Mobile Home Salvage: How It Works And What You Need To Know

Mobile Home Salvage - Featured Image

Mobile home salvage. Today we want to help you with a part of mobile home life that is rarely covered, yet can be a real nightmare once you land in this unfortunate situation. Mobile homes, especially older ones, have a shelf life that can be extended or shortened depending on how the home was used, maintained, and taken care of.

Once the home reaches the end of its lifespan, it can become completely uninhabitable. This means you are not going to live or use it yourself and because of its condition you are also extremely unlikely to find anyone that wants it.

Another thing that might want to hasten your desire to get rid of the home is the fact that, unlike the home itself, the property IS valuable and usable. In this case, the mobile home that could’ve, at a time, happily housed you or other families is now a liability. Your only option is to completely get rid of the home and one way of doing that is by salvaging the mobile home.

Mobile Home Salvage - Featured Image

If you go through online forums dedicated to mobile homes, you are bound to find contributors tell their harrowing and nightmarish stories. There is no doubt about it that it’s not an easy situation to be in, and you are unlikely to come out on top. However, armed with good information, you can make it work and come out relatively unscathed.

Conditions for mobile home salvage

Let’s first look at the reason why you are considering salvage in the first place. We can safely assume that in 99.99% of cases where you have to resort to salvage, we are talking about an older mobile home. Possibly a model from the early 1980’s or even older than that.

Old mobile home salvage

We know that by far most mobile homes depreciate in value. At an average depreciation rate of 3-3.5% per year, it would’ve lost significant value by now. In fact, it could be worth only a few thousand dollars. That’s almost the value of its materials alone.

Add to the fact the older homes are near impossible to finance (pre-1976 is impossible) and are not accepted by mobile home parks (most cut off dates are in the 1980’s) and your home becomes a very unattractive prospect.

Counter-intuitively, the land tends to appreciate. This means that a piece of land bought at the same time can now be worth significantly more than the home itself. Now, let’s say you find a buyer interested in your land, would you be thrilled by the eyesore of a structure sitting on the land? Probably not. How about willing to go through the hassle and expense of moving the home yourself? Not really.

So, as you can see in this case, it’s better to just completely get rid of the mobile home. Even if it costs you a few thousand dollars, you should still turn a significant profit by selling the property.

Sell My Mobile Home Fast link

Newer mobile home salvage

Newer homes are built to much higher standards and have longer life expectancies. For that reason, the only way you would have to go as far as salvaging a newer mobile home is if it was treated terribly or the cost of moving it and your desire to have the land on which it is located is simply too great to keep on waiting for a buyer. However, this is a very extreme case and you would have to be very desperate.

If this is where you find yourself, we recommend contacting a wholesaler. The home should be off your hands in no time.

What options are available for mobile home salvage?

While there aren’t many options available when salvaging a mobile home, it’s important that you know about the few that are. We will also highlight the difference between the terms “demolition” and “deconstruction” so that you know what to look for.

Salvaging by yourself

Although it’s a doozy of a DIY project, it is possible to deconstruct a mobile home by yourself. In fact, we will provide you with a rough guide on how to do just that in the next section. However, be aware that it’s a project that will require at least one full day of work, but probably more. It’s also very hard, difficult, and potentially dangerous work, so take all the necessary precautions.

old trailer

What you’ll need

If you want to tackle it by yourself, here are some things you need as well as some optional equipment that will make it easier:

  • Help: This project is impossible to do alone. Many appliances and materials will require two or more people to carry. For your safety, there will also be many occasions where you need someone to hold something up or down while someone else loosens it. On top of that, it will drastically cut down on your work time.
  • Complete toolbox: This project will require every toolbox in the modern DIY home owner’s arsenal. Hammers, screwdrivers, pry bars, power saws, wood saws, grinders, you name it!
  • Crane: It is possible to simply pull off the roof once it’s loosened from the home with a crane and set it aside. This will then be easier and safer to take apart.
  • Bulldozer: For a few hundred dollars you can rent a bulldozer for the day. This has the obvious advantage of flattening anything easily and within a matter of minutes but isn’t very “salvage friendly.”
  • Tow truck, trailer: You will be left with a lot of material and debris to transport and things like the chassis can weigh a significant amount. It will be almost impossible to transport all this material without this. You also need to consider the fuel cost of making multiple trips back and forth.

0-sum salvage

We won’t go too much into this but will just mention it here for completeness. You can always try to find someone willing to do the salvage for you. The internet is full of sites where people offer their services for all kinds of odd jobs.

Some people have been lucky enough to find someone willing to take apart the home at zero cost on the condition of them keeping the salvage for their own profit. If you think about the amount of effort it takes, this isn’t a bad deal.

Obviously, you will just need be wary of scammers. Many people who have gone this route report scammers who only strip the most valuable items and then leave the wreck on the property. It’s recommended you supervise on the day if you go this route.

Professional salvaging services

We feel obliged to mention that this will most likely not result in a profit for you. Salvaging services are generally more expensive since they must take extra precautions when taking the home apart, unlike demolishing. We will explain the difference more clearly below.

These services are mostly used for stick-built homes and larger constructions. Salvageable material will either be handed over to you to sell or can be donated straight to charity and you get to deduct the value from your tax.

