What is Panelized Construction?

M. McGee
M. McGee
Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Panelized construction is a method of building certain parts of a house in a factory rather than onsite. This construction method is the natural midpoint between a standard stick-built home and a completely modular premanufactured home. Panelized construction eliminates a lot of the time and waste associated with traditionally-built homes, but allows for variation in construction and design, something unavailable with premanufactured homes. It isn’t uncommon for homebuilders to use some panelized parts when building a home, even if they say it is hand-built.

A housing panel is a framework of a wall or roof that was assembled in a factory rather than onsite. These premade sections save time and money when putting together a house. Since these pieces are always nearly identical, the actual construction of a panel can take place elsewhere, and it will be nearly indistinguishable from one built locally. The builder may make small modifications after the panels arrive to customize them to a specific project.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to panelized construction. The majority of the pluses relate to time and money, while the majority of the minuses relate to the panel company. In either case, they have certain additional advantages and disadvantages when compared to a stick-built or premanufactured home.

The two primary advantages are time and money. Panelized construction allows the framing phase of the house to move by very quickly. This reduces the time the builders spend on the house and the money the homeowner needs to pay.

The disadvantages to panelized construction include the panels costing a lot to ship. This may end up making them more expensive than if the builder had made them himself. In this case, there is still a time savings, but less of a money one.

The other major drawback is in quality control. Some companies are much more careful in their construction than others. If a panel is assembled poorly, the turn around on shipping it back and getting a replacement may eat up the time savings gained by using panels.

When compared to other building methods, there are even more things to consider. A stick-built home gives the most freedom in design and flow. With a panelized home, the panels come in a variety of configurations, but only common sizes. This reduces the freedom of design, but also reduces build time and cost. A premanufactured home is livable in just a few days, but the homeowner has no say in its overall configuration—these homes will typically cost the least, but they have little variety.

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