Tag Archives: pole barn design

The Search for Building Steel Trusses

In my several years of being involved in the metal plate connected wood truss industry only twice times did we ever fabricate trusses which were over 80 foot in length. As the forces which have to be carried by a truss are increased by the square of the span, say a 120 foot span truss has to withstand 225% of force than an 80 foot span! Not only do the costs of wide span wood trusses increase dramatically beyond 80 feet, most fabricators do not have the equipment to build or deliver them.

The requirements for independent bracing design and inspection for prefabricated wood trusses of 60 foot span and greater also increases the associated challenges. (Read related article here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/12/wide-span-trusses/).

Because of this I have been keeping my eyes peeled for a fabricator of webbed steel trusses who could fill the niche of providing post frame building trusses which could span 80 to even 150 feet with a high degree of quality and a realistic price.

I recently saw a Facebook page for a company which builds steel trusses, so I commented on their page asking if they could produce wider spans. While I never got a reply from the company (obviously they do not keep up with their own social media), I did get an interesting message from one of their not too happily satisfied clients:

“Good morning Mike, you don’t know me but I wanted to express my concern to you about a post I saw you wrote on Sxxxxxxx Pole Barns Facebook page about large span trusses. I myself ordered an 80x100ft clear span kit from Matt Sxxxxxx. After the incomplete project of Matt and his 2 workers he left me with an incomplete kit and trusses that look good but aren’t strong. I am fixing a completely broken truss now and out of 11 trusses 8 are cracked at welds. He used too small of steel and welding and fabrication work is less than impressive. He has cost me over $30,000 so far and I’m still left with installing this building myself. I do not recommend him to anybody for anything. I will be pursuing him legally. I really just wanted to make you aware of my situation because I myself am dealing with the clear span kit as well.”

Certainly appears this company is not one which we will ever be doing business. Maybe somewhere in the future it will be Hansen Pole Buildings in the steel truss business, where we can control the quality of the product with a high degree of certainty!

My words of caution for anyone considering a webbed steel truss – ask for engineer sealed drawings to match the loading conditions of your particular site. Confirm the trusses are being welded by certified welders, and ask for documentation of passing independent third party inspections on no greater than a quarterly basis as a verification of quality control.

What Type of Barns Do You Sell?

And my response to the question would be, “What type of barn would you like to invest in”?

Here is the full question asked by JOEL in THOMASVILLE:

About Hansen Buildings“What type of pole barns do you sell? (Truss on post or truss on band)
Also what’s the spacing on the trusses? 2 foot, 4 foot”




I will preface my answer with this sage (since I am nearly 60) advice – focus on the design solution, not on how the design solution is arrived at. Please feel free to reread the bolded words repeatedly, as this is the clue to getting the most post frame building for your investment.

Exactly what is the design solution?

The design solution is what meets your needs for functionality. It doesn’t much matter if your new building is free, how the trusses connect, or what their spacing is, if the building does not meet with your needs.

This is where “The Ultimate Post Frame Experience™” comes into play. Let the experts help to guide you towards a new building which will perform admirably for you, your descendants and future owners of your building for years. Simple things such as getting the right sized doors for the building and spacing them properly to avoid damage to vehicles and equipment; getting a height adequate for your needs if you plan upon multiple stories or need headroom for a vehicle lift.

The design solution is the “sizzle”.

Back to the question at hand……

The most important answer is no matter how it is put together structurally ONLY invest in a building where the plans exactly meet with what you are building and a wet sealed by a RDP (Registered Design Professional  – architect or engineer). If a highly trained professional with years of schooling and internship hasn’t done the structural design, then who did?

If I had my personal druthers, I would most typically recommend a building with widely spaced sidewall columns – most often 10 to 14 feet on center.

But isn’t this a long distance?

In the global scope of life – no.

What this DOES do is it minimizes the number of holes which need to be dug (digging holes is the least fun part of the job). It also allows for much easier addition of a sidewall door – think about it, if posts are say eight foot on center, it doesn’t allow for even an eight foot width overhead door (which eats SUV mirrors anyhow) to be added without cutting a column off!

In most cases, widely spaced columns, which directly support ganged (two or more) trusses connected face-to-face, is going to provide the greatest structural integrity, fewest individual parts to handle and be easiest and quickest to construct.
The Hansen Pole Buildings’ Instant Pricing™ program, does allow for all structural options to be checked – it will do single or double trusses directly bearing upon columns, or trusses paced upon truss carriers (truss on band) at either two or four foot on center. As the new post frame building owner – go for the design solution and allow the “how” to the experts!

