Tag Archives: building plans

Engineering an Open Pavilion

Engineering an Open Pavilion

Professional Engineer KEN in AIRVILLE writes:

Working on engineering a post frame equipment open pavilion 28×48. Only has 2 posts on the front wall and big ass flat girder for a header. See attached plans. I have done them all different ways before I a structural engineer who grew up at my father’s sawmill and been in the engineering and framing for 30+ years. Been reading your blogs especially all the info on knee braces. I agree the skin gives you 90% of lateral capacity over embedded posts or knee braces. But that is pretty much all we have to use on an open structure. I didn’t really want to use buried posts for longevity but may be best for lateral capacity. I only have 2 columns in the front holding the roof up so I wanted to come out of the ground with a big ole concrete pier in case it ever got impacted. Would love to discuss post frame design theory with you. One of your guys used to be a truss designer also I read somewhere. I know that industry very well been in it my entire life. Have a great day.”

Mike the Pole Barn says:

Thank you for reaching out and for forwarding your draft plans.

I was in ownership or management of prefabricated wood truss facilities for over two decades, in my “past” life.

Unless there is some strong objection, embedded columns are probably going to provide your best design solution, as well as being easiest to construct. You will want to specify UC-4B for treatment, as this should assure a lifespan greater than our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

If bracket mounts end up being your solution, look at using Sturdi-wall Plus brackets, as they have a far greater moment resisting capacity than do Simpson products and have an ICC-ESR approval.

I would look at placing low side columns every 12′, using a pair of trusses ganged together and notched into columns, with 2x purlins recessed between top chords, in Simpson hangers.

On high side, parallel chord flat trusses could be used for your ‘beam’, also notched into columns. Mono truss top chords could be run across top of trussed beam and look at making connection between mono trusses and beam a fairly stiff one.

Explore using full length treated glu-lam columns, without knee braces. Your knee bracing challenge is two-fold – you have to deal with forces being put into trusses by knee brace and toughest – coming up with a connection adequate to be able to transfer those forces. Your column sizes will be dictated by L/d ratio, so even if your knee braces were to work in the direction of truss span, you still have slenderness in length of building. It looks to me like a 6 ply 2×8 glulam from Rigidply (7″ x 8-1/16″) should be capable in both directions.

In order to not void roof steel paint warranty, look at a roof slope of 3/12 with an Integral Condensation Control factory applied to prevent condensation drippage.

The NFBA has available a Non-Diaphragm Design Guide (https://www.nfba.org/aws/NFBA/pt/sd/product/14888/_PARENT/layout_details/false), it may prove helpful for this project.

Barndominium Plans Before Land?

Barndominium Plans Before Land?

Unlike chicken or egg coming first, barndominium floor plans should come second, after a place to build has been determined.

Reader STEVE in MILWAUKEE writes:

I am interested in developing plans for the barndo-square with internal courtyard. I don’t have the land for it bought yet, so is it a waste of time to get started on the plans already? If the foundation will be a slab, can the specifics about the land it is going on be on be determined later? Maybe assume the land will simply be level to start? Or is the point of owning the land to make sure the building plans follow the local building code from the start?

As for making the property wheelchair accessible, I plan on having my parents move in with me eventually. They are not in wheelchairs yet, but my uncle is and I see what a hassle it is for him to get around normal houses when we have family gatherings. Plus I think one-level and wider doors and wider hallways are good things if the square footage allows.

My current situation is a ranch house with a large shed outbuilding on 13 acres, on its own well, septic, furnace fuel oil. This is just so you know I am not naively wanting the country life, it is how I grew up and how I prefer to live. I also plan to build in an area with a few good barndo-type builders, north of Milwaukee WI. So I think the entire plan is doable once I secure financing. It is my understanding that having plans in hand makes it more likely to get a construction loan.

This might be against your own interests, but do you think I should develop the plans directly with the builder I choose since I will choose a barndo-builder and not a traditional house builder? Each of their websites show that they can make the plans too. Or is it a good idea to approach the barndo-builder with general plans and fine-tune the plans with the barndo-builder?”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru advises:

I didn’t learn much in architecture school however one lesson was your site should be determined so room orientations can be appropriate in relationship to access from roadways, any possible views, north-south orientation, slope of site, etc. Other than minimum room dimensions and egress issues, your floor plans will have little to do with Code requirements. Your structural plans will need to be generated after you have developed a floor plan and will be relevant to climactic conditions specific to your site (most often overlooked is wind exposure).

