Tag Archives: metal buildings

My New Barndominium

Reader RENE in MICHIGAN is one of a growing tide of Americans looking to build a barndominium. She writes:

“I would like to build a barn with living quarters but I do have unanswered questions!

My property is in Riverside WA 98849 and therefore the first question is whether you service this area?

I have done a lay-out of what I have in mind but with no prior experience, help would be appreciated to point out possible problems or suggestions for improvements.

Would a wood construction be preferred to metal?

Would a wood construction be more affordable than metal?

Would a wood construction be better insulated than metal?

Would my 70′ x 70′ building be more expensive than a smaller downstairs and upstairs building

I am in my senior years and still in very good health but there will be a day when using stairs may become a problem and that is why the square footage is so much. The living quarters are two bedrooms (guest bed 15’x20′, bath 15×10′, laundry 15’x10′)(main 20’x20′, bath 20’x10′,dressing room 20’x10′) 2 bathrooms and open plan Livingroom and kitchen (35’x40′) and would be 70′ x 40′ and the garage/storage/RV space 70′ x 30′

May have more questions later but would like to start off with the most obvious, for me. I have to sell property in MI before I can get going on this side. If you could correspond with me by email, for starters, I would appreciate it. 

Thanks, take care and stay safe!


Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

About Hansen BuildingsThank you for reaching out to us. I also qualify for those senior discounts and fully understand stair issues. When we built our own shouse (shop/house) in Northeast South Dakota 15 years ago we went with two stories and my lovely bride insisted upon having an elevator (we actually now have two of them).

I know Riverside well. Back in my younger days I was a prolific post frame builder based in Spokane. There was one year where we erected over 200 post frame buildings just in Spokane County! Hansen Pole Buildings happens to not only service Riverside, we provide more post frame buildings in Washington than any other state!

In my humble opinion wood post frame is going to have numerous advantages to a PEMB (pre-engineered metal building). While building shell costs are probably similar, it ends there. It is going to be easier to construct without a need for heavy equipment. Our post frame buildings come fully engineered including engineered foundation plans (PEMBs require you to hire another engineer to design foundations). Concrete slabs for PEMBs require significant amounts of rebar, resulting in much greater foundation investments. To have a home inside a PEMB, most usually one has to build a framed home inside of a building shell – unlike post frame where you only have to do it once. Post frame buildings are easily super insulated, whereas PEMB steel frames are a great thermal transfer. My ultimate guide to post frame insulation is here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/post-frame-building-insulation/.

I have also written about one story or two: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/02/barndominium-one-story-or-two/

Here are a few plan tips to consider:

Direction of access (you do not want to have to drive around your house to access garage doors.)
Curb appeal – what will people see as they drive up?
Any views? You’ll want to access all windows with great views to look at.

North-south alignment. Place few or no windows on the north wall, lots on the south wall.
Have overhangs on the south wall great enough to shade windows from midday summer sun.

Please utilize links in this article to assist with determining needed spaces, sizes and how to get expertly crafted floor plans and elevation drawings: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/10/show-me-your-barndominium-plans-please/

