The Biggest Fear of Building Pole Barns – Setting Posts

Come on now, be honest, we all have our fears and phobias. One of the most interesting ones I have found over the years with clients is “postsetaphobia”, or fear of setting posts. This particular phobia is defined as, “the fear of being able to properly set posts for a pole building”.

Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. 99% of all fear is not about the “here and now”, or the reason you think it may be.  It is not justified and is not “real” unless you focus on it and attract it.

Setting the poles is a snapExamining the realities of the situation….most pole building foundation systems are based upon rectangular or square sawn pressure treated timbers, embedded into holes augered into the ground. Sounds scary when defined like this, isn’t it?

These augered holes are going to range from an 18 inch diameter on a very small building, to 24, 30 or even 36 inch diameters on a large structure. Assuming a very small building, the columns will probably be 4×6 inches. Now a 4×6 actually measures 3-1/2” x 5-1/2” (topic for a future blog posting), or 6-1/2 inches across the diagonal. Even with the least hole diameter of 18 inches, this leaves almost a foot of “slop” to play with!

So, what is the worst thing which can happen so far? A hole is drilled a few inches off center and the very small “peg” (4×6 post) gets shifted in a very large round hole. By moving the posts back and forth at the top of the hole, the columns can be shifted as needed to end up in a straight line.

But, “what if I can’t get them plumb (straight up and down)? By adjusting the “temporary braces”, which temporarily support the columns prior to concrete being poured, the tops of the poles can be moved to being fairly plumb quite easily. While the ideal scenario is to have the tops of the columns leaning slightly outward, pole buildings are amazingly forgiving and the tops of the poles can be adjusted laterally by even several inches later in the construction process.

Like many fears, this is one in which the anticipation of the event, is far worse than the real thing.

2 thoughts on “The Biggest Fear of Building Pole Barns – Setting Posts

  1. I’m looking into building my own pole barn and have been going back and forth between setting posts in concrete or doing concrete pylons and mounting the post to the pylon for the footers. I like the idea of the pylons but am not really opposed to either. do you suggest one vs the other. also, if i use pylons with a mounting bracket am i able to use untreated wood as my posts?

    1. admin Post author

      I have personally built several post frame buildings for myself and my family members – in every case I used columns embedded into the ground. Why? Easier to set the columns, less expensive and properly pressure preservative treated columns in the ground are going to outlive any of us. You could use untreated columns mounted in brackets, as long as you are able to isolate the untreated wood from either concrete or soil. Treated columns are so prevalent, they usually end up being less expensive than untreated, which have to be special ordered in, in most cases.


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