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?
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.
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
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
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.
On 13 Apr 2004 08:39:57 -0700, email@example.com (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
Ensure squareness by running a cord diagonally across the
corners. Both should read the same length.
- Friends don't let friends use FrontPage -
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
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 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.
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
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
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 it...it is still not
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
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
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..
Damn....now all I can think about is my roof....
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