Tag Archives: building contractors

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.

Scary Stories of Turnkey Construction

There are a certain percentage of folks who live in a dream world where hiring a Building Contractor to “turnkey” their pole building project makes life all good and happy. They hire a contractor to provide the materials, as well as the labor.

Back in my early days of owning M & W Building Supply, I provided the materials to a builder named Ken, for one of his customers. As required by Oregon Law, I sent out the required Intent to Lien notices to the property owner.

Some states require a “Notice to Owner” or “Intent to Lien” form to be sent by material suppliers to property owners. This notice is to advise property owners of who is providing materials to be used for improvements on their property. Should a notice be received, it is not a lien. The notice will include information which should be read and understood. To learn more about lien laws and notices, property owners should discuss with their contractor (if one has been hired), the material supplier, any appropriate state agency (usually specified on the notice), the firm who sent the notice, and the improvement lender or an attorney.

Now in the case of Ken, he didn’t pay his bill to us, so we had to file a lien on the property where the barn was built, in order to be paid. His customer had not paid attention to the information received in the mail from us, and sadly ended up paying for the materials twice!

According to a recent article by Craig Webb in Pro Sales Magazine, (https://www.prosalesmagazine.com/news/industry-trends/why-are-payments-slowing-blame-the-worst-customers_o?utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=jump&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=PSBU021815&day=2015-02-18) in 2014 25.9% of contractors who were at least one day late paying their bills for materials fell into the high, very high, or severe risk categories as far as ever paying their bills!

25.9% is over one-in-four!!

As a future building owner, are you willing to play Russian roulette with a four chambered gun which has one live round?

When hiring a turnkey contractor who is providing materials also – you are taking the risk of the builder not paying – and you being stuck with the tab!

How to avoid this situation?

The easiest way is to buy the materials yourself, and pay only for the labor to install. This assures you of two things – the contractor didn’t mark up the cost of the materials and the material bills got paid for.

Yes, this means writing a few more checks. If it keeps you from having to pay twice, isn’t it well worth it?

P.S. And don’t, under any circumstance, give a contractor carte blanche to just order whatever he or she needs at your local lumber yard and charge it to you. If you do, anticipate the bills to be higher than expected and to be assisting to provision the builder’s tool chest or own inventory.

Learn more on protecting yourself from shady contractors: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2013/07/contractor-6/

Building Construction Errors

Sometimes Things Just Don’t Go Right

When one really thinks about it – given the literal thousands of hands the components which become a completed pole building have to go through, it is a miracle anything ever gets done!

With all of the pieces and parts and all of the human potentiality factor added in, even those who ascribe to Rush Limbaugh’s 99+% accuracy rate as being attainable would have dozens of things wrong, shorted, damaged or otherwise!

In one of my “past lives” as a builder, we did exit surveys of all of our completed buildings at three, six and nine months after completion to make certain the clients were absolutely satisfied and to determine if there was anything on the building which should be fixed under warranty.

The BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington) held a course on writing contracts back in the 1990’s. Although it was designed for the remodel industry, I felt it was applicable enough to attend. When the attorney running the class told us anyone with a customer satisfaction rating of over 50% was doing good – I was appalled, we had an approval rating in the mid-90% range and I thought we were not as good as we should have been.

When I was building, I thought I had some very good crews – but even the best of them seemed to have a building every year or so where everything (or seemingly so) went wrong. When quizzed about what happened to create the building construction errors, the universal answer was…..they had no idea, it just did!

(Let this be a cautionary message to those considering hiring a builder who has a perfect track record).

One of the things we have developed at Hansen Pole Buildings is a steel trim profile which absolutely, perfectly fits with the sliding door track and brackets we provide. As we purchase from the six largest independent steel roofing and siding roll forming chains in the country, all of them have the diagram for this part.

Specialty steel trims are produced on a machine known as a press break – it allows for flat steel sheets to be bent to precise angles and dimensions repeatedly.

Track Cover TrimWell, one of our steel vendors (who does a fabulous job at getting the right pieces, in the right quantity to hundreds of our clients annually) had one of those “no idea” moments recently and we ended up with a couple of good-natured clients who just could not get the track covers they were sent to fit….because they were bent to the wrong profiles!

Not to fret, as highlight moments in building construction are those which come not from doing it perfectly the first time, but by expediently and gracefully taking care of the oopses!

The steel vendor correctly reproduced the needed parts – and got them shipped out to the now happy clients.

Builder Grade

I’m a member of several discussion groups on LinkedIn. For those of you who are unfamiliar, LinkedIn is a business-oriented social site, used mainly for professional networking. One of the discussion groups is titled simply as “Builder”.

A recent posting for discussion was, “What can be done to change the negative image builders get when the suppliers and big box stores refer to their cheapest price and lowest quality products as “builder grade”?”

One group member stated, “It is disheartening to see the reference to “builder” associated to the lowest quality, lowest cost products. (builder grade siding, builder grade vinyl window, builder beige etc.)”

Sadly, at least in the pole building industry, building owners who hire contractors to provide and construct the building for them, rarely get the highest level of quality in materials. Why? Because they (the building owner) is not implicitly involved in the selection of the components being ordered.

There is so much downward price pressure on builders today so, in many cases, in order to turn any kind of a profit, quality is sacrificed.

In many parts of the country, either permits are not required to build, or (if they are required) no structural plan review is done. Buildings can be built to less than building code requirements, as there is no process in place to prevent it from happening, and building owners are none the wiser.

One of the places some builders will cut corners, is one which should be the most obvious – doors. Hundreds of dollars per door can be pocketed, with building owners none the wiser until problems occur down the road. Primed steel entry doors are available at several popular “big box” locations for just over $100. Hung in bare wood jambs, unless the entire assembly is promptly painted and then frequently repainted, they degrade quickly. Sliding doors, yes they slide, but made of wood they will be heavy, as well as prone to warping and twisting. One chain store markets a name brand steel sectional overhead door, with parts which have been “cheapened” – lower grade hinges and brackets and low cycle springs. Dutch doors? Built from all wood, they have a lifespan measured in months, not years, especially when not hung in heavy duty steel jambs.

Another saver, which building owners won’t notice until after the builder is long gone down the road, is lower grade or lower paint quality steel. I know of one builder who had warehouses full of steel roofing and siding he bought from steel roll formers at 25 cents on the dollar as “seconds”. Why? Usually the steel was under thickness or had paint quality claims. Some builders will install “liner panels”, which is low or no warranty steel panels with polyester paints.

Hiring a builder to provide your new post frame building? Not a problem – just make sure the specifics of various components and the quality levels are clearly spelled out in the purchase agreement. Or, better yet, purchase a complete building package yourself, where you have direct control of the quality of the materials, and (if not constructing yourself) hire a builder to do the actual labor only. By the way, not all building contractors “cheap out”.  Keep your eyes open to be sure you know exactly what quality you are really buying.  If you’ve gotten a quote on a building package only to be underbid by a contractor who says he can “do it for less including labor” – I only have one thing to say.  Buyer beware.