Tag Archives: pole building contractor

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).

When a Contractor Ignores Building Plans

I realize this may come as a surprise, but there are more than a few times I have discovered building contractors have made errors in building assembly due to failure to examine the provided building plans.


Our client STEVE in HINES writes:

“Good morning, my building is framed, sided and roofed. However, yesterday we discovered that the sidewalls girts should have been 2x 8’s but 2×6’s were used instead (same as the endwalls). I know this is my problem to fix, but before I tell the contractor, I’d like to know if you have ever heard of this happening and if so, what they had to do to fix the problem. As it stands, it definitely does not meet wind code anymore. I’m not asking for a fix, but only some direction as where to start pursuing one. Could very well become a messy job!


Well, to begin with, I was a post frame building contractor in a past life. At times we had as many as 35 crews erecting buildings in six states. Most of these crews were very, very good. Some of them were not quite as good. Overall this mix did give me an interesting perspective – if something could be done wrong, one of my crews figured out how to do it. Along with this, chances are I have had to come up with a fix for these unexpected challenges.

In Steve’s case, actual reasoning for 2×8 sidewall girts was so his building could have a flush interior surface to drywall – known as commercial girts. (Learn about commercial wall girts here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/09/commercial-girts-what-are-they/)

Our curiosity question was – what did the builder do with the 2×8 material supplied for girts? It turns out client had a pile of 2×8 left over when the pole building was completed. They ran short of 2×6, so building owner just assumed someone had stolen them and more were purchased!

Anyhow – there are several possible fixes. 2x4x12′ could be ripped and nailed along length of  2×6 installed where 2×8 should have been, or 2×4 could be placed vertically (3-1/2″ face against girt inside face) every two feet’ to provide a surface to attach drywall. Whichever choice is decided upon, a revision should be done to plans and sealed by Engineer of Record to verify adequacy.

Pole Barn Gone Awry with Building Contractor

When things appear to be going from bad to worse

The original question was posed by the reader, Jimmy, as to the adequacy of materials supplied to construct his new pole barn (by a builder, not a Hansen Pole Building). His story first appeared in my column just a few days ago.

Here is Round #2:

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Thank you for your response, no I am not in your data base, I’ve been searching everywhere and anywhere I can for help on this as I am in a dire situation. This was an impulse purchase by my parents, basically picking a builder from a hat, and signing a contract before I could check around, and it’s been a mess ever since. Enough of the drama, all I know is that the metal for the side walls are 11ft tall, the ceiling in the lower level will be adjusted for 11ft instead of the normal 10ft. this is for extra room for a vehicle lift later down the road. I live in Northern Indiana, about 30 miles of South Bend. The pole barn is being built in a wooded section of land, not sure if that helps or not. The builder is (in my opinion) as slick as they come, he doesn’t like talking to me because I ask too many questions. I appreciate your time on this, I know you’re busy, If I ever do this again I will be sure to check with you first.  I’m going to email the building inspector and hope he shows up for work on Monday and reads his emails over morning coffee.

Thank you again for your time, JIMMY IN SOUTH BEND

DEAR JIMMY: You are very welcome. Hopefully I have been of some help to you, as I agree, you are in a dire situation.

It does certainly sound/feel like you are in a situation with plenty of drama. Time for you to take control of the situation.

#1 STOP THE BUILDER FROM MOVING FORWARD. Until you are totally satisfied all is the way it should be, there is no reason to escalate a situation from being bad, to being worse. This pole barn is a permanent structure and if it is messed up, you will be stuck with the consequences of it forever.

#2 Don’t expect the Building Inspector to be the “traffic cop”. It is going to be up to you, and you alone, to resolve this one.

#3 Before you allow the builder to move forward, demand he produce the engineered plans for your building. CALL HIM TODAY and let him know.

#4 An 11 foot high ceiling is inadequate for a car lift – it takes 12 feet of clear height. In the event the 4×6 columns would happen to be adequate to carry the load, the 18 foot length they shipped would allow for more height. This could be accomplished by adding wainscot around the bottom of the building, so as to be able to utilize the already delivered steel panels.

Because I care about our industry and hate seeing people get less than they bargained for (or a potential failure looking for a place to happen), I will do a couple of things for you, for free. First, scan the agreement with the builder – both sides if there is information on the reverse and email them to me. I can perhaps give you more insights once I have it in hand. When you get the engineered plans from the builder, scan and send them to me as well – you may have to go to a Fedex/Kinkos and have them reduced in order to send them.

