Tag Archives: building codes

Lots of Bad Advice for Retrofitting Roof Insulation

Lots of Bad Advice for Retrofitting Roof Insulation

Reader DAVE in GALES CREEK writes:

I’m desperate, or I wouldn’t be bugging you with this. We have a 38×48 pole barn / shop with concrete pad that was on our property when we bought it. There are 4 sections between trusses, and one of those has been walled off as a work area. I really need to insulate the ceiling / roof of this area. For heating purposes and some extra sound absorption. The roof has 2×6 rafters running parallel to the length of the building – no soffits or vents. The existing insulation is vinyl backed fiberglass between the rafters and metal roofing. It does very well for what it is, no problems. I’ve had so many people tell me EVERYTHING I learn is wrong – it’s cost us dearly over the last few years being paralyzed with fear that we might do it wrong and regret it. How would you do this? Most say to tear out the vinyl back fiberglass, fill the rafter cavities with Rock Wool (or fiberglass), an interior vapor barrier and then cover the ceiling with PVC roofing or tin. Others say to leave the fiberglass vinyl backing in place,( Which I prefer) use Rock Wool, but leave an air gap so there will be air flow into the rest of the shop to avoid condensation on the vinyl backing. Like a mini attic space to avoid creating a double vapor barrier? I would use spray foam, but without getting into it, it’s not an option. I’d have to use foam board, rock wool or FB insulation. Could you please help us? Any advice would be so greatly appreciated. We’re losing our shirts on this project taking so long. Anything would be helpful at this point. I’d be glad to send diagrams and photos if need be? Thank you very much for your time either way.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru answers:

While I am not a fan of vinyl backed fiberglass (aka metal building insulation), provided seams are sealed and facing is not punctured, it does provide a condensation control.

If you were to tear out what you have (would be a painfully tedious project), your only option would be closed cell spray foam directly to roof steel. Why? Because, Building Codes require an inch of clear space between insulation and roof deck from eave-to-ridge. As your building’s roof purlins prevent this from happening, any sort of batt insulation in plane of roof would not be an option.

Provided your trusses are capable of carrying added weight of a ceiling, or you can support a ceiling off of 38 foot walls on each side of this bay, your best option is to blow in insulation directly above said ceiling. First choice would be granulated Rockwool (it is not affected by moisture and does not degrade with time), second would be fiberglass. If using steel panels for a ceiling, do not blow cellulose on top of it, as chemicals in it are likely to react negatively with steel.

Leave attic area above ceiling open to balance of building, so as not to create an unventilated dead air space. Otherwise, you will need to add gable vents (as an air intake) and vent the ridge.

Adding a Slab, Code Requirements, and Getting Started

Today’s Ask the Guru takes on reader questions about adding a slab to a pole barn with a dirt floor, and how that might transfer pressure to the columns, whether or not Hansen Buildings packages meet “2018 International Building Code and all codes adopted by Pennsylvania for commercial construction,” and landowners looking to get started but not sure how.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have an existing 24ft by 32ft pole barn with dirt floor. I would like to poor a slab and I understand the need for construction joints in the concrete. I am concerned about expansion pressure from the concrete against the existing posts. Could the expansion of the floor slab put enough pressure on the posts to damage them? My posts are 4×6 treated pine. TIM in APEX

DEAR TIM: As far as actually damaging posts themselves, highly unlikely. If your 4×6 columns are not adequately anchored in ground by a concrete bottom collar, concrete encasement, or other properly compacted backfill, there is a potential for them to be shifted out of place when concrete is poured. Depending upon method of pressure treatment, ph of concrete against pressure treated pine can cause brown-rot fungi. If your columns were treated with ACQ-D or MCA, it might be prudent to isolate columns from concrete with a waterproof barrier. A barrier can be created as simply as running your under-slab vapor barrier (6mil or thicker black plastic) up and over top of your pressure treated splash planks and around sides of columns to top of slab.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Do your pole building packages meet the 2018 International Building Code and all codes adopted by Pennsylvania for commercial construction? ANDREW in HOLLIDAYSBURG



DEAR ANDREW: Every Hansen Pole Building is fully engineered to meet all structural requirements of applicable Codes where building is to be erected. Besides your engineer sealed blueprints, our engineers also provide sealed verifying calculations.


About Hansen BuildingsDEAR POLE BARN GURU: We own the land however we don’t where to get started with this Process? TONY in FLORENCE

DEAR TONY: Your Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer can be a great resource in assisting you with this process. Many of our clients have found resources in this article of prove helpful: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2021/02/a-shortlist-for-smooth-barndominium-sailing/

Information on Codes and Shouses

Information on Codes and Shouses

I have to admit it was rather flattering to have Southwest Iowa’s Planning Council reach out to me regarding information on Codes and Shouses recently.

“Hello. My name is Ashley and I’m a community development specialist with Southwest Iowa Planning Council out of Atlantic, IA. I am currently working on some Zoning and Building codes for smaller towns and they want to include zones and/or building codes for shouses. Since this is relatively new to this area, within city limits at least, I was curious what issues your company has come across regarding codes and if you had any sample codes from communities that you would be willing to share with me?”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

Thank you for reaching out to us. We have provided hundreds of post frame shouses and barndominiums in nearly every state. Good news for you (and these jurisdictions) is this project will involve very little extra efforts beyond what is currently in place.

Use of terms such as “pole barn”, “pole building” or “post frame” home, barndominium, shouse or shop/house oftentimes cause permitting waters to become clouded – yet they need not be.

From a Zoning/Planning standpoint – shouses (I will use this as an all encompassing term) should be treated no differently than any other code compliant structural system. Any existing requirements for setbacks, footprint requirements, heights, living area to garage/shop ratios, siding and/or roofing materials, color restrictions, etc., should remain the same as currently adopted. What is important is to not place restrictions upon shouses not existing for other dwellings, as this could end up leading to costly and protracted legal battles.

Currently adopted Building Codes (IRC, IBC, IECC) do not have to be amended for shouses.

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.”

In summary (and in my humble opinion), any shouse outside of IRC prescriptive requirements, should be designed and have structural plans signed by a Registered Design Professional (architect or engineer) to meet or exceed jurisdictional climactic conditions.