You will need to have professionally produced floor plans and elevation drawings to secure financing. You do not need structural drawings. Very few builders have an architectural or structural background adequate to prepare or provide what will truly best meet your needs. An experienced professional Building Designer should be just the ticket. You can find ours here: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/post-frame-floor-plans/

Raise the Door, Plans, and Hangar Doors

For a second day of Ask The Guru, Mike answers questions about “raising the door opening” on an existing pole barn, where to get plans for a pole building, and where to get a hangar door.

Entry Door ProblemDEAR POLE BARN GURU: Is it possible to raise the door opening of a pole barn. The opening is 10 ft. now and would like at least a feet and a half higher, the walls are 12ft. BENJAMIN in GRASS LAKE

DEAR BENJAMIN: It may or may not be possible depending upon clear height from floor to trusses, type of door and spacing of trusses. You would be best served to reach out to a local Registered Professional Engineer who can take an actual look at your building and do an analysis as to practicality of what you have in mind, as well as making a determination if it is structurally possible.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Where can I get plans for my 30x 35 pole barn? JACKIE in GARFIELD

DEAR JACKIE: Hansen Pole Buildings provides fully engineered, custom designed post frame buildings, with multiple buildings in all 50 states. We ship from over 4000 locations – so chances are we are ‘close’ to you! Your new building will be designed for an average physically capable person who can and will read instructions to successfully construct your own beautiful buildings (and many of our clients do DIY). Your building will come with full 24” x 36” structural blueprints detailing the location and attachment of every piece (suitable for obtaining Building Permits), a 500 page fully illustrated step-by-step installation manual, as well as unlimited technical support from people who have actually built buildings. For those without the time or inclination, we have an extensive independent Builder Network covering the contiguous 48 states. We can assist you in getting erection labor pricing as well as introducing you to potential builders. We would appreciate the opportunity to participate in your new pole barn. Please email your building specifics, site address and best contact number to our Design Studio Manager caleb@hansenpolebuildings.com (866)200-9657 Thank you.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I am wanting to get an idea on cost of a 45′ x 12′ tall door like in your video. DENNIS

DEAR DENNIS: Most often our clients go direct to door manufacturers – out of hundreds of hangars we have supplied, by far most of these doors have come from Schweiss (www.bifold.com) 1.507.426.8273. We would recommend reaching out to them. https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/07/hangar-doors-2-2/

This also is a pretty slick system and one of our clients recently installed one https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/05/free-standing-hangar-door/






Do You Own the Land Your Barndominium Will Be Built On?

Do You Own the Land Your Barndominium Will Be Built On?

Barndominiums, shouses and post frame homes are not only a current rage, they may be America’s future home of choice. Pinterest has literally hundreds of photos of barndominiums. DIY network’s “Texas Flip-n-Move” feature a rusty old barn made into a beautiful home in Episode 6 of Season 5. Chip and Joanna Gaines took on a barndominium makeover in Season 3 Episode 6 of “Fixer Upper”. Tens of thousands of Facebookers join barndominium discussion groups of one sort or another.

However not everyone wants to take on the joys and challenges of trying to convert an old barn into a beautiful and functional new home.

Most potential barndominium owners are trying to escape urban or suburban living. They want to sneeze without hearing their neighbors say, “Bless you”. Oftentimes they have looked to buy an existing home, but could never find one exactly fitting their needs.

Here is where a blank canvas of vacant property has its allure. Within constraints of available space, budget and imagination anything becomes possible.
I accept my asking, “Do you own the land your barndominium will be built on?” in Facebook groups puts me in a position of being a brunt taker for jokes. There is, however, a method to my madness.

To begin with, I do not care if you own property free and clear (and let’s face it, your local property taxing authority owns it as well). It doesn’t matter if ‘your dirt’ is owned by a relative, a friend or a close enemy – just as long as you know where your new home is going to be.
For most this ‘barndominium build” is going to become their forever home (or at least theirs for a very long time).

