Choose the best lumber for your pole barn

How to Choose the Best Lumber for Your Pole Barn

Do you know what to look for in a good piece of lumber for your pole barn? Not all boards are created equal. You'd be surprised how many people think they are getting a good set of boards, only to discover they won't work or might even be dangerous. Learn 6 important things to keep in mind the next time you shop for lumber.


Good lumber is essential

Good lumber is essential for building a handsome, sturdy pole barn. It can be incredibly frustrating to try to build a barn with crooked, twisted boards and posts.

Typically, when you place an order for lumber, it is handed to an employee who is racing to get the job done before break time. The employee will reach and grab the first available board without looking, often grabbing some inferior boards along with the good ones. These knotty, crooked pieces always wind up in the middle of the bundle. Unfortunately, when tight metal bands are strapped around the bundle, no one suspects that it contains lots of crooked boards. Once the bundle is dropped and disbanded on your property, you won’t be able to get the boards back on the truck.

So what do you do about it?

You can avoid all of this by being present when your boards are picked. They don’t have to be perfect, but you want to make sure to inspect them carefully. Here are 6 things you should keep in mind when inspecting lumber for your pole barn.

1) Choose boards with small crowns

Most boards have a crown. The crown of a board is the curve that runs down its length when you stand it on edge. When you’re building your barn, you want every crown going up. If a board's crown is turned down, or if its crown is too large, you will notice the wave in your finished pole barn.

2) Avoid very knotty boards

Knots in boards occur where a tree limb starts. Since there is an interruption in the rings of the tree, the resulting board is weaker.  One of the features used to rate boards is the number and size of the knots. You should especially avoid boards with knots that go from one edge to the other.

3) Avoid twisted boards

A twisted board cannot be trusted in your pole barn. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to get that twist out completely. Twisted boards will weaken your pole barn considerably, because one of your nailed ends will not be nailed flat to the post. That is, one end will only be half-nailed. Also, the twisted boards will likely show in your finished pole barn.

4) A little bark is fine

If a board looks good to you, but has some of the bark showing on one side, it’s still ok.  In fact, wood taken from the outside of the tree trunk is actually stronger than wood taken from the inside.

5) Southern Yellow Pine is the best

For your dimensional lumber, use only Southern Yellow Pine. It is denser and stronger than the white woods. It provides the strength you’ll need in the lumber for your pole barn.

6) Look for CCA 40 rating

Some boards are pressure treated for light use, for instance landscaped timbers. The pole barn posts that you put into the ground should be rated CCA 40 for underground use to resist decay and termites.


Your pole barn will only look as good as the lumber you build it with. Personally, I would never build a barn unless I, or a person I trusted, selected every board going into it.  

It really is that important.

How to Choose the Best Lumber For Your Pole Barn

About the Author Darrell Davis

Darrell has been building pole barns professionally for almost 30 years. His system for building quality structures has served farmers, ranchers, and everyday homeowners. He is the author of the popular eguide, Let's Build a Pole Barn, and creator of the Pole Barn Academy.

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