5 Reasons to Add a Loft to Your Pole Building

Hansen Pole LoftIt’s not uncommon to construct a loft in a pole building – after all, construction is so affordable that you’re going to be left with excess funds that you can pour right back into your investment. They take up almost no space and can sometimes even add space to an existing interior. If you’re on the fence about putting in a pole barn loft, consider the following.

1. It Looks Amazing

With a little elbow grease and a few inspiring ideas, you can create new and exciting atmospheres in your pole barn. Loft areas retain the wide open feeling characteristic of the pole building while adding an aesthetic touch that is completely customizable.

Construct a loft, then whitewash the walls and ceiling to expand the already impressive dimensions of your pole barn. Even a pole barn loft with wall support disappears into your surroundings when you treat the interior with a color that blends well in any light.

Alternatively, you can create a western look by installing distressed metallic railings alongside natural, worn, and treated wood on your loft. Accent it with secondhand or recycled furniture to cultivate an air of a time long ago.

The possibilities truly don’t end. Adding a loft in your pole building gives you the freedom to revolutionize your barn’s aesthetic quickly and easily without overhauling the entire building.

2. It Utilizes Vertical Space

Pole buildings are famously tall, which means that the ceilings can be imposing. All that extra space rarely goes to good use. It may be liberating to keep the space wide open, but if you want to maximize the potential of your pole building, you’ll want to take advantage of the wide open areas left by the unique roofing structure.

Fortunately, you can build up as high as you want. Supports for pole buildings run mostly along the frame, so you also have a large open area well below the ceiling to place staircases and ladders. That means there’s no limit to the height of your pole barn’s loft. You can even layer or bunk your loft so that you have multiple levels – just make sure your building is able to support the extra weight.

3. It Increases Storage

When there’s no more room for your stuff downstairs, move everything upstairs! A loft is like an oversized shelf – you can place things underneath it and stack them to the top, and you can place things on it safely and easily.

Even better, you can double the stairs or ladder you place to get to your loft as extra storage. Build more shelving into your stairs or underneath your ladder to expand your small storage options so there’s more room above and below your loft to put the big stuff, including furniture and appliances.

4. It’s Versatile

Even if your pole barn isn’t your house, you can still transform the extra space above into useful areas. Here are some ideas for your pole barn loft:

  • Sitting area – Place some comfy furniture and a coffee table to create a social space for coffee or casual meetings.
  • Home Office – Free your workspace at home by transforming your loft with desks, chairs, and drawers.
  • Library – Install extra shelving up top to store your vast collection of literature and reference books.
  • Craft Room – Bring in long, wide tables for crafting and build cubbies to protect your crafting materials.
  • Study – Arrange long couches and luxurious chairs to create a space for concentration and learning.
  • Game Room – Get a foosball or pool table with a bit of bar seating for game time with friends.
  • Lounge – Install a small bar with a few comfortable seats to create your own lounge area.
  • Gym – Equip your pole barn loft with workout machines and free weights so you never have to buy another gym membership.
  • Utility – Set up your washer and dryer or build a workshop in your extra ceiling space.

5. It’s Easy to Build

You can use the support from your pole barn or place your loft on its own supports, but building a loft isn’t as tough as it sounds. It’s not very time consuming and only requires a small amount of raw materials to put together. Your small investment in time and resources will increase the utility and value of your pole building many times, and you’ll enjoy having a beautiful, useful, and customizable space where there was only emptiness before.

Get Your Own Prefab Cabin in the Woods

Prefab pole barn cabinBuilding your own wilderness retreat isn’t as difficult—or as expensive—as you might think. If building a cabin in the woods has always been a dream of yours, it’s time to look into prefab cabin options.

By purchasing a prefabricated cabin kit, you’ll get all the building materials you need, along with detailed plans so that you can construct the cabin yourself. Prefab cabins typically have lots of customization options, as well—you won’t have to settle for a minimalist cube if what you really want is a rustic, traditional building. Prefabricated cabin kits are also available in a wide range of sizes, so you can choose a small cabin to use as a personal sanctuary or a large cabin to use for entertaining friends and family.

Once you decide that you want to build a prefab cabin, you’ll just need to think about your location and the cabin’s intended uses.

Things to Consider Before Building Your Cabin

Before buying your prefab cabin building kit, you’ll need to purchase a plot of land. Fortunately, plots of land that are off-the-grid are usually relatively inexpensive. If you do buy off-the-grid land, just make sure you have a plan for either generating your own power or doing without. You may want to consider purchasing a generator or installing solar panels, for example.

You’ll also need to think about your utilities. If the land you’re purchasing doesn’t have access to water, consider setting up a rainwater collection and filtering system. You can also buy or build a composting toilet if you won’t have access to a sewer.

Don’t forget about road access when choosing your plot of land. You’ll need to make sure you’ll be able to transport all your building materials to the site, so choosing a piece of land that requires you to walk two miles up the side of a mountain may not be the best option.

