Tag Archives: pole barn planning

Ten Tips for Planning a Building

Planning a Building – guest blog by J.A.Hansen

Hansen Buildings Construction ManualI am the principle owner and CEO of Hansen Buildings – offering to give Mike a day off from writing a blog. Over the years I’ve done just about everything at Hansen Buildings, including shipping (setting up the original shipping department), ordering materials, writing parts of the Construction Manual and even selling buildings (not my forte at all!)

My main job since the beginning of Hansen Buildings some 16 years ago – has been to oversee the drafting team and review every set of plans my company produces for clients. Yes, I said every set of plans….thousands of them! In doing so – there are things clients do with or to their buildings that make me cringe. If I can dissuade even one client from making a mistake they will regret, my day is a success!

In no particular order – here are things to consider when planning a building:

  1. Size – by all means plan out the LARGEST building you can fit on your property and squeak out enough pennies to pay for. Designing a building with the idea “I’ll add onto it later” is NOT going to save you money in the long run. Instead, decide on the basic footprint that will service you not only today, but for as many years as you expect to use it. If you think you “just might” purchase a vehicle or trailer requiring a larger door sometime down the road – at least design a bay wide enough for the door to fit in. Tell us what size, so we can space your poles to accommodate the future door. You can cover it with steel (or whatever siding you choose now, and cut the opening for the door when you can afford it. Same idea with windows – they can be framed in later, if you want to save some money now on your initial investment.
  1. Doors – as long as I am talking about doors – why people order 8’ x 8’ overhead doors is beyond me. Do you know what fits through an 8’ wide door? Not much. Unless you have a smart car or a riding lawnmower to put through it. No standard production pickup will fit through the door, even if you pull the mirrors in. Measure what you are going to put through your doors – and make the doors at least 2’ wider. Adding 4’ is so much kinder, and allows you to open the door without dinging the vehicle or wall next to you.
  1. Entry doors – you need at least one by code. The idea is – if there is a fire or electrical failure and your garage opener stops working, you have a way OUT. And if your building is large enough so if you had to find the entryway in the dark or around a lot of equipment or “stuff”, make sure you have more than one entry – on opposite ends or sides of the building. Walk around your property and think through traffic lines – meaning, is your entry door going to end up where it’s most accessible and used? I have lost count of the hundreds of doors I have moved on plans because at the last minute, once the client sees the plans, they decide to move the entry door.
  1. Windows – Choose even sizes. You may think a 3’6” x 4’6” is a great size, but you will pay for a 4’ x 5’, so why not get the most for your dollar? People think 3’ x 3’ windows sound “large” but they really are not. Once you have all the casings around it, there is not as much light (or viewing area) as you think. Take a tape measure to a building where you pick out windows you think are a size you’d like, then measure them. You might be surprised at how big “large” really is.
  1. Overhangs – about 95% of the building kits ordered from us have 12” “enclosed” overhangs. This is NOT something you want to try to add on later, so if it was my building and I could only afford a second overhead door or overhangs – I’d pick the overhangs and add in the overhead door when I had the money for it. If you have a building with a large footprint, or very tall, 12” overhangs will look….unattractive (dare I say silly?). Ask us to do a sketch for you to show the difference between 12”, 18” and 24” overhangs on your building if you are unsure. We want you to have a building which is functional, but also one that looks great too.
