Tag Archives: jobsite conditions

Dress for Winter Post Frame Success

Dress for Winter Post Frame Building Success

My most recent winter-time post frame building experience was a few years ago when my lovely bride and I assisted her brother Mark with construction of his 36’ x 48’ shop. Temperatures hovered around zero as we shivered our way towards getting a roof installed.

Given frigid temperatures recently affecting most of our country, now seems a particularly good time to discuss how post frame builders and do-it-yourselfers can best deal with jobsite cold temperatures.

First, have correct clothing and gear, and though it may seem clichéd, dressing in layers helps.

Right clothes can save you a lot of trouble and investing in expensive yet effective gear isn’t a waste of money. If I were to build in 0-degree weather (like today) I would be wearing five or six upper body layers. Take advantage of microfiber moisture wicking apparel (think Under Armour®).

Essential pieces to invest in are good gloves and boots. Gloves are particularly important because post frame builders need warmth but also enough dexterity to be able to pick up a nail or screw. Gloves offering a right balance can be difficult to find. I am still searching for a perfect pair of gloves. Closest I have found to keeping my hands warm would be layers, with a thin pair of gloves inside a heavier pair. When it comes to footwear you get what you pay for in work boots. Boots offering 400 milligrams of insulation are highly effective. Although I have not tried it, apparently some have experienced success with cutting pieces of radiant reflective barrier to use as insoles!

Overalls are particularly effective for trapping in heat. Often overlooked, is importance of keeping one’s neck warm. There are a myriad of options, although personally I wear a thick scarf.

While clothes are important, they of course won’t entirely eliminate cold as a jobsite factor. After right clothes, mental fortitude comes in second most as an important element of successfully post framing in the cold. Remember to keep moving around. You are less likely to become frostbit if you keep fingers and toes moving. Stay hydrated. A thermos of hot coffee or chicken noodle soup helps to keep the body core temperature set at “warm”.

It’s really easy to be defeated. And it’s really easy to be sitting in your warm truck in mornings, not wanting to turn it off. Most veteran post frame builders, when they’re going out to work near zero degrees, don’t talk about it. They don’t complain about it, they just go out and do it because they have this mental wherewithal it’s just another day.


Construction Time: How Long Will it Take to Build?

This is a popular question posed not only by many potential building owners who are considering doing the work themselves, but also by contractors who are considering erecting a building for others.

Before the question of construction time can be addressed, let’s eliminate the one crucial variable – the dirt. The amount of time it takes to lay out a building a dig the holes depends upon so many factors. Is the site level? If it is level, is the pad which is prepared for the building, actually large enough to place the building and batter boards on? Sites which are “too tight” to work on, will slow everything down.

What is the soil like? Soils with medium soil bearing pressures (1500-2000 pounds per square foot), generally are pretty good to dig in. Extremely sandy? Conical shaped holes will be created which are hard to clean out. Lots of clay? When wet it sticks to everything, when dry it can be as hard as concrete. Head sized rocks? An auger will only pull up a rock ½ the diameter of the auger bit. Lots of limestone, granite, or caliche? If it sounds hard, it probably will be.

The type of equipment intended for digging the holes plays a huge part in digging time as well. By hand with a shovel and clam shells is going to be much slower than a line truck with an auger.

So….we are past the dirt.

When I was running my own construction crews, we used to monitor the approximate amount of construction time it would take crews to erect our buildings. Now there were always some exceptional crews, ones who we would shake our heads at wondering how they built things so fast. One particular four man crew, would start on a 60’ x 120’ x 16’ riding arena Monday morning, and be in the office at noon on Friday with the building done. Their secret? They had worked together for so many years, they did not even have to talk to each other on the jobsite. Each knew instinctively what to do next and what their fellow crew members were doing.

When I put up my first prefabricated roof truss assembly building, I contracted with them to install the roof steel. On the 60’ x 84’ building, I was almost disappointed when they completed the roof in under four hours!

Getting back to more average performances….the measure of person hours (yes, I had an all-female crew) to the value of the building ended up being a fairly constant measure. Keeping in mind, this is all my crews did, so they had lots of experience, they would assemble $120 of materials per person hour. Other than the few exceptional crews, this was a solid number to work from with a variability of about 10%.

For the average building owner doing their own work, I’d look at it taking twice as many hours, provided the “homework” of reading the instructions and reviewing plans for the next day’s work was done off actual construction time.

Can you construct a pole building kit package yourself? Most probably, and as long as you read and follow the instructions, it will be a beautiful building. Should you build it yourself? Assuming a $12,000 building kit, plan on somewhere around 200 person hours. Hired out, it is probably reasonable to spend around $6,000 for labor. Obviously this dollar amount will vary greatly from locale to locale. Factors such as distance to travel to a jobsite and the costs for insurance weigh heavily into the equation. If a labor quote is $6,000 and you can build it in 200 hours, you have “paid” yourself $30 per hour.

Besides the cost savings, there is the satisfaction of having created your own beautiful building and chances are – the outcome will be better than having hired it to be done!