Tag Archives: columns

NEW Hansen Pole Building Roof Supporting COLUMNS

NEW Hansen Pole Building Roof Supporting COLUMNS

Since Hansen Pole Buildings’ inception we have primarily provided solid-sawn timbers for roof supporting columns. Due to cost and availability challenges, we have only included true glu-laminated columns, when required by structural necessity or as a request from our clients.

Now solid-sawn columns have not come without their own set of challenges.

Pressure treatment: go visit your local big box store or lumber dealer and take a gander at treatment tags on their 6x6s. In order to be used structurally in ground, Building Codes require them to be UC-4B rated. In most instances, what is ‘on hand’ is only UC-4A and has 1/3rd less treatment chemical retention than what is mandated by Code. Usually UC-4B has to be special ordered (along with ‘special’ higher pricing) and results in lengthy delays. Cut off an end of a pressure treated 6×6 and not treatment chemicals do not penetrate completely. In an ideal dream world, where lumber does not check or split, this would not be an issue – however we do not live in such a world.

Strength: bending strength is a product of Sm (Section modulus – depth squared x width divided by six) multiplied by Fb (Fiberstress in bending). Sm for a 6×6 is 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 / 6 = 27.729. Fb for #2 SYP (Southern Pine) posts and timbers is 850, while #2 Hem-Fir (found in Western states) is 575 x 0.8 (this is Ci, incising factor read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/08/incising/) = 460.

27.729 x 850 = 23,570, while 27.729 x 460 = 12,755. More about this later in this article.

Weight: Pressure preservative treated timbers are not kiln dried after treatment. They have been thoroughly saturated with water borne chemicals. It is not unusual for a pressure treated 6×6 to weight 15 pounds per lineal foot (making a 20 foot long timber 300 pounds)!

Dimensional stability: as these timbers naturally dry, they tend to do things like warp, twist and split. None of these make for an ideal end use product.

What about glu-laminated columns?

Pressure treatment – each individual 2x member (or ply) is treated completely through. As SYP is being treated, wood does not have to be incised. All treatment meets UC-4B requirements and kiln drying after treatment makes each member capable of being FDN (Permanent Wood Foundation) rated.

Strength – most glu-laminated column producers have 3ply 2×6 columns rated at a Fb of 1900. Hansen Pole Buildings felt, if we were going to provide all glu-laminated roof supporting columns to our clients, we wanted to offer absolutely strongest columns, without question. We negotiated n exclusive contract with Richland Laminated Columns, LLC of Greenwich, Ohio, to produce our columns from ultra high-strength MSR (Machine Stress Rated read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/12/machine-graded-lumber/) lumber. This results in an end product with a Fb value of 3000 or 157% stronger in bending than what is typically found elsewhere!

Because finished dimensions are after planing, our 3 ply glu-lams have a Sm of 18.058. Take this value times 3000 = 54,173 or 229% greater in bending strength than a 6×6 #2 SYP and 424% greater than #2 Hem-Fir. Rather than having to use 6×8, 8×8, 6×10 or even 6×12 columns, these 3ply 2×6 columns will often replace them and STILL BE STRONGER!

Weight: a 3ply 2×6 glu-lam, having been dried to 15% or less in order to be able to be glued, weighs just over five pounds per lineal foot. This makes a 20 foot long column nearly 2/3rds less in weight than a 6×6!

Dimensional stability: with proper storage and handling, glu-lam columns remain straight without warp or twist.

But aren’t these glu-lams going to be EXPENSIVE?

No, we found by contracting to purchase a minimum of a quarter-million board feet of glu-lams, we were able to cut costs by as much as 75% or more (depending upon market) below what we had been paying for them previously. Our cost is now even far below what we had been paying for solid-sawn 6×6 columns! In fact, what we saved on columns alone, more than pays to have entire building packages shipped to most continental United States locations!

By investing in huge quantities, we now have inventory on hand to fulfill most building orders immediately and even custom dimensions in a matter of weeks.

Call 1.866.200.9657 TODAY to participate in “The Ultimate Post-Frame Building Experience”.

