Tag Archives: grade

Nightmare From a Local Pole Building Contractor

Nightmare From a Local Pole Building Contractor

Reader RICK in OOLTEWAH writes:

Regrettably, after going with a local “pole building” contractor I find myself with a semi-completed building and a number of issues (I believe) to work through. The attached photos will hopefully help complete the picture. I was mostly ignorant of the pole building process, best practices, etc., instead just trusting the builder. I’m less ignorant now, thanks to your blog, but my timing could have been much better. I contracted to have a 30x40x12, to be used as a garage/machine shop, built on a leveled dirt pad, to be concreted later. After two months of waiting with said dirt pad ready, through several rainstorms, the contractor sent materials and a crew. They moved quickly, mostly getting the building up in a day. So quickly that no one noticed the standard trusses, not scissor as agreed upon. A 12′ overhead door (again stipulated) was not possible, and a 10’6″ went up in its place. This was a distraction until another hard rain showed water flow directly under the wall, highlighting what I think is the bigger issue. The splash plank has, in places, large gaps underneath (3-6″). By itself not so concerning, but for the fact there is no exposed splash plank on the exterior. The siding and edge trim is run to absolute bottom (nearly to grade). Meanwhile the doors float roughly 8 inches above grade/bottom edge of the trim/splash plank. This leaves a monstrous gap between the overhead when fully down and the highest the grade can go without backfilling against metal. Measurement inside shows exactly 12′ from the TOP of the splash plank to the bottom of the truss. They apparently zeroed out the build from the top of the plank, not the bottom, leaving the better part of 8 inches to make up for in the approach, fill and concrete, and a number of other areas. At this point the contractor has not called in a month, leaving off at “having a guy come install the cupola”. The silver lining for me thus far is I only have 1/3 of the money paid in. Given the way things have gone, I’m in no rush to give him any more, at least without being able to spell out what the problems and solutions are. I keep hoping Im still misunderstanding the process, and am seeing problems where there are none. But if that isn’t the case, what can be corrected and how?”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru says:

You are not alone, thousands of people, just like you, contract to have new buildings erected by “professional” building contractors, only to find what they thought they were getting and what they have received are two different animals. This is just one of many reasons why I encourage people to consider DIY instead – as an average physically able person who will read instructions often ends up with a much nicer finished product than what they would have paid for. If one lacks either time or ability to self-build, it is imperative to know fully what one has ordered and to literally camp out on site to verify work is done as agreed upon.

Hold on to your money tight until all issues are rectified. You do hold the ‘upper hand’ as your building has not been built as stipulated in your contract agreement – it does not have scissor trusses, nor a 12 foot tall overhead door. Rightfully, you could demand and it is likely a court would agree, for said building to be taken down and replaced with what you had ordered.

In order to reach a compromise solution, and provided you can get by with 11’3″ of height going through your overhead door, I would propose this:

Builder to add a 2×4 Pressure Preservative treated to UC-4A or better, below current splash plank.

Overhead door to be changed out to 11’3″ tall (as I can tell from your photos, it appears there is six inches from bottom of your building’s current splash plank to bottom of door).

Builder to fine grade interior to be even with bottom of newly installed treated 2×4.

Builder to grade exterior for 10 feet around building to slope at 5% from bottom of treated 2×4 outward away from building.

While this is not what you agreed upon, it may afford a practical solution to a nightmare you never should have had.

P.S. While crew is onsite, they should replace trim to right of your overhead door opening. Having a splice at this location is both unsightly and dangerous. They should also place a screw on both sides of every high rib of steel siding and roofing at both bottom and top ends of every panel (you will find this will then match manufacturer’s installation instructions).

Bonus Pole Barn Guru Tuesday

Bonus Pole Barn Guru Tuesday- Today’s extra answers questions about cupolas, heating a monitor style building, and steep grade changes on a build site.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: We are considering putting two cupolas on the roof. Can we run our drain waste vents through them instead of through the roof itself? BRANDON in CALVERT CITY

DEAR BRANDON: Provided they are vented cupolas, I am finding nothing in Building Codes prohibiting this. You will want to confirm this with your local Building Inspector.

