Tag Archives: contractor

Building Clientele, Design Plans for Canada, and Cabin Materials Questions

This week the Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about building clientele as a contractor looking to build pole barns, if Hansen Buildings has any design plans for Prince Edward Island, CA, and a few questions about what materials are used in different Hansen Building components for a cabin.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: How to find more clientele to build pole barns for I am a framer and own my own company and I am looking forward to find more clientele. BRANDON in OKLAHOMA

DEAR BRANDON: Hansen Pole Buildings can help. We have clients looking for post frame building erectors all across the country. We connect you directly with the clients and do not markup your labor, or ask for any sort of kickback from you. If interested please reach out to Rachel@HansenPoleBuildings.com 1.866.200.9657. Thank you.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Do you have any design plans for Prince Edward Island, Canada? This is where I would be building but your form does not allow for a province. The building will be 24 wide x 36 long. Hope to hear from you soon. HEATEHR in MONTAGUE

DEAR HEATHER: We do not currently yet have Canadian Building Codes programmed into our system. Our Canadian friends can use our structural plans designed to U.S. Codes, if their jurisdiction will allow.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I am interested in a pole barn cabin. I am wondering about the actual frame, is it steel? Are the poles steel? I would like to price a building around 30 x 40 and 14 or 15 feet at the eave w a roof w a pitch of 5:12 or 6:12. Thank you, MARTA in CASCO

DEAR MARTA: Thank you for your interest in a new Hansen Pole Building. Post frame buildings are excellent for use as a cabin. With pressure preservative treated wood columns – designed for structural in ground use, and a wood framework, they are ideal for an average physically capable person to erect DIY.

Here is some extended reading: https://hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/01/why-your-new-barndominium-should-be-post-frame/

Contract Scheduling and Terms

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

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

SCHEDULING: Upon completion of all required documents by Purchaser (including, but not limited to, Instant Invoice, Door locations and Jobsite Delivery Information), Purchaser’s online approval of Seller’s plans, and appropriate payment, shipment(s) will be expedited to be as soon as is practical, however no guaranteed time frame is promised. Purchaser will receive multiple deliveries over a span of a week or more. Seller has little or no control over the exact date of arrival, nor can Purchaser specify any exact date and/or time for deliveries.

Some vendors will require Purchaser or Purchaser’s adult agent to be present at time of delivery. Materials may be delivered via any combination of USPS, UPS, FedEx or freight carrier, the choice of which is strictly determined only by Seller and/or Seller’s vendors. In the event tracking information is furnished to Purchaser, the responsibility to monitor tracking is upon Purchaser.

EXCLUSIONS: Seller is not a contractor, architect or engineer in any state, and both parties agree no such representation has been made. Seller does not and cannot endorse, nor take responsibility for the performance of any contractor or laborer hired by Purchaser, even if the name was provided by Seller. Purchaser waives any and all right of claim against Seller for non-performance of any materials improperly installed by any contractor. 

Seller cannot predict nor guarantee any permit, construction or labor costs. Any and all construction labor and equipment, as well as nails 16d or smaller, staples or tacks which can be commonly driven by pneumatic powered equipment are to be provided by Purchaser or Purchaser’s agents. The need for butyl tape sealants, water seals, closures for wall steel or polycarbonate panels, caulking or any other sealants is to be determined and furnished by Purchaser. 

While great effort is made to include web bracing material Seller does not see final engineered truss drawings prior to shipment so cannot verify, in advance, all web bracing requirements. As such, any materials for web bracing required beyond what is originally shipped with building kit, shall be furnished by Purchaser. Seller also does not furnish, nor pay for, any cement, concrete, pre-mix, rebar, wire mesh or any other materials which would be used to backfill Purchaser’s building columns or to construct any concrete floor, foundation or curb.