And, don’t forget to watch for our next article!

Order of Construction

Order of Construction

Reader DANIEL in SAINT JOSEPH writes:

“Hi Mike, I am looking to start building in the next year or two on my up north Minnesota cabin land. I was planning on doing my own general contracting to save. In what order would you recommend I schedule the subs to do their work and when should I begin finding the subs? I already have the septic and well installed for my camper.”

Click here to download our free brochure!Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:

Here is a general construction sequence. In most instances, you want to line up your subcontractors 6-12 weeks prior to needing them. Further ahead, seems to make it difficult to get return calls. A great source of more reliable subs, is by contacting your nearest Home Builders Association and asking for referrals.

First step of home building is locating your new home on its lot. This will usually involve a surveyor who will come out and accurately drive stakes to locate your home on lot. They will be used by excavators and foundation subcontractors to guide their work.


You will need to have water, electric power, and toilet facilities available during construction process.

Clearing is removal of trees and undergrowth from actual construction site and yard areas. Rough grading is moving dirt around to establish approximate drainage patterns, yard areas, drive and walk levels, etc. you hope to achieve. Properly compact any fill in no greater than six inch lifts.

If you are going to have a well, you might as well dig it up front so you will have water available for construction.


Call for hole inspection (where required)


c) Purlins and all other roof framing (including ceiling joists and bracing)
d)  roof steel and ridge cap (or sheathing, felt and roofing)
e) any raised wood floor framing and floor sheathing
f) Girts and all other wall framing

10. CALL FOR FRAMING INSPECTION (where required)

a)  Weather Resistant Barrier over wall framing
b) Entry doors, sliding doors and windows
c) All steel wall trims except corners
d)  Wall steel and corner trim


If you are connecting to municipal water and sewer, this is where pipes are laid to house and actually connected (tapped into) water and sewer mains.

Any plumbing and electrical needs to go under concrete slab is installed here.



Get these in now so that the subs working inside can get from one floor to the other without depending on ladders.

Some people wait until end to get garage door in. But we think having it in place creates a good place to store materials and equipment during construction. Installing exterior locks means whole house is secure.


This is a general category including interior room partition, soffits for wall cabinets, and drywall nailers.

A prefabricated fireplace should be installed before roughs (below). A prefab will have a framed chimney. A masonry fireplace and chimney can be installed before any brick veneer.

HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) sub is first of three “mechanical” subs (plumbing, electrical, HVAC) to come to job. He will install duct work for your HVAC system and possibly furnace. He comes first because stuff he puts into walls is biggest and most inflexible.


Next comes plumber to install his pipes.


Codes call for house to be “dried in” before wiring is installed. With exterior windows and doors in place and roof on, it’s time. For roughs, electrician will put in boxes (switch, outlet, and lighting) and will pull wires into them. Cable, telephone, speaker wires, etc. are also installed at this point.

You’ll need these in place to get some heat in house for drywall installation.

It’s good to get water away from house as soon as possible.


Once everything else is in walls and rough inspections are completed, it’s time to insulate your home.

With meters set (above), HVAC sub can get some temporary heat going. This will be critical for getting drywall joint compound (mud) to dry in a timely fashion. Carpet sub also needs a warm home so  carpet is installed at a temperature comparable to normal living conditions.

Sometimes called “Sheetrock®.” This will be “hung” (screwed to wall girts, studs and ceiling joists), taped (at joints), and “mudded” (joint compound applied) . . . after the in-wall plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and insulation have been inspected!


Base and wall.


Trim materials installed here may include door casing, base mould, window stool and apron, window casing, chair rail, crown mould, built-in cabinets, stair railing parts, and others. This step also includes hanging doors.

First coat of paint is usually sprayed. Get it in before hard wood floors are installed.

Now it’s time to install your hardwood floors.

Counter tops are next. this may involve a different sub than one who installed cabinets.

Vinyl floor coverings and ceramic tile are installed. Two different subs.


This is first of two finishes. The last is done just before you move in.


This would include all of your major appliances – washer, dryer, range, oven, refrigerator, as well as any other special equipment you have specified.