As the service costs around $2600 on average, it won’t be financially worth it. The value of scrap materials in a mobile home generally fall below $2000.

However, you can’t argue with the fact that you will have zero risks, the process will be quick and painless, and you are assured of a clean and usable plot afterward.

Demolition vs. Deconstruction/Salvaging

There is a very important difference between demolition and deconstruction. In deconstruction, care is taken to separate the different materials that make a home so that you end up with salvageable or recyclable debris. Demolition, on the other hand, is when you destroy the home with the end goal of removing the home safely and leaving the lot clean.


It’s true that in most cases a simple demolition service is substantially less expensive than deconstruction. However, it’s important to note that after demolition, few if any of the materials in the home are in a salvageable or reusable state. Since on average, between 75-90% of a home’s material can be reused, you may be able to get something back if you opt for deconstruction.

How does salvaging work?

Now let’s get into the meat of the matter.

  • Choose your method: Using the information above as a guide, decide whether you will hire a contractor, demolish the home yourself, or have someone do it for you.
  • Get a permit: You will need a permit to demolish or deconstruct the home. This is required in almost any area in the U.S. You should read up on your state/county/zoning area’s specific requirements.  If you are hiring a professional contractor, make sure they get the relevant permits and ask if it’s included in the cost of the operation. Otherwise, you will need to do it yourself or pay them extra.
  • Actual salvaging/deconstruction process: Once your documentation is in order and you have the necessary permits, you can start the salvaging, deconstruction or demolition process at will.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the actual salvaging process in case you want to tackle it by yourself. Following the order which we provide will not only make the job easier but ensure that you get the best possible results.

How to salvage a mobile home

Generally, you can divide the salvaging or deconstruction process into three stages:

  1. A “soft strip” of the interior
  2. Stripping the exterior
  3. Deconstruction of the home.

The soft strip

A soft strip is when you go through the home and remove any small items or materials of value without necessarily compromising the home’s structure. This includes fixtures such as:

  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Light fixtures, electrical outlets, etc
  • Appliances
  • Floor surface/carpets
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Tubs, sinks
  • Trim
  • Faucets and water fixtures, etc.
  • Water heater, air condition unit(s), etc.
  • To be thorough, you can even remove the interior paneling of the mobile home wall but be sure to leave the studs and supports intact. The same goes for the ceiling. You can also remove the insulation now.

 Dismantling interior

Strip the exterior

As you can imagine, stripping the exterior is pretty much the same thing. You can remove all the electronic light fixtures, outlets, window or door frames, etc. If you have central heating or cooling there may also be some items attached to the outside of the home.

Once all of these additions are removed you can now strip the exterior panels too. This should leave the skeleton of the home completely exposed.

Before you get down to the actual deconstruction, take care that you have removed and secured all of these:

  • Wall studs
  • Nails
  • Joists
  • Wiring

These can be salvaged and recycled. Wiring is mostly made of copper which is the most valuable recycling metal by weight.

The roof is not that easy. Depending on what kind of roof you have, the process could differ significantly. A lot of people cut their losses and simply push over the home once all the valuable materials are removed. If you want to be more careful you can completely remove the mobile home roof by disconnecting it from the home and lifting it off with a using a crane. On the other hand, if you want to save money and do it yourself, you can take it apart by hand.

For these common types of mobile home roofs:

  • Metal sheets: If you have a metal roof, here is a guide on how to remove the corrugated metal plates.
  • Asphalt shingles: Here is a great guide on how to remove asphalt shingles and includes safety tips.

Final phase

The actual deconstruction process then involves systematically taking apart the mobile home. This is by far the hardest of the three and requires the most time, manpower, and heavy equipment. Some people even hire construction machines to help out.

You should be dealing with little more than a skeleton consisting of wooden support beams. These can be carefully taken apart if they are in good enough shape to salvage or simply torn down with heavy equipment in a matter of moments.

You can now also separate everything into groups. Typically you should group all the metals, copper, brass, wood, and plastics together. Everything else such as appliances are easy to identify.

This phase is also about making sure everything fits in the transportation. The undercarriage of the mobile home will be too large for most trailers and trucks. You might need to cut it down to size using a metal saw or grinder. Or you may be able to find someone willing to buy it and move it themselves.

How will you complete your mobile home salvage?

We hope this article has given you a good idea of what you are up against, as you can see, salvaging a mobile home is no mean feat. It will require either a lot of money, a lot of effort, or a bit of both and you are unlikely to get a lot out of it. If you decide demolition is the way to go, we offer professional services. Here at EZ Homes, we take the greatest care that your mobile home is demolished safely and the lot is left spotless.

About Dan Leighton

Dan Leighton has been working in the mobile home industry for over a decade. His focus has been on sales and customer relations - making sure each person in the transaction is comfortable and fully transparent. He has a wife and one son. Dan continues to look for innovative ways to help both sellers and parks get the most bang for their buck.

Written by Dan Leighton

Dan Leighton has been working in the mobile home industry for over a decade. His focus has been on sales and customer relations - making sure each person in the transaction is comfortable and fully transparent. He has a wife and one son. Dan continues to look for innovative ways to help both sellers and parks get the most bang for their buck.

November 13, 2017