When Jurisdictions Push the Fine Line

From a February 1, 2018 article by Lois Swoboda at www.apalachtimes.com:
“At the Jan. 9 county planning and zoning advisory board meeting, and the Jan. 16 county commission, County Attorney Michael Shuler performed the first public readings of a proposed ordinance governing the use of metal structures and pole barns as single family residences..
The ordinance, which will not apply to storage buildings, was drafted after controversy developed over the March 2017 construction of a pole barn for equipment storage in the residential area on South Bayshore Avenue in Eastpoint. Commissioners said they received complaints the structure was unsightly and potentially lowered property values in the neighborhood.
In October, Eastpoint resident Ricky Banks addressed commissioners and argued against banning metal structures because he said they represented a 60 percent saving in construction costs.
Commissioners instructed Shuler to investigate the legality of using metal buildings as dwellings. Shuler drafted the proposed ordinance after determining that metal structures are allowable as residences under the county’s comprehensive plan.
The proposed ordinance, which would govern the appearance of such structures in residential areas, will be revised by Shuler after review of comments by P & Z and county commissioners. Shuler will return for a second public reading at a county commission meeting this month.
Under the proposed ordinance the main entrance to the building will face the front of the lot and a covered porch will run the entire length of the front of the structure. Pole barns and metal structures would be limited to single-story construction and be attached to a foundation or anchored by pilings or poles buried in the ground.
The structure must have a pitched gable roof at an angle between 12 and 45 degrees.
The exterior walls of pole barns or metal buildings used as residences must be covered with a material other than metal, i.e. wood, brick, hardy board or similar “traditional materials.” Shipping containers could not be used to construct residential dwellings.
Metal structures could not be used as multi-family dwellings and may not combine storage with a single family dwelling except for storage within the actual residence. For example, a builder could not construct a 2000-square foot pole barn, create a 500-square foot apartment within it and use the remaining 1,500 square feet for storing construction equipment, boats or vehicles.
Attached garages must match the residential portion of the structure in exterior design and roofing.
The structure could not be larger than 2,000 square feet of heated and cooled space under the proposed ordinance. Square footage of an attached garage is not included in this calculation.
After reading the ordinance, Shuler said he planned during revision to add a clause specifying the number and placement of windows and doors.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:
Post frame buildings (known also as pole barns) are International Building Code (IBC) conforming structures. Limitations can be placed upon structures as long as they are applied equally to all types of structural construction, otherwise it leaves a jurisdiction wide open to potential legal action which it cannot win.

Post frame buildings can look just like any other structure – the difference being the structural system.
My encouragement to the commissioners would be to look carefully at proposed restrictions.

Steel Frame Buildings vs. Wood

Manufacturers and resellers of all steel frame buildings are quick to tout the fire resistance of steel as a reason to not turn to pole (post frame) buildings as a design solution.

Dr. Michael N. is a lecturer in two subject areas at his local university, civil engineering and structural steel design. This is what he had to say in this debate:

Steel Building Columns“Basically, steel doesn’t “melt” until the temperature gets to around 1500 degrees Celsius (or, 2730 degrees F, for my US friends). What does happen though, is that at around 720 degrees Celsius (or, 1320 degrees F), the “Young’s Modulus (E)” of structural-steel can drop away fast. “So-What?” I hear you say… Well, with smaller values of E, for given stresses within the steel (where these internal stresses come from the Loads applied), the amount of displacement (or movement) of your steel increases, often dramatically. So, whilst your steel will certainly not melt, it becomes way more “plastic” when heated above 720 degrees Celsius; which is a really easy temperature to reach in a “standard” fire. Whereas large cross-sections of structural timber – so long as they’re not burnt through – will not lose elasticity (anywhere near as near as much) when heated to the same relative temperature as their steel cousins. Of course, with enough heat over enough time, all timber will burn, but, experience and experiments have shown that charring on the surface of timbers can actually provide some insulation (for a little while). The upshot is that, in many situations, a steel structure can be far more dangerous (in terms of instability) after a fire, than a timber structure (under the same loads); hence, why fireman are always very interested in the materials used in the structure. Which is why fire protection of structural steel is a big part of engineering design & construction.”

As a teenager, I worked my 16th summer for my Dad and Uncles, who were framing contractors. The first project I participated with them on was a commercial medical office building complex – two three story buildings centered on a courtyard. Each level had a walkway around the courtyard to allow access to each of the units on the particular floor. The walkways were supported by steel columns. All of the steel columns had to be wrapped with several layers of fire resistant gypsum board, and then the resulting assembly covered with cedar boards for aesthetics. I remember thinking how creative my Dad was in finding a way to hold the gypsum in place – we used wire around the outside!

A simpler design solution would probably have been to utilize solid sawn heavy timers for the columns.

Considering investing in a steel framed building due to the supposed advantages of fire resistance? You might think twice!