Here is where electrician comes back to install switches, outlets, light fixtures, ceiling fans, door bells, etc. He will also hook up appliances, furnace, air conditioner, doorbell, and so forth.

Plumber will install sinks, lavatories, toilets, and all faucets.

Your heating sub will install registers and get furnace and air conditioning running properly.

Install shower doors. Hang mirrors.

Now it’s starting to feel like home!

Typically, this is door, window, and closet hardware. Window screens.

You may need to get drywall subcontractor back out to patch some dings caused by other subs’ work. This is normal.

This is final interior clean up.

Touching up drywall repairs and so forth.

This should be your last inside job before moving in.

These outside home building jobs can be going on while work proceeds inside.

You should wait until drywall has been delivered, because drywall trucks are VERY heavy, and could damage your flat work


Same as above on timing with regard to drywall delivery. Septic tank holds waste and allows microbic action on solids. Drain field is where effluent leaches into soil.

Final finished grades are established to ensure proper drainage away from home, and to prepare yard for landscaping. Trees, shrubs, grass, etc. are installed.








Uneven Ground, Granting Wishes, and Recommendations

This Wednesday the Pole Barn Guru discusses foundation for a uneven ground with 4-5′ “fall” in the back, granting three wishes, and recommendations for building/footing/slab.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hey thank you for time. I am wanting to build a 50×100′ shop. I have uneven ground and about a 4-5′ fall in the back. What is the best foundation for a post frame building for that situation. Any help would be greatly appreciated! ANDREW in APPLING

DEAR ANDREW: I would go with an ecology block (read more here https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2015/04/ecology-blocks/) retaining wall several feet beyond my building footprint. Then backfill with suitable fill compacted in no less than six inch lifts. This would allow for construction on a flat level site with embedded columns.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Please grant me 3 wishes o guru, you are better than a genie!!! Do you have a crew put the building together? Do they put the grounding strap on the ground and on the building? Do you have pictures of the workshops? KEITH in PORT CHARLOTTE

DEAR KEITH: Thank you for making me smile! I will answer as many questions as you need answers for.

We are not building contractors. Currently (and for the foreseeable future) there is a nationwide shortage of building erectors. Many high quality erectors are booked out into 2023. We would strongly encourage you to consider erecting your own building shell.

For those without the time or inclination, we have an extensive independent Builder Network covering the contiguous 48 states (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/find-a-builder/). We can assist you in getting erection labor pricing as well as introducing you to potential builders.

A CAUTION in regards to ANY erector: If an erector tells you they can begin quickly it is generally either a big red flag, or there is a chance you are being price gouged. ALWAYS THOROUGHLY VET ANY CONTRACTOR https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/04/vetting-building-contractor/
Your electrician will (should) properly ground your building.

Please click on any of these photos at https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/gallery/ to open gallery to more photos in same categories.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: If I’m a belt and suspenders overkill kinda guy, what’s your recommendation on a pole barn construction/footings/slab. I would like to use steel instead of 4×4 posts if that isn’t a bad idea. JOHN in LITTLE ROCK

DEAR JOHN: 4×4 posts would not be adequate for even a very small post frame building. I would avoid steel due to its unforgiving nature (everything has to be spot on), challenges of thermal conductivity and connections between structural steel and wood. My preference (in my ideal dream world) would be glulaminated columns, embedded in ground, with a mono-poured concrete footing/bottom collar. This would provide greatest strength and reliability at an affordable price point.

Overhead Door Opening Dimensions

Overhead Door Opening Dimensions

I have probably been involved directly with somewhere around 50,000 sectional steel overhead doors in my career. One thing in common about all of these doors, they all require an opening.

In my (and most door installers) ideal dream world, every overhead door opening is perfectly plumb on each side as well as having a perfectly level upper jamb. However, we live in a real life world, where columns on each side of overhead door openings tend to not always be 100% straight. Sometimes these columns were not placed plumb initially, other times they warped, twisted, cupped or did other nasty things (as lumber tends to do), making for potential challenges.