Once you’ve worked out the logistics and found the perfect plot of land, you’ll be able to start constructing your cabin. Fortunately, post frame construction (the construction method used with cabin building kits from Hansen Pole Buildings) is a fast building method, so you’ll be able to relax in your new pole barn cabin before you know it.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…Pole Building Garage

Several years ago, when Hansen Pole Buildings was a fledgling company, I worked with a client in Goldendale, Washington assisting him in designing what (in his eyes) would be his ideal dream building.

My mission has always been to deliver the “Ultimate Post Frame Building Experience™”, which is greatly helped by clients who are open minded and willing to listen to why their idea might not be the most practical.

steel-garageThis particular client needed a four car garage – simple enough sounding. In his mind the building would be 36 feet wide and 48 feet long, certainly plenty large enough to park four vehicles in.

However it was HOW he wanted to park the four vehicles which posed a challenge!

His idea was to have two overhead doors, which would be 16 feet wide. Two cars can and will fit through a 16 foot wide overhead door, provided one is careful.

In this particular case – the client wanted to place the two overhead doors side-by-side on the same 36 foot endwall.

I explained why this might prove to be a challenge, drive in car number one on the far right, park and exit the driver’s side door. Repeat with cars number two and three, moving progressively to the right with each car.

Now, drive car number four in and hope there is a sunroof, as there is no room left to swing the driver’s side door open without hitting the wall!

I also tried to express how important having ‘wall room’ is – as a place to hang things on, or lean things against. If your garage is anything like mine, every available inch of wall gets used!

Well, I did make a noble effort, however my pleadings feel upon deaf ears.

The client wanted his building, his way.

About a year after the client had completed the assembly of his building kit, I got a call from him. He loves his new building and confessed I was absolutely correct in both of the things I cautioned him about.

In reality, he would have ended up a far happier camper with a building 40 to even 45 feet in width. This would have allowed him to comfortably park his four cars, be able to swing open doors without door dings and have given him the wall space for stuff!

One of my favorite sayings goes like this…” You can lead a horse to water… but you can’t make him drink.”

New Post-Frame Building Design Manual

Post-Frame Building Design Manual

Back in 2000 the then National Frame Builders Association (now National Frame Building Association – NFBA www.nfba.org) published the ground breaking first edition of the Post-Frame Building Design Manual.

In the foreword, then NFBA President James T. Knight so aptly wrote:

“The movement of the post-frame building into the commercial marketplace has obviously necessitated compliance with building codes. Although agricultural buildings were exempt from building codes in many areas of the United States, this was not true when buildings were built in developed areas or where public access would occur. Since the design was not understood by building officials, and since no approved and recognized design procedure had previously existed, the suitability of the post-frame structure has often been questioned.

Today, the post-frame design concept is well developed. It has, for many years, been the subject of countless research studies and analysis conducted by qualified individuals at the university level and in the private sector. This Post-Frame Design Manual, for the first time, sets forth in one document, the post-frame design criteria that is today backed up by sound and widely accepted engineering practice.”

For those with an interest, the first edition can be viewed free online at: https://www.scribd.com/doc/29750872/Post-Frame-Building-Design-Manual

At the time of its publication, the United States was governed by three differing building codes – since then codes have been unified as the IBC (International Building Code). Now in its sixth edition (a new version is published every three years), the IBC has made many changes in the way Registered Design Professionals (engineers and architects) approach structural design solutions for wind, snow and seismic forces.

Post Frame Design ManualThe NFBA has risen to the occasion with the recent introduction of the new Post-Frame Building Design Manual! The second edition of the manual—and the first new edition since 2000—is the ultimate tool for post-frame design. Eight chapters, 200 pages, and hundreds of photos, diagrams, illustrations and design tables cover everything you need to know about designing with post frame.

The Post-Frame Building Design Manual, second edition, is a must-have for anyone who works with — or is considering working with — post-frame construction.

Hansen Pole Buildings has been honored by inclusion of one of our buildings on the cover of the new manual. In fact, it is in the center of the three completed buildings pictured!

Download YOUR copy now:


Let’s Talk Building Diaphragms

New Pole BuildingWhen it comes to pole buildings, a diaphragm is a structural assembly – including the timber framing (truss chords and purlins), structural sheathing (e.g. plywood, metal cladding), fasteners and fastening patterns – capable of transferring in-plane shear forces through the cladding and framing members.

Diaphragm action is the lateral resistance to racking of the building provided by the roof and wall coverings. The design relies upon the roof to act as a deep beam supported by the endwalls. This deep beam supports the tops of the sidewall columns when they are laterally loaded by wind pressure.