Concrete floors and/or continuous footings and/or foundations, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation, drywall, site or grading plans, non-structural interior walls or partitions, provision for flooding, firewalls, sprinklers or other fire separations, gutters and downspouts, energy/heat loss calculations, meeting requirements of any energy code, meeting requirements of The International Wildlife-Urban Interface Code, or materials not provided by Seller, as well as the design of or specifications for any concrete work (including but not limited to driveways, porches, approaches, slabs, retaining walls, footings for walls, continuous foundations or stem walls) are specifically excluded from this Agreement and provided plans and/or calculations to be provided by Seller or third party engineer(s). 

Seller’s plans include a foundation designed as an isolated, shallow foundation with embedded columns. In the event any other foundation type be desired, or required, Purchaser will need to hire an appropriate engineer, at Purchaser’s expense. Any “plot” plans, floor plans or site tests/reports/engineering, or other “special” reports requested by any agency for Purchaser’s building are to be provided by Purchaser. Stairs, lofts, decks, mezzanines, second or higher floors, if included, will have handrails provided by Purchaser, unless otherwise specified. 

Purchaser further agrees to not enter into any other agreement, either verbal or written, with any of Seller’s suppliers, manufacturers, agents, employees or subcontractors, without the express written consent of Seller.

How to Find Barndominium Subcontractors

How to Find Barndominium Subcontractors

As a new barndominium General Contractor, you will need to line up subcontractors (subs) to do work you cannot or will not do. But, how does one go about finding these subs?

My first call is to my nearest Home Builders Association (find them here https://www.nahb.org/NAHB-Community/Directories/Local-Associations).
If unable to find a sufficient number (ideally three from each category), visit the ProDesk at your local The Home Depot and ask for names and numbers.

A good contractor is a working contractor, especially during a recession or other downturn in housing starts. This is not always true, but it is a pretty safe bet. Really good ones are sought after and always busy because they do good work and are reliable.

If you can’t find a contractor through your Home Builders Association or The Home Depot, next best place to look is on a job site. Find a house under construction. Stop and ask around. You can get names, prices, and references. This takes only a few minutes. It is done frequently and other general contractors shouldn’t mind. Chances are he or she probably won’t even be there. 

Often you will find the boss or owner of a subcontracting firm is on a site working. Get his number and arrange a meeting. Sometimes there are signs at job sites advertising different subs.

Only certain contractors are found on the internet. Most independent building erectors are not. You should however, be able to find heating and air-conditioning companies, plumbers, electricians, roofers, appliance retailers, and a few others.

Each subcontractor should carry insurance on his or her employees and should provide you with a certificate of insurance. Since this is your first experience and you won’t be familiar with prices in your area, get three or four bids, or quotes, from different subs before selecting one. Use a written contract with all subs.

Subcontractors and contractors may have their own contracts. At any rate, use one. Don’t trust anyone’s memory when it comes to dollars or who is to do what and when. Spell out your specifications thoroughly in your contract to be sure your bids are comparable and all subs are bidding on the exact same work.

Barndominium Contractor

How to Have a Fair Relationship With Your Barndominium Contractor

I have been a contractor and I have hired contractors. As much as you might wish to believe it will not be so, contractors can be a source of stress and anxiety. They can be masters at squeezing out profits, while putting in minimal efforts.

Before going further, grab a cup of coffee and journey back to this article before moving ahead: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-new-barndominium/

Buy Materials Yourself

I do not trust contractors to buy materials for me. Contractors generally have no qualms about using leftover materials from prior jobs, or purchasing cheaper materials than specified. If you seriously are concerned about material quality, take control yourself. Be aware, when contractors purchase materials for your barndominium, they will mark them up. Paying for materials yourself assures you of not having liens against your property for bills your contractor did not pay.

It is very important you make decisions on exact materials you use for your home. With each type of material, there is a high end product, low end product, and something middle grade. Educate yourself on differences between each type of material, so you can choose based on your needs. If you allow a contractor to make any of these choices for you, they can really screw you over. Picking right materials can make a huge difference.  If a contractor picks wrong materials, things are bound to go wrong.