Seemingly millions of canned house plans are available (for a small to large fee) across a plethora of internet websites. 99.9% of these plans have a similar problem – they were designed for a flat lot in suburbia! Yep, they look stunning on a website. Considering spending your hard earned money on one thinking you will save money by using cheap house plans? This would be an equivalent to everyone buying 34 inch waist 36 inch inseam Levi’s. They fit me just fine, but what if you are not 6’5”? Or maybe you do not even like Levi’s?

Your home should be planned to fit into its environment. Does it make sense to try to change (or ignore) your environment to fit your bargain house plans?
In order to craft ideal plans for your new barndominium, shouse or post frame home, your building site should be carefully considered.

If you are considering hiring a general contractor to turnkey your build, or merely an erector to put up your home’s shell, only once you ‘own the dirt’ and even better have a building plan developed to match your building site should you embark on a ‘builder hunt’. Builders are in short supply and their time is valuable. It is an unfair expectation to take advantage of them before they can reasonably ascertain you actually might have a need for their services.

Know where your barndominium is going to be built? Please reach out to me and I can give you some free advice on getting those ideal plans.

For extended reading on turnkey general contractors for barndominiums please see: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/02/does-my-barndominium-need-a-turn-key-general-contractor/

Where Oh Where Should My Purlins Go?

Where, Oh Where, Should My Purlins Go?

There are almost as many methods for assembly of a post frame building, as there are post frame buildings! I kid you not.

Amongst differences are how to space trusses – two, four, eight, 12 foot or numerous other possible centers. Along with different truss spacings are how to install roof purlins across or between trusses to support steel roofing.

Reader KELLY writes:

“So, I would like some info on purlins.  One builder has them laying flat on top of truss, one on edge on top of truss, and one on edge with hangers between trusses?  I have my thoughts but wonder what is technically better.

I like the hanger between trusses, for roof load,  but I wonder if you give up some of the diaphragm strength that is accomplished by purlins laying flat on the truss.  

To me, with a purlin that lays across multiple trusses, you get the benefit of added strength because you are tying multiple trusses together and the lateral stress is on the edge of the purlins.  When they are in hangers, the load stress in on the purlins edge, but the lateral stress allows the trusses to move independently.  

Trusses most likely on 8’s.  Purlins 24 spacing.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:

Purlins placed flat will not span eight feet, so eliminates this option. If you are planning upon going with edgewise purlins across a single truss, you are going to run into an uplift problem. Usually builders want to drive a 60d nail through purlins, into truss tops, however this connection doesn’t calculate out as being able to keep purlins from ripping off the building during severe weather. Most builders are not willing to spend time to install an engineered steel tie-down for purlins in this scenario. Over top also means purlins get staggered when they overlap. This precludes abilities to predrill roof steel. Predrilling gives nice straight screw lines and also eliminates possibilities of missing a purlin with a screw.

This leaves “in hangers” between trusses as your only viable (and practical) design solution.

Diaphragm stiffness of your roof will come from your building’s roof steel (and method of attaching steel to purlins), not how purlins are connected to trusses. Purlins tying multiple trusses together are not going to make your end resultant any stronger or stiffer.

Ultimately your RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer) who places his or her seal upon your building plans will be making a determination as to adequacy of any of these connections. If you are talking with a builder whose brilliant idea will be not building from engineered plans …run away from them as quickly as possible. This would be a risk not worth taking. If an engineer didn’t design your building…..then who did?

Non-commercial Plot Plans

Non-commercial Plot Plans

Considering adding onto an existing non-commercial building, or constructing a new one? If you live in an area governed by Planning and Building requirements, then you are most likely going to need to have a plot plan – and soon!

When Will You Need It?

Before you ever think about the structural requirements (e.g. Structural Building Plans) you are most likely have to pass through the gauntlet which is your Planning Department. To get a feel for what the Planning Department is all about, read here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/01/planning-department-3/.

You can do the Plot Plan Yourself!

Most jurisdictions are fairly lenient in this area and will allow self-drawn plot plans on 8-1/2” x 11” sheet(s) of white paper. I recommend doing it in pencil, as you may be required to make some modifications in proposed building size or location.

Here is what to include:

The scale you are using (1” = 10 feet, etc.) and an arrow showing which direction is north.

Location and dimension of all property lines.