When a pole building is designed using diaphragm design the strength and stiffness of the system are utilized to transfer applied horizontal loads to the ground. The system includes the roof trusses, sidewall columns, endwalls, shear connectors, chord splices and ground anchorages.

The term diaphragm is usually applied to roofs, ceilings and floors. A shear wall, is just a vertical diaphragm. Shear walls supply support for the roof and floor diaphragms transmitting forces into the foundation. A diaphragm structure results when a series of diaphragms are properly tied together to form a unit. Diaphragms and shear walls used for the lateral design of a building for a box system.

(Find helpful reading on the “box” here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/12/lateral-wind-loads/)

The under design of any one of these (and other) crucial elements can result in the applied loads being unable to adequately transfer along the load path to the ground. Too great of a load with inadequate resistance can result in tragic results.

Designed and constructed correctly, the principles of diaphragm design result in smaller sized columns and lesser embedment requirements (think less digging and less concrete).

My friend, Dr. Kifle Gebremedhin of Cornell University, did extensive and advanced full-scale testing on a pole (post-frame) building, over a period of 16 years. His results showed post-frame buildings to be much stiffer than designers had previously believed – in other words, the design procedures being used underestimate the capacity of the buildings!

Proper design of a diaphragm system is not something the average lumberyard employee or building contractor is capable of understanding, with even a lesser chance of it being able to be done correctly.

Need a pole barn, pole or post-frame building? Rely upon experts who understand diaphragm design – the savings in materials and labor will easily outweigh the investment in paying for the expertise!

Stick Built vs Pole Barn Construction

Why are the stick-built and pole-barn businesses so different?

 This question was posed to me recently, along with the following commentary:


“Forgive me if this strikes you as a dumb question, but I’m having trouble figuring out why the pole-barn and residential construction businesses are so divided. From what I can tell, companies that do one type of construction don’t do the other. Are the building techniques and materials really so radically different that you need to go to different suppliers and truss makers to get materials? Let me know. Thanks.”

This brought back memories of the first pole building I constructed myself. For those of you who are long-time readers of my articles, you will remember I was brought up in a family of framing contractors. The motto seemed to be, “wood is good”. Stick frame construction felt easy, the Building Codes spell out a prescriptive set of rules for size and spacing of just about anything we needed to build.

Pole buildings – not so much.

Three plus decades ago the Code didn’t even mention post frame construction, pole buildings or pole barns. Very few “pole barns” required building permits, and many which should have had permits, were constructed without them. It was a far more lax world in which we lived!

Back to my first pole building experience…..everything I knew about pole buildings, at the time, had been told to me by an old time pole builder, George Evanovich. Keep in mind, to me at age 23, anyone over 40 seemed old!

George gave me some guidelines for how to quote labor, I sold a building and it was off to make money!!

Ha Ha Ha.

When the building was done, I was left trying to figure out where I had gone wrong, because I spent a whole lot of time and didn’t make much money.

Eventually the little cartoon light bulb turned on above my head…..I had “stick frame” mentality, where studs run vertically and rafters go from plate-line to ridge. I had created a mental cluster, when all I had to do was rotate my thinking by 90 degrees! Poles, although traditionally set into the ground, can be attached to a concrete slab “just like stick built” – using anchors. Although the cost of the anchors is far more than a few more feet on each pole.

Turn all your framing 90 degrees – so the “studs” become horizontal girts – and there you have it – pole building construction! In the West, trusses are set further apart than in residential but they are also double trusses instead of single members.

The major difference in stick built vs pole barn? Pole Buildings will have fewer connections, fewer pieces – meaning fewer places for things to “go wrong”. Pole construction can have the same exact roofing and siding as any stick built – any roof slope and often can offer more advantages for moving walls around “inside” since they are non-load bearing.

But – back to my story…over 30 years ago. The next building – I made a ton o’ money on! It was all in my head.

And back to the original question – the techniques of construction are really the difference. Lumber is lumber and truss fabricators are truss fabricators, so the general suppliers are the very same folks for stick built vs pole barn construction type.

Most builders with framing experience go through the same learning curve I went through, they lose their shirts on the first building, but never come back.

I do know one thing – if I would have had available plans and instructions like Hansen Pole Buildings provides, when I did my very first building, I would not only have made money, but my client would have had a far nicer finished building!

How to Design a Pole Building Right

How to Design a Pole Building Right (The First Time)

I received this email yesterday:

“My boyfriend and I currently bought some land and we are looking into some different options for building. We are thinking about a shed with a living quarters and 2 car garage. We are looking to have a 3 to 4 bed with 2 bath. And up above the garage area maybe an area for storage of some kind. We are not sure what size we would need. With the living quarter part we would like to have a lean two in the front where the door would be. Please let me know what size and some estimates or if you could send me some pictures of the different types of buildings that would be great.”

