Building a pole barn shop

I am wanting to build an extra garage because mine is full. I am
thinking of building a pole barn type with 2 garage doors. Probably
I have been fighting with the idea of building it myself. I have a
tractor with a bucket available to me as well as an auger for the
Any advice? How far are posts, trusses spaced? How do I ensure the
building is square?
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Considering how basic your questions are, I'd recommend buying a book on the subject. If you think it is more than you can handle, consider having the basic structure framed and then finishing it yourself.
Other alternatives are pre-fab kits, or hire a group of Amish farmers to come in and do it. Ed
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Edwin Pawlowski
It's a fine DIY project. There are any number of "how to" books on the design and construction of pole buildings with specific examples, that's a better choice than relying entirely on r.c.m. free advice :-)
Can also buy standard plans that give material dimensions and spacing with the engineering for a specific snow load.
I've helped put up a few pole structures, tractor is a big help dropping posts into holes and lifting trusses.
The most useful advice is to put a vapor barrier under the slab and wrap the frame with an "insulating vapor barrier" before attaching the skin. If you don't need clear interior space, save some trouble by building it on a grid of posts supporting individual 2x beams, much easier than dealing with trusses.
Reply to
Bob Powell
Don, I have seen many pole barns go up in our area. A friend had one erected by an Aumish crew in about a week for a large building. It is straight, square and plumb. For the price, speed, and accuracy that these guys work, you cannot do it yourself. A neighbor had a garage put up between lunch and dinner one day, including gutters, roofing, doors and siding. It is nearly impossible to beat these guys that are pros in cost, aggrivation and accuracy.
Bob in Central Illinois
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Framing a building and pouring a concrete floor are the two jobs I would never consider doing myself. Concrete gets hard too fast. One man can't do a framing job decently.
Just have the frame and skin put up. You'll have plenty to do finishing the inside - this is most of the labor anyway.
Reply to
Karl Townsend
Use the 3-4-5 or 6-8-10 triangle method to square it. Gary Brady Austin, TX
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Gary Brady
On 13 Apr 2004 08:39:57 -0700, (Don) brought forth from the murky depths:
Get thee to thine local library and read:
"Pole Building Construction", Doug Merrilees "Low Cost Pole Building Construction", " " "Practical pole building construction", Leigh W. Seddon "Monte Burch's Pole Building Projects: over 25 low-cost plans
Or order plans from some of the Ebayers. Or buy the books from
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or Amazon.
Ensure squareness by running a cord diagonally across the corners. Both should read the same length.
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Reply to
Larry Jaques
I own a couple of much larger pole barns, dirt floors, but when it came time to build my 30x34 two story shop, I opted to use post and beam construction on a foundation and slab floor instead.
Depending on climate, soil type, and the EPA, pole barns have a number of unfortunate issues having to do with setting the poles directly in the soil. If your climate has frost heave issues, the walls will quickly become wavy as the poles heave differently. The poles may deteriorate fairly quickly too, depending on soil chemistry and your ability to get properly treated poles (the EPA now requires creosote treated poles to be handled from cradle to grave as toxic waste).
Replacing a bad pole can be a *real* problem. Usually it isn't practical to remove the bad pole, you have to sister another pole in next to it. But when you do that, nothing fits, so you have to patch the girths and trusses too. A real nightmare. You can't really seal a pole barn either.
Post and beam in a shop size building is about as conservative of materials (ie low cost) as pole barn construction, yet it avoids most of the problems of the pole barn. The wooden posts (6x6) are set on 8 foot centers on a floor plate (2x6) bolted to the concrete. Nothing wooden touches the soil or is exposed to the elements. The outer sheeting, and the foundation, totally seal the building.
Three rows of girthing (2x6) are run, bottom, middle, and top around the outside of the posts (same as a pole barn). The "tin" screws to these (I actually used high strength baked on enamel finished sheet steel guaranteed not to fade or rust for 20 years, but people in the trade still call it "tin"). Use of screws, not nails, with rubber washers under the heads is a must. These won't loosen, and they won't leak.
On the interior side of the posts, 2x6 girths are run at top and bottom. These, with their matching girth on the outside, form the load beams for the structure, and also provide a place to attach any interior panels. If you want a really rigid structure, add 2x4 crossbucks between each pair of posts (cut to fit interior so they don't interfere with the girths).
The beauty of this style of construction is that you can lift and handle all the pieces by yourself (though a helper makes installing the girths a lot easier). No problems with frost heaves. No wood is exposed to the elements. The building can be really sealed (helps keep dust down, and is a must if you want to heat or air condition the space). And if you do ever need to replace a post or beam, you can do it a *lot* easier than replacing a pole in a pole barn.
Standing the poles up in the holes is the hardest, and most dangerous, part of this operation. A 2 ton truck with a hydraulic lift grain bed makes it possible, a crane truck makes it safe. I've done it both ways. To make the poles last longer, put a few inches of fist sized gravel in the bottom of the holes, and fill the holes with concrete to cement the poles in. Mound the concrete up above ground level so water can't stand against the wood.
The best place to get poles is from the power company. They're always replacing broken poles, and the salvage is often long enough for your purposes. They're glad to get rid of the broken poles, because of the cradle to grave EPA thing (ie you're saving them having to pay to have a toxic waste disposal facility deal with them). You'll have to sign a paper assuming ultimate disposal responsibility for the poles, and that can put you on the EPA's radar. I prefer to avoid that, but the price is right for the poles.