Please feel free (or direct any jurisdiction) to reach out to me directly with any questions or concerns.

Drilling Electrical Holes Through Glu-laminated Posts

Drilling Electrical Holes Through Glu-laminated Post Frame Building Columns

Reader and Hansen Pole Buildings DIY client AARON in SALEM writes:

“I am trying to find the best way to run in wall wires (6/3, 8/3 & 10/2 romex) past columns on the “braced wall panel” bays in my building. My building has a 20′ eave height and the end columns are glulams that measure 4-1/8″ x 5-3/8″. The gap that would normally be behind the post is filled with OSB, blocking and a lot of nails. Going all the way to ceiling and back down is an option, but in this case would use lots and lots of extra wire. probably more than 25′ to go up and back down once, so this could really add up with several runs of wire. it also adds a bit of voltage drop. I looked into drilling holes in the glulam columns and if I am reading things correctly, the max hole size would be 0.5375″ based on info from here: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/a-guide-to-field-notching-and-drilling-lvl-and-glulam/2/ (the exception for 25mm or smaller holes doesn’t apply since my columns are under 7.25″). I believe this would be too small (I would need a 1″ hole min for the 6/3 wire). It would barely be sufficient for a single 12/2. I could attempt to drill a curved channel behind the column through the OSB & 2×4 blocking and maybe insert a piece of 1″ emt, but I would likely hit multiple nails. I can’t think a type of bit or tool that would do this gracefully. I think this is likely the best solution, any advice on drilling through? See pictures and braced wall panel detail attached. Thanks for your help!”

Untreated “uppers” of your glu-laminated building columns are a product of 1650msr lumber. MSR grades must meet visual requirements of #2 materials. As such you can safely drill holes through 5-3/8″ faces up to 1-1/4″ diameter spaced two feet apart, within lumber grading rules. Building Codes do actually allow for even larger holes, however we would not recommend doing so. For extended reading on this subject: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/08/electrical-holes/




Post Frame Barndo-castle?

Post Frame Barndo-castle?

Reader STEVE in MILWAUKEE writes:

“I think it would be neat to have 4 rectangular structures placed such that each is the side of a larger square, so that there is a courtyard in the middle of it. I see plans that show 2 structures in an L or 3 structures in an H or U, but no big square. Is there an obvious reason people don’t want their own little barndo-castle? Maybe cost is too much to make it all connected? Maybe building codes don’t know how to deal with such a building? I think it would be great to be able to go from building to building without going outside. My plan would be to make one side of the square the home, one side the garage, one side a shop, one side a gymnasium. All one level and wheelchair accessible if not wheelchair optimized.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru says:

In my early days of selling roof trusses we had a client who was a production home builder – entire neighborhoods of basic entry level houses. His most popular floor plans were split entry or tri-level. One day he got it in his head to do something different, a home with a central courtyard (think of it as a donut). He only ever built it once, so apparently it did not catch on.

Over my 40 some decades of post frame buildings, I have been involved in many alphabet shaped buildings (C, E, F, H, I, J, K, L, S, T, U, V, and X coming to mind), however yours could be my first “O”!

Building Codes certainly do not prohibit such a structure, just keep in mind, any bedrooms must have egress to outside walls (other than your courtyard). From a cost standpoint, you will be creating some frame overs and valleys, adding somewhat to your investment, but certainly not an astronomical amount. As my lovely bride is a paraplegic, I applaud your looking ahead to design for accessibility.

About Hansen BuildingsWe can 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/

Building Codes and Requirements in Contract Terms

Building Codes and Requirements in Contract Terms

Disclaimer – this and subsequent articles on this subject are not intended to be legal advice, merely an example for discussions between you and your legal advisor.

Please keep in mind, many of these terms are applicable towards post frame building kits and would require edits for cases where a builder is providing erection services or materials and labor.

BUILDING CODES: The Total Cost of this Agreement is based upon an agreement between Purchaser and Seller, for Seller to perform according to a specific scope of work, per code and loading information as stated in the Agreement. Total Cost to Purchaser may be increased depending upon the review completed by one or more of Purchaser’s permit approval granting agencies, which include, but are not limited to building and land use departments, in which event either the Seller or Purchaser shall be relieved of further obligation under this Agreement if the increase in Total Cost is greater than ten percent (10%). 

In the event the building department, any other governmental agency or agent may require revision(s), further documentation, or explanation of any work after one initial plan check/review, Seller will advise the Purchaser of any required changes or modifications. Upon notification by Seller of extra work or materials required, Purchaser shall authorize Seller to perform such according to Section xx of this Agreement, “Change Orders”. 

Seller is not responsible for any plan check fees, re-inspection fees, special inspections, analyses or reports which are not ordinarily provided by Seller to a building department, plan check or inspector, including, but not limited to any additional charges resulting from unfamiliarity of said person(s) with either post frame buildings in general or the work as specifically designed by Seller. 

Once the approved plans and specifications have been reviewed by the applicable jurisdictions and building permit has been issued, both Seller and Purchaser may rely upon those approved plans and specifications as conforming to all applicable regulations and building codes of the jurisdictional building authorities. 

Total cost, unless otherwise specified, includes two sets of engineered 24″ x 36″ plans. Extra sets are available at time of order for $xx per set. Plans will be made available online (once drafted) and must be fully reviewed and approved by the Purchaser prior to deliveries being scheduled. Time spent handling calls or Emails made by the Purchaser, Purchaser’s agent(s), or Purchaser’s permit issuing agencies to engineer of record will be paid for by Purchaser, directly to the engineer, at engineer’s prevailing rate. 

In the event any conflicting information is found on the plans, Purchaser agrees to immediately notify Seller. Seller will promptly clarify or correct any conflicting information (at no charge to Purchaser), this being Purchaser’s sole remedy. 

Building Codes require attics above insulation to be ventilated with a net free area (NFVA) not less than 1/150 of area of space being ventilated. NFVA may be 1/300 of area of space ventilated, provided 50 percent of required ventilating area is provided by ventilators located in the upper portion of space to be ventilated at least 3 feet above eave, with balance of required ventilation provided by eave or gable vents. Purchaser to make provisions for adequate ventilation, if not so included in Agreement.