To my faithful readers – don’t sign an agreement with a pole building kit package supplier, or especially a builder for a new building without thoroughly having vetted them. Here are some points which may prove helpful in dealing with contractors: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/07/contractor-6/ and https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2015/04/successful-relationship/

A Worthy Builder

A Worthy Installer

I deal directly with very few clients as a Building Designer – just enough to be able to make sure things are flowing through our system as I expect they will.

I’ve truly been enjoying my recent interactions with a client who took the time to really share with me what his needs were and allowed me to custom design for him buildings (two) as if they were going to be for me. The larger of these buildings (30’ x 60’) is going to be an addition to his home. His original idea was to have a concrete floor in the building. We discussed the long term comfort of a wood floor over a crawl space, rather than “living” on concrete – the elevated wood floor won!

He was also going to have a flat level ceiling, until he found out how affordable a vaulted ceiling was! As I have a vaulted ceiling in the top floor of my own pole building at home, I told him he will never regret the decision.

Pole Barn ContractorsOne thing my client did need is a builder, he is a busy business professional and just does not have the time to do his own work. I did some quick research and came up with about a dozen builders in his area, who are willing to provide construction services for 50% of the cost of materials or less.

So we are down to ordering time…..today’s email from the client:

“Mike – everything looks good!  My big concern now is being sure I have a worthy Installer/ builder.  If I am going to be completely honest… I do not have a lot of faith in builders in this area.  We do have several Amish and Mennonite families in the area that install / construct these buildings… and have a great reputation, but the other guys are quite scary.  I would feel much more comfortable knowing I have a builder set up before paying for these building in full.  If you remember… I had originally quoted these buildings with you and searched for a builder myself… I had no luck finding someone I felt comfortable with.

Thoughts? “

To which I responded:

Having been a builder myself for a decade (I ran 35 crews in 6 states), and being the son and grandson of builders, I can give this advice:

Any builder you talk to is going to give only good references, face it, it is a reality. If you go to see their work, they are only going to show you good projects. It proves nothing.

I’ve dealt with the Amish before – in general they do not follow plans or instructions and when things go wrong it is everyone else’s fault. (A little Amish story here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/11/barn-raising/)

Regardless of who you hire – keep control of the situation, never pay out more than the work which has been successfully completed, and pay in increments:

No more than 10% when holes are dug and pass inspection (I actually prefer this after posts are set);
No more than a total of 1/3rd when everything is framed up;
Up to 90% when final inspection is passed and any “punch list” has been completed;
Balance of 10% 30 days after completion – provided any workmanship issues are completed.

Do not do anything without a written agreement which fully spells out the responsibilities of both parties. You can ADD some of your own stipulations, such as….

Any alcohol or drugs onsite and agreement is immediately terminated without further payment.
Failure of builder to be on jobsite working for at least xx (I usually use 20) hours in any calendar week Sun-Sat results in immediate termination without further payment.

Things I object to – crews throwing out their trash on my site, bringing their pets, borrowing my tools.

Even the scariest of builders can perform well, when you keep control of the situation. You can also require a performance bond, although you might have to agree to pay a bit more for a builder as they are not free: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/contractor-bonding/


Secret to A Successful Relationship

Whether a building contractor, pole building kit supplier or someone considering investing in a pole building, this is going to be important to you. Important enough so if you are a competitor you should consider adding it to your agreements with your future clients to ensure a successful relationship.

“GENERAL: This Agreement constitutes the only agreement between Hansen Pole Buildings, LLC (herein known as Seller) and Purchaser and supersedes all previous Agreements, conditions, contracts, designs, discussions, negotiations, quotations, plans, promises, representations, and/or terms on this sale either written or verbal. It is understood there are no oral or other agreements between Seller and Purchaser with regard to the subject of this Agreement which are not incorporated herein. The extent of Seller’s obligation is covered in this Agreement and this Agreement only. This clause is not a mere recitation of fact, but is intended to be an absolute and binding acknowledgment of legal consequences. ”

If you are unsure of why this is important, let me explain.

Find A Professional Contractor

There are three keys to any successful relationship – whether personal or business. They are communication, communication and communication. Unless both parties are able to clearly express their wants and needs, the relationship is going to be headed for struggles at best, or failure at worst.

