Tag Archives: design loads

Converting a Pole Barn to a Residence

Converting a Barn to a Residence
Reader MARK in PORTLAND writes:
“I have a pole barn structure that was converted to a residence without a permit. The slab is 4″ thick with a 4×4 skirt edge around the perimeter. Since the foundation is a pole (pier) system, does the slab edge (non-load bearing) need a thickened lip to extend below the frost line (18″ here)?”
Mike the Pole Barn Guru pole responds:
slab edge insulationWell Mark, as I am sure you are finding out, an entire plethora of issues now exists from the conversion being done without proper permits. Your slab issue just being one of many.
Homes are now required (in most jurisdictions) to meet with energy code requirements. This means you are going to (at the least) have to be adding some insulation below the finished grade of your building. This will eliminate the need to have a thickened slab around the perimeter of your building – which would not only prove to be an added expense, but also a royal pain to install.
I’d approach this challenge with the Frost-Protected Shallow Foundation method, which you can read more about here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2016/11/frost-protected-shallow-foundations/.
It may take having a RDP (Registered Design Professional – architect or engineer) on board in order to plead your case to the local permitting authorities, who could very well make your immediate future a miserable one should they become angered in regards to the change of use without a permit.
Your building itself could very well pose some other challenges. Most often these come from walls not stiff enough (from a deflection standpoint) to prevent the cracking of any gypsum wallboard surfaces. This is an area which can be looked into by the RDP you are going to hire (please nod your head yes).
Chances are excellent the roof trusses in your building are not designed to support a ceiling load, so you are probably looking at needing an engineered truss repair.
The siding should probably be removed and reinstalled with a housewrap underneath. In the event a dead attic space has been created, the attic area needs to be adequately ventilated to prevent condensation. You can find out more about adequate attic ventilation here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/08/ventilation-blows/.

Building Design: The Greatest Buildings Never Built

My mother used to have a saying, (watching my brother and I bandy about with many a sharp object), “it’s all fun until someone gets their eye poked out”.  In her stern voice, she was simply trying to make things safe for my bro’ and me.

You might have a totally sweet concept for your ideal dream pole building. An architect can design for you the most amazing project on paper, but some of the best ideas simply cannot be built. Every design must take into consideration elements, such as construction variables, materials, load weights, building codes, and cost which are necessary to bring paper drawings to life. In a Wall Street Journal article, some of the most amazing architects throughout history have designed buildings which were stricken with issues which made it impossible to construct their vision. See Wall Street Journal article at:

From Building Design to Reality

Even with today’s sophisticated programs, there are many designs with a fair amount of issues which create havoc when trying to move from a brilliant concept to the structural design stage.

With software programs, such as Hansen Buildings Instant Pricing, the pole building industry is able to bridge the gap between your vision and building reality. This proprietary program anticipates and solves issues during the pole building design stage, thereby reducing and eliminating headaches in the construction stage.  In 1956, if Frank Lloyd Wright had designed an electronic, 3D model of his proposed mile-high skyscraper, he would have been able to resolve its issues.  His challenges included the space and load bearing requirements to occupy a 528-story elevator system. With the proper software (and lots of money), Wright may have seen his vision come to life.

Construction software programs can not only design whole pole buildings, but they also allow for specific design of the most complex areas on any structure, such as roof trusses. If a roof fails, the whole building can fail, thereby making the roof truss one of the most important elements in the design process. Most design professionals agree elements such as roof trusses should be designed only by an experienced truss designer. Having the necessary experience, truss designers can take into consideration geometric volume (roof cavity) and the ability of truss components to perform given the building requirements.

Regardless if you’re designing a roof truss, a pole barn or a mile-high skyscraper, the vision and structural design requirements must harmoniously coexist before the first piece of material is cut.

Often I am challenged by folks wanting to design a pole building which may have possibly been done before, but not with the same design loads and dimensions.  And sometimes, I am put to the test to design a “pole barn” which looks nothing like any pole building you or I have ever seen before.  I rely upon solid calculations, design loads and a software system which can test them out for me.  If it isn’t solid and I can prove it on paper, I don’t want to see it built.  Just like my Mother taught me, “safety first”.