Tag Archives: Building Code

Builder Placed no Vapor Barrier Between Purlins and Roof Steel

Builder Placed no Vapor Barrier Between Purlins and Roof Steel

Almost client ALEX in CLINTON writes:

I recently had a pole barn home built and after we moved in we discovered our roof does not have any form of vapor barrier, just metal right on top of the purlins. Our contractor stated the entire attic is heavily ventilated so the barrier was not needed, which I did not agree. After going back and forth he offered to fix it only one way. Which would be to take fanfold insulation board between each rafter. I felt this would only hide my condensation problems rather than fix it. My question is, would this be a viable option? As well I’ve looked into adding in ventilation fans in the attic to better control the moisture, thoughts on that as well please!”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

You have just hit on one of my top peeves when it comes to post frame building contractors and providers – pretending condensation is not going to occur under bare steel roofing installed directly over roof purlins. 

And (even though you did not invest in a Hansen Pole Building) I have to feel we are partially at fault here. 


Our mission is to assist potential clients so they avoid making crucial errors they will regret forever. In looking back through our records, when you discussed your building needs with us two years ago, we failed – we did not convey to you how important some sort of roof steel condensation control is (at least we neglected to include it in our quotes). 

So now you are left with having spent a great deal of your hard-earned money (or future years of making mortgage payments with hard-earned money) and a home built almost right. 

Let’s start with discussing “heavily ventilated”. To begin with, there is no realistic amount of airflow through an attic capable of eliminating all possibility for condensation. Attic ventilation systems, by Building Code, are very specific as to not only required ventilation, but also correct ratios of intake and exhaust to create proper airflow from eave to ridge. These requirements are based upon building science and studies done on actual full-sized attics. Chances are more than good, your contractor has over done either soffit intakes or ridge exhausts. He or she probably has even used vented soffit in gable end overhangs (sure to mess up proper airflow). 

You can educate yourself further on ventilation requirements here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2023/06/274512/

2018 IRC Attic Ventilation Requirements – Hansen Buildings

Hansen Pole Buildings’ reader asks Mike the Pole Barn Guru how much of the ridge of a pole building ridge needs to have vented closures.


Attic ventilation fans, short of creating a wind tunnel, are not going to resolve future challenges.

While your contractor’s proposed solution is sort of right, it would only work if an absolute 100% air seal was achieved. Face it, this is just not going to happen.

So, what are your options?

Easiest would be to have two inches of closed cell spray foam applied directly to the underside of your roof steel.

All other options involve removing roof steel and placing a well-sealed thermal break between roof purlins and roof steel, then reapplying roof steel. Roof steel should be either shifted slightly to right or left to not place same sized screws back into same holes in wood (and original screws should not be used), or to use larger diameter, longer screws. This would be a good time to make sure replacement screws are all powder coated with EPDM gaskets.

What would give a capable thermal break?

Fan-fold insulation, reflective radiant barriers and faced metal building insulation are all possible options – provided all seams are tightly sealed. Solid sheathing roof with OSB (Oriented Strand Board) or plywood with either 30# felt or a synthetic ice and water shield between sheathing and roofing would also be a possibility.

Hopefully you have not made your final payment to your builder, so you as yet have some amount of leverage. However unless this was addressed specifically in your contract documents (we do address it in ours) chances are you are looking at some significant out of pocket expense to cure something easily and affordably solved at time of construction.

Can I Purchase Just Plans?

Can I Purchase Just Plans?


I live in NC, and love the building pictured on your website–can I purchase just the plans? I’m attaching the picture for reference, and thank you so much for your time & assistance!”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

Thank you for your kind words in regards to this particular building. As every building we provide is uniquely engineered specifically for climactic conditions at site it will be built upon (as well as particular Building Code edition and local amendments), having this original set of structural plans would be worthless for where you are. Our engineers also will not place their seals on structural plans when we are not providing materials, as there is no way for them to otherwise assure materials being specified, will actually be incorporated into the building (some of these materials are proprietary to us as well).

www.HansenPoleBuildings.com is America’s leader in providing fully engineered, 100% custom designed, post frame building and barndominium kits, with multiple buildings in all 50 states (including over a hundred in the Carolinas). Your deliveries come from one or more of our thousands of shipping locations across our country (minimizing delivery costs) – so chances are excellent we are ‘close’ to you (as well as supporting your local economy)!

Your new building kit is designed for an average physically capable person, who can and will read and follow instructions, to successfully construct your own beautiful building shell, without extensive prior construction knowledge (and most of our clients do DIY – saving tens of thousands of dollars). We’ve had clients ranging from septuagenarians to fathers bonding with their teenage daughters erect their own buildings, so chances are – you can as well!

Your new building investment includes full multi-page 24” x 36” structural blueprints detailing location and attachment of every piece (as well as suitable for obtaining Building Permits), our industry’s best, fully illustrated, step-by-step installation manual, and unlimited technical support from people who have actually built post frame buildings. Even better – it includes our industry leading Limited Lifetime Structural warranty!

One of our Building Designers will be reaching out to you shortly, to discuss your building needs.

Building Codes, Site Prep, and Heating & Cooling Efficiency

This Wednesday the Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about whether or not a Hansen Building meets Florida/Dade building codes + a few others, optimal materials for site prep on a grade, and heating & cooling efficiency in a long, narrow structure.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: A few questions:- Do your products meet Miami/Dade building codes? If no you can ignore the remaining questions.- Do you build telephone style structures?- Have you built projects for zoos?- Have you built animal habitats, climbing structures for monkeys? You can call me for more information. Thank you. CHARLES in KISSIMMEE

DEAR CHARLES: Yes, our fully engineered buildings can meet or exceed Miami/Dade building codes.

We are not contractors, so we do not build anything. We provide fully engineered custom kits – designed to be erected D-I-Y or (for those without time or inclination) by a building erector of our client’s choice.

We do not use telephone (utility) poles for any of our buildings, whether new or recycled. We have provided buildings at zoos, amongst them would be Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs, Colorado) Zoo’s Nature Center and Las Vegas, Nevada zoo’s giraffe barn. Our buildings incorporate structural aspects needed to adequate enclose spaces – roof, walls, doors, windows, any elevated wood floors and stairs. Non-structural aspects of our buildings are left to our clients.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I’m building a pole barn on an uneven build site and am trying to figure out the best material to level the site with. I need as much as 3ft of material in some areas. I can get sand for cheap nearby but I didn’t know if it was the appropriate material for setting poles.

As an added complication, I’ve already acquired my poles, which won’t reach the soil beneath the fill material. However, I will be compacting the material in lifts. REID

DEAR REID: While sand compacts well, it also is prone to washouts. Please read: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/11/site-preparation/
and subsequent four articles to follow (use right arrow at bottom of article to move to next).


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I’ve enjoyed perusing your website 😉 We will be building at some point in the next few years, land is already purchased. I designed our current home, but plan to have help on our future home.
The prettier view will be to the North, but I always want Southern exposure in every room possible. Do you think it is a bad idea to design a home that is only one room (24’) deep? It would be long and narrow. I guess my primary concern is heating & cooling efficiency.
Any thoughts you can share would be greatly appreciated! I will likely get back to you for a quote on designing our home, when I get my ideas pulled together. JOYCE in QUINCY

DEAR JOYCE: Provided you are able to locate your HVAC so it is centralized heating and cooling should not be an issue with a long and narrow floor plan. You see this regularly done with manufactured housing.

Your biggest challenge will be laying out rooms so they can have both a North view and a Southern exposure. Unless your plan is to have basically only three major room zones, say a great room in center with a bedroom suite to each side of it, you are going to either be forced to have a hallway, or rooms with only either a view or exposure.

Our staff floor plan experts can help to create your ideal dream floor plan with this look. Every barndominium Hansen Pole Buildings provides is 100% custom designed to best meet the wants and needs of our clients and their loved ones, please see #3 here to assist in determining needed spaces and approximate sizes, and to have professional floor plans and elevation drawings produced affordably. https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2021/02/a-shortlist-for-smooth-barndominium-sailing/

Responsibility for Collapsed Pole Buildings

  • Question Whether County is Responsible for Collapsed Pole BuildingsEllensburg’s (Washington) Daily Record published this letter from DAVE on March 5, 2022:

“To the Editor: Anybody passing through the Nelson Siding area in the Upper County some seven miles west of Cle Elum, will notice collapsed pole buildings due to the snow we had in January.

The weight of the snow (83 pounds) in that area was well below the county building codes weight limit, and yet these buildings collapsed.

The question is, what responsibility does the county building have regarding in passing this failed construction design.

I believe the insurance companies for these people that own these buildings that were built to code to satisfy the county, should expect the county to bear some if not all of the responsibility for the reconstruction cost of these buildings.

I, Dave xxxxx, private property owner over 37 years, live just one quarter of a mile east of the first two of the four pole buildings that collapsed.”

I will begin this with your local building permit issuing authority has absolutely no liability for failures due to inadequate structural design or construction. When a building permit is issued, most jurisdictions place a stamp on approved plans to advise accordingly.

Kittitas County (where these buildings are located), happens to be (in my humble opinion) on top of my list for providing to potential building owners and builders accurate site specific minimum climactic data for design. They do, however, only require a licensed design professional (Architect or Engineer) to stamp, prepare or oversee preparation of plans and calculations for pole (post frame) buildings meeting any one of these criteria:

An eave height over 16 feet
Having habitable living space
Two stories where a second floor is over 200 square feet
In areas where ground snow load (Pg) exceeds 70 psf (pounds per square foot)

To start with, Building Department loading requirements are minimums. IBC (International Building Code) 101.3 reads as follows, “The purpose of this code is to establish the minimum requirements to provide a reasonable level of safety, health and general welfare through structural strength….”

Nowhere does it say by following these minimum requirements, your building (of any sort) will not collapse in event of a catastrophic situation. Although this previous article was written in respect to wind events, snow events are obviously problematic as well: https://hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/11/500-year-storm/

*example of collapse

Back in late 1996, when I was building, we had a portion of one of our fully engineered post frame riding arenas collapse at Thorp, Washington (just West of Ellensburg and East of Cle Elum). Building was designed to minimum Code requirement with a roof snow load of 34 psf. Our client had attempted to remove some snow from roof, and had pre-collapse photos showing roughly four feet of snow on their building’s roof! Actual snow load was more than double design requirements.

Learn how to calculate snow weight here https://hansenpolebuildings.com/calculating-loads/

A smart insurance company would hire someone like me to do a forensic evaluation of these buildings as built, in comparison to engineered plans approved for construction. I am not a gambling man, however I would put forth a wager I can find one or more deviations from these approved plans on any building. This could absolve insurance providers of any liability to pay claims.