My commentary: permit issuing authorities can and will do some absolutely bizarre things. Often all it takes is one new person in a department who is fresh out of school and wants to prove their brilliance by upsetting an apple cart. This caps these unforeseen costs to both parties.

PER ANSI/TPI 1 LEGAL REQUIREMENTS MANDATE: In all cases where a Truss clear span is 60 feet or greater, the Owner (Purchaser) shall contract with any Registered Design Professional for the design of the Temporary Installation Restraint/Bracing and the Permanent Individual Truss Member Restraint and Diagonal Bracing. In all cases where a Truss clear span is 60 feet or greater, the Owner (Purchaser) shall contract with any Registered Design Professional to provide special inspections to assure that the Temporary Installation Restraint/Bracing and the Permanent Individual Truss Member Restraint and Diagonal Bracing are installed properly.

For extended reading on this subject, please visit: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/09/responsibilities-where-the-legal-requirements-mandate/

Contract Sales Tax and Financing

Disclaimer – this and subsequent articles on this subject are not intend to be legal advice, merely an example for discussions between you and your legal advisor.

Please keep in mind, many of these terms are applicable towards post frame building kits and would require edits for cases where a builder is providing erection services or materials and labor.

TAXES: Appropriate sales tax will be added for deliveries in (states tax is collected in). Stated prices do not include any sales, use, excise or other taxes payable on account of this transaction, unless specified, and all such taxes now in effect and/or hereafter levied which are applicable on this transaction are in addition to such price and shall be paid by Purchaser. Upon demand, Purchaser shall furnish Seller with paid receipts for any or all of these taxes. Certain states (including but not limited to: CA, CT, DC, FL, LA, MA, MD, MS, NY, TN, TX, WY) require drop shippers who are registered in those particular states to collect sales tax from Seller (and subsequently Purchaser) on transactions. In the event Seller is charged tax, Purchaser will be invoiced and funds will be automatically charged to Purchaser’s originally used form of payment, with a minimum 48 hours notice by email. Purchaser will receive a paid receipt for any such taxes paid, so same can be deducted from any payments made by Purchaser to local taxing authorities. Sales/excise or use tax rates, if stated, are subject to adjustment to conform to published rates in effect at time of payment in full. If the sales or use tax is not applicable, Purchaser shall provide Seller with the necessary and properly executed sales tax exemption certificate(s).

My commentary:

Purchasers – do not try to skirt sales taxes by paying cash to a builder, or buying a kit in a no tax state (e.g. Montana or Oregon) and hauling it to a tax collecting state. There is a very high probability you will be caught and the penalties and interest are painful. Building kit providers without physical nexus are not obligated to collect sales taxes unless they reach a predetermined threshold of sales in a given state, this does not absolve Purchaser from paying what then becomes a Use Tax.

Builders have nexus (a physical presence) within the state the building is being erected and are therefore required to collect and remit any applicable sales taxes.

FINANCING: If improvements are to be financed by a lender of Purchaser’s choice, Purchaser agrees to provide Seller with lender’s confirmation of all financing in place and Purchaser’s loan has been closed. Seller is to be automatically notified of change in Purchaser’s status of insurance, financing commitments and/or financial net worth. Should Purchaser be unable to obtain outside financing Purchaser agrees to complete Seller’s credit application. Purchaser agrees to sign all necessary papers needed by financial institutions, and to furnish all data and documentation requested by same, Purchaser’s failure to furnish said documentation within ten (10) days of written request by Seller or Seller’s agents or Purchaser’s failure to sign loan documents after they are drawn up, shall entitle Seller (at Seller’s option) to terminate Agreement and if so terminated, Purchaser further agrees to remit immediately to Seller a minimum of $500 or 10% of the Sales Agreement (whichever is greater). Should Seller be unable to obtain financing for Purchaser, for the amount of this Agreement only (or balance after down payment), and no drafting of plans has begun, Seller may terminate Agreement, no charges will be incurred to Purchaser and any and all down payments received by Seller will be refunded in full. Whether financed or not, Purchaser agrees to authorize Purchaser or Purchaser’s agents to make all written or verbal inquiries to Purchaser’s bank, lending institutions or any other credit reference of Purchaser, necessary to verify credit worthiness. Agreement is subject to credit approval and may be terminated at the option of Seller if said contract cannot be financed or sufficiency of funds cannot be adequately determined. A certificate of Completion of Acceptance of Work form, once it is signed by Purchaser, becomes final and binding on Purchaser and as such, Purchaser may not claim incomplete performance or failure to perform according to Agreement documents.

My commentary:
Surprisingly, a fair number of Purchasers make only a half-hearted attempt at obtaining financing. Often Seller has done a fair amount of work in assisting Purchaser and deserves to be compensated for same, should Purchaser not follow through.

This series will continue next with Building Codes – you will not want to miss this one!

Insulation Addition, A Clear Span Monitor, and Post Frame Code

This week the Pole Barn Guru discusses adding insulation to an existing building, building a monitor style building with a large clear span main level, and a building official misinforming a potential client.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I currently have a 30×50 Wick building on some property which I purchased last May. The building is 15 years old. It had a white faced batt insulation rolled out over the roof and wall purlins. The building is heated with a 80000 btu forced air furnace and has a 3.5 ton 16 seer AC unit as well. The building is used as a mancave/shop for piddling on projects. The design has an open ceiling. I would like to add additional insulation at the roof deck level. I have a local insulation contractor who has good reviews come and look at it. He is suggesting adding a 4″ thick x 24″ wide WMP50 batt insulation between the roof purlins. The research I have done suggests to not lay a batt over a batt as you could create an area where moisture cannot pass through. If the new vapor barrier of the WMP50 is sealed correctly would there still be an issue? I’d like to keep the open ceiling design as I currently have a car lift between two of the rafters and need to be above raise the vehicle cab above the bottom of the lower rafter horizontal. This kills the idea of putting in an insulated ceiling thus creating an attic space. Any thoughts on what the contractor wants to do as well as other ideas how to better insulate the roof?


