Pole Barn FAQ | Pole Barn Academy | polebarnacademy.com

Pole Barn FAQ

Whether you're about to start a pole barn project or you're building one now, you're bound to have some questions. Take a look at our Pole Barn FAQ, where we answer 10 of the most frequently asked questions we've received about pole barns.


1) "Why are some buildings called pole barns even though they don't look anything like a barn?"

A more suitable name for pole barns might be post/beam construction buildings. American pioneers used tree trunks for the posts to frame their buildings. They dug a hole in the ground, stuck a straight, cleaned-up tree trunk in it, and built a frame on it. Eventually homes began to use pier and beams as well as concrete slabs. But for the most part, out-buildings and barns continued to use a post/beam type of construction. It was cheaper and easier. Then, in the mid-1980's, pressure-treated lumber began to replace the round poles that were used to build barns. But the name stuck, anyway. Now just about any kind of building that uses a post/beam construction frame is called a pole barn.

2) "Which is better: galvanized sheathing, galvalume sheathing, or colored/painted metal?"

The best way to answer this question is to give some qualities and benefits of each, and then let you decide. For one, galvanized metal has historically been a little cheaper than galvalume steel. Colored/painted steel can be considerably more expensive. Galvanized steel uses zinc in the galvanization process. Over time galvanized steel tends to turn a dull gray color. Galvalume, as it ages, becomes somewhat whitish in color. Both are very reflective. Galvalume probably reflects better than galvanized, especially as it ages. Both are equally long lasting. In the end, it may all come down to price. One of the more attractive options is to use galvalume for the sheathing and use colored/painted steel for all the trim pieces.

3) "My contractor wants me to give him a check for half the price before he starts.  What should I do?"

Probably nothing. For a building without a slab, the breakdown is usually about 1/3 for materials, 1/3 for labor, and 1/3 for profit. You might want to consider having the lumber and metal dropped COD, and then give your contractor the difference, reserving 1/3 for the finished product. If the building has a slab, you could negotiate a separate pay plan for it. Remember that the biggest expense - cement - is needed when the truck arrives at your property. Either the contractor pays or you pay, but you won't get the cement until somebody does.

4) "My contractor says that he's building several barns right now and he'll work mine in. What should I do?"

Most moderate size barns can be built in less than a week, weather permitting. So, what's the problem? The problem might be that he is selling a new unit and trying to get an advance to complete an older unit. Not always, but it's possible. Your best move might be to tell him that when he's ready to stay exclusively on your unit, you'll give him the go-ahead.

5) "What can I expect a typical payment plan to look like?"

Here is how I have typically handled payments: I would hand pick the lumber myself, put it on a trailer, pay for it, and take it to the job site. At the end of the day, I'd pick up a check for 1/3 of the selling price (rounded to hundreds so we both could remember better). I'd then load my steel, take it to the job site, work for the day, and pick up a check for the same amount as I did for the lumber. When I finished, I expected my check to be ready before I drove off.

6) "Should I build a 3-sided unit or one that is fully enclosed?"

Unless the planned use for your building requires all the square footage to be under roof and enclosed, you'll probably want to make some of your unit open and easily accessible. However, security is an issue. A partially open unit with an enclosed bay may be your best choice. That way you can lock up the enclosed section and leave the rest of the unit for items that only need a roof overhead.

7) "We have an RV that has an overhead A/C unit. I'm going to need a tall pole building. Right?"

You need two separate units. No need to spend all that money on height that you don't need. Build a separate 3-sided unit for you personal use and build a special tall unit for the RV. You really don't want a tall 3-sided unit because a driving rain can get things wet back about 12-15 feet even though your opening is only 10 feet high.

8) "We want a loft in our building. How do we do that?"

The building design that I use for my buildings in Let's Build a Pole Barn will have to be altered considerably if you increase the roof pitch over a 4/12 pitch. Why? Because the roof purlins are nailed to the top of the rafters. So, they already have a tilt to them. Increasing the pitch increases the tilt and weakens the roof. You can avoid this by putting joist hangers on the rafters and cutting each purlin to fit between the rafters. This will increase building time and labor costs for the unit. But if you live in an area that has heavy snow loads, it might be something you want to consider, anyway. Additionally, the roofing steel is very hard to put on. Think: sliding off the roof.

9) "What kind of site prep will I need for my pole building?"

Very little, if any. That's the beauty of pole barns. Just cut the weeds, brush, and trees that are in the way. Sometimes prepping the site and putting down road base can cost more than the barn. Certainly, you can do some prep if the soil is uneven or to keep water from running under the barn. But if the ground slopes, build your unit to accommodate the slope. Of course, keep your building level and let the ground be uneven.

10) "Can I use a nail gun to frame my building?"

You should frame your barn with 3.5 inch hot-dipped galvanized wood deck/screwshank nails. No exceptions! I'm not sure that they make a nail gun that can use screwshank and/or hot-dipped galvanized nails. Ring-shanked nails are very difficult and frustrating to work with. If one bends on you, it won't straighten back up so you can finish nailing it. Screwshank nails are very forgiving and easy to work with.

Wondering how to pick lumber for your new pole barn? Check out our article on 6 important things to look for when buying lumber.

Need to know how to position your pole barn on your building site? Read up on where you should build your pole barn.

Ready to Build? Our popular ebook has everything you need to get started today.

"Darrell...I recently purchased your book online and like the way your barns are designed and laid out.  I am using your design to build a garage/workshop. Thanks."

Jason W.

Pole Barn FAQ | Pole Barn Academy | polebarnacademy.com

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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