It is possible there were some engineering deficiencies contributing to these collapses, most often I would look to truss bracing, or inadequate design of purlins in drift zones (unbalanced loading).

I would encourage readers to peruse this document for further information on preventing post frame building collapses due to climactic conditions: https://hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/04/steps-to-minimize-snow-load-failures/.

Building Code, “Barndos”, and Barn Doors

This week the Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about which building code applies to a residential “pole barn,” a “Barndo” for Betty, and stall doors for a horse barn.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Planning to build in Fremont County, CO. This will be a 2 bedroom residential cabin at 9400 ft. Which building code will apply, Single Family Residential or Pole Barn? JEFF in ATLANTA

DEAR JEFF: There is no “Pole Barn Code”. For one and two family dwellings (R-3) IRC (International Residential Code) will dictate, however it does default to IBC (International Building Code) for structural aspects.

In “Effective Use of the International Residential Code”:

Paragraph 4:

“It is important to understand that the IRC contains coverage for what is conventional and common in residential construction practice. While the IRC will provide all of the needed coverage for most residential construction, it might not address construction practices and systems that are atypical or rarely encountered in the industry.”

IRC R301.1.3 Engineered design.

“When a building of otherwise conventional construction contains structural elements exceeding the limits of Section R301 or otherwise not conforming to this code, these elements shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice. The extent of such design need only demonstrate compliance of nonconventional elements with other applicable provisions and shall be compatible with the performance of the conventional framed system. Engineered design in accordance with the International Building Code is permitted for all buildings and structures, and parts thereof, included in the scope of this code.”


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: How much would it cost for a barndo like the one in the attached picture? BETTY in RADCLIFF

DEAR BETTY: To get an exact price on this, or any, fully engineered post frame barndominium, please call 1.866.200.9657 and speak with a Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer. Your Building Designer will ask you questions about your building footprint, ceiling heights, building slab-on-grade or over a crawl space or basement, number and size of windows and doors, how you will be insulated, etc. You can easily have changes made to any or all features and dimensions until you arrive at an ideal design solution meeting your family’s wants and needs.

If you do not yet have a floor plan, one can be crafted for you http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/post-frame-floor-plans/?fbclid=IwAR2ta5IFSxrltv5eAyBVmg-JUsoPfy9hbWtP86svOTPfG1q5pGmfhA7yd5Q


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have a metal barn already with two door openings. I am in need of doors for these openings. It is meant a for stall doors for a horse barn. You can kind of see the barn door openings in the photo behind my son. Do you sell just the doors? BRENDA in BERTHOUD


DEAR BRENDA: Thank you very much for your interest. Due to challenges of shipping without damage we only provide doors with our complete post frame building kit packages.

Building Department Checklist Part I


I Can Build, I Can Build!

Whoa there Nellie…..before getting all carried away, there are 14 essential questions to have on your Building Department Checklist, in order to ensure structural portions of your new building process goes off without a hitch.  I will cover the first seven today, finishing up tomorrow, so you have a chance to take notes, start your own home file folder of “what to do before I build”.  Careful preparation will be key to having a successful building outcome (whether post frame or some other structural building system).

Provide answers to these questions to your potential building providers!

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Building Departments’ required snow and wind loads are absolute minimums in an attempt to prevent loss of life during extreme events. They are not established to prevent your building from being destroyed. Consider asking your providers for added investment required to increase wind and/or snow loads beyond these minimums.

#1 What are required setbacks from streets, property lines, existing structures, septic systems, etc.?

Seemingly every jurisdiction has its own set of rules when it comes to setbacks. Want to build closer to a property line or existing structure than distance given? Ask about firewalls. If your building includes a firewall, you can often build closer to a property line. Creating an unusable space between your new building and a property line isn’t very practical. Being able to minimize this space could easily offset a small firewall investment. As far as my experience, you cannot dump weather (rain or snow) off a roof onto any neighbor’s lot, or into an alleyway – so keep those factors in mind.

#2 What Building Code will be applicable to this building?

Code is Code, right? Except when it has a “residential” and also has a “building” version and they do not entirely agree with each other.

Also, every three years Building Codes get a rewrite. One might not think there should be many changes. Surprise! With new research even things seemingly as simple as how snow loads are applied to roofs…changes. Obviously important to know what Code version (e.g. 2012, 2015, 2018, 2021) will be used.


#3 If building will be in snow country, what is GROUND snow load (abbreviated as Pg)?

Make sure you are clear in asking this question specific to “ground”. When you get to #4, you will see why.  Too many times we’ve had clients who asked their building official what their “snow load” will be, and B.O. (Building Official) replied using whichever value they are used to quoting.  Lost in communication was being specific about “ground” or “roof” snow load.

As well, what snow exposure factor (Ce) applies where a building will be located? Put simply, will the roof be fully exposed to wind from all directions, partially exposed to wind, or sheltered by being located tight in among conifer trees qualifying as obstructions? Right now will be a good time to stand at your proposed building site and take pictures in all four directions, and then getting your B.O. to give their determination of snow exposure factor, based upon these photos.

#4 What is Flat Roof Snow Load (Pf)?

Since 2000, Building Codes are written with flat roof snow load being calculated from ground snow load. Design snow load has become quite a science, taking into account a myriad of variables to arrive with a specific roof load for any given set of circumstances.

Unfortunately, some Building Departments have yet to come to grips with this, so they mandate use of a specified flat roof snow load, ignoring laws of physics.

Make certain to clearly understand information provided by your Building Department in regards to snow loads. Failure to do so could result in an expensive lesson.

#5 What is “Ultimate Design” or Vult wind speed in miles per hour?

Lowest possible Vult wind speed (100 miles per hour) only applies in three possible states – California, Oregon and Washington for Risk Category I structures. Everywhere else has a minimum of 105 mph.  Highest United States requirement of 200 mph for Risk Category III and IV buildings comes along portions of Florida’s coastline (although there are scattered areas nationally defined as “Special Wind Regions).  Don’t assume a friend of yours who lives in your same city has your same wind speed.  City of Tacoma, WA has six different wind speeds within city limits!

Vult and nominal design wind speed (Vasd) are different and an errant choice could result in significant under design (or failure). Make certain to always get Vult values.

#6 What is wind exposure (B, C or D)?

Please Take a few minutes to understand their differences:


A Building Department can add hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to your project cost, by trying to mandate an excessive wind exposure.  Once again, a good place for photographs in all four directions from your building site being shared with your Building Department.  Some jurisdictions “assume” worst case scenarios.  Meaning, your property could very well have all four sides protected and easily “fit” category B wind exposure requirements.  However, your jurisdiction may have their own requirement for every site in their jurisdiction to be wind exposure C, no matter what.  It’s their call.

#7 Are “wind rated” overhead doors required?

Usually this requirements enforcement occurs in hurricane regions. My personal opinion – if buying an overhead door, invest a few extra dollars to get one rated for design wind speeds where your building will be constructed. Truly a “better safe, than sorry” type situation.

I’ve covered seven most important questions for your Building Department Checklist, and they really weren’t so difficult, were they?  Come back tomorrow to find out the last seven!

Building Codes Apply to Shouses

Building Codes Apply to Shouses

Recently I shared with you, my faithful readers, a Park Rapids Enterprise article penned by Lorie R. Skarpness as Nevis, Minnesota attempts to deal with a shouse.


Below is Lorie’s update from January 18, 2020:

“The discussion of a proposed shouse (a word that means a shop with living quarters inside) that began at the December Nevis council meeting was continued at their Jan. 13 Nevis meeting.

Planning commissioner Dawn Rouse shared a report from the city’s planning commission about discussion of shouses from their December meeting.

Their consensus was that any requirements should apply to all residences and not single out one specific type, noting that the Minnesota Building Code already addresses many of potential issues. The city also has a building inspector who determines whether a proposed building meets code.

Council member Jeanne Thompson said the way the building code is written is vague and open to interpretation.

“People up here don’t go and buy expensive plans with these beautiful entryways for their shops for the most part,” she said. “They do it themselves. That’s where I think something needs to be addressed so we don’t have industrial and “garageish” looking buildings in a residential neighborhood.”

Concerns about the building material of the shouse were brought up by council member Rich Johnson. “I don’t want something that looks like a pole barn built right next to me because I don’t know if someone would want to move into that neighborhood.”

“We can set more stringent regulations than what is in the building code regarding materials used and things like that if that’s what you want to do,” Rouse said, pointing out that Walker has residential performance standards stating corrugated metal is not to be used on exterior finishes.

Thompson asked Rouse to bring information on existing residential regulations to share at the February 10 council meeting.”

Where their council members get confused is Building Codes address structural components, not aesthetics (such as colors or exterior covering materials). Post frame shouses and barndominiums are Building Code conforming structures. What any jurisdiction can do is to set aesthetic requirements, however they need to be applied equally across all building systems of an Occupancy Classification.

Is a jurisdiction resistant to your proposed barndominium, shouse or post frame home? If so, provide me with specifics and chances are pretty well close to 100% I can assist with a positive resolution.

Remodel or Not?

Remodel or Build New?

I am as guilty as most – my initial reaction is always to remodel, rather than build new. Even when it makes no practical or economic sense.

Reader JIM in LAWTON is working through one of these situations. He writes: 

“I have a 30 x 40 pole barn 32 years old. I want to take the 4/12 pitch trusses off and add bonus room trusses with a 10/12 pitch and a shingled roof, it is now metal. The new trusses will free span the 30’. My concern is the 4×6 posts holding everything up. They are 8’ on center, 54” down. I met with the building inspector and he inspected the poles and footers on two poles, one on each side of the building. The footers are a concrete block 4x8x16, poles are 4×6. I drove two nails in the two exposed posts 6” and 12” down and the centers didn’t seem soft at all. The building inspector says go ahead and beef up the headers and build up. I don’t want any issues. I am doing the work myself. Do you feel there is anything else I should do to confirm the posts will support the additional weight? The room is going to be an extra bedroom. Anything else meaning contact a structural engineer and pay big bucks for their opinion. Thanks, Jim.”

You are aware your remodel will be more expensive than erecting a brand new building?

Chances are good your existing building was built as a low risk building, if it was engineered and permitted at all. Adding in a bedroom makes it a higher risk building, increasing design loads for both wind and snow. From your limited information provided, your columns will not be large enough, footing diameters will need to be increased, headers (truss carriers) will need to be increased to support probably at least a load twice as much as what was there.

