Tag Archives: Amish barns

A Worthy Builder

A Worthy Installer

I deal directly with very few clients as a Building Designer – just enough to be able to make sure things are flowing through our system as I expect they will.

I’ve truly been enjoying my recent interactions with a client who took the time to really share with me what his needs were and allowed me to custom design for him buildings (two) as if they were going to be for me. The larger of these buildings (30’ x 60’) is going to be an addition to his home. His original idea was to have a concrete floor in the building. We discussed the long term comfort of a wood floor over a crawl space, rather than “living” on concrete – the elevated wood floor won!

He was also going to have a flat level ceiling, until he found out how affordable a vaulted ceiling was! As I have a vaulted ceiling in the top floor of my own pole building at home, I told him he will never regret the decision.

Pole Barn ContractorsOne thing my client did need is a builder, he is a busy business professional and just does not have the time to do his own work. I did some quick research and came up with about a dozen builders in his area, who are willing to provide construction services for 50% of the cost of materials or less.

So we are down to ordering time…..today’s email from the client:

“Mike – everything looks good!  My big concern now is being sure I have a worthy Installer/ builder.  If I am going to be completely honest… I do not have a lot of faith in builders in this area.  We do have several Amish and Mennonite families in the area that install / construct these buildings… and have a great reputation, but the other guys are quite scary.  I would feel much more comfortable knowing I have a builder set up before paying for these building in full.  If you remember… I had originally quoted these buildings with you and searched for a builder myself… I had no luck finding someone I felt comfortable with.

Thoughts? “

To which I responded:

Having been a builder myself for a decade (I ran 35 crews in 6 states), and being the son and grandson of builders, I can give this advice:

Any builder you talk to is going to give only good references, face it, it is a reality. If you go to see their work, they are only going to show you good projects. It proves nothing.

I’ve dealt with the Amish before – in general they do not follow plans or instructions and when things go wrong it is everyone else’s fault. (A little Amish story here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/11/barn-raising/)

Regardless of who you hire – keep control of the situation, never pay out more than the work which has been successfully completed, and pay in increments:

No more than 10% when holes are dug and pass inspection (I actually prefer this after posts are set);
No more than a total of 1/3rd when everything is framed up;
Up to 90% when final inspection is passed and any “punch list” has been completed;
Balance of 10% 30 days after completion – provided any workmanship issues are completed.

Do not do anything without a written agreement which fully spells out the responsibilities of both parties. You can ADD some of your own stipulations, such as….

Any alcohol or drugs onsite and agreement is immediately terminated without further payment.
Failure of builder to be on jobsite working for at least xx (I usually use 20) hours in any calendar week Sun-Sat results in immediate termination without further payment.

Things I object to – crews throwing out their trash on my site, bringing their pets, borrowing my tools.

Even the scariest of builders can perform well, when you keep control of the situation. You can also require a performance bond, although you might have to agree to pay a bit more for a builder as they are not free: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/contractor-bonding/


Amish Speed Barn Raising

Amish Speed Barn Raising

All of us seem to be captivated by “speed building” videos. Heck, I even got into it back in 1996, when my company set a world record for the fastest site built two-car garage: (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/06/fastest-pole-building-ever-constructed/)!The Mother Nature Network has an Amish barn raising video up, which has become somewhat of an internet sensation, with what appears to be virtually an army of Amish carpenters assembling a barn in a single day: https://www.mnn.com/your-home/remodeling-design/blogs/watch-a-10-hour-amish-barn-raising-in-less-than-4-minutes

Amish Barn RaisingThe Amish have a reputation for quality, however be mindful, just like any other group of individuals – quality comes both in good, as well as poor.

My biggest experience in dealing with Amish craftsmanship in pole building construction came on a horse stall barn we provided for a client in Florida. Our client shipped an Amish crew to Florida by train to construct his building.

Now I am not even going to get into the requirement of all Florida contractors to have a certified license, with one of the requirements being the contractor must carry Workers Compensation Insurance (the Amish do not believe in Industrial Insurance due to religious beliefs).

Some “things” occurred during the construction process – the client claimed to be short an entire unit of 2×4 material, although the photograph they took of their delivery truck leaving their yard showed the unit was there, and the client’s wife signed the delivery ticket for them as being received.

Due the building being long, narrow and partially enclosed it required the use of strategically placed Simpson steel strapping. The straps were to be installed wrapped around the columns at each end, with a plethora of nails into the columns. The Building Inspector called our office looking for a “fix” when he saw the straps were installed only across the outside face of the columns with about 10% of the required nails present. It seems the Amish construction crew hadn’t looked overly hard at the plans.

The building was “L” shaped with a full hipped roof. Rather than utilizing the very large cutoff sheets of steel from the hips – the crew demanded more steel panels. Then they ran out of base trim for the bottom of the walls….by a significant amount. Somehow the crew managed to run out of roof screws – by nearly a thousand. Of course they had a 1000 extra stitch screws, because they used the wrong screws to attach the ridge caps!

Not long after this building was completed, my bride and I were in Florida. I just could not resist renting a car for the 70 minute journey to the building site. The client’s wife had decided their Amish crew could do no wrong and we were the “Evil Empire”. She gave us the cold shoulder when we arrived, so we just remained cordial and complimented her greatly on their facility.

I did “find” the unit of 2×4. The Amish builders had cut it up into blocking which they installed randomly between the roof purlins (there was none on the plans, nor was there any apparent need for it). Also, the base trim “turned up”. The builders had turned it upside down and used it as drip edge on top of the fascia boards!

My opinion (at least of this particular crew) was they were not overly interested in paying close attention to the plans and they most certainly never bothered to open the detailed Construction Guide which was provided with the building.

Back to the Amish speed barn raising…..

Notice people. Lots and lots of people. All over the roof. With no safety equipment what-so-ever. Now I realize the Amish believe in taking care of their own, in the event of injury, but working at heights without proper safety precautions more than borders upon foolish. Construction accidents do happen, even to the most experienced of builders: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/07/dont-take-a-fall/

And no power tools – nada, nyet, zip, none. Which means all of the steel is being put on with nails. For an overview of the evils of applying steel roofing and siding with nails, please read more at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/12/ring-shank-nails/

Speed is one thing, speed with safety and lasting quality is an entirely different issue.