  1. Stop trying to match siding colors to other buildings you have on your property. It’s a never ending battle we have with customers who call and ask things such as, “How Gray is the Light Gray?” Or, “should I get the white or bright white siding to match my house?” Even if we mail you color chips for siding (and we are happy to do so), once in the sun, the siding will fade. Guaranteed. How much and how fast is anyone’s guess. When I got married to The Pole Barn Guru, he added on a huge closet for me (thanks honey!), and I was hesitant but careful to ask why he didn’t put the “same blue” on the closet exterior walls. His answer, in his typical MikeSpeak was, “I did.” Now sixteen years later, amazingly – it pretty much matches! Older siding won’t continue to fade as much, but newer siding, whether steel or cement – or whatever you have, will fade at a faster rate the first few years. Paint will do this too. So – what colors do you pick? Complementary colors – colors that “go together”.
  1. If you do have a shed planned for your building and it’s a “roof only”, do not put enclosed overhangs on it. Every time a client orders a shed like this, I want to start offering wasp or hornet spray as a purchase-able option! What you have created is a “nesting” place at your eaves, and good luck keeping it from filling up with something “less than desirable”. At a minimum, purchase fine screen to run along the inside. Yes, I know you want to match the overhangs on the main building, but be aware of the problem you are creating. Maybe open overhangs will work, but most often, clients choose to not put overhangs at all on the shed, and it looks just fine with the main building having enclosed overhangs.
  1. Wainscot – is another thing I’d never “option out” on my building. My husband and I put up a 48’ x 60’ Gambrel building – with 18’ enclosed sheds, and added wainscot for “looks”. Am I ever glad I did! I usually encourage folks who have cars or other vehicles or machinery to opt “in” for wainscot – in case there is an accidental dent. My lovely daughter-in-law, who was doing us a favor in mowing around our barn, got a little too close to the building. I was so glad I only had to order (2) 3’ pieces of wainscot for replacement instead of (2) 30’ pieces on the back wall!
  1. Shingles versus steel roof. I am living testimony for opting for steel! Where I come from, not far from the Hansen Pole Buildings home office, you rarely see a steel roof on a home. When the shingles were past due to be replaced on my mobile home (which my son now lives in), my husband gently told me how easily steel would go over my shingles and I’d “never have to touch it again”. I am not sure where the “shingles are best” originated in my brain, but I put up quite a resistance to the steel idea. For 2 years I balked. And when my roof started to leak, decided my stubbornness had to take a break! We put down 2×4’s, put the steel over top, and voila! – a new roof. I smile every time I look at it – it looks clean, sharp, and makes my 20 year old mobile home look like new! And I’ll never have to touch it again.
  1. I should have listed this one first. It really is the most important “tip” I can give you. Go to your planning department (in my case planning/building department was one in the same) with a drawing of the size of the building you want to build, and where on your property you want to put it – with dimensions. Then talk to them about what they will allow, and if there are any requirements. This should be done before you ever get a quote on a building, and definitely before you purchase one! Too often we have folks who order a building, we produce the plans, and then they find out their building is “too tall”, “too large”, too “something” they didn’t plan for. And they didn’t verify their codes, or get sealed plans. All kinds of “oopses” that cost money – and hard feelings.