If you do indeed decide to move forward as you suggest, you would be making a grave error to not have an engineer inspect what you have and make recommendations to bring your existing building up to current Code and to be adequate to support your remodeled design.

 Mike the Pole Barn Guru

P.S. Due to shingles’ very short lifespan, I would recommend you go with a steel roof.

Where to Invest in a Pole Barn

Is This Where You Want to Invest Your Hard Earned Dollars?

This excerpt is from an online publication called “Insiders” who promotes to provide advice from local experts. It happens to be from a “Do-It-Best” in Northwest Oregon:

“And if you’re still thinking of installing a pole barn, come in and see us. We have five sets of different engineered plans. Pick a set and we will give you a rough bit (bid), though you can customize it, too and we can help you. If you don’t want to build it yourself, we have a list of guys who can do that for you. We sell pole barns all year long, but before the rains really come down it’s an opportune time to build one. Pricing has remained steady starting at $8,000 for simple designs to $40,000 for barns with all the amenities.”

Those of you who read yesterday’s article should have a feel for what capabilities Hansen Pole Buildings has – if a building fits within Building Code parameters, we would like to believe we can competitively design and provide it. Offering a choice of only five sets of different engineered plans sounds archaic to us!

Pick a set and we will give you a rough bit (I know – it should be bid)…



Before you get started on your new post frame building, we want you to know exactly what you will be investing with us!

Now ignorance is bliss and some folks, well they are very, very happy. Legally (not to mention morally) an engineered set of building plans cannot be customized, without a revised set of engineered drawings being produced. An engineer puts his or her career on the line when they seal a set of drawings – it does not come with free rein to make any changes!

My dad was the oldest of eight siblings. He told stories of how excited he and his oldest brothers were when grandma was expecting, as it meant there would soon be a new baby carriage they could pilfer wheels off from to build a new home made conveyance. While I am sure there were limitations to pre-teen vehicular design, somehow they cobbled together something!

I liken this to being not too far removed from what your local lumberyard can provide for a pole barn kit. They are as far removed from what Hansen Pole Buildings can provide, as my dad’s vehicle was from a shiny new Tesla!

Some of you are content with huge risks of non-engineered buildings. Then I strongly suggest you invest in lots of insurance. Me, I will put my faith in sound, state-of-the-art custom engineered designs.

Hansen Buildings Instant Pricing

Hansen Pole Buildings’ Instant Pricing Program™

Back in 1980, when I was first exposed to pole barns, in order to give a potential client a price quote, I had to do a manual breakdown of all of the components necessary to assemble their building. Luckily, most buildings were fairly simple rectangular boxes, but it was still very time consuming.

This graduated to a price grid – where I broke down common sizes of buildings so at least there was a starting point. Of course any changes in material prices resulted in having to recreate it (again manually).

Then along came my then trusty Kaypro computer – those floppy disks allowed for me to build pricing spreadsheets. If prices changed, all I had to do was make needed corrections, hit recalculate and then return the next morning and they would usually be done! Ah, the wonders of technology!

Luckily, things have changed dramatically when it comes to computers.

Reader BLAINE in RED OAK writes:

“Do you sell the software needed to design pole barns and garages or just design buildings for people?”

Thank you very much for your interest. We spent years looking for software to accurately correctly structurally design, price and do takeoffs for post frame buildings. We even went as far as investing in a few of them. Regardless of how well hyped up any of them were or are – not a one of them began to come close to meeting even a single one of these requirements. Even if we were to severely limit what we and our clients wanted to do with buildings to only a single wind and snow load and very few features, there wasn’t anything. With one we purchased, it was supposedly going to be customer tailored to fit our needs. It was so simplistic we were appalled – when we asked about buildings with or without overhangs we were told most people just throw them in for free!! This program wouldn’t include them.

As a result of this we assembled for ourselves an IT staff second-to-none and along with our third-party independent engineer we built what we consider to be by far our industry’s best possible design software – Instant Pricing™. We continue to expand upon it and add new features daily, it is frankly astounding as it will make changes as fast as I can hunt-and-peck.

But what exactly will it do?

Included in our system is Building Code and climactic (snow, wind, earthquake) data for nearly every jurisdiction in America. It can accurately structurally design any width, length or height rectangular building to a fraction of an inch. Odd roof slopes, no problem. Steps in rooflines, various building profiles – not just gabled roofs but also hips, gambrels, monitors, single and dual slopes, roofline extensions, attached sheds and porches.
Those “throw in for free” overhangs can now be open or enclosed, on one or multiple walls, with varying lengths. End overhangs can be flying gables (gradually tapered), widow’s peaks or turkey tails.

Choices are available for a myriad of roofing and siding combinations. Multiple floors, lofts or mezzanines can be included. This list goes on-and-on!

But it is far more than just an amazing pricing tool. It also generates quotes and invoices and is integrated with our client database. Material takeoffs are generated as well as purchase orders for materials!

Because it is so sophisticated and we make constant upgrades we feel it is not practical to release for public consumption at this time.

For those clients who are searching for an exactly right post frame building, we’d like to believe Hansen Pole Buildings is a right fit. Please give us a call today 1 (866) 200-9657, you will be pleased you did!

Tipping Up Post Frame Walls

Reader JIMMY in ROCK HILL writes:

“I want to get your opinion on the pole barn building method seen in the linked video. (RR buildings) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVwUl4cm8fQ I am impressed at the built in efficiency of his process. Is there a benefit to his post ground connection, (i am aware that his method will use lots more concrete. and I assume those brackets aren’t cheap)
I know you don’t recommend attaching the girts till after trusses are on…
I’d appreciate your thoughts.”

Rural Renovators has done a fabulous job of producing videos – if nothing else it is helping to make awareness of post frame construction more widespread. There have been over a million views of this particular video alone!

Things to consider with this method of mounting columns, rather than embedding them – cost of sonotubes (an 18″ diameter tube 4′ long will run around $20), a little over twice as much concrete will be needed for holes (roughly $15 on an 18″ diameter hole), brackets (roughly $50 plus shipping) and mounting hardware. This will be offset slightly by columns being four feet shorter in length. Due to soil bearing capacities, there are many instances where larger diameter holes will be needed, but for this discussion’s sake – probably $75 per hole in minimum added investment is not unrealistic.

As to a structural benefit, I personally prefer to avoid creating a hinge point at grade. Embedded columns take away needs for this connection and connections are a wink link in any structural system. Let’s face it, placing a relatively small column in a relatively large hole and shifting it to where you want it is pretty low tech and fairly forgiving.

Rural Renovators accurately sets all column bases to an equal height, allowing for walls to be framed on ground and tipped up. This does require the use of one or more pieces of equipment – ones your average DIYer does not own, so would have to borrow, or in most cases rent. Due to end and sidewalls sharing common corners, it precludes being able to frame up two walls completely on the ground.

In most cases 2x girts placed wide face (barn style) to wind do not meet Building Code requirements, making bookshelf style girts a common structural solution. On buildings without eave overhangs (extended truss tails) trusses can still be raised straight up column sides with barn style girts, however bookshelf girts take this option away. This means lifting equipment would be necessary to get trusses into place successfully.

For Rural Renovators, they have built themselves a niche in their geographic service area by doing things differently than any possible competitors. This is at the very least brilliant marketing – as when everyone constructs things identically, it forces price to become a defining difference!

How Much Room Will Stairs Take?

 I am an advocate of avoiding stairs in post frame buildings. They both take up space and reduce accessibility to upper level(s) of your building. It is less expensive to construct a post frame building on one level, rather than multi-levels. 


I happen to live in a barndominium (actually more technically speaking a shouse – or shop/house combination) and we have stairs. Lots of stairs, due to our living area being located on our second floor. Our second floor also happens to be 20 feet above grade! We also have two elevators. First of these was a pneumatic “tube” elevator because my lovely bride let me know there is no way she was going to tote groceries up those stairs! Our second elevator is a full sized one, necessitated after my wife’s tragic motorcycle accident four years ago, leaving her a paraplegic.

Back to our case at hand – how much area will stairs take?

For residential (R-3) use maximum rise of stairs is 7-3/4” and minimum run is 10”. 

For sake of this example, we will assume lower floor is going to be a concrete slab on grade. Begin with vertical distance from grade (bottom of pressure preservative treated splash plank) to top of flooring of second floor.  Deduct four inches for concrete floor thickness.

Arbitrarily picking 9 feet for top of second floor, we have 9 feet X 12 = 108 inches. Deducting for slab = 104 inches.

104 inches / 7-3/4 inches of maximum rise = 13.42. Rounding up we get 14 total risers, with our second floor itself becoming number 14.

13 treads remain, at a minimum of 10 inches = 130 inches or 10’6” of horizontal floor space. But wait, there is more!!

A minimum of three feet of space (for a three foot width stairs) must be provided at both top and bottom of stairs, so allow for these areas as well.

For Building Code requirements for stairs, please see: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2015/09/stairs-2/

How Tall? Monitor Style Barns, and Planning a Building

Today’s PBG discusses “how tall a pole barn” can be, opening on a monitor style building, and planning a buildings for and shop and car storage.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: How tall can pole barn be in Cape May County? BUD in CAPE MAY

DEAR BUD: This will depend upon how your property is zoned, as well as use of your proposed building. A call to the Cape May County Planning Department, with your Parcel Number or address, at 1(609)465-1080 should get you a correct answer.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: For one of your monitor style barns, project #06-0608, you do not list the eave lights at the top of the building in your materials list. Are these picture windows or awning style, or is this an open space? How important is it to use these windows for ventilation in a monitor styled shop. By the way, where are you located? FRED in WASHOUGAL

DEAR FRED: For this particular project our client provided his own fixed windows. For most installations, it is not needed to have ventilation at this location. Should your intended use be residential, you will probably want one or more of them to be able to be opened.

We have a sales only office in Fargo, North Dakota. We have sales, ordering, warehousing and shipping at our headquarters along the South Dakota side of Lake Traverse. We also have remote Building Designers across the country – including several in your home state of Washington.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Sir, I am in the planning stages of building a pole building to store some old cars and use as a workshop. The building will have storage trusses for a floored attic and eventually I plan on heating garage area with a forced air wall mount propane heater. I will have house wrap applied to the walls between the wall grits/ posts and the metal siding. So my question pertains to radiant barrier (double bubble) being applied to the roof. Is it better to apply the radiant barrier on top of roof trusses but below purlins or above the roof purlins against the metal roof. Additionally should I be concerned with enhanced condensation with purlin wood rot and metal deterioration if the radiant barrier is installed underneath the purlins? JIM in JARRETTSVILLE

DEAR JIM: Since you are in planning stages, I will throw lots of free advice at you.