Most people, when shopping for a new pole building, will discuss their wants and needs with multiple different potential providers. Each supplier will relate differently with you and most will provide a plethora of features which they will attempt to influence you to pick them as “the one”. Trying to sell on features alone makes the end result a commodity. Commodities are great and wonderful if shopping for the best price on an exactly identical item (e.g. getting the best deal on a new car), however it is the benefits which make the difference. It does not matter if the price is wonderful, if the end result does not meet the needs.

Confusion can occur when the discussions between providers begins to blur – who said what to whom?

This is why the ONLY things which apply are those which are actually stated on the actual contract document(s). At a bare minimum what should be included is: all building dimensions (width, length and eave height) and roof slope; all design loads and Code information (Code and Code version, Ground and Flat roof snow loads, Wind Speed and Exposure, Seismic Category and Soil bearing capacity); as well as all included features.

As a consumer, don’t sign or approve any document without fully understanding what it is you are investing in. It will save a world of disappointment and hurt feelings later!

My Pole Barn is Hosed!

Readers –
The following is from the Dear Pole Barn Guru questions I get weekly, and the issues are so important when it comes to dealing with a contractor, I wanted to take time out to hi-light a few of them.

garden hoseDEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have some serious issues with a pole barn I recently had built! I hired a general contractor to build it for me knowing it would be a little more expensive but that way if there was any issues it was his responsibility to deal with subcontractors.  Well it’s been a nightmare ever since the sub he hired to construct it didn’t set the man door at the right height so when the concrete crew poured the floor they went off the bottom of the man door instead of the garage doors which is the proper way to do it. Well when they went to do the apron they discovered the siding was three inches below where the concrete had to be so they had to cut the wainscot three inches.  I decided to start taking measurements! This is a 30×40 building and none of the posts are on center. They are anywhere from 16 inches off to 2 inches off center on an 8 foot span. The roof joists are supposed to be 4 foot span but they are all over the place too!  Anyway he’s trying to tell this is ok it’s still structurally sound and I shouldn’t worry about it! Anyway you get the picture. He wants his money and I am refusing to give final payment till I get another contractor to look at it and give me a cost estimate to fix the problems his sub screwed up on. What’s your thoughts on the way I’m handling it? CONFOUNDED IN CABLE


DEAR CONFOUNDED: Most people who hire contractors to construct their new pole buildings are living in a delusional world where unicorns bound happily through fields of flowers and the sun always shines. They have the idea the contractor is going to handle everything to their satisfaction, it will be a pain free situation and their new building will be perfect.

I now give you permission to return to reality.

Statistically, only about 50% of all new building owners are pleased with the performance of their contractor… ½ … not very good odds.

On to the question posed – what my thoughts are on the way the situation is being handled.

I am not an attorney, so my answers are not to be construed as legal advice, consider them as being words of wisdom based upon decades of judicious experience. Hopefully issues can be resolved before money has to be poured into the sinkhole which is our legal system.

If you have not done so before, carefully read through the written agreement signed between you and your contractor. In most cases, this agreement and ONLY this agreement is going to be the basis for any legal standing you would have in court. Make sure to read all of the fine print, as well as the terms and conditions on the back.

Poorly written or vague contracts protect only the contractor – not you. Pretty much anything not specifically spelled out in writing, isn’t going to happen.

If you are not feeling bad yet – it is probably only going to get worse.

You may have some recourse on structural issues. Call the inspector who has been doing the inspections on the building, and have he or she meet with you to compare the engineer sealed plans for the building, against the building as it has been built. The inspector’s duty is to “red tag” the building and provide a list of structural defects which need to be corrected by the contractor prior to the building being occupied.

In the event your building did not require a building permit, or you are in a jurisdiction which does not provide structural inspections, you may very well be at the mercy of what the builder claims is “good”. If this is the case, you could try contacting the engineer who designed the building, providing he or she with a list of structural deficiencies – the engineer may put some pressure on the builder to correct them, or may provide a sealed letter which says the building is structurally sound as constructed.

Outside of the above two paragraphs, if the building conforms to what is outlined on the agreement and the roof doesn’t leak – your best bet is to swallow the bitter pill and pay up. Consider it a sad lesson learned the hard way.

Fire Your Building Contractor

One of our clients has been speaking with Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer Rick about a new post frame building.