DEAR DAVE: You want to avoid having two vapor barriers. Easiest solution would be to poke holes in your existing white facing often enough to not create any two vapor barrier zones, then add your new product, making certain all joints between rolls are sealed.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Is it possible to have a monitor style barn to use the open upper level as a living quarters and not need support legs under to keep the lower shop level open. JOE in PUEBLO

DEAR JOE: It can certainly be done, and there are a few ways to get there.

second floorHere is how we did it for my Sales Manager, Dan, in my past life when I was a post frame building contractor. Dan wanted a 30′ x 50′ monitor style building for a garage/shop and then an office above. We had engineered a clearspan roof/floor truss combination for support of wings and second floor. This system had a double truss every 10 feet. At eight feet from each outside wall, we mounted columns to these trusses to support roof of raised center. Joists we placed for ceilings and floor system. With an 8/12 roof slope, upper level used scissor trusses with a 5/12 interior pitch.

For monitor buildings without as much front to back depth, we can design with parallel chord flat trusses used as girders and bury them in knee walls of raised center portion. This often precludes ability to have windows along upper level sides.

With post frame construction, if you can dream it, chances are good we can design it.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello, I am looking at building in Chippewa County, Wisconsin. I absolutely love the idea of doing a Pole Barn House/Attached Garage. The problem is that I cannot get an answer if I can build one in the county. The building inspector has been continually telling me that they cannot be built if the garage is directly attached.

I have attached a pdf of the floor plan for said building
Can you help with this? JEFF in STANLEY

DEAR JEFF: While your pdf did not make it, there is no reason you should not be able to have an attached garage, just as you could with any other structural building system. Building Codes certainly allow for attached garages (drive through any subdivision in our country), with appropriate fire separation between it and living spaces.

If your inspector persists, please ask him or her for a written copy of whatever ordinance this advice is based upon. Chances are good there is not one, and it is based upon some personal opinion. Should documentation actually be produced, please forward to me so I can go do battle for you.




Enforcing Updated Building Codes Saves Money

Enforcing Updated Building Codes Saves Money

As a member of most every active barndominium group in the social media world, I read all too often how new or prospective barndominium owners proudly proclaim they are or will be building where Building Codes are not enforced.

Long time followers of my column may be tired of reading my preaching from a pulpit about how fully engineered, code conforming buildings should be mandatory. Well, there is a method to my madness.

Now there are going to be naysayers who disagree, however there is actual proof of long term savings.

FEMA just released its 2020 National Preparedness Report (https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_2020-national-preparedness-report.pdf) presenting an updated, risk-focused approach to summarizing state of national preparedness, pointing to enforcement of updated building codes as key to lowering risks of damages from natural disaster. “Improving the resiliency of physical infrastructure requires more stringent building codes and standards, as well as innovative programs, policies, and procedures that encourage adoption and implementation of higher building standards,” the report stated. “Recent standards developed by the ICC (International Code Council – they publish our country’s building codes) are the gold standard of building code requirements. Florida’s experience with updated building codes demonstrates these cost savings in practice. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, widespread damage to buildings across the state prompted Florida to adopt some of the strongest building codes in the United States. After 10 years of enforcement, the new codes reduced windstorm losses by up to 72 percent and paid for themselves in avoided losses within eight years.”

Considering building a new barndominium? Make a choice not only for monetary reasons, but most importantly for safety. Whether building yourself or hiring a contractor – I implore you to only build (or have built) from fully engineered plans. If hiring an erection contractor, familiarize yourself with those plans enough to know right from wrong. Due daily self-inspections during assembly to ensure those plans are indeed being followed, especially important in jurisdictions not requiring permits, or not doing structural site inspections. Even when inspections are required, even best of inspectors can miss something, so it is prudent to have your eyes involved.

If you do not feel confident of your own abilities to perform inspections, enlist the services of your engineer or an architect to do them for you. This money is well spent to protect your most valuable assets – the lives of you and your loved ones.

Arnold Puts Moratorium on Barndominiums

Arnold puts moratorium on ‘barndominiums’

This article by Tony Krausz appeared in the Jefferson County, MO “Leader” October 25, 2020

An example of a barndominium.

The city of Arnold has temporarily prohibited the construction of “barndominiums,” which typically are metal barn-like structures that include living quarters.

City Council members voted 5-0 last month to place a six-month moratorium on building barndominiums inside the Arnold city limits. Ward 1 Councilman Jason Fulbright and Ward 2 Councilman Brian McArthur were absent from the meeting.

The moratorium says no building permits will be issued for the construction of pole buildings, metal-clad buildings and buildings clad with other construction material inconsistent with that of residential development within the city of Arnold, if those structures are intended to be used for residential dwellings.

Twice since March, people have reached out to the city inquiring about building a barn-like structure in Arnold to use as a house, said David Bookless, the city’s Community Development Director.

Currently, the city’s codes do not allow for barndominiums, so during the moratorium, city staff and officials will look at building codes to determine how and where the structures could be built in the city.

“It doesn’t have to take six months,” Community Development Director David Bookless said. “If the Planning Commission figures it out in two months, we are golden, or, if we get to six months and it is a bigger animal than we thought, it could be extended.”

One of the main code violations related to barndominiums is no step up between the living area and the barn or garage area of the structure, Bookless said.

He also told City Council members there are fire risks related to the unique residential structures, as well as risks for the structures to be damaged by seismic or high-wind events.

“We just want to be sure that if any of these come to Arnold that No. 1, they are structurally safe, and No. 2, they are going to be made out of materials and look consistent with the kind of single-family housing that we have in the city,” said Bryan Richison, the city administrator. “That is the whole point.”

During a presentation at a council work session in September, Bookless said barndominiums typically are found in rural areas on large-acre lots.

He said it is possible for someone who wants to construct one in Arnold to spend the extra money needed to meet the city’s buildings codes, which would pave the way for the barn-like homes to be built anywhere in the city.

“Right now, we don’t have design guidance that would stop somebody from building something in a neighborhood that is out of character or context with what is around it,” Bookless said. “If you are in a residential subdivision and there are four models of houses that are typical of a suburb and one house is a pole barn, is that appropriate? That is the type of thing the Planning Commission will discuss.”