If you have available space, it is less expensive and more practical for access to have a larger footprint, than it is to have storage trusses with a bonus room. Negotiating stairs ends up being problematic.

Propane heat adds a great deal of moisture to your inside air and could add to condensation issues.

Remember Reflective Radiant Barriers are not insulation (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/04/reflective-insulation-wars/). Properly sealed they can prove to be an effective condensation control. Double bubble will be no more effective than single bubble, but will be significantly more expensive. Your most effective condensation control with a reflective radiant barrier will be to install it directly between purlins and roof steel. Personally, I would use Dripstop or Condenstop (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/07/condenstop/) rather than reflective radiant barrier.


I’d Rather Order My New Pole Building Myself

We humans want to do things ourselves. We love GPS because it keeps us from having to ask strangers for help or admitting we are lost.

I admit to, at one time in my life, being an extremist at “doing it myself”.

Then I learned….. by listening to experts I could learn so much faster.

Consider me – I’ve either personally made more mistakes or been a party to helping people fix theirs, than most can even begin to imagine.

Why should you repeat these sins?

Answer: You do not have to. Here is a case in point real life story thanks to reader ARNOLD:

“It would be really neat if when filling out information your page a potential customer could get the information without having to give name, email, and what all else.  Kind of a pain in the rear if you know what I mean.


Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:

Thank you very much for your input. Certainly we could have our system set up so you could go online and actually even order a building, without ever having to talk to anyone. Think of it similar to be able to custom produce a massive set of somewhat Lego® like pieces online and have them delivered. We could do it……

And chances are you would end up regretting your decision forever.

Our system would allow you to make changes in climactic design. This could result in you not having a building meeting Building Code loadings. Worst case scenarios being you would either not be allowed to build, or (in jurisdictions with no plan reviews and field inspections) your building could fail and injure or kill someone. Decrease snow and/or wind loads or chose B for wind exposure instead of C could result in both savings as well as collapses. Your building department would also reject your plans…or even worse, your building, once you had constructed it. Planning on “doing it yourself” and not ever contacting your building department? In one word: Don’t!!! I’ve seen far too many customers snagged on their buildings after they were built. Worse case, the building department made them tear it down.

About Hansen BuildingsFace it, we humans are dimensionally challenged. Even though we have an idea a basketball hoop will be at 10 feet, we think our car needs a door this height. We want to make certain you design a building with adequate spaces for your activities. This includes properly sized doors, properly spaced, to actually allow prized possessions in or out without damage to your building or something treasured.

Our having you interact with a real live person has a goal of keeping you (as much as possible) from making crucial design errors causing you to hate your pole building forever. One of those mistakes would be us allowing you, as a serious future building owner, to order a post frame building from someone else. We firmly believe we have the absolute best value in a complete, engineered post frame building kit package – enough so we offer to go comparative shop for any client prepared to invest in a building. Call 866-200-9657 and ask us about this service. It’s free!

18 Foot Span Roof Purlins?

The Possibility of 18 Foot Span Roof Purlins?

Reader CHRIS writes:
“I have a building I want to build but I am not able to add the height I need on the side walls.  My plans are 24 deep by 30 wide with 8 foot walls.  Roof trusses would be 24 ft.  My problem comes from overhead power lines.  They are right in my way.  I really need 10 or more feet of ceiling.  The wall structure will be 2×4 residential style build with double top and bottom boards this should spread the weight out on the concrete well.

The span of the 1st section (north side), would need to be 18ft.   If I used a triple truss at 18 ft. and 2×8 purlins would I be able to get this to work.  I will be using a metal roof the 30 ft. wall will have a 16 ft. door and 9 ft. door Eve entry.  I know it’s not optimal.  But to get a lift inside the garage it will be a must to get this span.  Also my garage door will follow the roof line. In the 18 ft. area it will be hung from the purlins.  A winch will be used as an opener.  Also attached to the purlins but boxed to prevent movement.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:
In most jurisdictions you are not allowed to build under power lines – you need to be consulting with your local power company and your Building Official first. Even if it is allowed, you would be wise to have the lines relocated, or buried so as to not have a future issue. A live wire comes down on your nice new steel roof and poof!

Depending upon your roof load and wind load, it might be possible to span 18 feet between trusses with purlins, however they are probably going to need to be larger than 2×8. With the proper truss design, it might very well be able to carry the end of the purlins with a double truss.

What you are proposing is well outside of the prescriptive portions of the Building Codes, so whether stick framed or post frame (post frame will be far more economical) you should be utilizing the services of a RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer) in order to make sure you have a new building which is adequately designed to support the imposed loads.

Pole Barn Footings

Some things in life amaze me – magicians are one of them. I have no idea how the do what they do, but I am totally fascinated by them (you can read about my college experience with a magician here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/08/lumber-bending/). One of the other things which amaze me are how clients will invest tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a new post frame building, only to cheap out on the footings!

Anything of high quality requires a good foundation.  In post frame buildings, the measure of a good foundation’s investment is small in comparison to the overall picture.

Reader CHRISTINE from SPOKANE writes:

“We see all these posts about footings. It seems here they just pour concrete around post with no footings. Is that due to the nature of our rocky soil. Our posts are in the ground, no footing and ready for concrete, architect plans, say “bottom of all footings to bear on undisturbed ,native, inorganic soil 1′ min below grade. Extend all footings 4′ min below finish grade.” Did I assume wrong and he’s calling for an actual footing? TYIA! ASAP”

Dear Christine;

For years we designed our post frame buildings without a concrete footing below the columns, instead relying upon the concrete encasement around the posts to adequately bond to the pressure preservative treated column. The bond strength between concrete and wood is documented and more can be read about it here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/04/pole-barn-post-in-concrete/. There were some Plans Examiners who did not look kindly upon this as a design solution.

The Building Codes do specify the requirement for a concrete footing, and as such we moved several years ago to a design which placed eight inches thick of concrete below the column.

As an architect designed your building and placed his seal upon the plans, you are obligated to construct the building per his/her solution. There should be a detail on the plans which shows exactly what the architect had in mind. If there is not, request a clarification as this is something you paid for in your fee for the work.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Looking for a post frame building with a column embedment design which both makes sense and works structurally? If so, only consider a building which comes with plans done specifically for your building, on your site, and sealed by a Registered Professional Engineer.

Prohibition of Pole Barn Construction

The Construction of Pole Barns is Prohibited


This is directly from the White Bear Lake Township (Minnesota) ordinances related to Building Codes, buried deep in their Ordinance No. 8:

5-34. POLE BUILDINGS. The construction of pole barns/buildings is prohibited in the Town.

I found this as a result of an article in the White Bear Press, excerpted below:

“There was also a lengthy discussion regarding pole barns after Planner Tom Riedesel presented several amendments recommended by the Variance Board and Planning Commission.

It all started with a request from residents Don and Janice Stock on Portland Avenue to replace an existing pole barn with a new upgraded design post-frame building. Historically, pole barns have not been allowed by the township due to building quality and aesthetics. However, the quality has improved over the years, so the Board approved the variance with strict standards for construction. Don Stock, whose home is located in the far northeast section of the town, spoke at the meeting to assure the board that the building will match the brown on his home’s natural cedar siding.”

It was reassuring to see the Board approving the variance. Post frame (pole) buildings are Code conforming structures, in accordance with the IBC (International Building Code). It is acceptable for jurisdictions to legislate the exterior appearance of a structure (colors or types of exterior coverings), however it would be a restriction of trade to attempt to prohibit a building system.

I’ve successfully won similar discussions throughout the country – all it has ever taken is a phone call to discuss with the jurisdiction’s legal representation. Attorneys seem to have an understanding of what this type of prohibition truly means in respect to trying to defend against it. It is a no win.

Running into a similar circumstance with your new proposed post frame building? If so, please feel free to pass along the situation to me, chances are more than fair I can assist with its quick resolution.

Design Wind Speed Changes

Design Wind Speed Changes with Building Code Editions

Every three years a new version of the International Building Code (IBC) is printed, which brings with it the latest and greatest information for building design as approved by Code Officials. State and local permit issuing jurisdictions then can either adopt or amend the Code as they best see fit.

Even though the Code is updated on a three year cycle, some jurisdictions opt to continue to utilize earlier versions of the Code.

Provisions for design loads are set forth in Chapter 16 of the IBC.

There are significant changes to the design wind load requirements for fenestration between the 2009 IBC and the 2012 editions of the same code. These are due to significant changes to the wind load provision of ASCE (American Society® of Civil Engineers) 7 between the 2005 and 2010 edition.

The design wind load provisions of the 2005 and earlier editions of ASCE 7 were based upon allowable stress design of building components. The intent of this method was to provide loads to which the building components had a fairly high likelihood of being exposed during the service life of the building. The building components were then designed to remain serviceable (i.e. not require replacement) when subjected to this load.

The 2010 edition of ASCE 7 provides design wind load provisions which are based upon strength design of building components. This method provides loads which have a lower likelihood of occurring during the service life of the building. The building components are then designed not to fail (rupture) when subjected to this load.

This change in methodology results in higher design wind speeds and pressures. At first glance, this might give the appearance of requiring higher DP (Design Pressure) ratings. In actuality, the 2012 IBC contains provisions to multiply this new, higher load by a factor of 0.6 for the purpose of conversion to the more traditional method of determining the design wind pressure based upon allowable stress design. It is very important the builder, code official, manufacturer and anyone else involved in choosing or approving the structural building design for a particular application understand the higher design wind pressure provided by the 2012 IBC must be multiplied by this 0.6 conversion factor.

In most, but not all, cases this conversion results in required design pressure ratings which are roughly comparable to the more traditionally determined values.

ASCE7-10 also provides three different design wind speed maps. The different maps are based upon the assigned Risk Category of the building being designed.

  1. There is one map for buildings whose collapse would present a low risk to human life, such as barns and storage facilities.
  2. There is a second map for buildings whose collapse is considered to be a moderate hazard to human life. Most buildings fall within this category.
  3. There is a third map for buildings whose collapse is considered a high threat to human life, and for those which are considered essential facilities. The former includes assembly or education buildings designed to house groups of 250 or more people, some medical care facilities and any other buildings designed to house 5,000 people or more. Essential facilities include occupancies such as hospitals and police and fire stations, which are essential during emergency response situations.