Adjoining street(s) location and names as well as points of vehicular ingress/egress, including driveways/access easements, sidewalks, curbs, etc.

Location, dimensions and use of all existing and proposed buildings, structures, parking areas, drainage, landscape areas or other planned site improvements such as stairs, ramps, retaining or other walls, etc. For all proposed buildings show porches, walks, decks, roof overlaps, etc.

Sidewalks, curbing, stairs, ramps or other walls, etc.

Existing buildings scheduled for demolition or removal.

Location, dimensions and type of all public and private easements (i.e.: drainage, access, utilities).

Setbacks/distances from buildings to property lines, easements & center line of rights of way, other buildings, streams water bodies, ordinary high water mark (OHWM) , and wetlands, etc.

All water bodies such a lakes, creeks, streams, ponds and wetlands need to be indicated.

Any critical area buffers.

Location of any slopes over 30%

Location of any flood plains.

Location of proposed or existing sewage disposal system(s), well(s), sewer line(s), and water line(s) and distances to buildings. Oftentimes your local Health Department will have information on the location of existing lines and systems, if you do not have it in hand.

Indicate the building height on plot plan (verify first if your jurisdiction wants wall height, mean roof height or overall building height as well as how they measure those heights).

Armed with a good pot plan, you are ready to take on the Planning Department!

Looking for a Contractor to Build a Post Frame Home

More and more consumers are seeing the practicality, unique architectural and energy savings advantages as well as cost savings from a post frame home. This includes loyal reader Brian who writes:

Engineer sealed pole barnHello, my wife and I are considering building a post frame home. We contacted a designer who actually had plans for a home that is close to what we were wanting. He suggested it may be difficult to find a builder that would be comfortable building a pole barn home – so that is why I am contacting several builders to develop a list that could be considered in the future if we move in this direction.

Please find the attached plans he provided as a reference and let me know if this is a project you would be willing to tackle. Although we have not bought land we are currently looking in Warren and Clinton counties in Ohio.

Dear Brian: Thank you very much for your interest in a new Hansen Pole Building. We design and provide building plans, installation instructions and materials for totally custom post frame buildings. Your proposed plan (as would be any other plan) is totally doable as a post frame (pole barn) home.

What we do not do is build. Our buildings are designed for the average do-it-yourselfer to successfully construct their own beautiful building, which is why the majority of our clients do their own work. Those who construct themselves, end up with a far better finished result than what you would get from any builder.

In the event you do hire a builder (technically an erector), any builder who can and will read and follow the plans and instructions should prove capable of doing a satisfactory job. Given your geographic location, just a caution based upon experience – there are members of a well know religious group which construct many post frame buildings in your area of the country. While their prices sound too good to be true, it is our experience they do not always build to the provided plans or follow instructions. Again, just a caution. Otherwise a capable erector should be able to construct the building shell for about 50% of what your investment in the materials is.

About Hansen BuildingsI am not normally a fan of “canned” plans for any type of construction, as they are rarely going to meet with the true needs of the client. My best advice is always going to be to determine the spaces needed, determine how large each of those spaces need to be. A good way to find the right size of rooms is to take a note pad, writing tool, and a tape measure and start visiting open houses and home tours.

Once room needs and sizes have been determined, starting putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together – place rooms where they are most efficiently grouped for ease of access and use. This may take some adjustments of individual room dimensions, however the resultant will be the most effective. Now, and only now, should you put the “box” around the contents!



Pole Building Plans for Sale

Pole Building Plans for Sale

Ah, Spring time, when a young man’s heart turns to how to “get a deal” on a new pole barn. Oftentimes it starts rather like this, Can I just buy the building plans from you guys stamped and all? I need a 40×60 40 wide 60 deep 16′ tall so I can fit a 14′ tall 10 wide door and a 12′ tall 18′ wide door I also need 18″ overhangs Located in Utah”.

 Apparently this is with some sadly mistaken idea you are able to source the correct materials, on your own, at a lower investment than what you could get them from us for.

I will explain why this idea is not going to save you money.

We have streamlined our process for efficiency. This means by the time you get your plans, we are far into a ton of series of steps which happen concurrently – and have done much of the “work”….which has a cost. People are willing to pay an architect several thousand (or tens of thousands) dollars for house plans, but they are unwilling to pay an appropriate amount for the work involved to produce truly custom post frame (pole) building plans.