Bookless said it is doubtful someone wanting to build a barndominium would want to spend the extra money on construction because part of the appeal is the less expensive construction.

A typical house costs about $115 per square foot to build, while a barndominium costs about $100 per square foot to build, according to the website BarndominiumLife.com.

Bookless said Planning Commission members and city staff will work with city attorney Bob Sweeney to draft an ordinance adjusting codes that would allow the structure to be built in Arnold and will present that to the council.

“There are other communities that have different types of guidelines in place for the design of buildings in commercial and residential areas that have been challenged in court and withstood those challenges,” Bookless said. “We will make sure we utilize the lessons learned from other communities.”

Pole Barn Guru’s comments:

This community has actually not banned barndominiums or post frame homes. Jurisdictional Planning Departments have every right to limit exterior cladding materials and even colors, just not Code compliant structural systems. 

Unless Arnold has enacted a local provision contrary to IRC (International Residential Code), there is no requirement for a step between a garage and a living area – indeed, such a barrier would pose an undue restriction for those who are mobility challenged.

A post frame home fully engineered for R-3 (residential) occupancy would pose less of a risk against extreme climatic conditions than would structures prescriptively constructed under IRC code and a steel exterior skin will be far less likely to be a fire risk than would be vinyl or wood sidings.

Oklahoma, Is it OK?

Oklahoma, Is It OK?

Last weekend my lovely bride and I attended an event hosted by her first husband’s sister and her husband. Event purpose was to celebrate this couple’s upcoming 40th wedding anniversary.

Adding to this fun, at least for me, was a new Hansen Pole Building being erected onsite (D.I.Y. husband doing some nice workmanship). Like most new construction this attracted a fair number of looky-lous who wanted to check everything out and offer their ‘armchair expert’ opinions.

One of these lookers was aforementioned husband’s brother, who (as I later found out) had his old pole barn collapse due to snow last Winter. Rather than contact us about a replacement building, he ended up buying a post frame building to be delivered from Oklahoma (keep in mind we are in Northeast South Dakota).

Now I happen to know these folks in Oklahoma who provided this kit package. I hadn’t visited their website in quite some time, so I went browsing.

Here are some things I found:

“Building codes and permits

In our recent annual post-frame construction industry survey, one of our questions to builders was about code enforcement in their areas. Of the 134 post-frame builders who answered this question, 55% said they have needed on occasion to change their construction to meet a code. Codes can be problematic if not clearly understood. Start with your local planning and zoning office or your local building inspector. They will be able to tell you the standards for your community.

Know the rules in your area:

  • Some cities will not allow a steel skin building – you must have a brick veneer.
  • Almost all residential areas will have a setback requirement, meaning the building must be so many feet from the property line.
  • Many neighborhoods have a restriction on how tall you can make the building.
  • Many areas want to inspect a building at each stage of construction, starting with the depth of the holes, then they will inspect the wooden framework, then the completed structure.
  • Some communities insist on bolting the trusses in place, adding hurricane clips, beefing up the top plate, digging the holes deeper and providing longer poles or adding gravel or a concrete footer in the hole.

Bonus Tip: Some local code expectations may seem over-engineered when it comes to equating cost with necessity. In our view, codes generally foster a better quality building and we have found it is best to give the inspector what he or she wants. Life, and your project, will go easier that way.”

Now I agree total with starting a journey to a new post frame building with visits to your local Planning  (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/01/planning-department-3/) and Building (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/01/building-department-checklist/) Departments.

What amazed me was “55% said they have needed on occasion to change their construction to meet a code”. Thinking back over nearly 40 years of post frame buildings, I can only think of two sets of circumstances causing a change in construction to meet Code. First – not submitting plans prepared by a RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer), second would be not having correct design criteria (snow, wind and seismic loads, along with frost depth) provided.

In my humble opinion, a majority of these builders who had to change their construction were probably not building Code conforming structures! Think about this if you are considering investing in a post frame building from ANY builder.

While some jurisdictions will not allow steel roofing and/or siding, I have yet to have any demand a “brick veneer”. There are numerous alternatives to steel, they just happen to be less economical and less durable.

Only insistence from communities regarding how buildings should be assembled comes from those who have prescriptive requirements for non-engineered pole buildings. Read about challenges of prescriptive requirements here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/02/prescriptive-requirements/.

Path to best value for one’s post frame building investment nearly always involves having RDP sealed plans. Make everyone’s life easier (you, your building kit provider, any contractors, as well as your Building Department) and insist upon only using RDP sealed building plans. Headaches saved, will be yours!




Builders Who Make No Upgrades in Twenty-Five Years

Builders Who Make No Upgrades in Twenty-Five Years.


We’ve Been Building This Way for 25 Years
In the event you happen to hear this from a pole builder – run away from them as quickly as possible.
Because every three years there is a new version of the Building Codes and often those new Codes come with changes in the way wind, snow and or seismic loads are applied to the building. New methods and materials seem to appear on the market so fast they make one’s head spin. Technology moves at a breakneck speed and to be doing things exactly the same for 25 years means your proposed erector is pre-internet in thinking!!

“Good Morning,
I was speaking to Rachel and she gave me your email to see if you might be able to answer a question for me. I hired complete a 50’x 80’ x 12’ pole barn here in Huntley, MT. The company showed up on the job yesterday and drilled the holes and started setting posts. Posts are 8’ center. They set the corner posts and maybe 6 sidewall posts and 4 endwall posts. The other posts were placed in the drilled holes and left for completion today/tomorrow. When I inspected the posts that were placed but not set (no backfill) I noticed that there was no footing or no cleats attached to post base to prevent uplift. When I questioned the owner of the company what he was using for footings he stated nothing added just solid tamped. I immediately called him and questioned his reasoning and got the I have been building these like this for 25 years. My question is on average what is the post load in psi on the 50’ x 80’ x 12’ pole barn with a 40# snow load? My soil has a bearing capacity of 2100 psi.”
In my humble opinion, you need to stop them immediately. Just because they have been doing them this way for 25 years does not make it correct.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru Writes:

Assuming a 40# design roof snow load and minimal design dead loads (usually 3.3 psf top chord and 1 psf bottom chord) gives a total of 44.3 psf X 8′ on center X 50’/2 = 8860# downward If they are using 6×6 posts (5-1/2″ nominal) they are placing over 42,000 psf on the base of the column!!