Building Designer Rick CarrRick related to me this from the client:

“Talked to a client Saturday that is going to walk away from the $1,900.00 he put down to get plans from this guy, for a lot of reasons.”

I just cringe every time I hear of someone getting nothing for something in our industry. It makes it so much more difficult for the majority of those who do really care about the clients.

I asked Rick, “For what reasons?”

“Oh, I heard them. Takes a week to get on phone, asked to borrow client’s f-350 to move equipment to site, requested that an additional 4 feet be cleared behind the pad to allow for scaffolding for a 10 foot building, after the work has already been done.  Wants more money to have his friend come and do it.  I think there were more, but that’s enough.

Client is in stage four cancer and wants to be sure the building goes in before the snow to be used this winter, has no confidence in this guy at this point.”

I’ve related over and over how to find a reliable contractor, in the event one is not doing their own work. You can find several of these articles at:


Red Flag #1 – can’t get prompt responses to calls, texts, faxes, emails – whatever the communication method of choice is…..if it takes over 24 hours, more than once, there is a problem.

I’ve spoken with far too many folks who are just shopping for a new building – and can’t get a response for a week or more!! Communication is the key to any good relationship, and crucial to successful construction.

Red Flag #2 – contractor wants to borrow anything from the customer! I was a registered contractor for years, and in several states. As a builder, never ask to borrow anything from a client. Not only is it unprofessional, but it is a near guarantee of whatever is being borrowed – will be returned broken.

Red Flag #3 – wants more money for a “friend” to do extra work! If extra work actually is needed, it should be up to the client’s discretion of who to pick, and what to pay them.

Please – if considering purchasing an entire building (materials and labor) from a contractor, start with a visit to their website. If the website looks cheap or unprofessional, it is a pretty good indicator of the work which will be done on your new building.

If they are not a member of the Better Business Bureau (just because the BBB logo is on their website, does not mean they are a member – click on the logo to confirm it links to the BBB) and the National Frame Building Association (www.NFBA.org), my humble opinion is to run (do not walk) away from them as quickly as possible.

As the sage Benjamin Franklin once said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Dear Guru: Does Spray Foam Insulation Need a Vapor Barrier?

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: Do you need a vapor barrier between steel and spray foam insulation? BUILDING IN BEMIDJI

 DEAR BEMIDJI: Properly installed, spray foam insulation should act as a more than adequate vapor barrier.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: would like a ballpark figure on a pole 100 long 40 wide 1 double door 2 man doors texture 1-11 all walls. JUST JOHN

 DEAR JUST: Hansen Pole Buildings is happy to provide pole building quotes for you, or anyone for this matter in the 48 United States.  On the Hansen Pole Buildings website, is the ability to request a quote, all you need to do is provide the specifics of your building, as in where it will be constructed geographically. Click on the Free Quote button on the left of the home page – and you are there!  All buildings are priced according to your local design criteria. You can fill out as much or as little of it you want, but without your location, any price I give you will be “out of the ballpark”. Ten to fifteen minutes, and you can have an exact price!

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: When ordering directly from you, do you have references for contractors to assemble in our area?  Thanks. PONDERING IN PUEBLO

DEAR PONDERING: Just to make sure we are on the same page, Hansen Pole Buildings is not a contractor in any sense of the word. We do not construct or build buildings (or portions of buildings) anywhere for anyone. Should you need a builder, we do have a list of builders for nearly everywhere in the country.

This is not an endorsement on our part of any particular builder’s skills or lack thereof. As none of them work directly for us, we can’t guarantee the quality of their work. We do have a “one strike and you’re out” rule. Simply, if we receive even one verifiable and legitimate negative complaint about any particular builder, we will no longer give out their name to our clients. While this is not a fail-safe method, it does afford some degree of protection. It is always a good idea to speak with other customers the builder has done work for in the past, to get an idea of the builder’s professionalism. At any time a contractor can hire a crew member unbeknownst to him (or us) who will be “less than expected”.  Even “good” contractors have “bad” days, so whether you hire one of your own choosing or use one from our list, make sure you do your homework BEFORE you hire them.

Pole Barn Contractors: “Best Around and Cheap”

Pole Barn Contractors

I recently read this posting on an internet forum:

Pole Barn Contractors“Who can build a good pole barn in this area? Looking to build a building and need someone that can build a sturdy pole barn.” 