So, you get the plans from us, but decide to purchase your materials elsewhere because you just are so sure you can get a better deal. Then you are disappointed because you paid more than you thought it was going to cost. In the case of Hansen Pole Buildings – we buy millions upon millions of dollars of materials direct from the manufacturers every year. We have buying power which builders do not even get. We also know all of the best sources for materials and in some cases have components manufactured just for us, with superior quality features you cannot get anywhere.

Unless you are going to become ‘midnight building supply’ and steal your materials (which would be unethical as well as immoral and unlawful), you are not going to get the same quality of materials at anything approaching our price.

After all of this, you still decided to go out on your own and invested in materials which don’t match the plans, or you (or your contractor) do not build according to the plans and blame us when your Building Department won’t sign off on your completed project.

Don’t try to fool yourself – if you want the best “deal” on your new post frame building, come to the experts who can produce engineered plans for exactly what you want to construct, provide you with step-by-step instructions and deliver all of the right materials, to your jobsite in a timely manner.

Why Pole Barn Columns Settle

Don't be Like Jimmy's Parents

A new post frame (pole) building or barn is an investment, a very permanent investment. Readers have been following a couple of articles involving Jimmy's new building, which is NOT a Hansen Pole Building and Jimmy is not very happy.

This is how the building was purchased (in Jimmy's words): “This was an impulse purchase by my parents, basically picking a builder from a hat, and signing a contract before I could check around, and it's been a mess ever since.”

Here is the most recent round of conversations:

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: The mess of it is….you call guy #1, tell him what you want, he orders the materials, guy #1 calls guy #2 the excavator, guy #2 excavates, calls guy #1 when he's done, guy #1 then calls guy #3, the builder. I did get a chance to talk with the builder and I asked around, he's very reputable.

The building inspector said the same thing you did about the engineered plans, about not knowing if the 4×6's could support the attic trusses, without them. But couldn't those be doctored to say whatever they want? He did say something odd to me though, the more trusses on the supports, the less the support is stressed because of weight dispersion (not sure I'm explaining it the way he said).

If I can get the info you requesting, I will surely send it to you. But the contract isn't in my name, and is out of my hands.

Here's another thing, the 4×6 posts were buried 4ft without concrete, the explanation was most builders will put a couple of feet in the hole and fill the rest with dirt, so when it rains the water cant drain beyond the concrete, and the dirt above the concrete stays moister longer and will start to rot the posts. I don't know, wish I did.

About the vehicle lift, I don't need one to be able to stand under the vehicle, just one to get it about 3ft off the ground so i can work under, if need be, and it won't have any attachment to trusses, maybe anchored to concrete, but that's a ways off.

In the end it will be right, even if it has to be torn down and redone.

Thanks- JIMMY

engineer-sealDEAR JIMMY: Engineered plans include the “wet seal” in ink of the engineer who produced them along with an original signature in another color of ink. Could the plans be changed after the fact? Well yes, but it would take some work to do so and not have it show up as being a forgery. I am not a gambling man, but I would be will to wager there is no engineering on the building which is being constructed for you.

How do I know this?

Because no engineer in his right mind would be sealing a set of plans with posts just buried four feet in the ground and no means to prevent settling or uplift.

Many builders will at least try to resist settling by the use of a minimal concrete footing below the columns – however in your case, I can pretty well guarantee the columns are going to settle and perhaps drastically.

Here are some of my thoughts on how people have tried (and failed) to resist the forces of gravity: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/03/concrete-cookies/ and https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/08/hurl-yourconcrete-cookies/ and a few words about uplift: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2015/12/wind-uplift/

If your builder has supplied properly pressure preservative treated columns (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/10/pressure-treated-posts-2/) then the columns should last pretty much indefinitely regardless of whether the posts get damp or wet.

In my humble opinion, what is a shame is your builder could actually have done your building right, with little or no extra expense. In his efforts to shave a dollar here and a dollar there, he is providing you with far less of a finished building than what you bargained for.