Roughly 21 times the soil bearing capacity.

Each post should probably have a concrete pad 30 inches or so in diameter underneath and at least 6 (if not 8) inches thick.

If I were you, I’d be requiring the building contractor to submit engineer sealed plans for your building to you (even if you have to pay for the cost). Otherwise you are pretty well hung out to dry.

Can I Build a Pole Barn on my Concrete Slab?

Can I Build a Pole Barn on My Concrete Slab?

I dove off from the turnip truck a long time ago, so I have seen a lot of strange things constructed over my nearly 60 year lifetime. Sometimes strange is good, usually not so good. What is remarkable are the structures which are constructed directly upon nothing more than a four inch thick concrete slab on grade. This includes post frame (pole barn) buildings.
Reader TIM in TYLER gets credit for triggering this article when he wrote:

“I have a newly poured 24 x 40 slab which I intended to build a convention style garage but budget restraints have rerouted me. I want to build a simply pole barn style carport with a metal roof. We have no snow to speak of in TX so weight should be no issue. I also want to do a storage area in the back like 12 feet x 24. Can I use the brackets and anchors I see to build on top of the slab? I’m thinking the loads points should be minimal due to a steel roof. I am in a rural area with no inspection requirements.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:
To begin with, in my humble opinion, just because one is going to build where there happen to be no inspection requirements does not mean one should exclude themselves from following the Building Codes. The Building Codes are only put into place after exhaustive discussions between construction professionals, Building Code officials, engineers, architects and product manufacturers. The Codes are perpetually changing, as new and better products arrive on the marketplace, practices are refined and more research is done into how buildings and materials perform.

While no snow may fall where your building will be located, one must still consider provisions for Code minimum loadings on the roof and the members below which carry them, including the concrete slab. Assuming a fairly standard roof overhang of say a foot, this leaves the perimeter of the slab being required to carry a load of over 13 tons! Using typical post frame construction, the point load at any one column could be over 4000 pounds, which could easily fracture just a slab on grade.

Standard post base brackets which you may see at your local hardware or big box store are not adequate to carry the loads to even an adequate concrete slab.

How I would do it?

I would use a concrete saw to cut out two foot by two foot squares at each column location, remove the concrete, auger holes as appropriately designed by the building engineer, set the columns in the hole per the plans then form and fill with premix around the top of the column to complete the slab.

If using brackets is your true desire, it may be possible to excavate under the floor at each column location and thicken the floor by pouring under the slab. It can be done, however it does take some effort.

Prefabricated Roof Trusses Part One

Prefabricated Roof Trusses – They can Make You or Break You

This article (written by yours truly) was published in the May 2016 Rural Builder magazine (https://media2.fwpublications.com.s3.amazonaws.com/CNM/RB_20160501e.pdf and begins on Page 26). Although the article is written towards post frame (pole) building contractors, it gives a perspective as to the challenges of ordering something as apparently simple as a set of prefabricated roof trusses:

I worked for, managed or owned roof truss manufacturing facilities from 1977 until 1999 – so we only ever had to operate under the pre-International Building Codes, which made our lives easy. Regardless of roof slope, exposure to wind, roofing material, whether a building was heated or unheated, the top chord live load (or roof snow load) was the same within any localized geographic region, with the exception of differences in snow load caused primarily by elevation changes.

When a client brought in a set of plans, we took on the responsibility to insure the quantity of trusses, roof and ceiling profiles, etc., were correct. We looked upon ourselves as being the experts – rather than the builder or building owner who was purchasing the trusses.

Walk in the door of a truss company today with a set of plans for a truss quote and the expectation is the purchaser has to be “in the know”, which I personally find counter intuitive, but it is the current reality.

As a broad generalization, today’s truss manufacturers are looking out for one entity, and it is not the person writing the check to pay for their product.

I am going to share some secrets which should both increase your bottom line as well as allow you to sleep soundly at night.

First – do not assume the truss company is going to do it right. It is better to take the more realistic position of, they will do it wrong. Wrong can result in an increase in the probability of a catastrophic failure, having to pay more than one should, or both.

Secondly – if you are shopping various vendors, the best price on the truss order might not be the best buy for your building.

A little sharing into how to make sure the trusses you order actually meet the required load conditions.

I am going to put in a plug here for Registered Design Professionals or RDPs. If you are constructing post frame buildings, or providing post frame building kit packages, and are not using originally RDP sealed plans, which are specific to the address where the building is being erected, you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the light is a speeding train.

Maybe you have built or provided hundreds or even thousands of buildings and never had a failure. Trust me, the failure is going to come, and may have nothing to do with how the building was designed, but if an RDP did not design it you are placing yourself and your business at a tremendous risk.

On to important stuff, the Building Codes.

The IRC (International Residential Code) is a prescriptive code for stick frame buildings within limited parameters of snow and wind loads. It does not address post frame construction therefore all post frame buildings should be designed using the IBC (International Building Code).

The International Building Code (IBC) identifies the appropriate Ground Snow Load (Pg) to use on a building based upon its location. When jurisdictions adopt the IBC, they should also be designating the Pg value or values within their area of coverage. Some Building Officials are still rooted in the 1900’s and (contrary to the current Code) designate a Roof Snow Load, which often defies the Laws of Physics.

A case in point, not too many years ago, we provided the post frame building kit package for the Nature Center at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Building Department gave the ground snow load as 27 psf (pounds per square foot), yet wanted 40 psf as the roof snow load. When our engineer called the Building Department to discuss this, the explanation given was, “The snow is just different here!”

Hmmm, ‘the snow is just different here’. Sounds pretty scientific. How about I give you some guidance as to what to really pay attention to, so your building is not only designed correctly to stay up but also how to save you some money. Sound good? Well, come back tomorrow to read Part II and get those answers… and a whole lot more.