In my mind, this is a reasonable question. And (most importantly) the person posting the question is looking for “sturdy”. After all, who seriously wants to make a major investment into a brand new pole building, and have it NOT be sturdy?

The one response posted was:

“call john xxxxxxxxxxx on brown ridge.he is the best around and cheep.”

There are three factors involved in the purchase of any goods or services – price, quality and service. Only two of these three are going to be met in any case, so pick the important ones.

I always have “lowest price” issues, as any product can have enough quality eliminated to make it the lowest price. Let’s face reality.  Pole buildings are conglomerations of value added design (hopefully engineering), lumber, siding, roofing and connections. All of these items are available at about the same cost to any supplier. There is not a magical “free forest” out there which spits out lumber for free.

Look at tennis shoes as an example….if low price was truly the driver, everyone would go to Goodwill and purchase slightly worn, probably off brand shoes. The reality is – chances are no one you know gets their tennies at Goodwill.

There is an entire litany of things which can be cheaped out upon, or left out to lower the price of a pole building and until it either falls down, or does not otherwise perform as expected.  In most cases no one would be the wiser until things don’t work out so well. (Meaning the first good snowfall or windstorm and you are either picking up pieces in your yard or the neighbors.)

Now “John” might be an absolute pole barn contractor “craftsman”. I had a sub-contractor work for me once, who was upset when he framed up a 50’ x 60’ x 16’ pole building and it was 1/8 inch out of square! The pressure treated columns themselves varied in dimension from one surface to another and end-to-end by more than 1/8”. Builder Bob was a perfectionist, his workmanship was top notch, and it took him forever and a day to complete a building. Some of my other crews would put up two or three similar sized and featured buildings in the same time frame. The clients of all were equally happy with their new buildings, however Bob (who invested far more hours) was starving to death, as each crew was paid by the job, not the hour.

The best way to get a sturdy pole barn, is to shop for a quality pole building kit package which meets the needs and the required climactic loadings for where the building will be constructed.

Once a final price has been given, ask how much more it will be to have the plans and complete structural calculations sealed by a RDP (Registered Design Professional) and if any design changes will need to be made to the building to have the plans sealed. If the cost is more than what seems reasonable for engineering services (as well as the RDP’s liability) or the answer is the building will have to be changed to be sealed – do not walk – RUN away from it!

Lastly, look for a contractor who is licensed and bonded.  Check out their credentials or read https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/04/general-contractor/ for further details on how to find a contractor.  Ask for references and although you know he will only give you those where he had “happy results”, check them out anyway.  Ask to see his clients’ pole buildings.  Sometimes walking into their pole barn structure will give you a feeling of “wow, this is a great building” vs. “this is NOT the quality craftsmanship I am looking for.”

It may seem tedious and time consuming to do all these “background checks”.  Ultimately, the money saved may very well be well worth the time you invested in doing due diligence…to “do your homework.”

Pole Barn Builder -Things One Sees on CraigsList

Pole barn builder read the title of the ad

I am looking to contract a licensed pole barn builder for a few jobs that I have in xxxxx. I can provide materials or if cost effective, you could supply the materials. I would also like to affiliate with an experienced concrete person. Please provide your company information and indicate any licenses that you have or insurances. Also, I would like to know how much you would charge per square feet for labor. I receive plenty of requests for pole barns in xxxxx, so this could be a long-term flow of work.”

The ad went on to say:

Compensation: $2.25 per square foot

There are a fair number of costs involved in being a legitimate registered contractor.

The obvious ones – are the tools to be able to effectively build.  And they don’t come cheap, even if obtained second hand at pawn shops or sources like Craigslist. An efficient “work mobile”. All of the good tools on the planet are meaningless, if the crew can’t make it to the jobsite every day. And the work mobile doesn’t run for free. Last I looked, gasoline wasn’t a bargain and the price at the pump is just a small portion of what it costs to maintain a good vehicle.

Chances are, an efficient pole barn builder does not work by himself. A good crew needs not only more tools, but also has to be trained and watched over. Training is not free either. A reliable, long term crew needs benefits as well.

Now – leap into the government being involved. In many locales, being able to be registered is more than paying a few dollars for the license. It takes attending classes and being able to pass them. The classwork has nothing to do with proficiency or construction skills; it is about what it takes to be legal.

In order to obtain registration, the pole barn builder must create an “entity”, whether it is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC or a form of corporation. Again – costs, and at times the needs of an accountant and/or an attorney.

