Tag Archives: ASAE

Working With a Building Official for Footing Design

Working With a Building Official for footing designs

Long time readers have read me opine on how Building Officials are our friends: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/04/i-like-building-officials/

One of our clients recently received this email from his Building Official and shared it with me (red added by me):

“The Town of xxxx stopped plan review on your project because pole buildings with the type of foundation that was called out on your plans have a track record of failing in a short period of time in this area and the soil conditions that exist at your location won’t allow piers to be dug as called out in the plans The ground is full of rock. It was our intent to not have you try and build something that was not going to work and cost you a lot of money. With a frost depth of only 18” “T” foundations are the acceptable method of construction in that area and should be a lot less expensive.”

I responded asking for more explanation of wording in red, and heard back:

We have a few pole barns in xxxx that are much larger in size and in areas that will allow piers to be dug without interference of large rocks below grade. The pier design that they used allows the wood post to sit on a gravel base so any water that might drain down along the side of post after the wood shrinks from age is allowed to drain away.

They also pour concrete up to 3” above the top of the pier and slope the concrete away from the post. Your design traps water at the bottom of post and allows the water to be wicked up by the end grain of the post and promote rot. Although the building codes does allow treated wood foundations to be buried we strongly discourage the use in our jurisdiction.

Thanks for your understanding.”

Thank you very much for your timely response. 

 

I am probably remiss in not having offered a better introduction of myself. I studied architecture at the University of Idaho and have been Technical Director at Hansen Pole Buildings since 2002. I joined ASAE (now ASABE) and ICBO in the mid-1980s. The IBC references ASABE work for post frame buildings which was produced by the structural committee of which I was a member of. I am a frequent contributor as a writer for publications such as Structural Building Components, Frame Building News and Rural Builder magazines. I have also reached out to you on Linkedin, should you wish to know more about me.

We are currently working with Mr. Bxxx on a design solution to incorporate a continuous footing/foundation or thickened edge slab with bracket mounted columns. We and our engineer had not been advised by Mr. Bxxxr as to the soils/rock conditions at his site until quite late in the game. It is my expectation, with Mr. Bxxx’s continued assistance, to have an acceptable design solution arrived at shortly.

While an embedded column pier design on a gravel base sounds wonderful, Code does require a concrete or otherwise approved footing below isolated columns in order to properly distribute weight of building and applied loads. Actual testing of pressure preservative treated columns for over 60 years has proven there to be no decay of properly waterborne pressure preservative treated wood even in the most severe climates (this testing is ongoing in Mississippi). UC-4B rated pressure preservative treated wood is rated for structural use in fresh water, so a column being wet would not increase its chances of decay. In order for decay to occur there must also be oxygen, which is only present in the upper few inches of soils.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns regarding any post frame building structure. I would also invite you to subscribe to my blog, where there are currently over 1800 searchable articles regarding post frame construction.

“Thank you for your comments. The failures we have seen may have quite well been from pour constructions procedures done 10 to 15 years ago. No way to tell. 

I will look into your articles and may have to change our policies”

Building Officials are not our adversaries and provided with accurate data policies can be crafted to create a winning solution for all parties involved!

A Contractor for Your New Barndominium

A Contractor for Your Barndominium (Part I)

I have done my best to be a member of any barndominium, shouse (shop/house) or post frame house discussion group on Facebook with any sort of activity. If I had a quarter for every post from people looking for a building contractor, I could head to a casino and play quarter slots for days!

In my humble opinion, looking for a general contractor before one owns land and has settled on a custom designed floor plan to best fit their property, their wants and needs, is entirely foolhardy.

My previous writings have espoused how to thoroughly vet a contractor. I am going to wax poetic here and give a few pointers few of you will follow (although all of you should).

Your work starts before you sign a contract.

  • ASSUME YOUR PROJECT WILL END IN COURT
  • ASSUME YOUR CONTRACTOR IS UNTRUTHFUL
  • ASSUME YOUR PROJECT WILL BE MORE EXPENSIVE
  • ASSUME YOUR PROJECT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED

Failure to accept these four statements will set you up for grave disappointment.

Don’t let price or warranty be your only guide.