Considering a new building? Even if you are absolutely not going to invest in a Hansen Pole Building, I implore you to at least become educated in making what is most likely the biggest permanent investment you will ever make, other than perhaps your home. Read the blog articles, they are easily searchable, subscribe to our free emailed newsletters (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/tag/pole-building-newsletters/) and make use of our free Planning Guide (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/pole-barn-planning-guide/).

Finding Stuff on the Road: Building Department Documents

Finding Stuff on the Road

Author’s Note: This is part 7 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!

There are many Building Departments who offer nifty little handouts to property owners who want to design and construct their own post frame buildings. Most of these are one or two page documents and cover a relatively limited number of cases (typically smaller buildings). If one follows their guidelines, a structural Building Permit will be issued (provided the building meets with any other requirements imposed by the Planning and other related jurisdictional departments).

I picked up from one of the states I visited on my trip, a County Construction Code Office 10 page document on how to design a pole building. Most of the document deals with how to design truss carriers (they assume all post frame buildings will have columns every eight feet, with trusses every either two or four feet) to support trusses between columns. The other feature stressed in the document is adequate footings to keep buildings from settling.

There are many things the document overlooks. It gives a description of how to design truss carriers, but not how to attach the carriers to the columns. It gives concrete footing sizes, but fails to address column uplift and overturning due to applied wind loads.

Interesting, of note, all of the footings are greater in size than any concrete “cookie” would ever possibly support!

To learn more about concrete cookies: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/08/hurl-yourconcrete-cookies/

Building DepartmentEven for a modest sized building (30 feet wide) with generally accepted soil bearing pressure (using 2000 pounds per square foot as the soil bearing capacity), their prescriptive footing requirement takes over 600# of concrete per hole! Not too many people are going to mix up 10 60# bags of sackrete for each hole, so the potential for abuse exists.

Also not addressed by the document are…(and I shudder here) the wall columns, girts or purlins!

What all of these prescriptive requirements got me thinking about was – I wonder if the jurisdiction’s attorneys are aware their Building Departments are putting themselves in the position of being the Designer of Record for buildings constructed using them? Facing reality, if I was to construct a pole building, using the methodology ascribed to be one of these departments, and my building came down, I am thinking my attorney would have a field day with it!

For more information on prescriptive requirements: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/02/prescriptive-requirements/

See you tomorrow….for Part 8 in the series of my cycling across the upper U.S.

Don’t Pick Fights with Plans Examiners

For the most part, Building Department Plans Examiners are really good people. Most of them are just trying very hard to do a job which gets little or no appreciation.

magnifying-glassThe primary responsibilities of plans examiners are to review building plans and specifications and double-check all calculations to ensure they comply with currently adopted codes. Once completed the examiner should determine the fees for a building permit, and then approve or deny building permit applications. Plans examiners will also need to inspect alterations to existing buildings and make sure any extensions or changes comply with the adopted codes. Your plans examiner will occasionally respond to questions from engineers, developers, property owners and architects regarding adopted codes.

To become a plans examiner a person needs a combination of education and experience. Typical requirements are a high school diploma and at least six years of experience in building design, construction or inspection. Usually, they should hold an International Code Council certification as a building plans examiner or at least have the ability to obtain one.

Building construction is a complicated process, and the expectation any one person will know everything about everything, is unrealistic. On occasion, a plans examiner will reject a portion of the submitted plans, or calculations. If so, the plans examiner should be requested to provide (in writing) justification of the section of the building code which they believe has been violated, along with a justifiable technically substantive reason for the violation and the needed technical information to cure the violation.

These requirements keep plans examiners from making arbitrary and/or seemingly capricious rulings, and by requesting they follow the same, keeps the plan review above board and moving smoothly forward.

It also means homeowners fully complete required upgrades or changes to comply with codes. After all, this person is a servant of the public – protecting “life, fire and safety” for you, and those you love.

Pole Building Plans 101: Pole Layout

As important as carefully investigating the style, quality and features of the building you are going to buy, is taking the time to look over a sample set of plans and directions of how it all goes together…before you buy the building.  I’ve purchased what looked to be the simplest projects in the past (how hard can a child’s toy box be?) only to come home and wonder if the people writing the directions had ever put one together themselves!