Prescriptive Requirements

Larimer County, Colorado

I drive through the Fort Collins area about once a year. Other than the urbanized areas, the terrain is a classic example of Exposure C for wind (for a “fun” wind exposure story read https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/11/wind_exposure/ or to get more technical: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/03/wind-exposure-confusion/).

weathered pole barnOne of our clients had been discussing with Hansen Pole Buildings Designer Lily a pole building to be located in rural Larimer County. The county had provided him with a sheet of “prescriptive” requirements for non-commercial, non-residential pole barns in the county.

I’ve railed in the past about prescriptive requirements from Building Departments, so I might as well keep up my soapbox rant (visit my prior rant here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/02/prescriptive-requirements/).

For those who want to follow along, the Larimer County handout can be viewed at: https://www.larimer.org/building/pole_structure.pdf).

Let’s take a look at the “non-high wind” requirements.

Building is limited to 35 foot clearspan with engineered trusses. Columns are to be placed every eight feet. Footprint can be up to 3000 square feet. Maximum wind speed is 110 mph.

Now the catch in this is the statement in the handout, “All framing elements are to be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice”. Which seems contrary to buildings utilizing the “basic handout design”.

With an eave height of 14 foot and a 4/12 roof slope, columns would need to be 6×10, IF diaphragm design is used, otherwise 6×12. I say “IF” because the handout makes no provisions for how to utilize diaphragm design.

In either case, all is well and good, except getting a solid sawn column larger than 6×6 in Colorado is a challenge unto itself.

The treated hold down cleat is not likely to provide sufficient resistance to uplift to resist 2512 pounds. A sophisticated engineering analysis would be required for proof. Read more about column uplift here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/02/concrete-collars/

The 2×6 wall girts at 24 inches on center will work to carry the wind load (stressed to just under 96% of capacity), however deflection using the common framing lumber with a MOE (Modulus of Elasticity) of 1,300,000 is over in the deflection department by nearly 35%. It would take a MOE rating over 1,800,000 to meet the deflection requirements. (Read about girt deflection here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/03/girts/)

The interior truss to column connection, must be able to withstand 4411 pounds of uplift force. Considering a Simpson Strongtie (https://www.strongtie.com/products/connectors/HRS-ST-PS-HST-LSTA.asp) HST2 7 gauge steel plate with six 5/8” diameter through bolts will only support up to 4835 pounds, it is not possible to imagine the two ½” carriage bolts (as specific in the handout) as being anywhere close to adequate.

To reiterate my basic premise: If a Building Department has PRESCRIPTIVE REQUIREMENTS for Pole Buildings – invest in an engineered building kit. It is less expensive to pay for the engineering and it guarantees a building which will be designed to actually meet the building codes!

Wind Speed: Really Cool Website

More buildings fail due to high winds, than high snows. To assist in avoiding new buildings meeting a similar fate as the straw house in “The Three Little Pigs”, the Applied Technology Council (ATC) offers a free web-based tool which finds location-specific wind speed using the GPS coordinate system.

This utility interpolates wind speeds to the nearest mile per hour based on the wind contours on the map using Google Maps as the platform. Specific sites can be located by using street maps or satellite images. Wind speeds are provided in 3-second-peak gust speeds for the three Risk Category maps provided in ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) 7-10 and for 10, 25, 50 and 100-year return periods. Access this free tool at www.atcouncil.org/windspeed.

The International Building Code design wind speeds are based upon 50-year return periods, and utilize the latest ASCE 7 requirements and wind speed maps.

The purpose of the “Wind Speed Web Site” is to provide users with a site specific wind speed using the GPS coordinate system. The reason this utility is needed is the spatial resolution of the wind speed maps displayed in ASCE 7 are not sufficient to determine a site specific wind speed. There are no reference city or town locations on the ASCE 7 maps and while county boundaries are shown, the resolution is affected when the maps are expanded large enough to distinguish the boundaries and approximate the city locations.

I, of course, had to just try it myself, so I entered my street address and clicked on the FIND radio button. This results in the latitude and Longitude of my address being displayed. Clicking on the FIND WINDSPEED radio button, gave me the wind information specific to my home. The 50 year MRI (mean recurrence interval) wind speed was 85 mph (miles per hour), which matches the code requirements in my area.

And, thanks to a very litigious population in the United States, use of the website information comes with a disclaimer:

“While the information presented on this web site is believed to be correct, ATC assumes no responsibility or liability for its accuracy. The material presented in the wind speed report should not be used or relied upon for any specific application without competent examination and verification of its accuracy, suitability and applicability by engineers or other licensed professionals. ATC does not intend that the use of this information replace the sound judgment of such competent professionals, having experience and knowledge in the field of practice, nor to substitute for the standard of care required of such professionals in interpreting and applying the results of the wind speed report provided by this web site. Users of the information from this web site assume all liability arising from such use. Use of the output of this web site does not imply approval by the governing building code bodies responsible for building code approval and interpretation for the building site(s) described by latitude/longitude location in the wind speed report.”

Certainly, having the ability to access this information will bring a higher degree of accuracy to designing buildings appropriately for prevention of failures due to wind. Especially important, will be to new building owners in areas which do not require Building Permits. There will be cases where the website and a Building Department will disagree on design wind speeds. Here, err on the side of caution, and design to the higher speed. I still think this is a pretty cool website.

OM – I Failed the Plan Check!

Life has now ended….nothing worse could ever happen…..ever….send my money back.

No – failure to get through an initial plan check is not a reason for suicide planning, or to be jumping up and down screaming.

Whether the building (or just plans) were provided by us, or anyone else – the first step is to get a copy of why the plans were rejected – in writing, and forward to whomever the responsible party is. In the case of Hansen Pole Buildings, send the checklist to us, not the RDP (registered design professional, aka engineer).

Why get it in writing? Ever play the “sit in a circle and whisper a secret to your neighbor” game as a child? The same applies to a plan check. Don’t leave anything to interpretation – get it in black and white.

While the great majority of plans sail through on the first try, it is not always the case. And why not?

Reason #1 – The client failed to verify their Building Code version and load conditions with the Building Department prior to ordering their building. I cannot speak for anyone else, but we DO REQUIRE our clients to verify this information.