And later in the day from the very same client:

“I just emailed you and after I did that I was looking at the website and really like the design that is on the NFBA building of the year contest page that I found when I was on your website. I was wondering how much a building like that would cost with just the house and the 2 car garage.”

My response:

“In order to properly determine an approximate price, it will take some work on your part. I encourage clients to make a list of the rooms they need to have in a new home, and list them by priority. Determine an approximate size for each and then orient rooms to each other by convenience. Once you have this roughed out – then design a perimeter around the spaces. Let me know when you get to this point.

Traditionally people try to fit their spaces into a predetermined box, and then wonder why it is they are not happy with the outcome.”

Taking the time to design a pole building “from the inside out” doesn’t take any more time in the long run. It will save hours of “redo’s” and change orders, not to mention frustration and extra dollars to change what you should have thought through carefully in the first place.

Hansen Pole Building Designer Wayde had a client take my advice to an entire higher level, and I have to admit I am impressed. His client knows what he wants, because he took the time to plan everything out:

“Here are some pics of my model. It’s crude but it gets my general thinking across.

Cardboard Pole Barn                 Pole Barn Model

This model is 34′ wide with a 7′ front porch, 65′ main bldg and a 12′ lean to back (bathroom & kitchen area). Roof pitch is around 6/12. Eve height 20′. Front lean to roof sweeps around to rear where front door n ramp are located.

Boxes in interior of bldg are shipping containers. 2 are raised and 2 are at grade. Building floor will utilize an existing pier/sill foundation.

Windows will be on corners of bldg.

2 each 3′ entry/exit steel doors.

Front wall, rear walls, new front deck at ramp/front door not shown.

Can you price this model?”

Now this guy really has the right idea – he’s thought it all out, from what size he wants and needs to designing exactly where everything will lay out on his floor plan.

As I remind clients, your new pole building is probably the largest permanent thing you will ever invest in. You have one opportunity to do it right or wrong, so spend the extra time to do it right the first time. You will not regret it, nor spend the next several decades kicking yourself for spending inadequate time to design a pole building which does not meet with your needs.

Dear Guru: Can I Get Snow Breaks From You?

Welcome to Ask the Pole Barn Guru – where you can ask questions about building topics, with answers posted on Mondays.  With many questions to answer, please be patient to watch for yours to come up on a future Monday segment.  If you want a quick answer, please be sure to answer with a “reply-able” email address.

Email all questions to: PoleBarnGuru@HansenPoleBuildings.com

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I put gutters and downspouts on my barn this summer and now am dealing with ice sheets damming up against the gutter, and am concerned that the ice/snow backing up may bend the gutter or worse rip the gutter off the fascia. Can you tell me the solution? I see some metal roofs with plastic/metal/??? strips or triangular pieces at the lower end of the roofing sheets, and I assume these are ice breaks of some sort. Can I get these things locally, can I get them ordered through you, or through ABC Steel? How do they work, how are they attached, and do they compromise the roof water shedding? NOT ONLY IN OHIO

DEAR ONLY: 22 years ago I moved into my current home. It has a 7/12 roof slope and a steel roof. Sliding snow ripped the gutters off the very first winter, so I learned the hard way.

Snow breaks – we can provide steel snow breaks for your building (the steel company sells only wholesale, not direct to the public). They are pieces of steel trim, which attach to the roof steel with stitch screws at every high rib. On a building such as yours, we’d suggest going with two runs on each side – one at the first purlin line up from the eave and another 1/2 way up the roof. In your case this would total 14 pieces 10’6″ in length and 400 stitch screws. This product will not impede water running off your roof.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Trying to evade having my taxes doubled. Main goal…I want living space on top for underachieved kids. How about totally open bottom area garage doors on both ends. Or just a car port. Simple open living area on top. A small bath, two small bedrooms, open kitchen open living area. If it’s over 800sq. ft. taxes double. Any ideas on a plan and cost? KERRY IN PONTIAC

DEAR KERRY: As you did not leave an email address or any other way to contact you, we’d have to work in broad generalities. I would encourage you to discuss your desires with one of the expert Building Designers at Hansen Pole Buildings.

 I’ve never been a huge fan of design based upon evading taxes, etc. It won’t matter how much you are able to save in taxes, if your new building does not meet with your needs.

 Your lower area could be just an open carport, basically supporting the living space on stilts. This is very popular in the south where low lying lands are frequently flooded due to hurricanes.

 As we do not design for non-structural interior walls, you would have the total flexibility to place rooms as you best see fit. Your overall size limitation would allow you to do something like 20’x40’, 24’x33’, 26’x30’ or 28’ square. I’d suggest you play around some with possible room sizes….and give us a call at your earliest convenience.  99% of the time you will get a price while you are on the phone with a Building Designer.

