Tag Archives: setting posts

Pole Building Insulation Once Constructed

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: I want to insulate my already constructed pole building that has 10′ center uprights 8.6 in between uprights 16′ sheathed ceiling’s uprights are 5.5″ diameter what’s the best most cost effective way to go about it. MARK IN CAMBRIDGE

DEAR MARK: I’m going to have to do some guessing as the math doesn’t quite work out. If your “uprights” are on ten foot centers then the space between the columns will be 9’6”. If the space between is 8’6” then your columns are nine foot on center.

Ceiling will be easy – as long as you have a thermal break (e.g. reflective radiant barrier or similar) insulation can be blown directly on top of the ceiling. If no thermal break has been provided, then a layer of spray foam insulation should be applied to the underside of the roof steel.

Adequate attic ventilation will need to be provided – read more about it here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/02/pole-building-ventilation/

For the walls, the first step – remove the wall steel, one wall at a time. Install a good quality building wrap (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/11/house-wrap/).

How the inside is handled will be based upon the materials being used on the inside of the wall. For materials which will not crack (steel liner panels, OSB, or plywood) 2×4 wall girts can be added to the inside of the columns “barn style”.

For sheetrock, things get a little more dicey, as the original design of the building should be checked by a RDP (Registered Design Professional – engineer or architect) to verify the building is stiff enough to keep deflection within allowable limits. Provided the building is adequately stiff, 2×4 or 2×6 wall girts can be added “bookshelf” style (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/09/commercial-girts-what-are-they/).

Once any electrical work has been completed in the walls, unfaced batt or BIBs (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/11/bibs/) can be added to the wall assembly. A well-sealed vapor barrier needs to be placed on the inside of the wall insulation https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/07/moisture-barrier/.

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.


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: Can a pole barn be designed for a crawl space instead of a concrete slab? SUSAN IN OPELIKA

DEAR SUSAN: Most certainly. As we are seeing more and more people gravitating to pole barn (post frame) technology for dwellings, we are designing more homes over both crawl spaces and full basements. We design pole buildings for folks with crawl spaces quite frequently. You can read more about pole barn crawl spaces at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/03/crawl-space/. Or, if a crawl space isn’t enough, a basement: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/04/basement/.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have been planning a 24 x 48 x 10 three sided barn as it fits my needs for equipment storage and heat build-up and natural light. I read your blog on 3 sided barn vs. wind. My barn would be enclosed on the long north wall and the short east and west if I left open the east wall would that be enough to alleviate the wind pressure concern.

DEAR BUDD: From reading my article on three sided buildings (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/03/three-sided-building/), you have found out it may not be the most economical design solution.

Ideally, you would be able to construct a four sided building. The three sided design works fine structurally, as long as it is properly designed to resist the added loads. If you leave a long side and a portion of one of the other walls open, then you could reduce the wind pressures. In any case, I would recommend you seek out the services of a firm such as Hansen Pole Buildings – who can arrive at a solution which is structurally sound and best meets your needs.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Dear Pole Barn Guru: Grade First or Set Posts First?

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:The prices for everything in upstate New York are ridiculous. Did get a good excavator but not sure of whether to grade and put shale base down first or find someone to do the posts first. So at this point I am on hold. ANGUISHED IN ASHLAND

DEAR ANGUISHED: You should set the posts first. We just need to know the amount of grade change across your building site, to make sure we ship adequate length columns. As fill is rarely adequately compacted, it is far easier to stand the posts, than to have to dig through the extra thickness of the fill in order to get the columns properly embedded in undisturbed soil.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have a 32′ x 48′ pole barn used as a garage. It has 4 windows, 2 overhead garage doors with openers, 1/2″ foam board insulation with foil backing on sides and roof, 10′ from floor to trusses with no ceiling, just open. It has a 4″ concrete floor over stone.

My problem is moisture. In the summer there is white mold on things. Things in plastic storage containers get musky smelling. There is mold on the concrete underneath things.

The pole barn was built at the end of 2008. It gets full sun for at least 8 hours a day in the summer. It’s very frustrating. I’m guessing it’s lack of ventilation, but I don’t know what to do. It gets really humid during the summertime in southern Indiana.