Take your time planning a building – and take “enough” time to plan it right. Don’t suddenly throw a size and doors/options at us, get plans drafted and then think we should revise them for free several times over. Or order a building and expect it all to be delivered “next week”. I can guarantee a building will have changes when I am told, “this one is a RUSH job, can you get the plans drafted by tomorrow?” Yes, my drafting dept. can. And I know I’ll see it being redrafted next week…or the week after.

Have fun with planning your new building – this may be the largest purchase you ever make…and will last longer than anything else you buy in your lifetime!

Mike the Pole Barn Guru – my mentor, friend and happily my husband – will be back next week. Stay tuned.

Lifesaving Bollard

The Day a Bollard Saved my Family’s Lives

According to the sum of all knowledge (Wikipedia): A bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. Although it originally described a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, the word is now used to describe posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram raiding and car ramming attacks.  You may have noticed them in front of large buildings, such as Walmart.

From the 17th and 18th centuries, old cannons were often used as bollards on quaysides to help moor ships alongside. The cannon would be buried in the ground muzzle-first to approximately half or two-thirds of their length, leaving the breech (rear end) projecting above ground for attaching ropes. Such cannons can still occasionally be found. Bollards from the 19th century were purpose-made, but often inherited a very similar “cannon” shape.

When I built my last wood roof truss manufacturing building, I planned it with six foot cantilevered overhangs along each of the 150 foot long sides. This was so units of lumber could be stacked on each side and be out of the weather. In order to keep forklifts from shoving the units into the steel siding of the post frame building, we placed four inch diameter galvanized steel pipes filled with concrete into the ground along both sides. They worked spectacularly.

One thing I did not count upon (and therefore failed to place bollards next to) was someone backing their pickup into the steel next to the entry door at the front of the building! Poor planning upon my part.

So, how did a bollard save my family?

Long time readers may recall our family home outside of Spokane, Washington happens to be on a hillside. When I had the parking lot and road in paved in 1991, I had bollards placed along the edges to prevent people from driving their cars over a 20 foot high precipice and down the hill into the neighboring homes.

Fast forward several years – I am driving our Chevrolet Tahoe down the steep driveway leading to the parking area. Even with four wheel drive and studded snow tires, we start slowly sliding down the hill and across the parking lot.


Just as the right front tire goes over the edge of the lot, a bollard reaches out and grabs the side of the Tahoe – as I am seeing my children’s lives flash before my eyes!

The damage to the Tahoe and the Bollard, minimal, my children’s lives – priceless.

When planning your new post frame building, consider where it is vehicles might run into it (usually next to large doors) and protect them with bollards. They are considerably less expensive than having to do repairs on your beautiful new building!

Your New Pole Building…You Want it When?

Hansen Buildings Designer Rick shared this with me today:

Had a client call this morning almost in tears. She has decided she wants to order a building from us, however has had a hard time getting the construction quoted. All of the builders in her area, who normally construct our buildings, are too busy. She watched our time lapse video, and wished she was watching her barn going up.”

See the video yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL1GBxSjQIk&list=UUPc5tR1kk4GcUsLvHLdHIrQ&index=1&feature=plcp

When I had my first pole building kit package business in the 1980’s, we would have clients call us in October ready to order. Now these were the very same people we had been talking to six months earlier. We’d be so busy; we’d tell them it would be April before their pole buildings could be built. It still amazes me, but these people would actually wait one-half of a year to get their buildings from us!

What lots of people did not realize is – neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet….nor dark of night stop pole buildings from going up. We erected a pole building for a snow ski resort in North Central Washington, in January!

Fast forwarding to when I was a builder in the 1990’s…..

I could tell the first skiff of snow in each community, without having to look at the weather report. It was the day all of our prospective clients from each hamlet would call – wanting to know when they could get their new pole buildings constructed! Even with as many as 35 crews by Fall we would have all of them booked out until after the first of the year.

Now-a-days, with so many contractors having gone out of business the past four years, all of the good ones are swamped with work, especially as the season of poor weather and short daylight hours approaches.

For some reason, Americans (as a broad generality) tend to procrastinate. We wait until the last (or beyond the last) possible instant, before taking action.

When it comes to getting a new building built, it is always best to err on the side of safety. Give plenty of time for the unexpected – Planning and Building Departments often take longer than anticipated to issue permits. Will the excavator show up when expected, maybe….maybe not?

Don’t expect whoever you purchase your pole building from, to get plans and materials to you “yesterday”.  If you are so stressed in pushing to get it up “before snow flies”…perhaps you would be better off waiting until Spring, and then get a jump on everyone else by booking your contractor now. 

Again, many pole buildings do get constructed in the wintertime.  As long as you can dig holes, get the poles concreted in the ground – the rest easily follows.  Don’t worry about the concrete floor.  With a pole building, it can be added in the Spring, which many clients have told me it worked out great…spreading out the expenses.  Another option is to have a contractor set the poles for you (a one day job versus a week or more), and then build the rest yourself over the winter.  More savings, and unless you live where temperatures are in the minus zone, a few layers of clothes and by Spring you may have your new building, along with a few more dollars in your pocket when its done.