles called “slips” and all of the essential nuts, bolts, and hanging gear.
The next job is to work out the size and number of axles that will be needed under the house for transportation. Sometimes these are all the standard mobile home size and other times you will need slip axles.
- Single wide 2 – 6 axles.
- Doublewide 4 – 12 axles
The standard size used in most homes is 96 inches from the center of one “I” beam to the center of the other. Standard size axles can be bought from a mobile home dealer or a setup contractor in your area.
If your home requires smaller or nonstandard axles, slip axles will be needed.
Slip axles are axles that have been cut in the middle. They use a piece of larger pipe slipped over the axle shaft which joins the two halves of the axle together.
This makes the axles adjustable so that they can match up with the frame size on the house. This type of axle can be used over and over again on different jobs.
Axle Hardware needed for Installation
Along with the axles you will also need axle bolts, nuts, keepers lug nuts if the axle is a hunk together in groups you need equalizer devices and shackles.
Each axle will require:
- 5 lug nuts.
- 5 keepers.
- 8 Axle Bolts with nuts.
- 8 shackles.
- 2 equalizers.
- 2 mobile home style tires on rims.
Warning, don’t ever try to break down a mobile home without first attaching the necessary axles and hitches for safety purposes.
How to Install Mobile Home Axles?
The axles are heavy and it’s very easy to hurt yourself if you’re unsure what you’re doing. This job requires two people working in unison to hang the axles.
Place all of the fittings needed for all axles and tires on one 1/2, along with the necessary tools into a plastic tote with a handle like the one below. There is nothing worse than trying to fit nuts and bolts covered in sand and debris.
With a man on each end raise one of the axle springs so that it is positioned between the axle hangers. Insert one of the axle bolts through the hole and place a nut on the end of the bolt with the nut to the outside. Hand tighten only at this point.
Both workers then need to raise the other spring to line up with the next axle hanger. To keep the axle in place long enough for you to insert the bolt, you will both rest the axle hub on your legs to support the weight. Insert the bolts and hand tighten the nuts.
Continue to hang the other axles until they are all in place. Tighten up the nuts and bolts on all axles at the same time. Use a 13/16″ socket with a 1/2″ ratchet on the nuts and a 13/16″ wrench on the bolts.
If the springs do not reach the second hanger use a shackle and an extra bolt to reduce the distance to the hole.
Hang The Mobile Home Tires Onto The Axles.
Having hung the axles on the 1st half of the home, take the tires and line them up one tire to each axle hub ready for installation. In the tote place 5 lug nuts, 5 keepers for each tire. Tools needed are a 7/8″ socket with a 1/2 ” driver.
Place 2 lugs and 2 keepers into 2 adjacent positions on the rim, now hand tighten the lugs. Turn the hub so that the lugs are in the 10, and 2 o’clock positions. With the tire valve facing you, lift the tire onto the two lugs with the valve in the 12 o’clock position.
Insert the remaining 3 lugs and keepers into the axle hub and hand tighten. Now carefully tighten the lugs nuts up with the driver until the tire rotates without wobble.
Continue until all tires are in place and secured,
Let’s Just Check Where We Are In The Process.
Time to take a breath to access the progress:
- Attachments have been removed.
- The skirting is removed.
- Lap is removed from end walls.
- Utilities are removed.
- Hitches are installed.
- The running gear is hung.
*The home is still on the support pier blocks
Remove The Trim From The Inside Center Line.
At this point, we need to remove the trim from the inside of the house carefully taking it down for future installation. The pieces that need to be removed are on either side of the centerline along the ceiling and down the end walls and some supporting walls.
Inside the home, the close-up trim it’s carefully removed for future use and the carpet is cut and tacked back from the centerline if it is going to be reused. The trim is labeled and usually transported inside the home.
The floor covering will need to be pulled back to make a clear space along the centerline. Carefully remove the carpet wood or tile and fix it safely away from the center. This will be reattached at the new location so care is needed not to cause damage.
Remove The Fasteners Between The Sections.