The new maps result in higher design wind loads for buildings of moderate hazard to human life than for those of lower hazard. The highest design wind loads are given by the third map for buildings of high hazard to human life and essential facilities. Previous editions of ASCE 7 and the IBC also required these types of buildings to be designed to higher design loads, but the actual increase was applied in a different manner.

Considering a new post frame (pole) building? If you are looking at a building which is NOT designed by a registered design professional (RDP – engineer or architect) then there is an excellent chance the person or persons involved in the design do not understand the changes brought about by the newer editions of the Code and you could end up with an under designed building.

Under design can result in catastrophic failure – or even death. Don’t take the risk, demand an engineered building.

Your life or the lives of your loved ones could be at stake.

Buying a Used Pole Building

40’ x 60’ Used Pole Building – $14000 (Silverton)  SERIOUSLY?

The following ad appeared in the Salem, Oregon Craigslist December 6, 2016 in for sale > farm & garden – by owner:

“I have a nice fully enclosed 14 foot tall pole building. It is fully disassembled and ready for transport. All the metal is fully galvanized. The building has a clear span with 4 double trusses and framed ends.”

Now, the ten top reasons why buying this used pole building would be so wrong:

#10 It is all galvanized steel – generally most folks do not find this to be aesthetically pleasing!

#9 You are going to have to pick it up and transport it – plan on a semi pulling at least a 40 foot long trailer, because those trusses are 40 feet long! Might be handy to have either a boom truck or a forklift there to hoist everything onto the trailer;

#8 And unload it when it gets to your site – some offloading equipment could be handy here;

#7 It isn’t designed to current Building Codes – so you cannot get a permit to erect it – Oregon DOES have an agricultural exemption which you might qualify for. Don’t even consider putting it up without a permit unless you are 100% certain it is exempt;

#6 The wall girts flat to the wind on the outside of the columns – they will overly deflect (again not meeting the Building Code);

#5 Plywood gussets on the trusses – even if your seller has the engineered drawings for them, they are not going to meet the current Building Code;

#4 There is no lateral truss bracing – as the trusses are on each side of the columns are acting as single trusses. At a bare minimum, they will need a row of 2×4 “T” bracing no more than 10 feet on center;

#3 The wood framed sliding door is going to be heavy – and it probably has square barn door tracks. You may want to replace it with a steel framed sliding door and a round track so it is light enough and easy enough to roll open and closed;

#2 Sure hope you can get all of the steel back in the exact same places – because if you are unable to, there is a good chance you will experience roof leaks;

And the #1 reason – For about $3,000 more, you could get a brand new post frame building designed to meet the building code, with all new materials, delivered to your site, with all colored steel roofing and siding PLUS engineered plans!

Cross Laminated Timber

And long-time reader Vincent Phelps has another great question: “CBS Sunday morning had a segment on CLT, Cross Laminated timber. It brought timber frame construction to mind. Your thoughts on this technique for the Pole builder?”


Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a large-scale, prefabricated, solid engineered wood panel. Lightweight yet very strong, with superior acoustic, fire, seismic, and thermal performance, CLT is also fast and easy to install, generating almost no waste onsite. CLT offers design flexibility and low environmental impacts. For these reasons, cross-laminated timber is proving to be a highly advantageous alternative to conventional materials like concrete, masonry, or steel, especially in multi-family and commercial construction.

CLT PanelA CLT panel consists of several layers of kiln-dried lumber boards stacked in alternating directions, bonded with structural adhesives, and pressed to form a solid, straight, rectangular panel. CLT panels consist of an odd number of layers (usually, three to seven,) and may be sanded or prefinished before shipping. While at the mill, CLT panels are cut to size, including door and window openings, with state-of-the art CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) routers, capable of making complex cuts with high precision. Finished CLT panels are exceptionally stiff, strong, and stable, handling load transfer on all sides.

There are some CLT fallacies being circulated:

  • CLT isn’t in the Building Code – wrong, CLT panels have great potential for providing cost-effective building solutions for residential, commercial, and institutional buildings, as well as large industrial facilities in accordance with the International Building Code.  In 2015, CLT will be incorporated into the International Building Code (IBC). The IBC recently adopted ANSI CLT Standard PRG 320 into the 2015 IBC, so you can request a design review based on it now and submit it as an alternate material, design and methods (AMM).
  • It is wood, it burns – Like using a few 12-inch-diameter logs to start a camp fire, mass timber does not catch fire easily. In fact, CLT acts more like concrete. Mass timber is not conventional so it is very hard to light, and once it is lit, it wants to put itself out. A research project recently completed at FPInnovations showed CLT panels have the potential to provide excellent fire resistance, often comparable to typical heavy construction assemblies of non-combustible construction. CLT panels can maintain significant structural capacity for an extended duration of time when exposed to fire.
  • It takes a specialized crew – Keep in mind, CLT is just another form of glue laminated timber (glulam). It is just wood, so it designs and builds on the earlier technology. CLT panels, like other industry panels (precast concrete or SIP panels), provide easy handling during construction and a high level of prefabrication facilitation and rapid project completion.  A conventional wood installation crew with other panel experience can lift, set, and screw down CLT panels, and with a manufacturer provided installation plan, it goes even faster.
  • It isn’t environmentally friendly – CLT is manufactured 2×6 lumber from trees harvested from sustainable managed forests, and mostly Mountain Pine Beetle kill trees. If we don’t use them, they decay and emit carbon back into the atmosphere. Wood is also the only primary structural material which grows naturally and is renewable. In fact, according to “Sustainable Forestry in North America,” during the last 50 years less than 2% of the standing tree inventory in the U.S. was harvested each year, while net tree growth was three percent.
  • It is expensive – When considering the total in-place value of a CLT system, it is cost competitive to other plate building materials. But you also need to consider all the value added benefits.More savings can be found in the reduced installation cost, usually 50% cheaper than installing other plate materials.With an earlier project completion date, you are open for business sometimes months ahead of schedule.

    The building structure will weigh less than half the weight of other construction types, so the foundation costs less money.

  • Job site safety is dramatically increased due to the prefabricated CLT panels and usually the only power tools are pneumatic drills.

The intent of CLT is not to replace light-frame construction, but rather to offer a versatile, low-carbon, and cost-competitive wood-based solution which complements the existing light frame and heavy timber options while offering a suitable candidate for some applications which currently use concrete, masonry, and steel.

My take on your question Vincent – CLT is a pretty neat product, but just like SIPs,


they are not a practical design solution for most post frame applications.

However, if you want to construct a wooden skyscraper, CLT might be just the thing!

Gypsum Board on Walls

If it is weird, strange or otherwise just bizarre, when it comes to pole buildings, chances are it will eventually come across my desk. Otherwise I would have run out of material to write articles about a long, long time ago.

And it is rewarding to know I’ve got lots of loyal readers – like my friend Vincent….when technology failed last week and an article wasn’t up right away one day last week, he let me know how saddened he was, as he reads them every day at lunch!!

Back to the otherworldly….

We have clients who are constructing two fairly good sized buildings for the growing of green leafy substances which are entirely legal (although highly regulated) in two states currently – Colorado and Washington. The buildings were ordered with framing to support steel wall liner panels, so evenly spaced up the walls, the girts are every 34-1/8 inches on center. All well and good, for steel.

However, the clients have now determined they would like to have gypsum board drywall (aka sheetrock) on the inside of the exterior walls. It appears this decision may be due in part to their Building Official deciding the Building Occupancy Classification F-1 structures are somehow not allowed to have steel liner panels over insulation….we’re awaiting the section of the Code (2012 International Building Code) which would have this stipulation, as currently we have been unable to find it.

The determiner on whether gypsum board will work in any given application is going to be deflection.

“IBC 1604.3 Serviceability. Structural systems and members thereof shall be designed to have adequate stiffness to limit deflections and lateral drift.”

green-drywallIBC TABLE 1604.3 DEFLECTION LIMITS addresses the allowable deflection as “l” – the distance being spanned divided by a given unit of acceptable deflection. For exterior walls with flexible finish (such as gypsum drywall) under a wind load, this limitation is l/120. And from Footnote “f” of the table, “The wind load is permitted to be taken as 0.42 times the “component and cladding” loads for the purpose of determining deflection limits herein.

The Vult design wind speed for this structure is 110 mph (miles per hour). The net lateral pressures on the walls are greatest in Surface 1E (near the corners) of 17.697 psf (pounds per square foot), with a components and cladding wind pressure of -19.6 psf. 19.6 psf X 0.42 = 8.232 psf.

I called the good folks at USG (United States Gypsum – www.usg.com) to get their take on whether their 5/8” thick Sheetrock™ would span the 34-1/8” on center spacing of the wood framing without undue deflection. Being it was late on a Friday afternoon, the feedback was limited in its scope, however, they did email me the “Gypsum Association Properties of Gypsum Board”, which turns out to have some useful information. On Page 3 of 5 of the document copyrighted by the Gypsum Association is a table for “Negative Wind Load Resistance”. For ½” thickness over wood framing at 16 inches on center the allowable load is 80 psf, for 5/8”130 psf.

Allowable deflection is based upon the span^4. This makes the deflection at 2.84375 feet (34-1/8”) 20.692 times the deflection of 1.333 feet (16”). Using 130 psf / 20.692 results in a maximum psf of 6.28 which is less than the calculated 8.232, so 5/8” gypsum drywall would not be an adequate design solution. Under these load conditions, the maximum span of the 5/8” gypsum drywall would be 31.9”.

What about ½” drywall over 24 inch on center supports? The deflection at 24 inches on center is 5.0625 times the deflection at 16 inches. 80 / 5.0625 = 15.8 psf, which would prove adequate given these loads.

Minimum Wind And Snow Loads

Hansen Pole Buildings is a proud member of the NFBA (National Frame Building Association https://www.nfba.org). Pretty much every Monday the Association sends out a newsletter, via email, to its members.

In today’s newsletter was a link to an article written by Stephen Szoke and published in Construction Executive, May 5, “Building Codes: One Size Does Not Fit All”. (The entire article can be read here: https://enewsletters.constructionexec.com/managingyourbusiness/2015/05/building-codes-one-size-does-not-fit-all/).

International Building CodeI got a different takeaway than most people probably did from the article. In my humble opinion, the Building Codes themselves should be consistent, however local jurisdictions should establish their own minimum climactic loading requirements (snow and wind loads) – but not tamper with the Code itself. The Code is the product of the collective minds of some of the most brilliant engineers, designers and Building Officials on the planet – they have more than a small clue as to what they are doing.