A caution, however, you may experience undue condensation caused by warm moist air escaping your vent and contacting cooler metal surfaces of your cupolas. It may be beneficial to have closed cell foam insulation sprayed on interior of any metal surfaces of vents of your cupolas to create a thermal break.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Is the Monitor style bad for heating/cooling costs? Also, what style is best for energy costs in a metal home? If we want a loft area do you need to have a vent up top to aid in the summer heat in such cases? HEATH in LEIGHTON

Hansen Pole Buildings GuesthouseDEAR HEATH: The most economical for heating and cooling will be a square building on a single level. Your challenge with any two-story or lofted building is heat rises – so to cool to a comfortable level upstairs, it is frigid downstairs. I had this problem with our two story home in Washington, so when we built our multi-level shouse, we had individual heat pumps, heating and A/C units for each floor. Your need for venting will depend upon how you are insulating. If you are doing a finished ceiling across bottom of trusses, with blown insulation directly above, then your dead attic space being created will need to be vented (ideally with eave and ridge vents).

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Can you design a cabin pole building to set on a lot with about a 30% slope? Thanks. STEVE in ANDREWS

DEAR STEVE: When our mountainside home near Spokane, Washington needed a new garage with 14 feet of grade change in 24 feet, we went with post frame – doing a ‘stilt’ house. Unless you are in a flood zone, this is normally far less expensive than excavating your bank to do a footing and foundation, or bringing in a plethora of truckloads of fill in order to get to a level building site. This should work well with your new cabin.

Where to Stop Metal, Installing a Sliding Door, and Footings

This week’s Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about where to stop metal in relation to concrete, installing a sliding door to a repurposed building, and the proper depth of footings.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Where do I stop my metal in relation to my grade board/ bottom stringer. I’ve set the bottom of my lowest stringer to be the top of my concrete. Does the dirt on the outside end at the bottom of said stringer because I would think moisture would penetrate. Thanks for your time and I enjoy your information. SAM in LANCASTER

DEAR SAM: Bottom of your pressure treated splash plank (lowest stringer) should be 3-1/2″ below top of your concrete slab.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I’m putting up a pole barn on the cheap with mostly repurposed materials. I’ve searched the interweb and find no instructions on sliding door track installation. I’m ready to start putting up the siding-do I need to prep/install the track/flashing/guides/stops etc. now or can I side the structure and do all this later? I have yet to buy any track/rollers/hardware, the doors will be 18′ tall and 10′ wide (high clearance for a stack wagon). Any help/guidance/direction would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, DAVE in ELIZABETH

Figure 27-5

DEAR DAVE: You will want to invest in your track and hardware so you have installation instructions including height of track board. Please do not try to wood frame door itself, invest in a steel frame – it will be far lighter in weight and will not warp and twist like a wood frame will.

Normally you will have a 2×6 #2 track board mounted on sliding door header face across your door opening and in adjacent area door will slide over. Top of track board is usually 10″ taller (above bottom of pressure treated splash plank) than door height. Before you run any siding install header, track boards and jambs. Install 1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ L trim to cover track board. Hang track and track cover trim. Install J Channel horizontally on solid wall below track board and vertically on solid wall side of each door jamb.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello I called the number on your website and I was asked to send this question to this email address:

I’m considering building a pole barn however am concerned because about 30% of the vertical posts would be on a rock ledge at an elevation above the frost line.

I see the section on your website ‘sturdy wall plus concrete brackets’ not sure if that would apply here and/or what type of bracket or detail could be used in the situation?



DEAR MARK: Building Codes require footings to extend to either below frost line or to solid bedrock. Our third party engineers have worked with similar situations previously and usually come up with a design solution involving “pinning” columns to underlying rock.  We would supply you with a column layout and have you indicate how deep you can get at each column location. A steel concrete stake and a sledge hammer are perfect for being able to do this in advance of your plans being completed.