What Maintenance is Involved in Renting/Owning a Mobile Office?
Although today’s mobile offices are built to last — structured in ISO-standard steel, roofed in rubber and steel, sided with aluminum, vinyl or HardiePlank shiplap, and backed by warranties generally in the range of one to three years — they still require some routine maintenance and care. Therefore, it’s a good idea for customers to perform some basic precautionary measures to protect their mobile office units against damage resulting from normal wear and tear.
“We recommend our silicone elastomeric roof coating to keep the roof from ever rusting,” said John Rogers, owner of Affordable Portable Housing in Kailua, Hawaii. “It lasts for 15 to 20 years, and then you simply topcoat it. The office can easily last more than 50 years if you do that and repaint the walls every six or so years with oil-based semi-gloss or high-gloss paint.”
Warranties generally cover most repairs, excluding replacements of light bulbs, fire extinguishers and HVAC air filters. “The company will take care of service on the trailer as long as it is from normal wear and tear,” said Joe Alexander, branch manager for Satellite Shelters, Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio.
But once the warranty expires, all maintenance responsibility (and expense) is shifted to the user, who must give the unit eagle-eye attention to identify and correct problems immediately before they become even costlier. “Over time, you may have to replace the HVAC unit and windows, re-caulk around the windows and air conditioners, replace light bulbs and touch up the paint,” said Troy Hudson, sales specialist at Container Technology, Inc. of Morrow, Ga.
Since a mobile office’s HVAC system tends to take the most lumps by virtue of its constant use as well as changes in the weather, its maintenance can be minimized by following these tips from Acton Mobile of Baltimore:
- Replace all air filters every 30 days to avoid clogging the air-ducts, heat-ducts and especially heat-coils, which can block airflow and cause freezing in the HVAC unit in the winter.
- Keep the temperature setting at 68 degrees (minimum) in cold months, again, to prevent the coils from freezing.
- Completely open the ceiling dampers in the office’s rear and gradually reduce the damper openings the closer you get to the HVAC system located at the front of the trailer.
- Avoid blocking return air vents and thermostats with any kind of furniture, cabinets, shelving or Christmas trees.
- Keep the HVAC’s fan on the “auto” setting at all times so it can properly adjust itself to room temperature and climate conditions.
- Reduce the need for air-conditioning by using window shades or Venetian blinds to help keep the office cool.
Whether or not the warranty is in effect, regularly inspecting your mobile office for the tiniest signs of water infiltration, mold growth, bird or pest intrusion, security, drywall separation or warping, etc. is key to keeping it shipshape. Triumph Modular of Littleton, Mass., recommends checking:
- Window and door caulk for tightness
- Siding for looseness
- Roofing for bulges or bubbles
- Shingles for curling or missing pieces
- Flashing for water intrusion
- Door hinges and locks for security and smooth opening and closure
- The undercarriage for animal or insect dwellings
- Drains and downspouts for blockage
- Plastic wrap for holes or tears
- Floor tiles or planks for looseness or water damage
- Ceiling tiles for water or other damage
- Drywall seams for warps or separations
- Plumbing for leaks or clogging
- Lights and electrical systems
- Paint for chipping or peeling
- Battens for adhesion, etc.
In fact, it’s a good idea to keep supplies of caulk, paint, screws, air filters, light bulbs, tools and other repair needs. You should also clean and dust your office and all of its furniture and equipment at least monthly to maintain indoor air quality. For carpets, Cassone of Ronkonkoma, NY, recommends the use of a HEPA filter vacuum, which filters the air while picking up the dust and dirt.
As durable as mobile offices may be, a little tender loving care will make them last years beyond their limited warranties.