Now it is time to remove the fasteners which hold the two units together. These fasteners will be present in the floor, along the ridge of the roof and on either end wall.
- Go up onto the roof and remove the cap shingles from the ridge.
- Remove the metal cap from the center and the drip edge from both ends.
- Cut through the roofing felt to expose the wood.
- Locate and remove the fasteners which are holding the roof together. These could be bolts, lag screws or strips of metal.
Continue down the end walls and along the floor until all fasteners are removed. You should be able to clearly see light passing through the gaps visually. Take a length of strap and manually slip it between the sections moving it along the crack. This strap will hit any fasteners still in place.
Prepare To Split The Sections Apart.
At this point the house needs to be split into two sections, this means we will be moving one half of the house away from the other half. Take a close look around the house and see which one will be the most convenient to move.
To prevent anything shifting in a way that is undesirable or dangerous, a 2 ton come-along with chains or wires should be installed between both sections at the front and the back. It is best to attach the hooks to the I beams under the home as these are strong locations
Keep these come-alongs and chains in place but keep the chains slightly loose for now.
Split The Home Using A 3 Point Roller System.
Set up a roller system on the beneath the chosen section, one on the hitch and one behind each rear axle.
Make sure that the rollers are set up flat and level and both are perpendicular to their beams. The roller pans should be installed on top of several 2 x 8s in order to spread the load.
Assemble the rollers and use the roller jack to raise the inside beam of the home. Turn the Stinger on the hitch roller to raise the front of the house. The home needs to be raised only sufficient to clear the pier blocks which should now be down stacked.
The inside of the house should now be off of the inside supporting piers.
Repeat the procedure on the outside beam.
The home should now be clear of all of the supporting piers. The block and pads should be moved away from the house because we going to be moving the house away from the other section and we don’t want trash to be in the way.
Place one come-along on the outside roller pan so that it can gently pull the rollers inside the pan. Do the same thing on the hitch roller.
You need one person on each roller come-long working together to pull the house out. One more person needs to watch the procedure and co-ordinate.
How Far Do The Sections Need To Be Pulled Apart?
Release the chain come-longs on the ends of the home so that the sections can be pulled apart.
Now pull the home apart using the pan come-longs. Do it together, slowly and smoothly. Keep a close watch on the roller jacks, sometimes they can get in a bind and need to be reset.
Continue until there is a 4 ft gap between the two sections. Now the roller rear jacks can be lowered and the hitch Jack removed the house will now be sitting on its hitch and its own tires.
That completes the use of the rollers, they should now be put away clean and safe for next to use.
On To The Second Half.
The remaining section of the house cannot be jacked up one side at a time with the block removed until it is lower down onto it’s axles and front hitch.
Wrap The Home In Polythene.
The home should now be wrapped with 6 mm poly wrap and furring strips to keep the rain out on to prevent any debris from running off the house during transportation. These homes will travel at normal speeds down the highways so the wrap needs to be tight and secure with no tears.
Any damage to the wrap can be fixed with duct tape.
Clean Up The Jobsite.
Dispose of any trash. There will be quite a lot of construction garbage that needs to be moved completely away from the house.
All concrete block, wooden shims, base pads and wedges that were used to support the home, should be neatly stacked away from the home along with the a/c unit.
There can be nothing in the way of the toter driver when he arrives, his job is to hook up to the house and drive off not to finish up your work.
Always re-check the bolts on the axles and tires on the house after it has been lower down onto the ground, things can sometimes come loose. Ensure that there is sufficient air in all of the tires.
There are a couple of important things to note:
These may seem obvious points but unfortunately, sometimes miracles are expected.
(1) When a home is taken apart no matter how carefully and transported to a new
location to be reassembled it will not look any better than it did before the
(2) New shingles nailed to the roof may not match the old shingles exactly.
(3) Vinyl skirting may not fit in a new location due to a different slope or increased
height of the new set.
Everything needs to be put into a contract with contingency plans for when things
don’t go exactly as planned.