As I mentioned yesterday, our plans are a minimum of 6 pages:

  1. Pole layout
  2. Roof Framing Section
  3. Interior Section
  4. Endwall framing elevations (both front and rear)
  5. Sidewall framing elevations (both left and right)
  6. Steel or Wood Siding Cutting and Layout Sheet


Depending upon your building size and features, there could be more pages for lofts, stairs or those pretty drawings certain building departments like to see, called “elevation drawings”.

Plans are drawn in a commonly used scale, which is required by most building departments.  A word of caution here  -do not ever and I say ever, try to use a ruler and “scale” off the drawing!  Why?  In printing, sometimes depending upon the computer and printer, the scale can get slightly altered.  We also have detail drawings which are scaled at different scales, for you to get a closer look as if you zoomed in on them with field glasses.  Getting the scales mixed up for the inexperienced could result in disastrous building errors.  All dimensions are marked in “real foot” measurements, so read, use your tape measure and you will be just fine.

A word here about some of the common abbreviations used on your plans, before we get into discussing a pole layout.  We try very hard to not use any abbreviations which are out of the ordinary, or difficult to figure out.  Most folks can read BL  and CL and understand they mean Building Line and Center Line.  But not everyone reads: U.O.N. as Unless Otherwise Noted. And what does this mean anyway?!  So we stick to the common ones, but when in doubt, ask! If you are looking over a sample set of plans and don’t understand half of what it is telling you, maybe this is not the building kit you want to purchase.

A pole layout is the first page of our plans.  It shows outside of post to outside of post Building Line dimensions for the corners.  This means if you have a building 24’ x 36’, and drew a line on the ground for those exact dimensions, all the posts including the corners would fit tight against the line on the inside of the rectangle.

The sidewall and endwall posts which are not corners, are measured to the centerline of each post.  Why do we use centerlines for the inside posts?  Not all posts are exactly the same size.  They can vary as much as an inch or more, so a 6×4 which is normally 5-1/2” x 3-1/2” could be 5-1/4” x 3-3/8”!  Small measurements for one post won’t make a hill of beans difference overall, but think how far off you’d be if you had a building 120’ long and every post was off “just a bit”.

The pole layout shows the diameter of the hole you are going to dig and fill with concrete, and then it shows you the orientation of the post.  This means if you have a 6×4, on an endwall it could be placed with the 4” side “to the wind” or the 6” side “to the wind”.  And the direction is important.  Building codes, wind exposure and speed, along with large doors and width of your building will dictate both the size and orientation of the posts.  But don’t worry, every dimension is shown on your pole layout.

OK, page one is easy, right?!

Click here to check out a sample Pole Layout:


Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about taking another look at your building from the sky: the Roof Framing Section.

Pole Building Plans 101

Pole building plans are included with every one of our kits, and I can’t help but scratch my head in wonderment (and often frustration) when someone calls for more materials, a verbal directive on what is outlined nicely on their plans, and still manages to make major mistakes in putting their building together.  Most upsetting is when they want me (or the company I work for) to make restitution, repairs or fork over our credit card to pay for what obviously – they screwed up on.

OK, so I will readily admit I am one of those people who, once they purchase something, tries to figure it out without reading the directions first.  I moan and groan when things don’t go together, and only out of despair I revert to the instructions – provided with whatever it is I am trying to assemble.  Yes, I am probably one of those people for whom the common saying was created, “when all else fails, read the directions”! However, there is a difference between assembling a 10k plus pole building garage kit, and a $40 bookcase I bought at Walmart!

We have one of the most detailed Construction Guides known in the pole building business, and yet we have folks who don’t read it.  Or, if they pretend they do, it would be a stretch of the imagination when we get pictures of their building!  The building may very well come out looking “ok” or even “pretty good” but it’s the extra pieces they want to know “where do they go” – once the building is completely done which truly scares me.  And if it doesn’t match the plans, guess whose liability it is?

Folks, these pole building plans have every piece outlined on them, so let me tell you about plans, not just ours, but plans in general.  Before you purchase a kit, take as much time to investigate how good the plans and directions are to put it together, as you’d check out quality and type of building materials. I will spend a few blogging days here going over each page, as kind of a “how to read plans” type tutorial.  Hopefully this will save some of you the agony of reaching deeper into your pocket for more cash, to purchase those extra materials when plans were not read and followed.