Early in my career, an installer who had placed a plethora of overhead doors in post frame (pole) buildings recommended to me to plan upon finished openings being two (2) inches less in width and one (1) inch less in height than actual call out dimensions of door. This allows for door panels to overlap (again, in our perfect world) an inch on each side, as well as above. With at least five (5) inches of solid wood on each side of any given opening (3-1/2” if a 4×6 plus 1-1/2” of jamb), there is yet plenty of wood available to mount tracks to.

What are advantages of planning for an overlap? If one or both side columns are out of plumb, this allows for as much as an inch of error before reliance upon a vinyl weatherstop to seal up opening. Same goes for top jamb being level.

Columns on each side of door openings do have a 2x jamb attached to them. Done properly (back to my ideal dream world) shims can be placed between an out of plumb, warped or twisted column and jambs to achieve a more close to vertical opening. In most instances (especially those involving ‘professional’ building erectors) this shimming process is ignored entirely and jambs are (for sake of expediency, lack of knowledge, or just not caring) nailed up directly to columns with little or no thought as to future challenges.

Residential overhead door panels are typically exactly door “call out” sized. A 10’ wide x 8’ tall door (as an example) will be exactly ten feet wide and exactly eight feet tall. A perfect finished opening will hence be 9’10” wide by 7’11” tall. Commercial door panels are two inches greater in width and net out an inch greater in height, so ordering a 10 foot wide overhead door, means you will receive 10’2” door panels. Hence, commercial overhead door openings will be equal to call out dimensions of door.

This extra inch of overlap also provides a much tighter seal against wind infiltration and with insulated door panels – less of a heat loss or gain (depending upon the season).

On a semi-related subject, I will encourage readers to always specify wind load rated sectional steel overhead doors. For extended reading, please see: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/12/wind-load-rated-garage-doors/.

How to Best Use Roof Steel Already Owned

How it is people end up owning steel roofing (or siding) when they do not have a structure to put it on has always been somewhat of a mystery to me.

Reader TIM in IRON RIVER writes:

“Hoping to build 40’x56′ post frame structure with 2′ overhang and 4/12 pitch using steel roofing I have on hand. That said it looks like I need roof lengths of 23′-1 1/4″ long to get that 2′ overhang. I have plenty of 20′-8″ and 2′ steel roofing and when combined with overlap I’ll be short (20′-8″ + 2′ minus 4″ overlap = 22′-4″) approximately a 9″ overhang. We do get plenty of rain here so the more overhang the better. For a 4/12 pitch how much overlap should I have for two adjoining roof pieces? Is there a vent gap at peak and if so how big of gap? Would 9″ overhang be sufficient for a rainy area to maintain building longevity? I guess I could go shorter on the 40′ width in order to use one single roof piece and to attain 2′ overhang. Your thoughts please.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

If at all possible I try to avoid steel panels overlapping steel panels along their run.


Because all panels have been run through an identical set of dies, they are not designed with ‘outer’ panels having slightly larger ribs in order to accommodate a smooth lap transition. From experience, this overlap will attempt to “grow” on you as you go along your roof.

Most steel manufacturers recommend a minimum end lap of 12 inches. All overlaps should be made so as to center on a roof purlin.  A 3/32″ x 1/2″ butyl endlap sealant should be applied on the bottom panel just below the centerline of the purlin where lap will occur. Due to the probability of panels not lying smoothly, sidelap sealants may also be needed.

Roof panels from each side should be held down from the peak of the roof by several inches (generally no greater than four with standard ridge caps) to allow for ventilation.

With all of this said, if it fits on your property, you should consider going to say 36′ x 60′ (or 72′), with 18″ overhangs to best utilize material you have and eliminate any overlapping splices. With 18″ overhangs on ends also, three foot width panels will lay out nicely without having to rip a panel when getting to building ends. Either of these building lengths will work out well for framing material usage with double trusses aligned with columns every 12 feet.