The entity will need to obtain liability insurance, industrial insurance and may need to post either a bond, or a cash deposit account signed over to the state, before being granted a license.

At the end of the day – none of these things come as cheap. This is why legitimate quotes for pole building construction labor generally run about equal to 50% of the value of the materials for the building itself. Unless the building to be constructed is a fairly short in stature roof only, the cost of materials is probably going to run significantly more than $4.50 per square foot.

My feelings, the ad writer is living in a delusional world, trying to hire help at pay scales from the 1980’s. Searching for a building erector? Be realistic with expectations of the true costs of doing legitimate business and chances are, all involved will be much happier.

Do You Need a General Contractor?

The goal of post frame (pole building) construction is to be able to get the most building, for the dollars invested.

When a general contractor is hired to provide a constructed building, normally about 25% of the cost is going to the general contractor, who never lifts a tool or picks up a board at your building site.  This is not the same as a regular building contractor, who heads up a team of builders, but who also drives nails along with his crew.  A “general contractor” could be someone who drives nails, but usually doesn’t.  They often sit in an office and act as coordinator. Sometimes they visit the building site, and often do not. They may have a salesman who actually visits the jobsite.

If you are not a “hands on” person or one who is willing to invest a few hours of your own time to save thousands of dollars, then maybe hiring a general contractor is your answer.

When people start thinking of “General contractors” visions of dollar signs, disappointment and reality TV shows start floating through their minds.

In most cases, you don’t need or can’t afford a general contractor to be involved in your new pole building. If you have a very complex project, which involves numerous different trades it could be worthwhile to hire one.

Remember those hours the general contractor will save you on the jobsite? Plan on spending twice the amount of time to find a good general contractor. Do your due diligence and hire someone with excellent references and the professionalism to do what he was hired to do.

What exactly is due diligence?

Before even picking up the phone to call a contractor (both general contractors and those who drive nails) – check online to verify they are registered to do business in your state and to verify their contractor’s registration is current. Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau, as well as on Angie’s List. Google them, by looking for, “Phreds Construction complaints” (obviously Phred is a made up name, but you get the picture). If they have complaints, read through them, as sadly people are quick to complain about minor, or even imagined incidents.

Once you have narrowed your potential contractor choices down to no less than three, have them meet with you in person, at your building site to discuss your new pole building. Unless you are absolutely 100% certain as to the dimensions and features of the building you want, you are best to tell the contractor your needs (what problems is the building going to solve) and ask for recommendations as to the best design solution.

Each contractor is going to have different recommendations, so be prepared, after round one, to go back to each one of them, with your final design.

By now, you should have started to form relationships with these general contractors. Time to start asking for documentation from your “leading” candidate. You want a copy of their contractor’s registration, a certificate of liability insurance with you named as additional insured, all warranties in writing, three written references, and the names and phone numbers of their accountant, banker, and at least three major suppliers. It is up to YOU to call all of these people and verify they are financially stable, they do not bounce checks, they pay their bills on time, etc. If the “little voice” inside of your head starts to whisper bad things to you – move on to the next candidate.

The general contractor is supposed to be your lifeline to everything you need done. He supposedly knows the right people to hire, the best places to get supplies, and he is the one who will coordinate all the tiny jobs which need to be done so you aren’t on the phone constantly trying to coordinate what should be happening.

If I sound completely negative on this subject, remember, I was a General Contractor at one time.  I ran 35 crews in 6 states and I had really good crews….and I had those who had no business pounding nails.  What I am saying here is to be careful – and check out everything you can on a General Contractor, before you hire him.  I appreciated every client who did due diligence and  checked me out from top to bottom before they hired me.  I knew they would treat me with the same professionalism as I treated them.

If you begin without unrealistic expectations and do your homework, you can have a satisfactory experience when hiring a general contractor. Just remember, it isn’t free.

Dial 9-1-1 for Pole Building Contractor!

When I opened my first business, back in 1981 (yes, I am dating myself), my first regular repeat client was a fireman from Woodburn, Oregon. He was a great person to deal with, always paid his bills on time, and never complained. I’d nearly forgotten about him, until I heard the following saga from a couple who had some interesting contractor experiences.

A couple years ago, they had purchased a 1960’s home and needed a combination garage and shop. As first-time home owners, they were prepared for the noise, dust and dirt of construction. What they weren’t prepared for how hard it was to find a good contractor.

