Tag Archives: sloped site

Pole Barn on a Slope – Can I use ICFs?

Pole Barn on a Slope – Can I use ICFs?

Reader NATHAN in WASHINGTON writes:

“I am hoping to construct a pole barn with a garage with attic storage and an apartment on the back as well. I have a couple questions. First, the site is on a slope, so I think we need to pour continuous footings and a foundation. Would you recommend using ICF forms for the foundation? Also, would a 4 foot tall foundation be acceptable? Thank you for your consideration!”

Many years ago I was faced with grade change challenges for two different buildings on my property – although I had a much greater grade change situation than you.

On one site, I intended to build a 22′ x 24′ garage using bonus room attic trusses to be able to have an office above. In this case, I was faced with 14 feet of grade change. You can read the story of this building here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/11/a-post-frame-building-at-newman-lake/ and https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/11/what-to-do-when-the-old-post-frame-garage-has-issues/.

On my other site, I wanted to build a larger garage/shop. In this instance, grade change was ‘only’ 12 feet across 40 of width. Here is its story: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/02/grade-change/.

These two buildings had differing design solutions due to direction they would be entered. In case number one, as we were entering from ‘high’ side, it made sense to basically do a “stilt” building – and have an elevated wood floor. Elevated wood floors can be done for an investment very similar to a concrete slab on grade, especially when one considers costs to form and pour footings and build concrete (or ICF) walls. For building number two, entering from low side, cutting and creating what amounted to a daylight (aka walk-out) made more sense.

Your ultimate design solution probably resembles one of these two. If an ICF wall ends up being your play, keep in mind footing for wall will need to be at or below frost-line for your location. If you have four feet of grade change, your wall on low side could end up having an overall height of seven or more feet! On end (or side) where grade change is zero, those columns can be embedded in ground or done with wet set brackets and concrete poured piers, rather than having expense of a foundation wall on all sides.

In any case, we can design, engineer and provide your building – including foundation design.

Wide and Tall, Building on Slope, and a Condensation Issue

This Wednesday the Pole Barn Guru tackles reader questions about the potential wide and tall a pole building can be designed, if a pole building can be building on a slope, and how to mitigate condensation in an existing ‘horse barn’ with an open metal roof.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: How wide and tall can a pole building be? TODD in ALLENWOOD

DEAR TODD: While clear spans of 120-150 feet are possible, from a practicality standpoint 80 feet is realistically about it. Overall building widths can be increased by utilization of interior rows of strategically placed columns. Structurally, Building Codes allow for sidewalls (at eaves) to be 40′ (or 50′ with fire suppression sprinklers). Some jurisdictions have more restrictive overall heights, so you will want to check in with your local Planning Department.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Can a barndominium be built on sloped land? And if so, what is your professional recommendation on how to build? Thank you! JENNIFER in BONITA SPRINGS

DEAR JENNIFER: Post frame barndominiums lend themselves very well to building on slopes. I solved a personal situation where I had 14 feet of grade change in 24 feet, by building on stilts: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/11/what-to-do-when-the-old-post-frame-garage-has-issues/

For another building, on same parcel, I had 12 feet of grade change in 40 feet, so I excavated hillside and used ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms) for tall sidewall and stepping down across rear endwall. This basically created a daylight or walkout. It is mentioned as part of this article https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/02/barndominium-on-a-daylight-basement/

Walkouts can be created using ICFs (as I did), poured concrete walls, or reinforced concrete block walls. With any of these, wet set brackets can be poured into tops of walls to attach building columns.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hello, We’ve got an uninsulated horse barn with ‘open’ metal roof (no plywood underneath). We’re having a problem with condensation dripping ruining some of our hay. We once saw a picture of white foam guides you can staple under the rafters to guide the dripping/air outside, but can’t find a generic name, or a product name, for these guides. They are NOT an insulation product, but may be used under eaves? Do you know the name? We’d sure appreciate your help. TIM and LOUSIE

DEAR TIM and LOUSIE: This is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are numerous product capable of being applied below rafters, trusses and/or roof purlins, however in order to be truly effective, you must be able to achieve a perfect seal (impossible in real life). If not, warm, moist air from inside your building is still going to rise, get through any gaps, and now be trapped with no way to escape. Even with a tight seal, unless there is a thermal break, chances are fair you will now have move the condensation from underside of roof steel, to underside of new product. There are some solutions – least expensive, highly labor intensive is to remove roof steel, install a well-sealed thermal break, reinstall roof steel or have two inches of closed cell spray foam applied to underside of roof steel.

Condensation Control, Load Requirements, and A Sloped Site

This week the Pole Barn Guru answers reader questions about condensation control in Spokane, WA, the availability of a hipped roof design to meet wind and snow loads, and planning for a post frame build on a sloped site.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I’m in Spokane, WA– a semi-arid region, and I had a question about using metal roof panels with prefabbed integral condensation control, such as Condenstop, along with a double bubble reflective barrier. I have a few left over rolls of the reflective barrier that I can use and would only need to buy an extra roll or two for our prospective 36×36 post frame building. Would it be ok to use both without trapping moisture between the 2? Or, should I only use 1? Building will have continuous soffit venting on both eaves and ridge venting as well. The building will be used in-part to store food-crop and will be temperature-controlled during all seasons, and has drywalled ceilings. Therefore, I’d like to insulate to the max. Was thinking spray foam between the purlins and also fiberglass batts? MATT in SPOKANE

DEAR MATT: I was born and raised in Spokane, owned a house on Newman Lake until just a couple of years ago. In the 1990’s I was the area’s most prolific post frame builder – one year we erected over 200 post frame buildings in Spokane county alone!