Pole Building Design

Why Are Humans so Resistant to Change?

For something which is built into our human DNA, change is something most humans find uncomfortable. Strange when one looks at the history of evolution – we love new things and we normally like improvements around us.

Jumping into the Wayback Machine, roughly 25 years ago, as a post frame builder, I was elected to the board of directors for the National Frame Builders Association (NFBA). One of my fellow directors was a long time pole builder from Mankato, Minnesota. We developed a friendship and he asked if I would mind him visiting the Pacific Northwest so he could see how we constructed pole barns in Eastern Washington.

I quizzed my friend about their pole building design – how they constructed their pole buildings. All of their construction (as well as all of his competitors) was posts every eight feet, single trusses to align with the sidewall columns, with 2×4 roof purlins on edge.

Pole Building Design - Pole SpacingHe liked the looks of our pole building framing system (as he figured there would be far fewer pieces to handle), especially not having to dig so many holes (with columns typically every 12 feet), double trusses and 2×6 or 2×8 roof purlins.

However – he was absolutely certain we would never be allowed to construct buildings done “our way” in Minnesota, as the Building Officials just would not allow it.

Moving back to “today” – interestingly enough, Hansen Pole Buildings has provided post frame building kit packages based upon the very same pole building design over the past eleven years, which would “never be allowed”, all across Minnesota! Not only Minnestoa, but every Midwest state, and every other state in the United States.  Many Building Officials have not only “approved” of them, but have taken a real liking to this simple yet sturdy pole building design, always based upon the Building Code.

In our own state of South Dakota…..about ten years ago we contracted to provide a fairly good sized engineered pole building in Belle Fourche. The client was perfectly happy, until their contractor got ahold of our plans and wanted us to start adding more posts and more trusses.

His theory, he had built at least 30 and maybe 40 pole barns over the past 17 years and none of them had fallen down! I asked him about how he had changed his building style after the IBC (International Building Code) had been adopted. His reply – he didn’t even know there was a new code.

He bragged on how his buildings were designed to withstand 130 mph (miles per hour) winds. Surprisingly, he then proceeded to tell me he had never before constructed an engineer designed building. As long as he built them and they didn’t fall down, that was his “proof”.

There was no hope for this one….

To builders – just because none of them have ever fallen down, is not an indication of quality. And there is more than one design solution for every client’s needs. Sometimes it is beneficial to take a leap of faith and try something new, especially if it has the endorsement of a registered engineer behind it.

At Hansen Buildings, we design to suit the client, poles at 8’, 10, 12’ – or whatever it takes – but first and foremost we design to fully satisfy the building code.  We never design to “less than code”, and every one of our buildings is designed as if an RDP (Registered Design Professional, (aka engineer), is going to put his stamp of approval on the plans.

To do otherwise, is quite frankly…criminal.

Pole Building Bar: A Road Runs Through It

I always appreciate unique uses for a pole building. In this particular case, the building is not even one which I had any involvement in either the design or providing of, but it IS unique.

Pole Building BarBack in 2005, my friends Sheri and Larry Herberholz had an idea – it involved a pole building, alcohol and lots of motorcycles and Hot Rods. This great concept became Cruisers Bar & Grill; 6105 W. Seltice Way; Stateline Village, Idaho.

What divides this pole building bar, from the hundreds of thousands of other bar and grills in America is not just it being in a pole building. This particular pole building has an overhead steel sectional garage door in each gable endwall. A paved road runs in one door and out the other, affording the ability for motorcycles and hot rods to actually drive through the bar!!

Seriously – one can ride or drive right through the middle of the bar, while the patrons are laughing, drinking, singing, and of course – watching you drive thru!

It is common to have a live band cranking out the tunes in the corner, only to be out blasted in volume by a passing through the building motorcyclist slowing down long enough to rev his engine a time or two.

From the beginning, Cruisers has been dedicated to supporting the motorcycle and hot rod community.  Riders and drivers from all walks of life and from all over the U.S. and Canada meet to enjoy a burger, some music and toss back a cold brew or two. Conversation is never lacking and many friendships are made and renewed here.

Cruisers has also supported the local communities by raising and donating thousands of dollars to various charities and worthy causes.

Cruisers BarFor the bikers who either cannot make it to Sturgis for Bike Week (or know it is not safe to ride there), Cruisers puts on “Mini Sturgis” the last weekend of July. This annual event draws over 10,000 attendees!

Whether stopping at Cruisers on Thursday Night for a $2 Azteca soft chicken taco, or for Mini Sturgis weekend remember – a pole building made it all possible.  You may not have the same ideas about your new pole building, but just remember – the sky IS the limit when it comes to what you can do with a “pole barn”.