Any suggestions? INHUMANE IN INDIANA

DEAR INHUMANE: Your problem is with too much moisture coming in, in relationship to the ability for it to be exhausted back out. These are common issues with pole barns where people try to make them too air tight.

As it is too late to add a good vapor barrier under the concrete floor, it should be sealed. Read more at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/concrete-sealer/

At the least, the ridge should be vented. More information on ventilation is available at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/02/pole-building-ventilation/

High Density Foam for Setting Posts

This is just wrong – in so many ways….

As my loyal readers know, I try to read every posting I can on the ‘net regarding pole buildings. Sadly, more than a few of them are downright scary.

These are excerpts from a recent chat room posting:

“I built this barn last year. I did 80% + of the construction working alone not including the shingles, rock veneer and the vinyl siding. From experience (building a larger barn alone in 2001) I knew how much work there was in encasing the 6×6 posts in concrete. When I built the larger barn I mixed all of the concrete in a tractor mounted 3 point pto mixer. I mean from gravel, sand and cement. The benefit of doing it this way was I could back the tractor up to the hole and dump the concrete directly down the hole.

This time, while I was looking for admixtures online to add to possibly help eliminate future water problems rotting the post I happened onto a 2 part high density foam. To make a long story short I ended up setting all of the posts in this high density foam in lieu of concrete.

The advantage for me is I could set a post by myself using a very simple system of temporary braces to hold the posts for 15 minutes until the foam set up. I used 4 braces per post. The temporary braces were merely 2×2 lengths (8 feet long) of wood with cheap broom hangers screwed into each end and merely set in place by one hand when the post is plum.

When I say high density foam, I mean a foam that takes a claw hammer to penetrate after it sets up. You can’t dig it out with your hand.

The disadvantage is the cost of the foam is higher than concrete. I think I spent about $500 more doing it this way than concrete. It was worth it to me. I justified spending more money because I’m already savings thousands of dollars in labor costs plus I don’t have to work with the heavy concrete.

I not only liked the ease of one man setting all of the posts, but that it really helps eliminate post rotting problems for many years. The foam is really sticky and encapsulates the wood thus waterproofing it. Utility companies use the foam to set poles so I say it’s pretty good stuff.”

In my humble opinion, there are people who will go through a lot of effort, and spend more money, to get an inferior result. There is a reason registered design professionals (RDPs – architects and engineers) exist – and it isn’t just to have someone to spend money on. Same with the Building Code – it keeps people from doing otherwise stupid stuff, or even worse injuring (or killing) themselves or others.

On a sidebar – this particular DIYer was somewhere he did not have to get a Building Permit, so there was no plan checker or inspector involved to save him from himself.

Now, let’s examine some of the highlights….

Mixing concrete from scratch in a mixer would be time consuming as well as costly in the efforts to acquire and have delivered relatively small quantities of aggregate (rock), sand and cement.

Pole Barn FootingPersonally, I would stand and brace all of the columns, call the redi-mix company and pour all of the holes at one time. Rather than spending 15 minutes per hole waiting on foam to set up, even a good sized building can be poured in an hour or less.

The writer admits to the foam being more costly by about $500. There is no way this offsets any amount of labor costs.

Water is not going to cause decay in a properly pressure preservative treated column. Read more about pressure treating requirements at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/10/pressure-treated-posts-2/

Utilities use this high density foam to set poles. Utility poles do not support the downward weight of a building, nor are the subjected to having to withstand wind loads of 85 mph (miles per hour) or more, often pushing against hundreds of square feet of building wall and roof surface.

Depending upon the manufacturer and the product, these high density foams might require a claw hammer to penetrate after setting up, however the compressive strength is only about 4% of what concrete would supply. And this is why the Building Codes do not specify high density foam as an alternative to concrete, as either a footing beneath a column, or to backfill the space between the column and the surrounding undisturbed native soils.

This is not to say alternative products cannot or should not be used in construction.  I am the first one to promote new and innovative uses and materials.  However the validity of the application needs to be somehow proven as a viable alternative.

Here’s to hoping the writer’s new pole barn never has to try to withstand high wind or snow loads.