Tag Archives: building racking

Insulating an Existing Pole Barn

Insulating an Existing Pole Barn When Things Started Wrong

Reader TOM writes:

“Mike,  I have an existing pole barn (6×6 post with 2’ on center girts ) that has a 4” concrete floor with 10 mil plastic under it. The side walls have 1” XPS insulation on the outside of girt then steel siding with no wrap or barrier. My thought is put Tyvek on inside of girt ( facing same direction as if on outside application ) then put inch and a half XPS DOW insulation against that ( because there’s two bunks already there) then 2×4 frame with batten insulation between them, then 6mil or heavier vapor barrier then OSB. The floor has PEX tubing in it but not hooked up. Is this a proper install?  Also I will have to have an engineer check the BCDL as I want to put OSB on the ceiling but would like to know how to insulate the ceiling. There is a one foot fully vented overhang with a ridge vent also. Thank You for the info in advance. 

Mike the Pole Barn Guru advises:

I am concerned about your building having an inch of XPS insulation between girts and siding. This allows screw shanks to flex, potentially creating slotting under screw heads and excessive deformation can result in your building cladding’s shear strength being compromised and (under extreme circumstances) racking enough to create a failure. I would feel much more comfortable if you were to add 7/16″ OSB or 1/2″ CDX plywood to the inside of girts in bays on each side of corner columns from splash plank to eave girt.

Moving forward….

Your external XPS is now acting as a vapor barrier (or close to it). Any exposed to inside seams should be taped. Do not put Tyvek on the inside of the girts, as this would allow any moisture in assembly to be trapped between it and XPS. Unless you already own a pile of 1-1/2″ Dow insulation, skip it and instead fill the balance of the wall cavity with rock wool or stone wool unfaced batts. Do not place a vapor barrier on the inside or seal OSB on the inside of the wall. Walls will now ‘dry’ to inside.

Provided your trusses are capable of supporting a ceiling, blow in fiberglass above your ceiling finish of choice. Make sure to allow at least an inch of air space above insulation at eaves so you get proper air intake from vented soffits. Unless you are very close to Canada and have at least 8000 heating degree days, do not add a vapor barrier at ceiling level.

My Drill Stem Pipe Barn Sways in Light Winds

My Drill Stem Pipe Barn Sways in Light Winds

“Recently my husband and I decided we would try building a pole shed row barn for our horses out of structural drill stem pipe. We used 2 7/8 pipe columns on 12’ centers with 2 3/8 pipe columns supporting the (over hang, non-stall) side of the barn. It is 60×24, with 12’ tall center poles and 10’ tall short walls. The rafters are welded 2 3/8 pipe with 6” clips with the 2×6 purlins bolted to them with hex bolts to support the 26g r panel roof. We ended up putting the columns (poles) 3’ in the ground with 1 (and some of them got 2) bags of concrete in the hole with the remaining dirt backfilled. We also had the pad built up after the poles were set so there is about a foot of sand as well. The poles all have a base of red clay. We didn’t know what we were doing so we ended up not doing any footers or anything like that. So my question is, is this sufficient for the columns and if not how do we add support after they’re already up? My concern is this thing falling on our horses. We have significant movement (in my opinion) and racking so far, even after putting the roof on; however, it did get better after the roof went on. I can still shake it if I go to swinging on one of the columns. We can also we some cracking in the ground around the poles when it goes to moving after we’ve been pushing on it. There are no walls on yet, but we plan on adding a wall on each end and possibly the whole backside of the barn where the stalls will go. The front will stay open. Stalls will be welded to the vertical columns using 2 7/8 pipe so the entire structure will end up being held together at the base like it is at the top. I just worry about it buckling somewhere and coming down because we didn’t put our poles in the ground good enough. Please let me know your thoughts and what we can do to provide more strength. I’ll send some pictures so you can understand what I’m talking about. Thanks for any advice 🙏


I will add, we had around 25mph wind gusts today and I did notice it swaying and vibrating some but I wouldn’t have been able to tell if I hadn’t of leaned against one of the poles.”


Many thanks,



Thank you for reaching out to me. Your building has a plethora of challenges, some can be solved, others you will have to make do with best you can.

Although not a current challenge, building upon a red clay base is likely to result in some long term negative consequences. Why would clay be an issue to build upon? Clay expands and contracts depending upon the amount of moisture present. When wet – clay expands, when dry it shrinks. These movements will cause buildings to move as well – not a good thing.

If your intent is for your building to be a permanent long-term structure, my best recommendation is to engage the services of a Registered Professional Engineer who can make recommendations as to how to properly reinforce what you have to make it structurally sound.

Issues include (but may not be limited to):

Lack of adequate concrete backfill/encasement under and around vertical pipes. This can be tackled by digging out around each column down to where you have current concrete and backfilling with more pre-mix. Required diameter can be determined by whomever you hire as an engineer.

Pipe columns may be inadequate in diameter for proper stiffness.

Adding properly engineered walls will increase stiffness. Should you happen to enclose your two ends and a single sidewall, your resultant will be a three sided building and they have an entire set of challenges all their own (for extended reading: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/03/three-sided-building/).