You may have heard them advertised on television, radio, online and in the back of Popular Mechanics.
I came across a query from a gentleman from Wake Forest, NC which included, “I have found some really good deals on the local craigslist from private individuals who have bought them and never put them up for one reason or another.” He wanted, “…to hear anyone’s input, good or bad. Yes, there are a lot of horror stories out there about poor schmucks that got hosed trying to buy from some less-than-scrupulous purveyors of these structures, but like I said, I plan on purchasing from a private individual who already has it in his possession.”
Now all of this got me thinking, so I started my research. It turns out the Quonset hut was named for the site of their first manufacture – Quonset Point, Rhode Island. First built for the Navy in 1941, as many as 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II.
According to Wikipedia, “The erection of Quonset huts has been banned in the US state of Alaska for many years due to so many already being in the state and the majority of those falling into disrepair and becoming environmental hazards.”
I’ve never been involved in the construction of a Quonset hut myself, as my background is in conventional stick frame and pole buildings. Due to this, I relied upon the experiences of three people.
When I was a contractor, Jay and his crew subcontracted labor on several pole barns we sold. Jay also did concrete work. On his own, he contracted to do the concrete and assembly of a Quonset for a golf course driving range not far from me. The building was 40’ x 60’ and they worked on it every day for a month. Jay’s comments were anything but positive about the concrete requirements and he said, “I’ve never seen and installed so many bolts in my life”. Of course when the building was up, it had no endwalls, so those had to be constructed, and the round walls precluded anything from being attached to them (not to mention it was near impossible to insulate.)
The insulation issue brought me to a comment from a Bob in Paisley, PA, talking about a local feed store, “The feed store has had issues with theirs and the original owner said it was a bad choice. They had a company come in and spray adhesive type insulation to the entire inside. As the metal expands and contracts portions of the insulation failed to follow the same rates which in turn resulted in chunks of reflective insulation falling from the ceiling area. Condensation and drips formed after the insulation fell.”
The second experience was told to me by one of my oldest daughter Bailey’s friends. Her friend’s father bought a Quonset for a garage. The pieces for it lay in a pile next to their house for several years, untouched. He finally sold it. I can only surmise from comments it was quickly discovered to be far too much work to erect it, once purchased.
In the last case, one of our Building Designers, Paul, related from his personal history as a Quonset salesman. His words were, “Less than 50% of the ones sold, are ever constructed.”
My summation is – even if they were easy to construct, which does not appear to be the case, Quonsets generally come in a single color – galvanized. They are difficult to insulate, with condensation control certainly being an issue. The purchase price often does not include endwalls, and certainly not doors (and sometimes not even delivery). And, speaking of doors, how do door and window openings work with curved (or even extremely high ribbed) sides? In the words of Bob, “Unless you get one of the tall ones you end up with an area along each of the side walls that becomes unusable except for collecting junk on the floor. Then it can be a head banger along the wall whenever you walk directly toward it while looking down for the junk.”
If anyone has a great, glowing story about Quonset huts, I’d love to hear it, I really would. Because so far, I’m not impressed. But I am always willing to listen to….”the other side of the story.” Obviously I’m looking for objective evidence from those using quonsets…not just those selling.