Old Pole Barn Inspection

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: My school district has two adventure courses on our property. One has been up for approx 20 years. It is made with telephone poles. We are concerned that the poles may be in need of replacement. How would we know? Is there testing we could have done? ROWING ON LAKE RONKONKOMA

DEAR ROWING: Any pole over ten years old should have a pole barn inspection, below-grade, not more often than every ten years. This below-grade pole barn inspection consists of excavating out four inches around the pole, and to a depth of 18 inches. Chip or shave off any loose or decayed wood. Sound with a hammer (this is like tapping a baseball bat on home plate, to determine if it is broken or not). If needed, treat by mopping with preservative paste or the paste and wrapping with a moisture barrier.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I actually have two questions:

1. Can I have 12 x 12 overheads with the poles 12′ on center? 12 foot wide doors are not really 12 feet correct?  I haven’t paid much attention to the actual door width. Just know that an 8′ 8″ wide trailer is tough to get in with only 9″ each side on 10′ door. And actually more like 6″ each side.

2. With 12 foot high overheads, can I really have a 2′ eave light on the side wall with the doors? I didn’t see any pictures in the product guide that had them.  In fact one of the pictures of a 14′ eave and 12 foot doors didn’t look like it would really fit/look good. CLEARLY IN CLARK COUNTY

DEAR CLEARLY: In answer to question number one: NO. A 12′ wide residential overhead sectional door actually has panels which measure 12′ wide. The finished opening is 11’10”. It takes 4″ on each side of the door to mount hardware, so 12′ wide doors could be mounted in bays of 12’8″. Which, if you think about it, would be highly impractical as it makes the acquisition of dents from adjacent vehicles swinging doors into each other all too probable.

As an example, on a 60′ long building, one might consider making the bays 15′ in width and placing a 12’x12′ door in each one. This would allow for a three foot space between each door, and make for a much better target with a wide trailer.

With question number two: You would actually end up with 20 inches of light panel above the door, of which most of it will be blocked off by the top overhead door jamb, the overhead door header and the eave girt. I’d recommend sticking with 3′ tall panels on the side opposite the overhead doors and the light from the opposing sidewall will give you far more light overall.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I am putting up a pole building at my home and want to have a 16′ wide garage door in the front of it and an 8′ wide garage door in the back directly behind the 16’er to drive through. My question is how do bear the truss with the posts on ea. side of the doors? Can I just put a LVL header across the 16′ door and have the truss rest on that or what is the best way? LOITERING IN LAUREL

DEAR LOITERING: Small world – my wife and I stopped in Laurel weekend before last to fuel up our motorcycles!

Usually “front” and “back” of pole buildings reference the peaked ends of the building, however since you are asking about where trusses will bear, I will assume your front and back are the eave sides of the building.

You’ve come to the point many people reach who either bought materials piecemeal or a kit package with no or limited plans – stuck. Or worse, done incorrectly so as to risk a future structural collapse.

The best way would be to pay a few dollars for an engineer to properly size the header (probably will be an LVL) and design the attachments, which must be adequate to prevent failure from both wind and snow loads.

Hopefully the columns on each side of the door have been properly designed to be able to support what I will assume to be a 50% greater wind load then the other columns (if they are generally placed eight foot on center). The concrete footings under the columns should also have been increased in surface area by 50% to keep the columns from settling. This is especially important in the case of also attaching your overhead door, as column movement could cause the door to jam, or even worse – fall out of the tracks onto you or one of your vehicles.

Typically I would expect the header to be notched into the columns on each side of the door. The truss (or trusses) should be attached by a Simpson Strong-Tie® hanger adequate in size to resist the wind uplift loads.

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