They phoned contractors with websites having great customer testimonials and reached out to friends of friends, producing a short-list of candidates who they expected would be professional and provide fair price estimates.


The first contractor arrived with professionalism and a sense of humor.  He even took off his shoes upon entering their home.  He knew all the right things to say, promising great things for their new pole building.

“This is so easy!” they said to themselves excitedly. They never heard from him again.

The second contractor seemed like a cross between a newly sprung criminal and the creepy guy who offers candy to little girls. To top it off within the short time he was there, he said they needed $4,000 worth of electrical work to put in a temporary power pole to plug in all of his tools while the crew put up the building.  Yet their house, with a 20 amp GFI outlet was only 30 feet away. They let him stay for 10 minutes then escorted him out.

The third contractor was a friend of a close friend.  He and his business partner seemed like nice guys, until they wanted to charge $5,000 to scrape the sod off where the new building would be–or as they liked to call it, for “site prep.”  Not to build the building.  Just to literally remove the lawn where the 30 x 36 pole barn would be.

To them it seemed they had made a major mistake by already buying the pole building kit package. The materials sat in their backyard, with “lovely” blue tarps over them. The contractors no doubt realized they weren’t going to make money off of the customary mark-up they would have taken. Plus, they appeared to be in a desperate situation.  Either the contractors thought “let’s get ‘em on obscene labor charges” or it just wasn’t a big enough ticket job.

Fortunately, they had been smart enough at the outset to ask another friend of a friend —a contractor who couldn’t do the job because he wasn’t licensed in their state—for his estimate.  He came and gave his estimate before any of the contractors came.  So they had a number to work off of to prepare the site, erect the pole building and pour the concrete floor and approaches.

After the three contractors came and went, the wife came up with a brilliant idea: One of their friends was a volunteer firefighter and knew firefighters who were contractors.  Apparently, many firefighters work in construction for their second job, since they have so many hours off.  Their friend put them in touch with his friend, a firefighter-contractor.

When he walked through the door, they had an instant feeling of sanity.  He was clean, well-spoken, understood their budgetary concerns and in the end, gave them a reasonable estimate which was only ¾ of their budget number.

The work went swimmingly.  They were happy with the craftsmanship, the contractor’s crew (firefighters, EMTs and other heroic professionals), adherence to Building Department rules and the overall time of two weeks total to complete the entire job.

Through the project they learned if you want the job done right, try your friendly, neighborhood firefighter. Maybe one day there’ll be a 911 for pole buildings!

Pole Building Installation…Why my forehead is flat

On LinkedIn, I am a member of a builder discussion group. Recently this question was posed:

“Do you use inferior products to get your bid down low or use the right product knowing you will lose the job on price?”

Pole building installation...the right way...the Hansen way!

Anthony LoCoco, owner of Traditions Home Improvement Service, LLC in Illinois responded with this answer, “At the end of the day you have gotta look at what you have done and be proud of it. There are certain core principles that we all have that just are not up for compromise. I like to tell folks to watch Holmes on Homes, at times he can be a bit over-the-top & I don’t always agree with his methodology BUT in the end his heart is in the right place and you get to see what a lot of sub-par contractors do on a wide spectrum and the time and costs of redoing it the right way.”

Whether a building contractor, design professional or manufacturer, it all comes down to the ability of being able to sleep at night, knowing the job was done right.

In my humble opinion, there is only one way to do things, the right way. When Hansen Buildings does a post frame building design, our state-of-the-art computer design programs check the strength and stiffness of each and every component of the building. Not just individually, but also how they interact with other parts of the building system. The imposed loads include snow, wind and seismic loads, as well as the required combinations of these. Even down to the last fastener, every piece is checked.

But, even the best designs are for naught, if the installer fails to construct per plan, or the directions are not properly followed.

When I was a pole building contractor, it used to drive me nuts when one of our crews would make a small error. Instead of using their cell phone to make a five minute call (which would have given them the correct solution), they would spend the entire day compounding the issue!

Talking about crew issues like these, I explain, “This is why my forehead is flat and my hair is thin!”

These very issues have led to the creation of what we feel is by far the best set of pole building installation instructions in the construction industry. Included is every possible error we have ever heard of, and not only did we write out the correct way to do the job, but also included drawings and live photos.

Most important is for you to have your pole building done right, the first time!

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