Many building owners subscribe to a concept of obtaining three bids and if they all appear to be roughly equal, taking the lowest bidder. This is simply not always a good practice, especially if there is a large disparity between prices. Be extremely cautious of prices substantially lower than others. It can mean a mistake has been made, or something is being left out. Compare all specified items carefully for discrepancies. Do not assume everyone has included all items (this happens frequently). Low bid Contractor may be planning on shortcuts in quality, making you ultimate loser.

Be wary of unusually long warranties as an enticement. It is reasonable to expect a year or two of warranty for labor.

Read contract thoroughly, including all terms and conditions.

Keep in mind a good contract is written to provide clear communication between the two parties.  It also protects both parties, and should never be “one sided”.  From my years as a general contractor, a well thought and spelled out contract (in writing) made for smoothest projects. 

Before agreeing to any work (as well as making any payment), require a written proposal describing in plain language what work will be done. Do not sign a contract you do not fully understand. If anything makes little or no sense, ask for a written explanation. Still feel dazed and confused, or not getting what you feel are straight answers? Pay a one-time fee so a lawyer can walk you through what, exactly it says and alert you to vague language. Terms such as “Industry Standard” have no real definition.

A total price should be as inclusive as possible. Any unforeseeable work or unit prices should be clearly addressed (like what happens if holes are difficult to dig). Maintain all paperwork, plans and permits when job is done, for future reference.

Familiarize yourself with contract terms.

Contractor’s proposals and contracts should contain specific terms and conditions. As with any contract, such terms spell out obligations of both parties, and should be read carefully. Be wary of extremely short or vaguely worded contracts. A well written contract should address all possibilities and may very well take more than one page. Payment terms may vary, however most will require payment in full upon completion of all work. Do not pay for all work until the Contractor has finished the job.

A statement regarding compliance with applicable Building Codes should be included. If contractor is doing building permit acquisition, it should be stated in writing and a copy of the permit should be provided prior to work starting.

Standards for workmanship should be clearly specified. For post-frame buildings this would be Construction Tolerance Standards for Post-Frame Buildings (ASAE Paper 984002) and Metal Panel and Trim Installation Tolerances (ASAE Paper 054117). Depending upon the scope of work, other standards may apply such as ACI (American Concrete Institute) 318, ACI Concrete Manual and APA guidelines (American Plywood Association).

The Theory of Adequate Building Connectors

I was blessed to have been a member of the then American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) Structural Committee back in the latter half of the 1980s. Blessed because there were many brilliant engineers on the committee who were very focused on moving what had been “pole barns” into the Code conforming “post frame” buildings.

One of the engineers I had the pleasure of working with was Patrick McGuire who, at the time, was chief engineer for Borkholder Buildings in Napanee, Indiana. How good is Patrick? Good enough to receive the NFBA’s (National Frame Building Association) highest honor, the Bernon Perkins Award, in March 2006.

Patrick McGuire was chair of the NFBA Technical and Research Committee for over a decade. It was Patrick’s vision which led the way for acceptance of post frame design into the International Building Codes.

I’ve always respected Patrick for not just being “in the know”, but also because he has worked in the industry, rather than being an academic. When I wanted to know more about the workings of post frame buildings with sidewall columns spaced every eight feet, and trusses every four feet on top of “carriers” (headers) – Patrick McGuire was the man I contacted.

Patrick’s concerns were in the lack of adequate fasteners between truss carriers and columns, especially since many of this style pole building are constructed with not only no engineer’s review, but even worse – most had no drafted building plans!

The interactions between myself and Patrick have led me to really think about all of the crucial building connectors necessary to create a properly designed pole building.

It matters not if the best and strongest individual components are utilized in the design and construction of a new post frame building, if the pieces are not adequately fastened together. What good is a bunch of pieces if the “glue” is no good?

Pole Barn ConnectionsThe cleanest and safest designs are ones in which members directly bear upon each other, as well as those which rely upon engineered building connectors (such as hangers and brackets manufactured by companies such as Simpson Strong-Tie®). Pole buildings which have fewer pieces (albeit possibly larger) also have far fewer connection points, reducing the probability of a failure due to either under design or under (or incorrect) installation.

Proper post frame design is best done when each connection is calculated to be able to withstand the climactic conditions (wind, snow and seismic forces) as well as weights of materials which will be applied. Well detailed plans will spell out every connection – so the designer’s intent is fully clear. The person(s) constructing the building and the Building Inspector should work together to ensure building connectors are adequate to meet the plans.