With over 7,000 Building Permit issuing jurisdictions in the United States, if each of them even altered a few words (which is not uncommon) the resultant is RDPs (Registered Design Professionals – architects and engineers) pulling out their hair trying to meet local quirks.

Getting back on track – here is what truly struck me from the article: “The rise in property losses seems to correlate well with information about a cultural/societal trend reported at the 2014 Concrete Sustainability Conference by Michael D. Lepech, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He reported that business models with an emphasis on maximum return on investment have driven or even forced businesses toward least initial cost. In construction, this appears to have resulted in a trend toward minimum code, which is synonymous with least initial cost.

Clearly, one option is to wait for the cultural-societal pendulum to swing back toward more quality and value in lieu of least initial cost.” 

In layperson’s terms – too many buildings are designed penny wise and pound foolish. It makes absolutely no sense, at least in my head, to save a thousand dollars of initial investment, if the result is spending tens of thousands of dollars in repair and maintenance costs!

The Building Codes are for design to “minimum” standards. I know, for a fact, most pole builders and pole building kit suppliers are not going to ever discuss an increase in wind and snow loads beyond bare minimums. In many cases, due to lack of Code enforcement or exemptions from structural plan reviews – the bare minimums are not even being met!

How do I know this for a fact?

Because the great majority of other people who do something similar to what we do (I won’t even lift them up to the level of calling them competitors) don’t even list the design loads on their pole building quotes!


Don’t ever be shy about asking how much of an added investment it would be to increase the design wind and snow loads for your soon to be new building. I want you to have the last building standing in the event of a catastrophic event

Let’s Talk Snow Load

Even though it is now May – the heavy snowfalls in the New England states this past winter have left many with concerns. Here is an actual conversation, between a client who recently invested in a new Hansen Pole Building kit package, and our Technical Support Department:

Client: Good Afternoon,

Quick couple of questions.  The plans look like the wall girts for this project are the “commercial wall girt” design (Option 1)? 

I was initially under the impression that Option 1 was just for the design where the “Roof Purlins /joist are hung vertically from the side of the Trusses”.  I did not know that Option 1 also included a commercial wall girt design. 

Is it necessary to use the commercial wall girt design if I have Option 1:  “Roof Purlins /joist are hung vertically from the side of the Trusses” design? OR could the Wall Girts be just 2 x 4s nailed on the outside of the Support Posts?

Just curious-

After answering these couple of questions, I will log back in and approve the drawings.”

Building Code Snow LoadsNo snow yet, but we will get to it. Here is the response:

Thank you very much for your investment in a new Hansen Pole Building. Every building we provide has each member and connection structurally checked for adequacy under the most stringent Code provisions. Other than for very small column spacing, this means wall girts will need to be placed “book shelf” style, in order to be Code conforming.

Here is some reading which may prove helpful: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/03/girts/

Now we will get literally knee deep into the snow:

“The structural support poles on my drawing are at 14 ft.   Not 10 ft, and not 8 ft.  This is my concern.  (I read the guru blog).  14 feet between poles with double trusses, still doesn’t cut it when I could have 5 feet of snow on the roof.  This barn will be located in Northern Maine.”

Thank you for your concerns. Your building has been designed for the loading recommended for your area, 50 psf ground snow load – which you acknowledged as being verified by you as adequate with your Building Department, prior to your order being placed.

If you are planning upon having five feet of snow sit on top of your roof, then we would recommend increasing the snow load capacity of your roof to somewhere in the vicinity of 100 psf (this would equate to a ground snow load of approximately 173 psf). To increase the roof snow load by this 346% would add $xxxx to your investment.

Please advise accordingly.

“After some further research, I have found that the recommended ground snow load for my county in Maine is 90 PSF.  Please advise on new plan design and associated incremental cost to my project to accommodate.”

Just want to confirm you feel this will be adequate for your particular site, as a 90 psf ground snow load will support about 30-32″ of snow on the roof. If indeed you believe a greater depth may be placed upon it, it would behoove to design accordingly.

The liability I am putting on myself here is tremendous.  Does Hansen Pole Barns have any culpability for designing this building for snow load correctly?  Because I don’t know.  I am at a loss, I am not an engineer.  We have little if any Code Enforcement in this county.   But I know we get a boat load of heavy wet snow and the building will be in a sheltered area with not much winter sunlight. 

My builder originally said it was 50 PSF (As he thought that was the code).  But I don’t think knows.   When I looked at the design that I was sent, (and I am a believer in engineering, as I am a non-certified Mechanical Engineer), I know the design is not adequate.  So, I started to research on the internet.  The best I can come up with is what I found on the internet.  SEE ATTACHED

 I am located in New Vineyard ME, Franklin County 04956.  Every town that is near me shown on the attached “Ground Snow Loading” document is listed as “Case Study”, so I am guessing at the 90 PSF. (because everything around me is either at 90 or 100 PSF 

Looking for advice”

Although you may have read this previously, it may prove good background: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/02/snow-loads/

Based upon your information, we’d recommend a change in the Ce factor from 1.0 to 1.2. This effectively increases the design roof snow load by 20%

Along with this, here are some Pg options (in psf) to pick from (as well as the investment to increase) and the approximate depth of snow on the roof for each:

90   $ 2252       38″
100      2498       42″
110      2578       46″
120      3169       50″
130      3368       54″

Me personally, I tend to go for over design – I prefer to be the one who owns the last building standing when the storm of the century hits.

New Post-Frame Building Design Manual

Post-Frame Building Design Manual

Back in 2000 the then National Frame Builders Association (now National Frame Building Association – NFBA www.nfba.org) published the ground breaking first edition of the Post-Frame Building Design Manual.

In the foreword, then NFBA President James T. Knight so aptly wrote:

“The movement of the post-frame building into the commercial marketplace has obviously necessitated compliance with building codes. Although agricultural buildings were exempt from building codes in many areas of the United States, this was not true when buildings were built in developed areas or where public access would occur. Since the design was not understood by building officials, and since no approved and recognized design procedure had previously existed, the suitability of the post-frame structure has often been questioned.

Today, the post-frame design concept is well developed. It has, for many years, been the subject of countless research studies and analysis conducted by qualified individuals at the university level and in the private sector. This Post-Frame Design Manual, for the first time, sets forth in one document, the post-frame design criteria that is today backed up by sound and widely accepted engineering practice.”

For those with an interest, the first edition can be viewed free online at: https://www.scribd.com/doc/29750872/Post-Frame-Building-Design-Manual

At the time of its publication, the United States was governed by three differing building codes – since then codes have been unified as the IBC (International Building Code). Now in its sixth edition (a new version is published every three years), the IBC has made many changes in the way Registered Design Professionals (engineers and architects) approach structural design solutions for wind, snow and seismic forces.

Post Frame Design ManualThe NFBA has risen to the occasion with the recent introduction of the new Post-Frame Building Design Manual! The second edition of the manual—and the first new edition since 2000—is the ultimate tool for post-frame design. Eight chapters, 200 pages, and hundreds of photos, diagrams, illustrations and design tables cover everything you need to know about designing with post frame.

The Post-Frame Building Design Manual, second edition, is a must-have for anyone who works with — or is considering working with — post-frame construction.

Hansen Pole Buildings has been honored by inclusion of one of our buildings on the cover of the new manual. In fact, it is in the center of the three completed buildings pictured!

Download YOUR copy now:


When is it Time to Remove Roof Snow?

Regardless of what side of the climate change argument one is on – it has been snowing in Massachusetts this winter.

A lot.

Late January’s Winter Storm Juno alone brought up to 36 inches of snow in some parts of Massachusetts. https://www.weather.com/storms/winter/news/winter-storm-juno-snow-totals-wind-gusts

As if Juno wasn’t enough, another storm followed – leaving so much snow on the ground it forced the postponement of the celebratory parade through Boston for the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/flash-freezing-now-the-big-concern-in-northeast/

So, how much snow is too much for one’s roof?roof snow

As a basic rule of thumb, consider saturated snow weighs in at approximately 20 pounds per cubic foot. This weight is based upon a 25% moisture density, which may be conservative or liberal, as the actual moisture content of snow can range from approximately 1% to 33%.

Using the 20 pounds per cubic foot, this means every inch of snow will add 1-2/3 pounds per square foot of weight!

Any ice build-up on roofs would need to be added in as well. Use 5.2 pounds for each inch of ice depth.

For those who want to get scientific, the actual roof snow load can be checked by cutting a one foot square the full depth of the snow and ice build-up on the roof, dumping into a plastic bag and weighing the contents.

Modern buildings are designed for a snow load which assumes the roof snow load will be exceeded anywhere from once in 25 to once in 100 years, depending upon the Risk Category of the structure. The actual International Building Code language on risk categories can be read at: https://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/ibc/2012/icod_ibc_2012_16_par023.htm

Buildings which were not constructed under Code requirements are often at far greater risk to collapse under snowfall. When rain falls upon snow, the weight of the roof snow can increase rapidly. Heating a building, in an attempt to melt the snow off a roof, can result in ice dams at the eave sides of the building – compounding the load problems.

Please be aware of the potential dangers of shoveling or raking snow from a roof. Besides the potential damage to the roofing materials and structure, there are such factors as a person sliding off the roof, falling off a ladder, overexerting themselves, or injury from snow sliding on top of them.

I can’t make recommendations on when to remove snow from any particular roof. It is up to the individual building owner to consider the benefits and dangers of snow removal and determine their own course of action. If your structure is in question, it is always best to consult a registered professional engineer.

Under-Designed Ag Buildings

Does Anyone Else See How This Could Be a Problem?

Eric, one of the owners of Hansen Pole Buildings, had me check out a website today for a pole building supplier who is extolling the virtues of a particular “nailed up” laminated column, which has been the subject of some discussion in my articles. https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/04/titan-timbers/

This particular supplier took verbatim the information provided by the nailed up column suppliers, without questioning the validity of the data supplied.

Me, being the curious sort, took a cruise around the pole building supplier’s website.


“Snow Loading                                                                                   

Xxxxx Buildings commitment to quality is second to none. This is amplified by the fact that all buildings meet or exceed the MN State Building Code. Xxxxx Buildings provides all customers ‘peace of mind’ by making sure the roof system loading for your building will keep you protected from natures elements. The roof system loading includes the trusses and the roof purlins.”

Now I am all over this! I appreciate people with a commitment to high quality and excellence in pole buildings. “…all buildings meet or exceed the MN State Building Code” is way cool….