Only Use Engineer Sealed Plans Specific to Your Building

Your contractor may have decades of experience, but unless he has initials “P.E.” (Professional Engineer) after his name, he is not qualified to make structural decisions. Have any deviations from plans reviewed and approved by your building’s engineer.

Always Get a Minimum of Three Labor Bids

If all three are relatively close in price, this is plenty. If someone is extremely low, there is usually a reason and most often not a pleasant one. Do not ever tell a contractor there are no other bidders, it gives them too much power. Competitiveness brings accountability.

Do Not Tell a Contractor Your Budget

If you tell a contractor your budget is $20,000 they will find a way to make their bid $20,000, even if it should be lower. Instead have them provide a bid for work you need done, so you can compare cost of their labor with other bids, to make an informed decision.

 Never Ask a Contractor for a Discount if You Pay Upfront (or in Cash)

It is an extremely stupid to offer to pay a contractor entire amount owed upfront. If you pay a contractor upfront, they can end up not doing a good job, or some will even take your money and disappear. 

Paying a Contractor

Never pay more than a very small amount upfront, then pay them as predetermined ‘milestones’ are reached. Always save final payment for after all work is finished and any punch list work is completed satisfactorily.

 Do Not Tell a Contractor You Are Not in a Hurry

If you tell a contractor there’s no rush to complete your project, they will give your job lowest priority possible. They will take on other jobs and spend their time doing other things, besides getting your job done.

Establish written timelines in your contract, with financial penalties for not completing steps as agreed.  

 Never Hire Anyone Illegally 

Some contractors might offer to bring in people who are not legally licensed to work on your barndominium. You should never hire anyone not having legal authority. If you are not diligent when hiring a contractor, you risk a huge liability if someone is injured.  Make sure contractor is licensed and insured, and has evidence of an insurance policy. Be aware of any subs brought in by a general contractor, to ensure they are covered under their policy.

You must be critically careful any subs hired by a general contractor are getting paid. Always pay subs directly, because if you only pay your general contractor, there is no guarantee he will pay his subs. If a general contractor does not pay his subs, you could end up with a lien filed against your property.

 Do Not Agree to a “Gentleman’s Agreement”

Always, always, always put your agreement with a contractor in writing. Having everything in writing has nothing to do with trust. It helps ensure everyone remembers what agreed upon terms are.  Months later you do not want to start arguing over what was originally agreed to. Contracts should be very detailed, including all expectations for both parties. 

 While these might seem like pretty simple guidelines, they are a lot more difficult to practice in real life. Oftentimes, we get busy, and try to take shortcuts in life. Do not take shortcuts with contractors or you will regret it. Take time to do things right, and be very careful when working with contractors.

A lot of contractors actually have a criminal background. This does not make them bad people, it is just important to know someone’s history from an ethics perspective. If you do not fully understand how serious working with a contractor is, you will get taken advantage of.

And lastly, do not try to screw over your contractor. It is very important good people you hire make a profit. 

When Columns Get Put in the Wrong Place

This is construction, things happen. The true mark of how any particular project goes is not everything going perfectly without a hitch, it is the ability to solve challenges when they arise.

The scenario below is one which I have never had a DIY person do (shout out to all of you who are putting up your own buildings), only “contractors” who somehow neglected to read this particular portion of the building plans (portion being used liberally as the column sizes are only called out on five different pages of the engineer sealed plans).

treated postFrom the client:
“I realized last night that the crew who installed my posts placed the posts in the wrong locations and they are now cemented in. Instead of using the laminated posts in the center section they put them on the ends of the building. That means the solid posts are in the center section. I need to know if/how this will affect my building? Thanks.”

And my response:
Thank you for utilizing the Hansen Pole Buildings’ Technical Support system. It appears you have some challenges to resolve. As the columns are now installed, the ones on the sidewalls, where the glu-laminated columns were supposed to be, will be over-stressed and will not support the wind loads adequately. There are some options:

(a) Dig the columns out, chip the concrete off of them and replace them where they belong. This involves more work than the later options, but will not require an investment into more columns.

