Tag Archives: post frame steel framing

Timbers and Steel Connectors

Many of you are by now familiar with Jim, one of the senior Building Designers at Hansen Pole Buildings. Jim is great – he has an investigative mind, so poses many marvelous questions to me, many of which are incorporated into this blog.

Today Jim asked me what I knew about a particular building system which utilizes rough sawn timbers, along with 3/16 inch thick steel connectors.

Visiting their website, I was quite impressed with the claim of, “Since 1983 xxxxx has helped
hundreds build a living, working, or storage space using rough cut lumber and xxxxx steel joinery. This alternative to trusses and conventional pole building methods, saves material, labor, equipment and money. Everyone can now build a perfect Pole Barn, Garage or Home of their very own home

And what a great list of benefits: “Eliminate trusses, makes room for a second floor, uses rough-cut 6″x6″ lumber or wood members, eliminates treated wood saving the environment, frames can be PULLED upright without a crane, frames DO NOT sit in concrete to eventually rot, frame assembly done on the ground, allows for lower eaves and higher door openings”.

On the face of everything, my first thought was – this is too good to be true! Perhaps this is a system we (Hansen Pole Buildings), should be offering to our clients.

Timbers & Steel

Timbers & Steel

When something appears to be too good to be true, there are times it is. So, out come the research caps, as we dig through the available information to determine if this is even a viable system.

A 2009 press release from the manufacturer of this particular series of products touts them as being “approved for stick-post building by the 2006 International Building Code”. In order to be approved, the product would have an ICC (International Code Council) approval number. I know we at Hansen Pole Buildings utilize numerous products in our building systems which have ICC-ES approval numbers. Luckily, ICC has provided the ability to search for approvals, and none were to be found from this particular manufacturer. Perhaps this is merely an oversight.

In the FAQs on the company website I found, “What if my code calls for 130 mph wind-loading? Can I use xxxxx? A. YES, with modifications. Our generic engineering to 80 mph is satisfactory for the vast majority of building applications, but where severe conditions exist those buildings we recommend you engage a professional engineer.”

Most consumers are unaware the minimum Building Code design wind speed in the United States is 85 miles per hour (mph) and most of the country is 90 mph or greater!

Far too many permit issuing jurisdictions do not require engineered plans to acquire building permits. Some do absolutely no plan reviews or inspections! This particular product may have a “home” for use in those areas. In areas of the country which do require more stringent plan reviews, the idea of the consumer having to hire their own engineer to prove a manufactured product is adequate for the intended use, just does not sit well with me.

Now I am not condemning this product, or ones similar to it. They may very well be the greatest thing since sliced bread – personally, without more verification being provided, I’d be inclined to avoid this one.  If you have better information than I found on it…be sure to let me know.  I am always willing to listen, and learn.

Pole Building Construction Using Steel Tubing

Nearly three decades ago, we were looking at markets to expand our thriving post frame building kit package business into. Having then shipped buildings from the Willamette Valley of Oregon into Arizona and Colorado, Texas did not feel like it would be much of a leap.

In doing research, it appeared the number one competition would be from people who were welding together sections of oil derrick pipe to use for building columns and trusses. As these buildings were not regulated by the Building Codes and were far enough away from the gulf coast to be fairly immune from the ravages of hurricanes, many of them using steel tubing probably survived due to dumb luck. Certainly no engineering was involved in them.

As it turned out, we had plenty of business close to home, so went no further at the time.

Fast forward to 2012 and Hansen Pole Buildings, by the utilization of partnerships with suppliers in all 50 states, has the ability to deliver buildings “locally” anywhere in the country.

One of my own clients happens to live in Texas and needed a building for his high quality alfalfa. Weather there is such as to allow him to harvest four times a year.  It would benefit him to be able to store crop and sell when the market was high, rather than having to harvest and sell at whatever the market would bear at time of cutting.

In discussing his building needs, he told me we were competing against a company from Oklahoma which I was unfamiliar with. The lovely thing about the internet is I was able to visit their website and get some insights into how their buildings went together.

While their website does not have schematics or sample plans to show construction techniques, it does offer some material lists. Most amazing to me, was the use of three inch square 3/16” thick steel tubing for building columns on 16 foot tall buildings. The material list online shows the steel tubing to be in 20 foot lengths, which leads me to believe the plan is to embed the tubes up to four feet into the ground!

If you were using wood columns, a 16’ tall building would normally require a 6” x 8” column, which makes me look at a 3” steel post with great suspicion.  In most states, there is little or no code enforcement.  Does that mean you should “get by” with a building which structurally is doomed to fall down?  If it were my money investment, I’d sure want my hard earned dollars to “stand up” to time.  This means following the building code, which is written to protect….me….and my hard earned dollars.  Not to mention protection of whatever I have inside my new building.

While I am personally more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of a building this size being supported by columns this small, steel tubing placed into the ground sounds like an invitation for disaster. Steel is not resistant to the type of decay it will be subject to when embedded in the ground.  It will…rust.  Just this alone would be “enough” to make me steer clear of this type of pole building construction.