Reason #2 – Failure to submit all required documents. Besides the building plans, a plot plan is a requirement. Where is the building located in regards to lot lines and other structures? If the plans are sealed by an engineer, the engineer’s calculations must be submitted as well. Engineer sealed truss drawings don’t come with the plans necessarily and the plans checker will kick the plans back without them.  Often, they come directly from the truss manufacturer.

Reason #3 – Didn’t discuss the proposed building with the Planning Department in advance. The Planning Department has the power of life and death. They could care less about how the structure is built. BUT – if your planned building is too tall, too large, too close to something they value and everything gets thrown into a blender on puree.  This is probably the most difficult of plan check failures to fix….after the fact. Heed my advice: don’t use the old adage “better to feign ignorance and beg forgiveness later”.  Trust me – this is not how to get your building to pass the plan check!

The least likely reason for failure to pass a plan check – is the structure itself, especially if the plans are sealed by an RDP. It is not just our engineers who are brilliant, it is engineers who have had to spend years of education and work experience to be able to perform their duties responsibly.

Why Design Criteria are Important

Last October Mr. W of Park County Colorado ordered a new pole building kit package from Hansen Buildings.

Just like every quotation or Invoice we prepare, it lists specifically the “Design Criteria” for his specific building.

Included in this were:

The Building Code and edition (every three years a new edition of the code is published, often with significant changes from the prior edition).

Flat Roof Snow (also known as Pf) – which is calculated by applying a series of factors to the Ground Snow Load (Pg). In some cases, in exception to the way the codes are written, a Pf value is stated by a particular Building Department.

Design Wind Speed in miles per hour (mph) as a three second gust, as well as Wind Exposure.

Allowable Foundation Pressure, as well as the general soils types which the given pressure would be applicable to.

Seismic zone.

Maximum frost depth of this design.

Thermal factor (Ct) and whether the building is heated or unheated. This factor is one of the influencing values in the calculation of Pf from Pg.

Occupancy Category (I, II, III or IV) – each of which corresponds to a factor which will influence the magnitude of snow, wind and seismic forces which the building much be designed to withstand.

Every quote we provide includes this statement directly below the design criteria:

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.”

In ordering the building, the Purchaser must agree to the following as a portion of the terms and conditions:

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. If purchase is a non-engineered building, reasonable efforts have been made to assure structural adequacy, however no guarantee or warranty is made or provided by Seller as to whether this design actually meets with any applicable code or structural requirements. The ultimate responsibility for verification rests with Purchaser. Any costs due to changes or requests by Purchaser, Purchaser’s agents, or Building Officials to non-engineered plans will be borne by Purchaser, including any and all of Seller’s staff time for research, or any other reason, even if no changes are ultimately made. Staff time is billable at a minimum of $120 per person hour, with a one hour minimum.


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.


Now if the above sounds harsh, keep in mind, we have provided buildings in all 50 states. There are over 7000 building permit issuing jurisdictions in the country and to keep absolutely current with any and all changes, is an impossible task.

Remember our good friend Mr. W from the beginning of this story? Mr. W’s county has on their website a form to complete, where they will verify the snow load criteria for anyone’s particular piece of property. While a pretty handy tool, it seems Mr. W did not use it.

He ordered a building, which we designed to the loads Mr. W confirmed he had verified. The plans were submitted and a permit to build was issued.

Now Mr. W has his building up and has called for final inspection. The inspector, in the field, notices the trusses are designed for a Pf of 50 psf (which matches what Mr. W ordered as well as the values on the approved plans). The problem…..the site is one where the flat roof snow load should have been 73 psf!

Mr. W now has a beautiful new building, which he cannot use. At least as it is presently built. The ultimate solution is going to involve a significant (as well as costly) repair to the trusses, as well as adding roof purlins between each purlin currently installed on the roof.

This is a case where an ounce of prevention (Mr. W having actually verified his loads as instructed) would have been well worth the pound of cure.

The question we sometimes get is, “why don’t you verify the loads for me?”  Come back Monday and I’ll tell you why.  Until then, think of the reasons we may or may not want to do this for you.

Building Codes: Wind Exposure C

We all know what Assume Means…

Bob is a builder in Northern California. He made a request for a quote on a building recently, via the Hansen Pole Buildings website.

The building he had in mind was to be 30’ wide x 80’ long. Bob told me the roof snow load was 100 pounds per square foot (psf) and wind speed 60 to 100 miles per hour (mph).

Bob called to discuss the project, which was to have one long sidewall open, so recreational vehicles, tractors and other equipment could be parked. I asked Bob how wide the openings between the sidewall columns would need to be – to which he replied 12’. Quickly doing the math, I suggested he might want to consider 84’ in length, as 12’ evenly divides into 84’. Bob liked that idea.

We discussed wind exposure. I asked Bob, “If you stand in the middle of the building site, with your arms parallel to the ground, and at 90 degrees to each other, and then turned in a circle, would the area between your arms ever be exposed to the wind?”  This would be Exposure C.   The alternative being a site which is protected from the wind on all sides, or Exposure B. Bob advised, once the three walls were up, it would be protected from the wind, because the “local winds never come from the open side”.

Somehow, I just do not think we were communicating.

For once, I listened to the little voice in my head and suggested to Bob that he give me the address of the site and I would call the Building Department to verify the loading requirements. While the building purchaser must ALWAYS confirm the code and loading information with their Building Department prior to placing a building order, I felt an ounce of prevention would be worth a pound of cure in this case.

Now Bob has been a registered contractor in California for over five years, in the area where the building will be constructed. The pleasant lady at the Building Department even guessed who he was, when I gave her the jobsite address. Obviously, he is known, and knows the area.

Well it turns out the design roof snow load was 60 psf, not 100. This will save Bob’s client thousands of dollars. The wind speed requirement is for 85 mph, however the entire county uses C for wind exposure.

There is a moral to all of this. Just because one hires an experienced registered contractor to construct a building, does not mean the contractor necessarily knows or understands the proper design criteria. Having the correct information on loads, saved the building owner thousands of dollars by using the correct snow load, and prevented a possible collapse from using an incorrect (and under designed) wind exposure.