Hay Storage BuildingUntil I read their next paragraph:

“Ag Buildings
There is no code regulation of Ag buildings, (these buildings are exempt from the code) but suggested minimum loading would be 25 psf or 30 psf live load on the roof system. The definition of an Ag building would be a structure on agricultural land designed, constructed, and used to house farm implements, hay, grain, poultry, livestock, or other horticultural products. This structure shall not be a place of human habitation or a place of employment where agricultural products are processed, treated or packaged, nor shall it be a place used by the public.”

From one side of their mouths is “all buildings” meet Code, and out of the other – they are providing “ag buildings” with loads below Code!!

Here is the Minnesota State Snow Load map: https://www.dli.mn.gov/CCLD/PDF/bc_map_snowload.pdf

To get from a Pg (ground snow load), to a roof snow load, involves the multiplication by several factors. Learn more than you ever wanted to know here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/02/snow-loads/

For discussion’s sake, we will assume these Ag buildings are unheated (most unoccupied buildings are) with the most common 4/12 roof slopes and steel roofing. The roof truss top chord live load under this combination should be 34.7 psf with 50 psf for Pg.

This provider’s, “suggested minimum loading would be 25 psf or 30 psf of live load on the roof system” is under designing these roofs to support snow by at least 13% and as much as 40%!!

You don’t own a farm, so what do you care?

When those under designed roofs collapse and the insurance companies pay to rebuild – it is YOUR insurance rates which are going to increase!

And if you do own a farm, I’d hate to be the one cleaning up the mess when your roof caves in…and hoping you are not in it when it does!


Building Official Out on a Limb

Don’t get me wrong – in case I have not previously gotten my message across in earlier articles – I genuinely like Building Officials.

Most of them really do care, and go out of their way to help both do it yourselfers and building contractors. With very few exceptions, Building Officials, field inspectors and plans checkers are not registered design professionals (architects or engineers). It is when structural concerns arise, which can get them in over their heads. Going too far out on a limb without support can be dangerous.

I was contacted by one of our clients over the weekend, who is putting up his own building. The site is in the western United States, and in his particular case the design wind speed requirement is for 105 mph (miles per hour) with an Exposure C for wind (a site which is not protected from the wind). In the west, the lumber species of choice for treated timbers is generally Hem-Fir. It takes a pressure treatment well (albeit with the need to be incised) and is fairly plentiful.

Building Column OrientationThe building plans call out for the sidewall (double truss bearing) columns to be 6×8, with the six inch face oriented towards the sides of the building.

Columns in pole buildings must be able to support combined forces from bending (the wind) and compression (weight of the roof and any applicable snow loads). In most cases, the bending forces are going to be the majority of the issue.

The reason for the contact from the client was – he placed his posts with the wrong side towards the wind!

Now in construction, things happen…..it is solving the things which keep it interesting. And in pole buildings, I can’t think of a time a challenge didn’t have one or more solutions.

The client was told by his building official, “normally a 6×6 is sufficient” and he would sign off on the posts the wrong way, as long as we provided a letter stating so.

Our proprietary pole building design software gives the calculations for every component of the building. In this scenario, the columns needed to resist a ground line moment of 37,184 inch-pounds (for more on “moments” please read: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/09/bending-moment/).

Oriented properly, the 6×8 has a section modulus (Sm) of 51.563 inches. Sm is derived by squaring the depth of a member, multiplying by the width of the member, and then dividing by six. The calculations showed the columns, as designed, to be stressed to 98.4% of capacity.

Turn the column the wrong way, and the Sm is reduced to 37.82 inches and it is now overstressed by 34.2%!! Same timber. Wrong direction. Wrong answer.

BTW (by the way) – the Building Official’s 6×6 scenario would be overstressed by 83%!!

The client does have some options:

The building official could sign off on the columns as placed, making him now the designer of record (I would not recommend he do so).

In cases such as this, building officials could agree to allow the building to be designed for a lesser wind speed and exposure. At 90 mph and Exposure B, the columns would work in the orientation they were placed.

The columns could be pulled out of the ground and placed the correct direction.

Or, we could come up with a repair – which could prove to be difficult and costly. It will depend mostly upon how far along the construction process is.

Moral of the story, the direction any column is to be placed in a pole building is specified on the plans. It is not a suggestion. There are valid structural reasons it must be oriented exactly as designed. This is one place where a mistake is not so easily corrected, as the columns are literally set in stone (concrete).

Why You Need to Verify Design Criteria

Why to Verify Design Criteria

For those of you who are dedicated long term readers, I thank you. I’ve preached this subject more than once – but the message hasn’t gotten through to everyone yet. I will attempt to avoid boring anyone.

There are over 7000 building permit issuing jurisdictions in the United States. A full time employee, calling each of them for their most current code and load information, would need to reach and get data from nearly four an hour – for an entire year, and then it would be time to start all over again!

Each time a Hansen Pole Building is quoted, the design version of the Building Code, as well as all climactic forces the building is designed to, are listed on the pole building quote. Every quote also includes (in bold):

“You must confirm all code/design criteria with your Building Department prior to placing your order. 

We recommend taking this page to your building department for them to verify all design criteria listed above.”

Now my Dad used to tell me, “You can lead a horse to water, and if you hold its head under long enough, it will drown”.

Such may be the case with design criteria. Many clients not only follow instructions, they have done their homework in advance! They have contacted their Building Departments for information, before they even started pole building shopping.

We love these people! They are prepared.

Most of the rest, follow instructions well – they happily contact their Building Department and verify the information before ordering. We love you as well!

Then there are the very small percentage who make assumptions….well, we know where assumptions lead to.

When a post frame building kit package is ordered, one of the items Purchaser agrees to is:

“Seller’s designs rely solely upon occupancy category and structural criteria for and at specified job site address only, which have been provided and/or verified by Purchaser. It is Purchaser’s and only Purchaser’s responsibility to ascertain the design loads utilized in this Agreement meet or exceed the actual dead loads imposed on the structure and the live loads imposed by the local building code or historical climactic records. Purchaser understands Seller and/or Seller’s engineer(s) or agents will NOT be contacting anyone to confirm.”

design criteriaA real life example occurred recently. Client ordered a building kit and thought the roof snow load was to be 35 psf (pounds per square foot). Way too late into the game (prefabricated roof trusses had been delivered to the jobsite) the Building Department tells the permit applicant, “Oops”!

With the right information verified in the beginning, the cost difference would have been minimal. Many times, truss repairs to add five psf of load are fairly affordable. Not in this case – many of the wood members, as well as the majority of the roof truss metal connector plates were originally close to being fully stressed in the original design. For practical purposes, another truss needed to be added to every truss set, in order to meet the slightly higher loads.

Here is a case where ten minutes of the customer’s time to verify, would have saved well over a thousand dollars!

Plan ahead with your design criteria using our helpful Pole Barn Planning Guide.

Does Building to Wind Load Matter?

Biking On Down the Highway

Author’s Note: This is part 6 of a series of blogs written from a 6500+ motorcycle trip from WA to Ohio and back.  See Blog from Oct. 15th for the beginning…and hang on for the ride!

Time for another lumber yard visit.

WindThey are in Michigan (I am really not trying to pick on Michigan). Their statement, “Builders here do not like to have to build to wind loads”!!

Say WHAT???

Last I heard… buildings were to be constructed to resist wind, snow and seismic loads. I was totally unaware of a Michigan exemption against building to support wind loads!

It turns out the majority of the buildings provided by this lumber yard are agriculturally exempt, so they are not designing them for any particular load resistance characteristics.

The 2009 and earlier versions of the IBC (International Building Code) require a design wind speed for all of Michigan of 90 mph (miles per hour). The 2012 Code has bumped this up to 105 mph for Risk Category I buildings (buildings with a low risk to human life in the event of a failure) and 115 mph for Risk Category II (most inhabited structures, like homes).

Clearly ignoring wind loads appears to be an undertaking with a high degree of risk involved.

As a general rule, they provide 6×6 pressure treated columns, regardless of the height of the building, wind speed and exposure and whether the building is fully enclosed with wind rated doors, or partially enclosed.

With structural columns spaced every eight feet, 2×4 Standard & better graded wall girts are placed flat on the outsides of the columns, at 24 inches on center.

Obviously I believe every building should be designed to adequately support all of the loads which are induced – including wind. Also, it is my personal feeling every building should be designed by a RDP (registered design professional – engineer or architect) who should be placing his or her seal on the plans as well as providing complete design calculations to verify the work being produced.

Failure to design for wind loads can only result in the eventual failure of buildings, hopefully without loss of life and/or limb.

Pressure Treated Posts: 1807.3.1

Not near as exciting as 867-5309, but this one Section of the International Building Code (IBC) is one of the most important and least understood sections.

The American Wood Preservers Association (AWPA) addresses in, Section UC4 wood, which is pressure preservative treated for “Ground Contact”. The “UC” is short for “Use Class”.

UC4A is for “General Use”. This is “Wood and wood-based materials used in contact with the ground, fresh water, or other situations favorable to deterioration. Examples are fence posts, deck posts, guardrail posts, structural lumber, timbers and utility posts located in regions of low natural potential for wood decay and insect attack.

UC4B is for “Heavy Duty”. This is “Wood and wood-based material used in contact with the ground either in severe environments, such as horticultural sites, in climates with a high potential for deterioration, in critically important components such as utility poles, building poles and permanent wood foundations, and wood used in salt water splash zones.”

Neither of these clearly identifies which degree of pressure treating should be utilized for structural in ground use – to support a post frame (pole) building.

When the first IBC was published in 2000, Section 1805.7.1.2 stated, “Wood poles shall be treated in accordance with AWPA C2 or C4. This language remained the same in the 2003 IBC. The AWPA C2 and C4 standards have been withdrawn, therefore are no longer applicable or referenced standards in later editions of the Code.

In the 2006 IBC, however, things changed. Section 1805.7.1 states, “Wood poles shall be treated in accordance with AWPA U1 for sawn timber posts (Commodity Specification A, Use
Category 4B) “. In the 2009 IBC (and repeated for the 2012 edition), the language remained the same, however the referenced section of the Code is now 1807.3.

What does this mean for the average consumer who is shopping for a new pole barn? Everything!

Visit the local lumberyard, or big box lumber store. Take a walk through the pressure treated lumber department. Every piece of pressure preservative treated lumber has a tag on it. This tag identifies who the pressure treater was, as well as the level of pressure treating. Sadly, most of the pressure treated posts will be treated only to UC-4A….which does NOT meet with the Code requirements for use in pole buildings! It is very likely the lumberyard sales people do not realize this to be the case.

