BrightBuilt Homes' Vinalhaven.

Prefab homes are not new, as Sears Roebuck taught us many years ago. They also are not new in Maine, which is and has been home to several modular home manufacturers for decades.

But while these homes may prove highly durable and energy efficient, they often were fitted out with inferior materials, particularly when it came to floor covering, siding, tile work, cabinetry and finishes. No longer.

Downeast, the unofficial official magazine of Maine, shows how custom prefab builders are blowing away the quality issue and putting up homes that eclipse all but the highest quality stick-built homes.

Like Sears back in the day, companies like BrightBuilt, Searsmont’s Ecocor, and Belfast’s GO Logic offer ready-made, customizable house plans in an array of sizes and styles.

Meanwhile, Bensonwood, of Walpole, New Hampshire, designs its homes from scratch but follows the same basic tenets of modern prefab. Wall, roof, ceiling, and floor components are assembled with precision in a factory, where bad weather can’t cause delays and excess material is recycled and reused. Prebuilt parts are trucked to the site and pieced together, typically by a builder.

The result is an airtight home that can go from drafting table to housewarming party in three to five months — compare with nine months to a year for homes built onsite. And while prefab efficiencies don’t necessarily translate to a less expensive build, they do offer what [Parlin] Meyer [director of Portland’s BrightBuilt Home] calls “price predictability.”

“Because so many decisions are made up front, before the factory process starts,” she says, “you can home in on a fairly fixed cost and not worry about it ballooning.”

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