Building a pole barn is an ambitious task, no matter what its purpose may be. There is engineering, codes and design to mull over, plus ensuring the structure meets all your needs. To make the process less daunting, use these 14 tips on how to build a pole barn.
Itching for a new backyard garage, a new horse barn, or a new storefront for your business? Look no further than constructing a versatile pole barn, also known as a post-frame building.
You’ve probably noticed that the terms “pole barn” and “post-frame” are interchanged quite often. What is the difference between the two?
The Difference Between Post-Frame and Pole Barn
While the two terms refer to the same type of building, “pole barn” happens to be slightly more dated.
Historically, these buildings were called pole barns because builders used poles — similar to telephone poles — to support the rafters making up the roof of the building.
Eventually builders began constructing with square columns which, compared to round poles, were easier to work with. Now builders use laminated columns, which are much stronger and allow post-frame structures to be utilized for many purposes.
The term “pole barn” also originates from when buildings were not as technically and deliberately engineered. “Post-frame” is more correct, as it more accurately reflects the engineering and quality of the structure built.
Whichever term you use, know that constructing one is a significant undertaking. To help you get organized, we’ve identified 14 tips and categorized them by the type of building — suburban, equestrian, agricultural and commercial. There is a “general” category too.
General (tips for every type of building):
1. Codes. Building codes vary depending on the city or state you live in, as well as the type of structure you plan to build. For instance, a building used to house your retail business will have different codes to meet than a simple garage in your backyard.
2. Weather & Site Conditions. Assessing the wind loads, snow loads and soil conditions of your building will dictate which building materials you use and how they are engineered to fit together.
3. Engineering. Anyone can use strong trusses or columns to construct their building. But construction is about more than the materials you use, it’s about how you put the pieces together.
For instance, your strong truss needs to be properly connected to a strong column. And that strong column needs to be properly embedded into the ground, or attached to the building’s foundation.
No matter how strong your materials are, if you neglect to engineer them together the right way, your building will not withstand the elements.
Suburban Buildings (garage, “man cave,” workshop, storage, toy shed, home, cabin):
4. Consistency. When you build a suburban building, it is usually constructed within proximity to other buildings, such as your home.
It is common for people to match their new building’s aesthetic to surrounding buildings. This will impact the size and decorative details of your building.
5. Windows and doors. Suburban buildings are used as a living space more often than other types of post-frame buildings.
Select windows and doors for access and ventilation. Insulate them properly to prevent heat from escaping during the winter months, and to keep heat out during the summer. No one wants to do maintenance on a four-wheeler in a freezer or an oven!
6. Ventilation. Talk to your builder about effective ways to ventilate your building, especially if you need to adequately dispel vehicle exhaust or vapors from paint or varnish.
7. Electricity. Even if you are constructing a garage for storage space alone, you will need electricity for things like a garage door opener. Then you’re covered if you want to hook up a TV or refrigerator in your garage/workshop/“man cave.”
Commercial Buildings (retail store, church, municipal, office, mini-warehouse):
8. Layout. When designing a commercial building, consider traffic patterns and access for people and supplies. Be sure that doors and material movement areas will be wide enough to accommodate your traffic.
For example, if you insert a door that is four-feet wide, you’ll avoid scraping your door and trims when using a hand cart to move your stock to your retail shelves.
9. Site Planning. When deciding where to put the building on your site, consider looking ahead for future expansion.
Businesses often grow, and rather than having to move or take down a building to build a bigger one, think about leaving space around your building.
Maybe you’ll need more office space in the future, and since post-frame buildings are easy to add on to, you’ll have the room to do it.
Equestrian Buildings (horse stalls, riding arenas, training facilities, run-in sheds):
10. Horses. How many horses do you plan to keep in your barn?
The number will determine the plan for your building — from how many stalls, and how much extra space you need, to whether you want a tack room to store bridles, saddles and grooming supplies.
For an in-depth look at how to plan and build a horse barn, click here.
11. Ventilation. Animal confinement spaces can build up an excess of moisture, which in turn, can lead to smelly odors and other problems.
Animals’ lungs are larger than human lungs, and omit a lot of moisture. When combined with animal sweat and waste, a barn can develop poor indoor air quality.
How do you keep the stink at bay? Ventilation. Whether it is passive or powered, make sure you have enough to keep air fresh.
12. Food storage. Designating a storage space for food with easy access to the feeding areas is essential.
Agricultural Buildings (workshops, crop/chemical/equipment storage, dairy and livestock confinement):
13. Dimensions. Think ahead! Will you be purchasing a larger combine in the near future?
Your new space should not only accommodate what you have, but also future purchases. From combines to sprayers, new agricultural equipment gets larger every year.
14. Purpose. Are you storing tractors, chemicals or crops? These specifics will influence your building’s design. For instance, will your barn have an office or workshop attached? This could mean parts of your building need to be lined and insulated.
Establish all of these possibilities upfront, and consult your builder to determine what makes the most sense for your needs.
Like we said, this is an ambitious undertaking. Consider weighing the amount of time and effort you will expend building all or parts of it yourself versus how much it will cost to hire a builder.
Spending the money for a helping hand could be well worth it, especially if it saves you from frustration in the long run.
Design your post-frame building with the DESIGN-IT! 3D tool