Sheets of Tin, Girt Style and Post Preferences, and Eastern Red Cedar

This Monday the Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about the “how many sheets” of tin, and the cost of steel roof panels, what type of girt style or posts Mike would prefer, and the efficacy of Eastern Red Cedar for use as posts for a pole barn.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I’m thinking about building and pole barn 24×32 and 10ft height. I was wondering how many sheets of tin I will need and how much I will need for the roof. If you know how much money would it be? SCOUT in BEAR LAKE

DEAR SCOUT: As steel panels are three feet in width, you may want to consider walls being a multiple of three to maximize material efficiency and minimize waste. 24′ x 36′ would be an example. When you invest in a fully engineered post frame (pole barn) building kit package, all of the steel panels will be calculated for you and displayed on a layout sheet on your building plans. We also ensure you are provided with all trims and closure strips to properly seal your building, as well as using screws with EPDM washers – long enough to not pull out in wind events, and of a larger diameter to prevent screw slotting over time. By use of EPDM for washers (rather than rubber) they come with a manufacturer’s warranty backing up their performance to outlast your steel panels. We do not provide steel panels only.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Sorry for so many questions. Which type of girts do you prefer / recommend? Standard, bookshelf or commercial? Do codes typically allow you to build your own 6×6 laminated posts, or do you have to order them from a manufacturer? DAVID in DECATUR

DEAR DAVID: I would prefer you ask me questions, rather than regret later on not having asked. My #1 goal is to assist you from making decisions you will later be sorry you made – whether you invest in a new Hansen Pole Building or not.

If you think you will ever insulate your building’s walls and want a smooth finished interior surface, then commercial girts are an absolute best solution (I have used them on my own personal buildings).

There are many versions of ‘laminated’ columns. My personal preference is true factory built glu-lam columns, they have a tremendous strength to weight ratio, are light weight to work with, very straight and are a fully engineered product. You can field build columns, however their assembly (nailing patterns and any splices) should be designed by your building’s engineer for structural adequacy.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have an overabundance of Eastern Red Cedar on my property. Most of them are just about fence post size but quite a few are 10″ or more. Our ground is super rocky and we have very little sapwood the middle is almost totally red. Can I use these for posts in my pole Barn if I cut off the sapwood or mount them above the concrete slab. ROGER in IRONDALE

DEAR ROGER: Untreated Cedar, left exposed to weather in above ground situations probably has an expected lifespan of roughly 10 years (https://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/bridges/documents/tdbp/decayres.pdf) and Mother Earth News places life expectancy of Red Cedar in ground at 15-20 years. While you may have better results, it is not something I would or could recommend when properly pressure preservative treated columns are readily available and will outlast any of our lifetimes.

Above ground, Cedars are far weaker in design capacity than commonly used structural species such as Southern Pine. Add to this, Building Codes require lumber used for structural purposes to be grade stamped.

Best use is probably for short lived fence posts.







It’s All About the Posts!

Trimming Posts, A Taller Building, and Post Treatment:

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Trimming posts or adding Shims? My pole barn kit uses steel trusses that sit on top of the posts and bolt to their sides. If I set two or three posts lower than the rest, can I just add a shim the top (using PT plywood or similar) to match the heights of the other posts, rather than cutting the tops of the other seven or eight posts?
How much mismatch is acceptable? Would a 1/4″ difference in the tops of the posts be acceptable or noticeable? MIKE in ORLANDO

Concrete slab in a pole barnDEAR MIKE: I will give you my answers however prior to implementation of anything I advise, you need to be contacting the RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer) who designed your building and sealed the plans to get his or her approval.
In my humble opinion, using a non-compressible shim in order to make up the difference should be a non-issue.
As to the acceptable mismatch, structurally the ¼” difference will not make a difference, however there is a good chance it will be noticeable to the naked eye, especially along either the eave girt or fascia board. The closer you can get to perfect, the better the result will be and the happier you will be with it.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello guru! We have a project on the way, and were thinking that our building the way it is engineered is going to be too short for our needs. What kind of risks, be it enforcement or safety would we run into if we increased the building height 2′? BRAD

DEAR BRAD: From a practicality standpoint all of your columns will be two feet too short, as will the wall steel. From an engineering standpoint going two feet taller changes the required sizes (dimensions not just lengths) of some of the columns. If you want taller overhead doors, then you have yet another issue.