As I said, every piece is outlined on your plans – or at least where they all go.  When you are comparing our kit to our competitors, look at a sample set of their plans.  Is every board shown on the plans, or did you just get a generic outline of “cutaways” along with a list of lumber you hope will build an entire building? In doing free quote comparisons for clients, I’ve taken other companies lists, tried to figure out how to make a building from it, and came up with 2 walls “short” on girts, one complete wall devoid of steel, enough screws for about half the building, and wondered who they expected to pay for all the missing pieces.

Along with the plans, we also provide what is called an MTO, a Material Take Off Sheet.  This lists all of the lumber, the lumber grade, sizes, quantity and length of the boards.  When I do a set of “specs” (specifications) for your building, prior to it being drafted, I also do what I call a “preliminary” MTO.  This lists what experience has taught me (after over 14000 buildings, I have a pretty good idea) will be required to construct your building.  But I don’t just stop there.  Once the plans are done, the next thing I do is to go back through every page.  This is usually 6 pages, often more depending upon the building size and features, and recount every board, screw and nail (larger than commons) to be sure I have everything you need to construct the custom building you purchased.  I do make mistakes!  I don’t try to, because it costs me time and money to correct them once you have your deliveries.  As in most things, it’s much cheaper and easier to “do it right the first time.”

Our plans are so detailed; I can count every board, joist hanger, ledgerlok and screw.  Or I can calculate from formulas I’ve devised for roof and siding screws, where I add in an extra 5%, because I’m a nice guy and figure if you drop a few off a roof or ladder while fastening them, I’m not going to make you dig in the dirt and crawl back up a ladder.  Posts are exact counts, lumber covers every board foot required (and often over due to odd measurements) and screws and 40d nails are given “a few extra” for those fumble finger moments.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll start my Plans 101 course – how to read your blueprints.  It will be fun, I promise!

Mike the Pole Barn Guru: Unemployment Line?

I don’t think so….

Back in 2002, this was just a fledgling business. Sure, I had over 20 years of experience, but this new business meant starting over from nowhere.  I had never before sold buildings primarily through the internet.

Our building plans – two pages (granted they were full blueprint size at 24” x 36”) would “get you there”, but you had to guess a bit and pay a lot of attention.

The reason most pole builders do not want to sell pole barn kits…instructions.

If you provide really, really good instructions, you get very few phone calls and Emails for help. But, it takes crafting those directions. And it is a long and time intensive project, especially when you want to sell “custom” buildings.

When we first started, our instruction “manual” (using the term loosely), was less than two dozen pages.  The directions had been written by me back in the early ‘90s, when I was a builder – we had our subcontract crews using them.

Now from the plans and those bare bones pole building instructions and my having been involved in several thousand buildings, I certainly could have put together a fine building. However, very few people (even those who pound nails and drive screws for a living every day) have my level of experience.

Over the years, every time a client would have a question or concern about either the plans or the instructions, we would add more wording, pictures and “live” drawings to the appropriate documentation. We wanted our clients to have the best possible building experience, and our plans and instructions reflected our desire.

The building plans became more and more detailed, swelling to six pages or more. And the “Construction Manual” over 400 pages!

Along with this, we got to the point where we had such a huge volume of business – we ended up with one person pretty much doing technical support full time. Technical support means helping people via phone, text, FAX and/or Email through their building project.

Now this was crazy!

In hopes of better servicing our clients, I ended up as Technical Director (meaning “Mike, you can do the Technical Support”).  First it was sort of a joke, but the name Pole Barn Guru quickly had me “flagged and tagged”…and the name stuck!

Over an 18 month period, our Construction Manual was completely revamped and rewritten. Chapters were made very narrowly focused. More drawings were added as well as actual construction photos. The guide now appears in each client’s login on the Hansen Buildings website.

The chapters which pertain to each particular building are now highlighted. We’re back to keeping it simple.

So how does all of this pertain to an unemployment line?

Judy, one of Hansen’s owners, asked me today about how many total hours I have spent on true Technical Support with our clients since the new construction manual “went live” at the beginning of 2011.

While I couldn’t give her the exact number of minutes, I know it has been less than a total of a half day of time, in seven plus months!

I had worked (written) myself out of a job…..

Or did I?

See tomorrow’s blog…..