8 foot centers is pretty standard for the poles. Note that you'll be attempting to fasten flat girth boards to a round pole. That doesn't work very well if you just nail or screw them on. You want to either, 1) chainsaw flats on the poles, or 2) use through bolts, or both. Roof trusses can be done a couple of ways. The usual way is to bolt them to each pole, so they're also on 8 foot centers. Batten boards then are run crosswise every 24 inches. The roofing tin fastens to these. Alternatively, you can sheath in plywood and tar paper, then put on shingles.
To determine if your walls are square, measure from the top of one end to the bottom of the other. Then measure for the bottom of the first end to the top of the other. The two measurements have to be the same, or your wall is racked. You can measure across opposing walls on both diagonals to see if the overall building is square. Obviously, do these latter measurements before you dig the holes for the poles, then again after they're up, but not yet cemented in, so you'll have a chance to correct any errors.
Frankly, for a modest sized building, post and beam if far superior to pole barn style construction. I'd strongly urge you to consider that, particularly if you're going to put in a concrete floor anyway. Just dig down around the perimeter to form an enbloc foundation before you pour the slab. (Depth of the foundation depends on climate, here it is 18 inches for a single story structure, 24 inches for a 2 story structure. In colder climates it'll be deeper.)
I also dug cross trenches to form concrete beams under the floor. This allowed me to pour the slab as one piece with no expansion joints. I used rebar and wire reinforcing, of course, and a 6 inch slab depth over a 10 inch compacted gravel base. That, with the added enbloc beams, gives an incredibly strong structure that won't crack under the influence of frost heaves (or pretty darn heavy machinery loads either).
The dirt work and slab are the most expensive part of the project. Some people might say I went overkill there, but it is the base on which everything else depends. I acted as general contractor, but I subbed out the dirt and slab work, as well as the framing and tin work (under my close supervision, since none of the subs around here had ever built a building quite like this one).
Total cost, including wiring, plumbing, and HVAC (did all of that myself except trenching in the underground service feed, which the power company did), came in under $13,000 for 1800 square feet of heated and air conditioned work space.
The second story only added about $3,000 to the construction cost, a fair chunk of that went for a 24 inch composite beam so I wouldn't have any posts out in the middle of the first floor. Think about that if you want to cheaply double your floor space.
Note, that price is 10 years old, and I'm a pretty good scrounger and negotiator, but labor costs are fairly high in this area, so I suspect you can comfortably come in under that figure for a very solid single story garage. The building is still tight, no cracks in the floor, so I think I did good.
Oh, BTW, 2 10 foot high by 14 foot wide steel garage doors are on one end, a people door on one side, and 2 high mounted (so people can't see in easily) windows in the back, and 2 upstairs, one at each end (should have put in more windows).
I also should have put in an outside door and hoist beam for the second story. As it is now, anything going upstairs, or coming downstairs, has to go by way of the internal stairway (two flights, folded in a corner to take up the minimum amount of space). Not a good plan for heavy or bulky items. I may still add this.
Reply to
Gary Coffman
Do you want another project, or are you already fully booked up? Life is short.
Steve Smith
D>I am wanting to build an extra garage because mine is full. I am
Reply to
Steve Smith
I built my own shop/pole building two years ago....and I am NOT good with wood, nails and saws.....but I purchased a Menards kit for a 30 X 42 building with 12 foot walls. Took my time, yet was in a hurry to get my shop up....I had it framed in one week, ( took a week off of work and seven days from the day the truck dropped it off, I had if framed) I only had help from my son and friends when we set the trusses and put the metal on the roof. I worked like a dog...but it was well worth the effort. I live in Upper Michigan and have snow loads requireing 60 lbs plus....My posts are spaced every 6 feet, trusses are rated at 85 lbs....You can do this...but first read some books about it...then read the directions, then read it all again, until you UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE DOING IT....NOT HOW ...BUT WHY....
Best advice....make sure everything is square and level, right from the start, if not it will come back to haunt you through the entire project.
Also, hire a augue to drill you post holes, I dug the frist one, took me three hour by hand....then hired a guy with a bobcat to the the rest, took us four hours to do all of them at $10 a hole..if you don't think that is a deal, just dig the first hole, then you will know what a deal that is!!!!
Most tree trimming companies with lift trucks will lift your trusses for very little money. Don't hire a crane before first checking with these guys.
Last bit of advice...If everything is square from the start, you roof sheets should go on square...this is about the only thing that is visible to anyone, that being the edges of your roof, if your eaves don't run right, everyone will see it....If you can figure out how to get the first roof panel on stright and square, then all the others will follow...( if you figure out how to do this,,then let me know, I took my roof off twice in order to correct is still not streight)
Final advice, screw the metal on, don't nail it. You can remove screws, can't pull the nails out of the metal....
Good luck and go for it!! lots of satisfaction in building your own shop!!
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If this works, the link below will show you photos of the building I built.
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You can "adjust" the roof panels with a high rib pattern ( most common panel style ) on a roof over purlins by stretching ( or not ) the panels as you install them. The width of them changes a lot depending on how hard you press and flatten out the ribs ( especially over the common poly backed insulation) you can see the tons of fun I had installing them on my building at
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Thanks for telling me how that "ought" to have been done. Now that I think about it.....I should have tried that....Well...I am not taking it off for the third time!! You have quite the web site for your shop constuction, very nice.. all I can think about is my roof....
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Thanks for the kind words, But mine is FAR from perfect! :-( As the builder you see things that others never will, in fact they are glaring to you, and all most invisible to most. Unless the roof leaks I would not worry about it not be "perfect" if I had, I wouldn't have ever finished ( well it's not finished yet I still have to hide the roof edge with the gutters :-) That way you will not be able to see the slight changes of the panels! The thing that really makes me mad is the misses on the perlins with the screws. I'm going to go up and remove the stitch screws from the miss holes and replace them with large head stainless rivets and use mastic under them and polyurethane calk over the heads.
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