Tag Archives: sono tubes

Some Pole Barns Deserve a Proper Burial

Some Pole Barns Deserve a Proper Burial

Reader STEPHAN in OGDENSBURG writes:

“Dear Pole Barn Guru,

I have a 30ish year old 32 by 54 feet horse pole barn where half the poles heaved some for more than 1 foot over the years. I need to fix it this year because I am afraid that the strain will make the structure collapse. The code in my area says that post must be buried 5 feet because of frost.

The issue is that the bedrock is between 3.5 and 5 feet below grade. I have an 8 foot wide concrete pad/runway in the middle of the barn (the whole length of the barn). I would like to do it right to last many years.

I considered these different options:

– replacing each posts with sonotubes with bigfoot at the bottom sitting on the bedrock (a lot of work if done with bags of concrete because I would have to do them a few at a time to keep the integrity of the structure)

– replacing bottom of each post with footing sitting on the bedrock and permacolumns (a little less work because the volume of concrete is just a little less)

– pouring a “bond beam” or a full slab on the inside against the posts with thicker sides to support the structure (as per engineer) and then building walls on the inside with 2×6’s to support the roof, and then removing the posts ( I will be losing about 6″ all around because the new walls will be inside the existing shell). I like this idea because I could prepare the area over the winter and get it poured in the spring. My issue is what would I do with the existing slab in the middle of the barn? Should I attach it with rebar and epoxy, pour over or remove the existing slab?
If I go with the last option, what would I use to support the lean-to? If the slab does not have a full foundation that would mean that it is “floating”, should the posts supporting the extension also be “floating” to ensure that they move together?

Or do you have a better option to suggest?

I have attached pictures to show how bad it is. You can see how crooked the ends are by the siding angle and the window in the lean-to area. Thank you for your help.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

I am not one to pull any punches – I’ll give my honest opinion, even when I don’t feel it is one you want to hear.

There comes a time when reality sets in….in your pole barn’s case reality will be it needs to be knocked flat, bulldozed into a big hole, lit afire and then replaced. Otherwise, you are going to spend a phenomenal amount of time and money for any fix, and all are just band aids for something truly not worth saving.

Your frost heave issues are due to poor site preparation. Please read this information about properly preparing a site: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/11/site-preparation/

and preventing frost heaving: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/10/pole-building-structure-what-causes-frost-heaves/.

If you absolutely insist upon saving your pole barn, you should hire a geotechnical engineer to evaluate your site and give you expert advice. If you decide to give your barn a proper burial, start over with engineer sealed plans and a kit that gives you a lifetime of safe use…for you and your horses.






Hansen Buildings is always looking for new products or techniques which could be incorporated into our pole buildings to offer clients a better product. One resource we utilize is to monitor websites of others who provide post frame buildings, whether constructed or DIY (Do-It-Yourself) building kits.

In checking out one of these sites, I found this offering:

post shieldPostShield protects your barn’s posts against rotting with a layer of modified asphalt. A durable film layer protects the asphalt. The specialty-formulated adhesive self-seals around nails, crews and other punctures. For a very small investment, PostShield can add years to the life of your pole barn!”

Sounded pretty exciting to me, so I wanted to know more! Going to the PostShield website I found:

PostShield, is a UV impregnated PVC ‘sleeve’ that makes installation, replacement and repair of 4×4 wood posts simpler, faster and safer. It extends the life of posts used for signs, fences, retaining walls…anywhere a 4×4 wood post is used. PostShield is being used by homeowners, fencing contractors, State DOT’s, Parks & Recreation Departments and CalTrans. 

PostShield helps prevent decay and extends the life of wooden posts by creating a barrier between wood and dirt, draining water and venting moisture.

Post replacement becomes quick and easy and you will no longer need to dig out old concrete. Simply pull the old post out of the existing PostShield and slide a new one in. PostShield is a simple, cost effective solution for prolonging the life of wooden posts.”

In reading further on the Post Shield website, it turns out they are ONLY available in one size – to fit a 4×4. Now, other than perhaps for an entry door post, I would hope no one is offering post frame buildings with 4×4 columns!

Apparently the PostShield patent covers a myriad of sizes, however if sizes to fit typical pole building post sizes were made available, for use in pole barns, I see some potential structural concerns.

“The design of the PostShield allows the post to “breathe”. Specially designed ribs on the interior surfaces, the ones that come into contact with the wood 4×4, allow moisture to evaporate away from the post.”

PostShields are placed into concrete in a hole. The idea is to be able to slide a post into the PostShield, with fasteners at the top – into the post, being the only thing resisting wind uplift. It would require a significantly large number of substantially sized fasteners to be able to resist the uplift forces generated by a building of any significant size.


The idea here for a pole building – is that there is a binding value (which can be calculated by the way) between the concrete and earth, and then between the concrete to the post, to create the foundation….and hold the pole building in the ground.  I may offend a few here, but I have to say it…putting a plastic sleeve around a post so it “easily slips out” is like putting a post condom on it.  Talk about negating why you are putting poles in the ground in the first place….to create the foundation.  I have the same opinion of sono tubes – but that’s another day and another blog.

My real issue – why even mention a product as being available, if it is not applicable to the end use?