The risks – safety – you would now be putting up an un-engineered building, which would be under designed for the loads being imposed on it and could collapse, causing injury or even death. Enforcement – if they catch you, you would have to do field modifications to bring the building up to Code.

If you are serious about making it taller, we can work with you to come up with the least expensive fixes and material swaps. The sooner you decide, chances are the less expensive it is going to be, however there would be a non-refundable deposit involved as we are going to put in some serious hours on this whether you decide to go forward or not.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: If PCP is not good for health and longevity on a pole house replacement pole. 2 each at 30’….what treatment do you recommend on a DF pole? JOE in KAILUA

DEAR JOE: If you are using Douglas Fir, then the pressure preservative of choice is ACZA. You could also use ACQ, however it is very corrosive to steel fasteners, so you would want to have products with a very high level of zinc in the galvanization process, or use stainless steel parts.


Roofing Before Siding

Roofing Before Siding

If I am not mistaken, somewhere in the not too distant past I have expounded upon how I know a particular builder is or was a stick frame builder. How can I tell? The giveaway is they feel compelled to build the walls before the roof. I’ve listened to many experienced post frame builders in my career, as well as having constructed a few (hundred)post frame buildings myself.
The verdict – for best results, frame the roof and install the roofing prior to any wall framing being done.


First point is, if by some odd chance the columns at the base of the building are not exactly where they ought to be, the roof can easily be squared up still. It is relatively easy to move the tops of columns which are not framed to or sided. This allows for the column tops to be placed where they should have been at grade level.

Secondly, all of the roof purlins in interior bays can be precut to exactly the same length (in most cases), or at the very least an entire bay can be done at a time. If the column spacing varied between sidewalls and columns tops were not where they should have been, it would take custom cutting to length every roof purlin all of the way across the building. Neither fun, nor time efficient.

Third, without siding installed, it is relatively easy to square up each roof plane to make installing the roofing as painless as possible. Once either the steel roofing or roof sheathing with shingles is installed, the roof planes will be affixed where they should be.

Fourth, much easier to drive a pre-mix concrete truck around the perimeter of the building and chute the concrete in for a slab on grade floor. No framing or siding to get in the way, only widely spaced columns.

Am sure there are more reasons than just these, however the factors stated should be enough to convince any builder (or DIYer) to give it a try and see if in the end, the result isn’t far happier

Are My Columns Too Short?

Are My Columns Too Small or Too Short?

We receive and answer lots of questions. Even with a Construction Guide which extends over 500 pages, covering a plethora of topics and how to’s, there is always an unanswered question (sometimes two).

One of our good clients recently sent a query to the Hansen Pole Buildings’ wizardess of all things shipping, Justine, which I share now:

“Hi Justine, I received delivery of the columns for my building on Friday. After inspection, I had 2 questions that I’m hoping you can clarify for me because I don’t know if there is an issue with them. I also want to apologize in advance, because I know these questions are pedantic and probably nothing to worry about, I just want to make sure there’s no problem here since I haven’t been involved with the kind of construction that requires inspections before. 🙂

The building plans seem to have a slightly larger dimension than what was delivered. I’m sure the engineering has allowed enough safety margin that this won’t be a problem, I just don’t know if it’s going to be an issue on an inspection. For example, the corner columns are shown on the blueprints at 5 3/8″ x 4 1/8″ but the columns that were delivered are 5 1/4″ x 4 1/8″. So, you see it’s only 1/8″ on the long dimension of the column, but I don’t know if an inspector will have a problem with that. The same 1/8″ undersize dimension is true on the corner, endwall, sidewall, and shed columns.

I was under the impression that the length of the columns was a minimum length and not a nominal length that might be slightly less than that. It could also be that I have a misunderstanding about how the columns are spec’d. What I found is that the 14′ columns are all actually 14′ 1″, which is great, however all of the 24′ columns are actually only 23′ 10 1/4″ when measured to the shortest of the three laminated boards. They are all right at 24′ when measured to the longest of the laminated boards. This is only a concern of mine because I’m in the process of getting the site leveled out, but I’m currently at about 12″, which is cutting things pretty close on some of the columns. So, I didn’t know if the manufacturer made a mistake or if I just need to correct the way I measure them. My main concern is around ensuring I have full weight bearing on the notched post, which will only happen if I notch them at least 11″ down. I’ve attached a photo to show how I’m measuring them.”
To which our Technical Support Department cheerfully responded:

Thank you very much for sending us your concerns.

