Buying Pole Barn Plans: I Can Buy Lumber at Cost

A client writes:

“Thank you for the expeditious quote. I was wondering if you could sell me just pole barn plans including an itemized list of materials and the step by step instructions. I have access to lumber at cost from a local mill here in the northwest. If so, I would like to edit my original design slightly and resubmit it to you. I would like to study the plans and directions over the winter and start my building first thing in the spring.”

 

Some good ideas, some bad ideas…..here is why….

Certainly we could provide the pole barn plans, itemized list of materials and instructions. All of our plans are drawn specifically to match the particular project, its location and the climactic conditions (wind, snow and seismic loads) for the site. They are 100% Building Code compliant. Producing these pole barn plans, as well as an exact material’s list which does not have too much or too little material, is not free either. As a general rule of thumb, this client’s request is going to cost about 25% of the value of the materials.

On an average project, the untreated dimensional lumber is about 10% of the total cost of materials. Even if the client could obtain the lumber for free, it is not going to result in the kind of cost savings which might be envisioned. Most of the costs are going to come from the steel roofing and siding, doors and windows, prefabricated roof trusses and pressure treated lumber.

There are also going to be items on the pole barn plans, which are not going to be available from any other supplier. We’ve found, in order to do the job right, there are some products which we had to just go out and have manufactured specifically for us – there is nowhere else they can be obtained.

In the end, my recommendation to this client was for us to deduct the lumber portion from his cost, and let him provide it himself. We will provide the balance. If he does take this route, my gut feeling is the mill will not be very happy with him.

Why? Mills are used to selling materials by the railcar or semi-load. Even providing full unit quantities doesn’t get them excited, unless those full units will fill a truck. There is not going to be any size and length of lumber on this (or most) pole building, which will add up to a full unit.

And getting the lumber from the mill to the site – isn’t free, plus – it is all going to have to be unloaded, once it gets to the building location. In the end, the “savings” might work out like the “almost free deer” hunters will spend thousands of dollars to shoot. Pole barn plans are just that: plans, without the cumulative experience and cost savings behind the materials to build….what you thought you wanted to build.

Here’s a little added anecdote.  A few years back – a builder who was hired by our clients to construct their pole building kits purchased from us decided he was going to do what we do…..gather all the materials, as he thought he’d get good discounts on lumber, with the relationships he had with lumberyards.   He didn’t need pole building plans, because he’d just erect the non-permitted ones.  It wasn’t long and he came back to us, again purchasing our kits, and reselling them along with his labor to clients.  He laughingly told me he chewed up way too much time, and it really wasn’t as cost affordable as he originally thought.  In fact, he wondered how in the world we do what we do, and make it look so easy.  After 15,000 buildings, I’ve had a few to practice on.

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