(b) Dig out only the six errantly placed 6×6 columns, order six new glu-laminated columns to replace them. Less work, however there will be the cost of the six columns.

Either of the above choices (a) or (b) will involve properly compacting the soil into which the corrected columns will be replaced.

(c) This fix is subject to approval from the engineer of record and would have a nominal fee for him to author and seal a letter to confirm the adequacy. Place a 2x10x14′ #2 Pressure Preservative treated to UC-4B on each of the sides towards the endwalls of the six offending 6×6 columns – starting at the top of the concrete bottom collar. 2x10s to be attached with 2-10d common hot dipped galvanized nails, spaced every six inches and staggered to avoid splitting. There is approximately a five week lead time to get the 2×10 treated, as it would be by special order – there are not lumberyards (or big box stores) which have this material in inventory.

Constructing a new post frame building? Whether a DIYer or a veteran contractor, please follow the adage of: “Look at the plans twice, so materials only have to be installed once!”

A Worthy Builder

A Worthy Installer

I deal directly with very few clients as a Building Designer – just enough to be able to make sure things are flowing through our system as I expect they will.

I’ve truly been enjoying my recent interactions with a client who took the time to really share with me what his needs were and allowed me to custom design for him buildings (two) as if they were going to be for me. The larger of these buildings (30’ x 60’) is going to be an addition to his home. His original idea was to have a concrete floor in the building. We discussed the long term comfort of a wood floor over a crawl space, rather than “living” on concrete – the elevated wood floor won!

He was also going to have a flat level ceiling, until he found out how affordable a vaulted ceiling was! As I have a vaulted ceiling in the top floor of my own pole building at home, I told him he will never regret the decision.

Pole Barn ContractorsOne thing my client did need is a builder, he is a busy business professional and just does not have the time to do his own work. I did some quick research and came up with about a dozen builders in his area, who are willing to provide construction services for 50% of the cost of materials or less.

So we are down to ordering time…..today’s email from the client:

“Mike – everything looks good!  My big concern now is being sure I have a worthy Installer/ builder.  If I am going to be completely honest… I do not have a lot of faith in builders in this area.  We do have several Amish and Mennonite families in the area that install / construct these buildings… and have a great reputation, but the other guys are quite scary.  I would feel much more comfortable knowing I have a builder set up before paying for these building in full.  If you remember… I had originally quoted these buildings with you and searched for a builder myself… I had no luck finding someone I felt comfortable with.

Thoughts? “

To which I responded:

Having been a builder myself for a decade (I ran 35 crews in 6 states), and being the son and grandson of builders, I can give this advice:

Any builder you talk to is going to give only good references, face it, it is a reality. If you go to see their work, they are only going to show you good projects. It proves nothing.

I’ve dealt with the Amish before – in general they do not follow plans or instructions and when things go wrong it is everyone else’s fault. (A little Amish story here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/11/barn-raising/)

Regardless of who you hire – keep control of the situation, never pay out more than the work which has been successfully completed, and pay in increments:

No more than 10% when holes are dug and pass inspection (I actually prefer this after posts are set);
No more than a total of 1/3rd when everything is framed up;
Up to 90% when final inspection is passed and any “punch list” has been completed;
Balance of 10% 30 days after completion – provided any workmanship issues are completed.

Do not do anything without a written agreement which fully spells out the responsibilities of both parties. You can ADD some of your own stipulations, such as….

Any alcohol or drugs onsite and agreement is immediately terminated without further payment.
Failure of builder to be on jobsite working for at least xx (I usually use 20) hours in any calendar week Sun-Sat results in immediate termination without further payment.

Things I object to – crews throwing out their trash on my site, bringing their pets, borrowing my tools.

Even the scariest of builders can perform well, when you keep control of the situation. You can also require a performance bond, although you might have to agree to pay a bit more for a builder as they are not free: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/contractor-bonding/