For my step-son Kevin, this one word pretty much covers everything. He and his identical twin brother Josh have always gone by the premise of – if it moves- kill it, and if it doesn’t move, prod it until it moves, then kill it.

Kevin loves to hunt, and if he isn’t hunting, he is fishing. He owns pretty much everything which can be camo. I swear he has camo skivvies.

A few years ago, one of our steel roofing and siding suppliers came out with camo steel for buildings. My first thought was – why? Then I realized, for those like Kevin, there would be a million and ones uses – hunting blinds, fishing shacks, heck (in his case) – the walls of his family room.

Camouflage Vinyl Siding

Camouflage Vinyl Siding

Today I got an Email from one of our suppliers. It seems camo has been taken to a new level in the world of construction – vinyl siding. This is certainly a step up the building chain from blinds and shacks – we are talking about homes, garages and shops!

Now I live in the woods, where it is fairly rustic and my neighbors are not ones who are around enough to complain. For those living in more semi-urban areas, there might be a few objections!

The camo vinyl siding is ideal for any climate, and has a Kynar® PVDF film finish for advanced color protection. It is moisture resistant and has a Temp-Rite® high performance substrate to withstand extreme weather. It is impervious to wood-boring insects. The low-gloss finish looks like freshly camouflaged and it never needs painting or caulking.

Camo side your new house, garage, barn or shed to either blend in, or stand out.  For others like my step-sons who live and breathe anything to with hunting and fishing, ENJOY!

The Late Steve Jobs on Design

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

When it comes to creating breakthrough products and services, corporate innovators can be great at designing ideas because in many ways, the creation process is the more exciting part of innovation.

But a lot of hard work is required to figure out how the “ideas” or “design” should work, and this means devoting time and resources to guarantee its success.

If it looks simple…, easy…, someone has invested a tremendous amount of time talent and energy to get it there. The devil is ALWAYS in the details, and the simpler the design, the more complex the design process.

Pole buildings were originally a breakthrough product, having been developed as farm buildings during the material rationing days of World War II. The concept was simple – enclosed the greatest amount of space, with the least amount of material which will structurally carry the loads.

The simple garage, shop or barn alongside the road, is not all so simple. In the case of the current Hansen Pole Buildings, over two decades of work has gone into writing our proprietary software used to design your new building. A “hard copy” of the calculations for even a simple building can result in a stack of paper approaching 200 pages!

How thoroughly are members (framing pieces) checked? Every direction possible for climactic forces (such as wind, rain and snow) and seismic forces, as well as construction loads and the weight of the building itself.  Our engineering program runs all the mathematical calculations as if these forces are applied to every piece of the building.  It then chooses the appropriate lumber and parts to put them together (ledgerloks, bolts, LSTA straps, nails etc.) to ensure every building is designed to not only meet, but exceed stated code requirements.

Going a step further, we often engage in “live” testing. Rather than assuming values, there is nothing better than “tested proof”.  A few years ago we tested a full sized roof in a laboratory – we wanted to find the shear strength of the roof steel, a value used to calculate the performance of the building in resisting horizontal loads. In order to test the steel, the screws had to hold the steel securely. However, the “industry standard” screw failed miserably to hold the steel panels in place for the test. The project engineer then designed for our use a special “diaphragm” screw, which successfully held the steel, and did not become the weak link of the test. The results of our testing are published in the National Frame Building Association’s (NFBA) Post-Frame Building Design Manual. This is the same screw we use in all our buildings.

Invest in good design, elegant design, simple design… it takes longer but you will have a winner in the end!

Pole Barn Post Spacing Revisited

Pole Barn Post Spacing Revisited

By far, my most read blog has been on, “Pole Barn Truss Spacing”. With nearly 50% more reads than any other blog I have written, it clearly is a fan favorite. I’ve had it referenced by clients, building contractors and code officials.

So when one of our clients wrote: “After talking with the building inspector he does not like the idea of post spacing 12ft apart with double rafters. Can you quote a standard setup so I can compare apple to apples, post 8ft on center with double 2×12 header and trusses every 4ft, no joist hangers needed for perlins?”, I felt obligated to answer.

(For clarification of the above, “double rafters” are “double trusses”.)

My response: While the building inspector may not “like the idea” of using post spacing 12 feet on center, it is not only a tried and true method, but it is also one which our engineers recognize as being structurally superior and will engineer seal. We have thousands of buildings in all 50 states, done with the exact same design. It affords the benefits of fewer holes to dig, fewer pieces to handle and install, engineered connections and the reliability of doubled trusses.