Even more frightening, most Building Officials are unaware of this requirement!

When shopping for a new pole building, ask what level of pressure treatment the pressure treated posts are treated to. If the company being contacted does not know, will not tell, or says they are “treated for structural in ground use” (or similar language), or anything other than UC-4B…run, do not walk away!

In order to have a Code conforming building, and one which will last the lifetime it is designed for – demand a minimum UC-4B pressure treating level for all structural load bearing columns.

Building Codes: Constructing over minimum standards

‘I want to see people build past minimum (code) standards’: Mike Holmes

In a June 29, 2011 copyrighted article in Postmedia News, Mike Holmes says, “Anyone who knows me knows I talk an awful lot about building code. The code is a minimum acceptable standard for the construction of a building. It’s also a living, changing document that is adapted every few years to ensure it keeps up with major changes to the ways buildings are built and the materials that builders use in construction.”

Holmes goes on to say, “Even if they are minimum standards, codes matter. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of people who build to code because the building codes are minimum standards. I want to see people build past minimum standards, so that every homeowner has the safest possible living environment.”

Don’t just build to minimum code standards, plan to build above and beyond them!

In the case of pole buildings, we thoroughly agree with Mike Holmes. Sadly, we in the United States have many jurisdictions where building permits are either not required at all, or are granted without a thorough plan review and field progress inspections.

One of the largest post frame builders in the country, designs their non-permit required buildings to their own “robust” standard. To upgrade these buildings to meet code requirements involves a significant increase in price!

I am ever amazed, dumbfounded and totally appalled at clients who, after being advised of their wind and snow requirements, ask me, “What would it cost to build to lower values?”  Is throwing safety right out the window really worth saving a few bucks?

What most clients do not realize is that increases in building load carrying capacity often result in very minimal costs. A building with a low risk of human injury or death in the event of a failure (IBC Category I), is designed for the maximum design loads to be exceeded once in an average 25 year period. An upgrade to Category II doubles this to a 50 year period, with a net effective increase in snow load capacity of 25% and wind capacity by 15%.

Concerned about the lifespan of your new pole building? An increase of 10 pounds per square foot of snow load and 10 miles per hour for design wind speed means your building might very well be the last one standing, when it comes to a catastrophic event.  Don’t just build to minimum code requirements, plan to build above and beyond them, and sleep well at night knowing when you wake up, your building will still be there after a stormy night.

To receive more pole building tips and advice subscribe to the pole barn guru blog!

Verify, Verify and….Verify! Confirm Local Building Codes

Did I happen to mention verify?

So, you have a problem, or are trying to reach a goal – with the solution being a new building.

Now, with the solution in mind, what to do first?

Call around or shop online to get a price? Wrong answer.

Verify Building Codes

Verify Local Building Codes

The correct answer is to visit your planning and building departments to confirm local building codes, as well as what design criteria are to be followed.

Doing anything else, can end up burning up time for you, as well as anyone quoting your proposed project, besides leaving everyone with hurt feelings.

Every client who orders a new pole building from Hansen Buildings does so with these verification requirements:

“Purchaser acknowledges verification/confirmation/acceptance of all Building Code, Plan and Design Criteria included on Instant Invoice. Information Purchaser has verified includes, but is not limited to: Applicable Building Code version, Occupancy Category, Ground (Pg) and Flat Roof (Pf) Snow Loads, Roof Snow Exposure Factor (Ce), Thermal Factor (Ct), basic Wind Speed (3 second gust) and Wind Exposure, Allowable Foundation Pressure, Seismic Zone and Maximum Frost Depth, as well as obtaining for Seller any unusual code interpretations, amendments or prescriptive requirements for non-engineered buildings which could affect this structure.”

“Seller’s designs are all per specified Building Code and include the use of NDS Table 2.3.2 Load Duration Factors (Cd) as well as ASCE 7-05, Eq. 7-2 for slippery surfaces. Seller’s designs rely solely upon occupancy category and structural criteria for and at specified job site address only, which have been provided and/or verified by Purchaser. It is Purchaser’s and only Purchaser’s responsibility to ascertain the design loads utilized in this Agreement meet or exceed the actual dead loads imposed on the structure and the live loads imposed by the local building code or historical climactic records. Purchaser understands Seller and/or Seller’s engineer(s) or agents will NOT be contacting anyone to confirm.”

Sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo?  Not really – read on to find out how to make this simple.  And save yourself a lot of grief when you order a new building – of any kind!

We have a client who ordered his building in May under these very same requirements. The client confirmed they read and understood all of them when the order was placed.

Our engineer did his job, producing plans and calculations for the client, based upon the information client agreed to verify.

This morning client went in to apply for his building permit. The Building Official loved the engineered plans.  However the incorrect code version was on them (their jurisdiction has gone from a 2003 to a 2007 version) and the ground snow load on the design was 70 pounds per square foot (psf), and at client’s site it actually needed to be 105 psf! In the client’s particular state, for every 100 feet the site is above sea level, the ground snow load is to be increased by 2 psf, above the basic map values.

Client is not happy – and we are none too pleased.  We now have an unhappy customer before we have even shipped his pole building kit.  Added to this, redoing his plans is like starting all over for us.  And the fees we require don’t begin to cover the hassles of making all the changes.

However the onus for verification IS on him.

Now, why is it we or our engineer would not verify for the customer?

Here are some actual circumstances for past projects:

  1. A client gave an incorrect address for building site, resulting in wrong loads.
  2. We (or our engineer) have no way of knowing the actual elevation of where the building is to be situated. At times, a relatively small parcel of land can have hundreds of feet of elevation change (case in point – my own home is on a lot 60’ x 225’ with nearly 300 feet of grade change).
  3. County is contacted to confirm loads for an address, which they do. When client goes to apply for building permit, they find their address has been annexed by a nearby city (clients were sure surprised). The bad part – the “new” city was operating under an older version of the code and (even though entirely surrounded by the county) was using much higher snow load requirements.

According to Ben Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

In all fairness to yourself and those, like us, who are trying to assist you in meeting your goals…..do your advanced verifications with your city or county’s Planning Department – confirm the local building codes and everyone will be far happier!

A Silly Extreme Example

I’m a voracious reader. A large portion of my daily reading is devoted to learning as much as I can about my industry and expanding my knowledge base.

On LinkedIn, I am a member of the “Truss, Panel & Building Components” discussion group. One of the members, Gene Marcoux, from Florida, had postulated, “If we have a chance to reshape the way things are going to be done, wouldn’t it make sense to have the whole structure engineered for structural integrity….”

I happen to personally agree with Gene’s statement. If a design professional did not do the structural design of your new pole building, then who did?

Building Code Book

IBC Building Code Book

Keymark Enterprises, Inc., of Colorado, provides structural engineering and precision manufacturing of wood components (such as trusses and wall panels). Their account representative, Steve Cummings had this take on the subject:

“In perhaps a silly, extreme example, think about a 20×24 garage on a farm in Kentucky. Right now there is no government check that it will conform to current code, no engineering requirement, no permit required, no inspection necessary. We all know, from experience and training, how to build this garage. What is the value of the increased requirements vs. the cost of building departments, inspectors, engineers and designers?”

In my humble opinion, while an industry expert may know how to properly construct this pole building, not everyone is an expert. All it takes is one error in the design of a connection (too few nails, nails too closely spaced, an incorrect hanger, etc.) or sizing of a structural member and a catastrophic collapse could be the result.

The Building Code purpose “is intended to provide minimum requirements to safeguard the public safety, health and general welfare through structural strength, means of egress facilities, stability, sanitation, adequate light and ventilation, energy conservation, and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment”.

In having no permit requirements, there is no one to insure the goals of the codes are met. Are we willing to sacrifice a life or lives, due to deficient design, all in the name of saving a few dollars?

Tornado Proof: Pole Buildings Can Limit Damage

Thanks to www.ocala.com May 24, 2011 for their article, “Florida Building Codes Limit Tornado Damage”

While surveying tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala., University of Florida researcher David O. Prevatt said he was struck by the city’s large number of old homes susceptible to storm damage.

“We have to expect this sort of damage unless we decide to do something differently,” said Prevatt, an assistant professor of civil and Rural Tornadocoastal engineering.

Prevatt is the principal investigator of a research project documenting damage from the tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa last month. He’s planning to make a similar trip to Joplin, Mo., where one of the deadliest U.S. twisters on record struck Sunday and killed at least 116 people.

Prevatt believes that new building codes, like those instituted in response to hurricanes in Florida, could reduce some of the damage from tornadoes in those areas.

“We can probably save some damage and probably save some lives as well,” he said.

Hurricanes are a bigger concern than tornadoes in Florida, said David Donnelly, Alachua County’s emergency management director.

Florida, he said, doesn’t typically get the extreme twisters that have recently struck Alabama and Missouri.

“Florida as a whole doesn’t really see those type of tornadoes,” he said.

There are exceptions. In February 1998, violent tornadoes that swept across four counties in Central Florida killed 41 people. In 2007, 21 people died when tornadoes left a 70-mile trail of destruction across Lake and Volusia counties, including parts of The Villages.

Prevatt said the damage he saw in Tuscaloosa included buildings knocked off their foundations and homes where roofs were nowhere to be found. He made a trip last year to Hiroshima, so he can compare the devastation in Alabama to photos he saw of Hiroshima after the atomic bombing.

Tuscaloosa “really looked like a bomb site,” he said.

Prevatt and researchers from several other universities spent a week in Tuscaloosa documenting damage to about 150 homes. Their work is being funded by the National Science Foundation and International Association for Wind Engineering.

Now his attention is turning to Joplin, where more than 2,000 structures were leveled. He expects to travel there late this week or early next week, after conditions improve.

Modern pole building design allows for structures to be designed to withstand or reduce damage from tornado winds. Columns embedded into the ground eliminate the weak point of stick frame construction in the connection of walls to foundations. The embedment itself can be designed to withstand uplift and overturning forces for any desired wind speed.

Roof trusses can be attached directly to the columns using seven gauge steel brackets with through bolts. This connection eliminates another noted stick frame weakness – connecting trusses to wall top plates, which is typically done with either toe nails, or light gauge steel connectors.

The Florida Building Code has the most stringent wind requirements in the United States. The 29 gauge steel roofing and siding has Florida approvals to be used in hurricane regions. With appropriate spacing of framing members, this steel cladding, attached with properly placed diaphragm screws, will withstand even the highest recorded wind speeds.  Pole building designs may help to reduce damage and save lives.