Tag Archives: setting pole building posts

Setting Posts on Stands?

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: Have you ever tried using stands under your posts before you pour. I like the concept brand “X” uses, just seems a little overly complicated. Thanks. SCOTT IN MACOMB

DEAR SCOTT: Without knowing who Brand “X” is, hard for me to comment on their methodology. I have not personally tried the use of stands, however I have written about them: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/05/one-pour-reinforcement-cage/.

This does seem like a costly method, when it is actually quite simple to just ‘float’ the posts in the holes: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2015/04/floating-poles/

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hi, I’m putting in a pole barn, and where it’s located is about two feet low from the driveway. This area gets a bit wet during rains, and I was wondering what would be the best solution to build up the area? I will be pouring a concrete pad eventually. Should I use a crushed gravel or something like a bank run dirt (processed fill with dirt and stone)? Thanks! MATT IN OSWEGO

DEAR MATT: Most certainly an excellent idea to raise up the site of your new pole building – the last thing you want to do is have it sit in a hole!

Rather than rehash a well-covered prior topic, you should read through the series of articles I wrote beginning with this one: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/11/site-preparation/

By inputting your “key word” in the search field on the blog page– you can read other articles on related subjects. I think you will find lots of useful information in past blogs.

Good Luck!   Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hi. I’m building a 12 by 20 pole barn (gambrel roof). So far I just finished the trusses and I’m going to be setting the poles in few days. I’m following the instructions from a book building a shed from Joseph Truini. And I got extra plans from perfect barns company from same book.

My questions:

  • In the book they set the post or pole in one bag of concrete for each post for footing then they set the post and build the walls and after framing the wall they set the post.

Is this crazy to put walls before setting posts?

  • After they frame the walls the only add 1/2 bag of concrete to each post, is this enough?
  • I live in Edmonton, Canada where the winters are weeks of 20 (C) below so I need to make sure the structure is strong enough to last this extreme weather.

The frost line around here is more than 4 feet, I’m planning in digging as deep as I can get – maybe 8 or 10 feet. Do you think this is enough?


DEAR MARITZABEL: Based upon the information I have been able to find on the internet it sounds like the eight to 10 foot frost depth is probably correct. I do really question a footing made from only one bag of premix – footings should be six to eight inches thick at a minimum and even on a small building, probably at least 18 inches in diameter. Adding another ½ bag of concrete later, after walls are up, sounds like a waste of a ½ bag of premix.

I’d stand the columns in the holes, float them eight inches off the bottom of the hole and pour at least 18 inches of concrete in the bottom.

Without looking at the plans you are working from, I have no idea of how one could possibly frame walls before setting posts.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Digging Holes for a Pole Barn

If you didn’t read my blog yesterday – it might help you to back up a day and read where the following blog got started. I nice young gentleman asked me to help him with his boy scout Eagle project – constructing an equestrian barn. So back up a day – then continue here after you get measurements taken and batter boards set up….

Digging Holes

Temporarily remove string lines. If building in an area requiring inspections, call your building inspector to schedule a hole inspection.

This is important! Get off on the right foot with building inspectors. Call for all required inspections!

post holeConfirm hole diameter from building plan. While usually 18-or 24-inch diameter, verify from building plans.

Building holes may be made larger in diameter or greater in depth (provided posts are long enough) without adversely affecting building structure. Digging holes which are too small in diameter, or not to depth shown on building plans, could cause a myriad of future structural issues – or even a building failure.

Why would smaller diameter holes be an issue? The building weight, including a “loaded to failure” roof load, must be adequately distributed to soil beneath the concrete around columns. Hole diameters specified on building plans include a sufficient area to resist settling, given stated soil strength. Avoid the temptation to use concrete “cookies” placed beneath columns, as they also do not offer enough surface area to resist settling.

To help prevent frost “heave”, dig holes so width at top is less than width at bottom. This can be done by “belling” out hole bottom with a shovel.

Augering HolesUsing an auger mounted on a skid steer, bore holes to depth required on building plans. Holes slightly larger in diameter than auger bit can be created by first digging a pilot hole then offsetting auger slightly from hole center and boring again.

NOTE: High water tables or water in holes will not cause premature decay of pressure preservative treated columns. Treatment is for structural in ground use, which includes being exposed to ground water.

Helpful hint – an auger will NOT remove any rocks larger than half the auger bit diameter.

Pole TrenchIn cases where two adjacent posts will be located in close proximity to each other, the two holes may resemble a short “trench”. This is acceptable.

Holes maybe dug larger in diameter than what is shown on building plans, as well as oblong or rectangular. Dimensions stated on plans are “minimum” requirements.

Do not “over dig” holes! If holes are too deep, extra concrete will be needed and concrete is expensive fill! A visible marker, placed on the auger bit at required depth, is often helpful. If large rocks are present, dig holes with a backhoe, mini- excavator or other similar equipment.

Extend hole depth below area frost line. If unsure about frost depth, ask the local building inspector.

After digging holes, clean any loose material from hole bottoms.

Setting building columns into “sonotubes” or other forms is not recommended. Use will lower the friction coefficient which is created by the concrete encasement cast against native soil. This may adversely affect building performance (or longevity).

Hansen Buildings’ engineers also do not recommend concrete “cookie” placement or pouring concrete “punch pads” at hole bottoms, beneath columns. With column holes properly backfilled with poured concrete, both “cookies” or “punch pads” are usually both structurally inadequate and a needless expense.

There you go – the first big step is done – and you are ready to position columns in the holes. Once again – this may be the time to call your building inspector for a hole inspection.

Good Luck and Happy Digging Holes!