Given the correct loading criteria and an engineered building, we will guarantee the ability to obtain a structural permit from our plans. The post spacing every 8′, single trusses every 4′ resting upon headers is a system our engineers are not interested in risking their careers on. In the event of a single truss failure, this system will result in a domino effect and the collapse of the entire roof system.

After the winter ice storm of ’96-’97, I spent quite a bit of time studying roofs that collapsed -some of which were on my own buildings!  At that time, we were using two trusses on a pole, so we had this part “right”.   But instead of putting the two trusses together to act as a single unit, we put one on each side of the column with blocking in between.  The trusses were notched in, so this was another part we were doing well – transferring loads into the ground.  But the one part we missed, was putting the two trusses together.  Lumber is after all, a tree…with inherent knots and defects.  With the huge loading of ice that year…the truss “weak spots” gave way – and if one truss fails, it pulls the rest of the roof down.  This is when I asked an engineer to evaluate the truss system I was using as well, and he concluded the “probability of a second truss adjacent to the first one having the same exact ‘weak spot’ – just could not be calculated.”

From then on, I started using double trusses, nailed together according to a specific nailing pattern (supplied on all our plans).  Since then we’ve had other winters with similar ice/snow loadings, and…no more failed roofs!  I had the engineer’s word, but even better – I had real proof from thousands of buildings which survived nature’s “test”.  We’ve been using the double interior trusses ever since.  Only one roof I’ve seen fail since then…and it was determined to have been due to the two trusses were not nailed together adequately – they had few nails holding them together.   Again – the trusses acted as “singles” and pulled part of a roof down.

We get the requests for abnormal (for us) truss spacings or post spacing every once in awhile. Instead, I prefer to turn it around and stress our advantages –

(1) Fewer holes to dig, digging is always the worst part, and the one which is outside of anyone’s control. If they hit a Smart Car sized rock on the next to last hole, are they going to move the whole building?

(2) Fewer posts to set, trusses to raise, purlins and girts to handle. The real advantage of pole building construction is having the least number of pieces, in order to do the job structurally. By using slightly larger pieces (generally 2×6 instead of 2×4, where it takes only 50% more wood, to be 246% stronger) we are being material efficient.

(3) Wider sidewall door openings without the need for structural headers. In the event someone wants to add a door or window at a later date, they have far more flexibility to do so.

(4) Does anyone REALLY want to stand on a 2×4 roof purlin 16, 20 or more feet up in the air? When the 2×4 purlin snaps, it is a long drop to the ground.

(5) Most building collapses come from connection failures. In our case the purlins connect to the trusses with engineered steel hangers (not just nails); the double trusses bear directly on the posts (not on the sides of the posts, or nailed onto a header). The load is transferred down into the ground and is not dependent upon nails to hold the entire weight of the roof.

(6) If you think about it, if you have a 48’ long building, with single trusses every 8’, you have a total of 5 interior trusses.  If you have double trusses every 12’, you have a total of six interior trusses, but only have to dig 3 holes instead of 5. Which would you rather do?

By the way – our client DID get his building permit issued, using our plans, by the very same inspector who originally “did not like the idea”.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru: Unemployment Line Part Two

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

In yesterday’s blog, we found our hero (aka me), “The Pole Barn Guru” worked out of a job.

But wait….turns out there was work to be done.

Deep in the recesses of Hansen Buildings, works a mysterious character known only as ….. “Shoes”.

Shoes isn’t actually her Secret Agent name. She just turns out to be one of the most brilliant computer programmers of all time.

Back in 1985, when I met Dr. Frank Woeste, I was introduced to the world of computer programs for building design. Frank was generous enough to give me a hard copy of the BASIC programs used to design pole building members such as wall girts and building columns.

Over the next two decades, first me, then a series of programmers continued to do work to advance the program.

Then along came Shoes. Using her otherworldly programming skills, what started off as a few pages of BASIC programming, is now thousands upon thousands of lines of code which will do a code conforming structural check on every component and connection in a pole building. But it doesn’t stop there – the same program builds a complete materials list for the building and prices it in “real time”. And it will optimize the design, to give the most cost effective combination of materials. All in the blink of an eye.

So how did this keep me employed? Someone had to be the “beta tester”. Every time a client of ours invests in a new building, all of the pole barn design calculations get run, which is close to 200 pages for an average building!  I review all of them manually to make sure the output is correct.

Keep in mind, Shoes is brilliant on a bad day…scary on the others. However, she has never built a pole barn. Luckily, she was very patient with me during the first few months when I kicked job after job back to her with tweaks to make a good pole building computer design program, even better.

Today, most jobs are so close to perfect, very little of my time gets spent in the review process.

Which means….. The Pole Barn Guru worked himself out of a job…..again….

Or did I?  Stay tuned for part three!