#1 You are going to find the dimensional lumber (2×4 through 2×12) provided can vary as much as 1/4″ plus or minus from the anticipated “ideal” dimensions. It is part of the randomness of dealing with an organic product (wood) which has to be milled. It is also why we are only able to use 40% of Pult (the ultimate strength of a material in a wood assembly) when engineering calculations are produced. In looking at the calculations for the long columns in the center of your building, for example, they are stressed to 92% using the “call out” dimensions. Using a Sm (Section modulus – depth of lumber squared x width of lumber divided by 6) of the 1/8″ under size, reduces the actual Sm by 1.64%, which would mean the member would be stressed to 94% under maximum design load.

#2 Column lengths do vary slightly due to the material lost in finger jointing. On the 20′ eave raised center section, with the bottom of the column at 32″ below grade, the amount of column needed would be 22’8″. With a column length of 23’10-1/4″ you could have as much as 13-3/4″ of grade change and still have plenty of column.

If you do happen to have a foot of grade change, it would be my recommendation to have the site brought closer to level before setting columns. Good compactable fill is not inexpensive. Reducing the grade change from 12″ to say four inches, as an example, saves 27 yards of fill across just the footprint of your building.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to this department further with any technical questions.

Poles for Pole Barns

Some days it seems there are nearly as many possible design solutions for pole barn “poles” as there are pole barns!

Here is a brief overview of the organic (think coming from trees) ones. For the sake of brevity, I will limit this article to only applications where the columns are embedded in the ground.

Old utility poles – not a good choice for many reasons:



Solid sawn pressure preservative treated dimensional lumber or timbers.

Be wary of trying to recycle old treated wood if it has been treated with an oil based preservative:


Structural joists and planks are lumber which is two to four inches thick and five inches and wider. These would include 2×6, 2×8, etc., as well as 4×6, 4×8, etc. Structural joists and planks are graded under a more stringent set of grading rules than either “Posts and Timbers” or “Beams and Stringers”.

Beams and Stringers are five inches and thicker, rectangular with a width more than two inches greater than their thickness. These would include dimensions such as 6×10 and 6×12.

Posts and Timbers are 5×5 and larger, where the width is not more than two inches greater than the thickness. Besides 5×5, it includes 6×6, 6×8, 8×8 and similar.

So isn’t a #2 grade a #2 grade regardless of size? Well, sort of…..larger pieces of lumber are given a #2 grade, with more defects (like larger knots). Correspondingly, the strength values are not the same. Using the measure of Fb (fiberstress in bending) and arbitrarily picking Hem-Fir as a species, a #2 6×6 has a value of 575, 6×10 is 675 and a 4×6 1105!

Regardless of the dimension of the lumber or species, proper pressure preservative treating is essential:


Putting together individual pieces.

Multiple joists and planks can be joined to form a column, either spliced or unspliced.

In an unspliced scenario, building heights are normally limited to 16 feet, as generally it is difficult, if not impossible to purchase pressure preservative treated 2×6 or 2×8 in lengths longer than 20 foot.

I’ve discussed nail-laminated columns previously:


Glu-laminated columns.

Some interesting glulam reading: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/04/titan-timbers/

Glulam PolesThese afford a Building Designer a plethora of structural options which cannot be achieved by the use of other alternatives. With a high strength to weight ratio, and typically being very straight – in markets where they are available, they can be a wonderful alternative, especially for taller buildings, or cases involving high wind and/or snow loads.

With so many options and alternatives, how is a consumer to know what poles are best?

My vote is for the overall design solution which best meets your individual needs for creation of space and access and egress. As long as the design is structurally sound and Code conforming, at the end of the day it does not matter what the individual pieces were used to build it.