Before You Build...Read this First
Just a little bit of planning on the front end of your pole barn project can give you exactly the structure you are looking for and eliminate nearly all of the headaches.
Since Graber specializes in working with folks who are working on their first project, we're sharing our team's best advice on some things to consider before you start. "Patience is a must for us at Graber," says Designer Eric Shank. "We've built our reputation by putting ourselves in the customers shoes and understand that a project this size is a HUGE deal to them so we never lose sight that what may be second-nature to us...is actually brand new to them..."
So you have come to the point where you need some kind of structure. And the structure could be for anything; for your horses, for your vehicles, your boat, for oversized equipment storage, or even for an actual shop. The next thing for you to decide is to select which type of structure works best for you.
By arming yourself in advance with a positive and negative of each method you increase the chances of arriving at the best decision for you. To make things simple, we've pared down your choices to these:
Your Options in Construction
Pros: Gives you a continuous foundation, can have a basement, moderately easy to finish out the inside.
Cons: More expensive, due to more labor required, takes longer to complete, no real benefit in strength, requires more expensive excavation because of the continuous foundation.
Price Range: $$ ($=Lowest, $$=Medium, $$$=Most Expensive)
Pole Barn or Post Frame
Pros: Strong and long lasting construction, adaptable for many different uses, owner can easily change the use over time, simple to frame out then add dry wall or shelves, etc, and no continuous foundation makes it less expensive, easier than other methods to modify after completion. Fast construction times reduce labor costs. Hold their value just like other forms of construction.
Cons: Cannot provide a basement, limited width - pole barns can't go wider than 90 feet. Some towns/municipalities have zoning restrictions.
Price Range: $ ($=Lowest, $$=Medium, $$$=Most Expensive)
Block and Concrete Walls
Pros: Provide a basement, strong and long lasting construction, doesn't have to be finished and still looks good (but it is possible to finish).
Cons: More expensive because of the extra labor involved, difficult to insulate effectively, not very flexible in use, inability to modify the building once it's finished, more difficult to partition for different uses.
Price Range: $$$ ($=Lowest, $$=Medium, $$$=Most Expensive)
Pros: Very durable, strong and long lasting construction, requires little maintenance.
Cons: Very expensive because of the foundation required, and because of the high price of structural steel, difficult to insulate effectively, pretty difficult to finish off the interior, or to partition for different uses.
Price Range: $$$ ($=Lowest, $$=Medium, $$$=Most Expensive)
Be Warned When Comparing Different Builders...
Some companies want to simply sell you a plan...you still have to get the materials and build it.
Some companies are only selling kits (materials only)...you still have to find the labor or take the time to build it yourself.
Just looking at the cost of materials, a post frame construction or pole barn building runs about the same as conventional 'stick built' buildings," coaches Ira, a 15-year veteran in the industry. "But when you go with a conventional building, you'll add to the cost of your product by the added excavation, material, and labor it takes to create the continuous foundation. That's what makes pole barn so much more affordable - for the cost of a stick-built structure from the foundation up, you can get a complete Graber Pole Barn."
Some Common Myths About Pole Barn Constructions Set Straight
Using our 30 years of experience in constructing nothing but pole barns we've put together the top five misconceptions we hear about pole barn construction.
Myth #1: "A pole barn/building is good for unheated storage, but not a shop, because you can't heat them."
Fact: Post frame (pole barn) buildings are easier to insulate well than other types of construction, and thus are very effective as a climate controlled building. Because the posts are 8' on center, you have large, unbroken areas to insulate, with fewer 'thermal breaks' where the insulation is interrupted by a framing member. Using post frame methods, you can easily insulate to R-19 in the walls, and R-30 or more in the ceiling. Steel frame buildings are notoriously difficult to insulate well, and concrete block is hard to insulate as well. A stick frame building has a stud every 16" or 24", so there are many breaks in the insulation.
Myth #2: "Post Frame construction lacks the ability to put in things like insulation, wiring, drywall, or other amenities you may wish to add."
Fact: Actually, Post Frame is a much more adaptable building method than either steel frame buildings, or concrete block buildings. It is easy to add doors, interior walls, windows, wiring, plumbing, etc.
Myth #3: "Pole Barns cannot be partitioned. In other words, you can't have one part horse barn and one part machinery shed."
Fact: Not true, at least with Graber Pole Buildings. Some inexperienced post frame builders will tell customers this, but with Graber, you can partition out the building any way you like, with readily available framing lumber. But with steel frame buildings, you can't just nail in a 2x4 to the steel frame. You need special fasteners and components, which may be difficult to find. Some of the same challenges exist with concrete block.
Myth #4: Pole barns won't hold up to the wind as well as other buildings."
Fact: Yes. A poorly constructed pole barn will rattle and make a racket during windstorms, however, properly built post frame buildings perform incredibly well in high wind areas. The best advice is to select a real specialist in pole buildings who has years of experience in all aspects of construction - including how to construct your building to withstand wind without a noise.
Myth #5: "Pole Barns are much noisier on the inside when it rains."
Fact: It can be a bit noisy when it rains on the metal roof. You can solve this by using an insulation/vapor barrier. To prove this, try this experiment: take a piece of tin and hit it with a hammer - it makes a ringing sound. But as soon as you hold the palm of your hand on it, the ringing stops. That is how the insulation works, it stops the vibration. A shingle roof also works the same way. During consultations or even quick phone calls, the Graber team can go over all the different options you have to prevent too much noise.
Myth #6: "Having roof trusses 48" apart doesn't work well to install an interior ceiling."
Fact: This can be a challenge with post frame construction, since the trusses are generally spaced at 4' on center, instead of 24" or 16". For utility buildings, the best option is often to use a ceiling material that spans the 4' centers, such as our very popular steel liner panel. Another option would be to use OSB or plywood. These materials (especially our painted steel liner panel) are much more durable than sheetrock, for use in utility or storage buildings. If sheetrock is desirable in your application, we recommend running 2x4's laterally across the bottom of the trusses 2' apart. This provides substantial support for a sheetrock ceiling. Much of this is also true for the interior walls, if they need to be finished. Installing lateral 2x4's at 2' on center on the inside of the posts gives you the framing you need to install wood, steel, or sheetrock interior finish.
Myth #7: "One outstanding benefit of a steel-framed building over a pole barn is that it will not rot. Steel is non-organic, ages very slowly, and is dimensionally stable."
Fact: Steel framing is good for some applications, for example when you need more than 100' clear span. Some of the challenges with steel are that it can rust or corrode if not properly protected. It is quite expensive compared to wood; wood is a strong, readily available material. It is economical, and is an organic, renewable resource. Due to advances made in wood treatment and protection technology, there is little risk of wood rotting in the ground. Wood is also more flexible, and performs better in high winds, such as hurricanes. The design of a pole barn allows it to 'give' slightly in high winds, springing back into shape, rather than just bending or collapsing.
Myth #8: "Wood frame buildings like pole barns aren't as fire resistant as other types of buildings."
Fact: When structural steel heats to failure point, it fails catastrophically... In a fire, wood trusses have to char and burn through before they fail, and then it is a smaller, more localized failure, allowing time to remove equipment, vehicles, or animals. We saw this again recently when a customers truck ignited and started a fire in his pole barn. However, he was able to remove his other trucks and valuables in time, and we can quickly repair the roof of the pole barn.