Tag Archives: polycarbonate eavelights

Choosing a Horse Riding Arena Structural System

Having a horse (or horses) in many parts of America means you will spend a great deal of time riding in inclement weather, or enjoying your horse tucked away safely in a stall. First one isn’t much fun for riders, second doesn’t get any riding done at all.

Reader (and new blog subscriber) DEBBIE in FERNDALE writes:

“Hello, I’ve just started receiving your blog and am enjoying it.  Would like to ask you a question about building a 70×150′ indoor riding arena which we plan to do this year.

It will be adjacent to our current outdoor arena, the space inside should accommodate two 20m circles and have enough at the short end to tie half a dozen horses.

We’d like two 14×14′ overhang doors centered in both short ends, allowing a hay trailer to drive thru during summer months when necessary.

The site is prepped with pit run.

Would appreciate your input on the benefits or cons of building a pole barn, steel, or solid sides with fabric roof.  Concerns include solid sides for wind shelter in the winter months when we will be using it, vs. ample light inside without too much provided electrical light – i.e. translucent upper side panels, light which fabric allows, etc.

Thank you for your thoughts!  Installation is upper NW Washington state.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:

Thank you for becoming a subscriber to my blog articles. My goal is to be both entertaining and informative – hopefully your expectations will continue to be met.

Our oldest daughter, Bailey, is a professional horse trainer in Tennessee, so I have a distinct advantage in receiving continued feedback from her when it comes to indoor riding arenas and stall barns. Your proposed 70′ x 150′ arena would be fairly close in proportion to what Bailey claims as perfect riding arena dimensions (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/07/the-perfect-indoor-riding-arena/). She will also give you kudos for putting overhead doors on each end, rather than sliding doors – she wants to be able to ride up to a door, hit a remote, and open the door without having to get off her horse.

A fully engineered post frame (pole barn) arena allows you to utilize every foot of space, wall-to-wall. Natural lighting can easily be incorporated by using opaque white polycarbonate panels at one or both eave sidewall tops. While all steel (PEMB – pre-engineered metal buildings) are great for allowing wide clearspans, they have a downside when used for structures without concrete floors. Their structural steel frames require significantly sized concrete piers to be poured – at times requiring underground cables to be run from wall-to-wall in order to keep bases of steel frames from ‘kicking out’.  Of course the scope of the foundation will not be known until after you have acquired a PEMB and have to hire another Registered Professional Engineer to do a foundation design. Concrete piers and horse’s hooves do not mix well – I have seen steel arenas where interior wood kick walls had to be built several feet inside of steel frames, in order to protect hooves from piers. Fabric buildings are really not permanent structures, as fabric does deteriorate and eventually fail over time due to UV light.

Fabric buildings also have had a history of challenges supporting wind loads (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/05/fabric-covered-building/) and snow loads (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/05/fabric-buildings/).

Please reach out to me any time with questions – always glad to be of service in assisting people to get buildings they will love forever!

Dear Guru: Where Can I Get FRP?

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 or Saturday 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 am wanting to replace the frp skylights on an older metal building but don’t know the brand or where to find some that will fit. the ribs are 10″ o.c. 1/2″ tall 1 1/2″ wide flat tops. any ideas? thanks. HAULING IN HEYWORTH

DEAR HAULING: FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) panels used in steel covered buildings can be problematic (as you have found out).

More information on FRP can be found at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/01/skylights/

Depending upon the age of your building and the manufacturer of the steel panels, a replacement polycarbonate panel may be available. Over the years, many steel roll formers, who had unique panel profiles, have either closed their doors, or have been bought out. As such, you may have a profile which is impossible to match.

With some photos and perhaps more dimensions, chances are good if it is a currently produced profile, we can find a solution for you.


Do you have any “garage plus living area” pre-made plans? I own some vacant land and I want to put a pole building/garage on my property that would be approximately 32×32 for the garage part. In addition I want some living space on the garage that I can put some living quarters. I do not want an entire house, rather simply space for a living room and a bedroom.

Do you have any plans that are close to what I am looking for? THOUGHTFUL TREVOR

DEAR THOUGHTFUL: Thank you for your interest. As everything we do is custom designed to best meet the needs of our clients, we do not have any ready made plans – however any of our Building Designers would be happy to work with you to create your ideal dream building.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I emailed and got a quote from you back in March on a 36’ x  56’ pole building, I liked your numbers but I have enclosed my material list & drawing of the way I will do it. I have been a carpenter for 30 years so I will be doing it myself. We will be starting building on August 4th so we will be starting construction pretty soon. Can you break down the metal price separate from the lumber price? We are building in Powell WY. PONDERING IN POWELL

DEAR PONDERING: We can certainly appreciate the skills of a qualified carpenter, they are many. The Building Codes have become so complex, over the past decade, we typically shy away from providing structural materials from a pre-prepared list. In order to assure your (or any) post frame building kit package we prepare is indeed Code conforming and capable of withstanding the climactic conditions, our normal procedure is to work from your needs and to design a building which we are assured we last for not only your lifetime, but those of future generations. If you have particular preferences for column or truss spacings, as well as girt or purlin spacing preferences, we can most usually work with those – again as long as they meet structural requirements. We will never under-design a building, but if you want it “beefed up” so you “sleep better” – it’s ok by us.

Polycarbonate eavelights: Light up my Life

One of our Building Designers, Alan, is a former general contractor who, prior to becoming a Building Designer, had constructed about 200 Hansen Buildings in several Pacific Northwest states.

This morning, he sent me an Instant Message as a client had asked if they, “could have eave lights in the roof of their building”?

Polycarbonate Eavelights

Traditional “eave lights” were opaque fiberglass (actually fiberglass reinforced plastic) panels which have roughly the same rib configuration as the wall steel. Placed at the tops of the eave sidewalls, they would allow for affordable light transmission into the building.

The downside of fiberglass is the panels have a very low tolerance for UV rays from the sun. They quickly degrade, turning yellow and becoming brittle. This means they can crack and break. Besides the less than attractive “yellow” color, the amount of light transmitted through them decreases as the yellow color increases.

A better product exists – polycarbonate panels. Polycarbonates (with trademark names such as Lexan) are very durable and have high impact resistance. Polycarbonate eavelight panels have better light transmission characteristics than many kinds of glass.

Now pole buildings work like uni-body cars, the “skin” of the building transfers shear loads (from wind or earthquake) through the roof, to the endwalls and then down to the ground. When checking the design of the building, the “load path” needs to be checked to verify the clean transfer of forces at each material transition.

Steel roofing, like oriented strand board (osb) or plywood panels (when the correct product is properly installed) will allow for the horizontal transfer of shear loads. Polycarbonate eavelights or “skylight” panels, while able to withstand impacts and carry loads perpendicular to the surface, are not rated for carrying shear loads.  Does this mean you can’t use them on roofs?  Not exactly.

Polycarbonate panels can be used as “skylights”.  However, depending upon the loads attempting to be transferred – the framing of the roof may need to be reinforced, and steel cross strapping added across the polycarbonate locations.

While not a big fan of putting “skylights” in roofs (they are a leak looking for a place to happen), I have seen some good applications, with careful installation including meticulous sealing.  If you are set on having them, please at least consider hiring the installation out to someone who clearly has installed them before and you have reasonable expectation they “know what they are doing.”

The most affordable solution to add light through the roof is to use translucent ridge caps. The peak of the roof is the zero axis of shear loads on the roof – making this the ideal structural location.  And this is something the average homeowner can install.

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