Let’s look at doing this right, and not spend money just to spend money.

Spokane is Climate Zone 5A. 2021 International Energy Conservation Code requirements (IECC) are R-60 roof, R-30 walls

Roof: 16″ raised heel trusses, vent overhangs and ridge in correct proportion, roof steel with Integral Condensation Control, blow in R-60 of granulated Rockwool.

Sell your reflective barrier on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Walls: Steel siding, Weather Resistant Barrier (Tyvek or similar), 2×8 commercial bookshelf girts, R-30 Rockwool batts, well-sealed vapor barrier.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: In your blog you state that hip roof style the strongest against high winds. as I live in tornado alley wind and snow drifting are concerns of mine and would like my building design to be highly resistant to these forces. Why can I not find examples of this roof style on your web site? Is the gambrel style the closest you come to this design? CARY in RAYMOND

building-plansDEAR CARY: Very few clients have been willing to make an extra investment into full hip roofs, explaining why our website has no photos of them (we do rely upon our clients to provide photos). We can engineer traditional (and most cost effective) gable roof designs with wind speeds in excess of 200 mph. Our Building Designers can incrementally adjust design wind speeds to allow you to make decisions to best meet your concerns and budget.

While most roof truss manufacturers meet Code requirements for unbalanced (drift) snow loads, we are one of few (if not only) building providers who also design roof purlins appropriately to resist these same loads. This typically results in purlins closest to ridge to be either more closely spaced and/or larger in dimensions.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: We purchased property in north central Tennessee and are planning a post frame barn for a RV and SUV storage and then later adding a post frame home as our forever home. Building site has about a 5 – 10 degree slope. Can you recommend some reading material, books, articles, how-to’s that I can learn and start making some educated research and decisions? thanks. JEFFREY in PRAIRIEVILLE

DEAR JEFFREY: A plethora of options are available for sloped sites. They can be excavated to create a “walk-out” or “daylight” situation. I was faced with this situation on one of my personal buildings (albeit with a more extreme slope): https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/05/solving-massive-pole-building-grade-changes/
Sites can also be built up: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/01/supporting-fill-when-considerable-grade-change-exists/
And there is always an option of “stilts” https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/03/stilt-home-barndominium/
For research, a great source of information is always to navigate to www.HansenPoleBuildings.com, go to SEARCH in upper right corner, type in whatever topic you are looking for information on (e.g. BARNDOMINIUM) and hit ENTER. Over 2000 articles are available, covering a broad myriad of subject matter.

Whatever route you do ultimately pick, fully engineered post frame is likely to be your most cost effective and energy efficient structural design solution.



Uneven Ground, Granting Wishes, and Recommendations

This Wednesday the Pole Barn Guru discusses foundation for a uneven ground with 4-5′ “fall” in the back, granting three wishes, and recommendations for building/footing/slab.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Hey thank you for time. I am wanting to build a 50×100′ shop. I have uneven ground and about a 4-5′ fall in the back. What is the best foundation for a post frame building for that situation. Any help would be greatly appreciated! ANDREW in APPLING

DEAR ANDREW: I would go with an ecology block (read more here https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2015/04/ecology-blocks/) retaining wall several feet beyond my building footprint. Then backfill with suitable fill compacted in no less than six inch lifts. This would allow for construction on a flat level site with embedded columns.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Please grant me 3 wishes o guru, you are better than a genie!!! Do you have a crew put the building together? Do they put the grounding strap on the ground and on the building? Do you have pictures of the workshops? KEITH in PORT CHARLOTTE

DEAR KEITH: Thank you for making me smile! I will answer as many questions as you need answers for.

We are not building contractors. Currently (and for the foreseeable future) there is a nationwide shortage of building erectors. Many high quality erectors are booked out into 2023. We would strongly encourage you to consider erecting your own building shell.

For those without the time or inclination, we have an extensive independent Builder Network covering the contiguous 48 states (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/find-a-builder/). We can assist you in getting erection labor pricing as well as introducing you to potential builders.

A CAUTION in regards to ANY erector: If an erector tells you they can begin quickly it is generally either a big red flag, or there is a chance you are being price gouged. ALWAYS THOROUGHLY VET ANY CONTRACTOR https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/04/vetting-building-contractor/
Your electrician will (should) properly ground your building.

Please click on any of these photos at https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/gallery/ to open gallery to more photos in same categories.


DEAR POLE BARN GURU: If I’m a belt and suspenders overkill kinda guy, what’s your recommendation on a pole barn construction/footings/slab. I would like to use steel instead of 4×4 posts if that isn’t a bad idea. JOHN in LITTLE ROCK

DEAR JOHN: 4×4 posts would not be adequate for even a very small post frame building. I would avoid steel due to its unforgiving nature (everything has to be spot on), challenges of thermal conductivity and connections between structural steel and wood. My preference (in my ideal dream world) would be glulaminated columns, embedded in ground, with a mono-poured concrete footing/bottom collar. This would provide greatest strength and reliability at an affordable price point.