Tag Archives: splash plank

Avoiding Using Pressure Treated Wood

Avoiding Using Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure preservative treated wood remains a mainstay in modern wood construction. United States’ manufacturing and sales of pressure treated wood has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Even with all of this, there are some skeptics.

Reader DIANE in MORGANTOWN writes in:

“ I want to avoid pressure treated wood. Even the newer and safer versions. Can any alternate material be used? Concrete? Metal? Thank you!”

I personally have full faith in current formulations of pressure preservative treatment chemicals for wood to be both environmentally friendly, safe for myself and my loved ones, and to provide excellent longevity. With this being said everyone should do their own due diligence of any product and develop their own opinions based upon such research.

From 2015 IBC (International Building Code):

“2304.12.2.2 Posts or columns.

Posts or columns supporting permanent structures and supported by a concrete or masonry slab or flooring that is in direct contact with the earth shall be of naturally durable or preservative-treated wood.

Exception: Post or columns that are not exposed to the weather are supported by concrete piers or metal pedestals projected at least 1 inch (25mm) above the slab or deck and 8 inches (203 mm) above exposed earth and are separated by an impervious moisture barrier.”

Column holes can therefore be completely concrete filled with wet set brackets placed on top of concrete allowing use of untreated wood columns (as long as column isolated from concrete per Code or weather  protected, it does not have to be preservative treated). https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/09/concrete-brackets-2/

A splash plank will be required around post frame building base in order to provide a form for any concrete slab poured upon grade and/or to be an anchorage point for siding. Typically this a pressure treated 2×8. In your case, an untreated board of cedar or redwood could be used, as they are somewhat naturally decay resistant. I would recommend either be encased in a Plasti-skirt (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2017/08/plasti-skirt/) as untreated cedar or redwood has a lifespan much shorter than treated wood.




Brick Ledge on a Pole Building

Brick Ledge on a Post Frame (Pole) Building

Whilst it would not be my personal preference for finish on a post frame building, there are instances when either aesthetics (trying to match other existing structures), local Planning Departments or HOAs (Home Owner Associations) mandate use of brick or stone exteriors. Whether for a wainscot or covering an entire wall (or walls) if full thickness stone or brick becomes a solution, it must be adequately structurally supported by a footing.

I truly had not given this subject much thought, until reader JASON in COLLEGE STATION wrote:

“Hello, thanks in advance for sharing some of your knowledge and experience with pole barns.

I have been looking at the construction details on your website and have a question about the bottom “skirt board”. Could this detail be designed so that the board does not show below the metal but the metal terminates on a concrete slab that extends a little? I am guessing this is how someone would do it if they needed a brick ledge. If so what is the best way to achieve this?

Thanks again for your advice.”

Jason’s question actually read like a multiple dilemma.

First, a question is hiding a building exterior pressure preservative treated skirt board (aka splash plank). Simple answer is yes, building is already designed so this can be done. Skirt board should be placed per engineer sealed building plans, showing drip edged base trim bottom four inches above grade. This allows for a nominal four inch thick (finished thickness 3-1/2”) sidewalk, driveway, landing or other concreted areas to be poured against exterior of splash plank, coming in ½ inch below bottom of drip edge. Any such pours should be along a grade sloping sufficiently away from building a minimum slope of 2%, to keep water from pooling against building.

For a nominal fee a RDP (Registered Design Professional – engineer or architect) can design an appropriate and structurally adequate support, varying in design due to individual building sites’ frost depths. Using a frost-protected shallow foundation in frost prone regions (read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2017/09/post-frame-frost-walls/), could possibly be part of a design solution, with some sort grade beam, whether it be poured reinforced concrete or properly pressure treated wood. Either will need to be engineered appropriately based upon material weight and strength of  soil to give continuous support.

I’d personally consider either thin brick, or a cultured stone veneer. Ultimately it will probably be least expensive design solution providing and meeting needed objectives. Framing, including columns and their embedment, will need to be engineered to support added dead loads from thin brick (depending upon pattern and thickness thin brick can weigh nearly seven pounds per square foot). Structural members need to be engineered to have limited deflection. Bookshelf girts might well be part of an engineered design solution: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/09/commercial-girts-what-are-they/.


Installing Cement Panel Siding on a Pole Building

Installing Cement Panel Siding on Post Frame Buildings
Step 1
Install vertical cement siding over horizontal and vertical braced wood girts spaced a maximum of 24 inches on center. Alternatively, the panels can be installed over wood sheathing.

Step 2
Begin first panel with edge even with outside of corner column. If panel has overlap/underlap. begin with an overlapping edge. Fasten the panels to the sub-structure with a pneumatic nailer and corrosion-resistant nails. Drive the nails to be just flush with the surface of the panel, but not so deep the nails dimple the cement panel surface. Place all nails 3/8 inch from the panel edge and at least 2 inches from any corner.

Step 3
Ensure a bare minimum of six inches clearance up from grade to the panel bottom edge. Measure up from the six inch point on the splash plank the height of the cement panel siding at either end of the wall and snap a straight, level chalk line between the marks as a reference line. This line is for guidance in positioning the top edge of the panels. Check the reference line with a four foot level. Allow at least two inches of clearance between the material and any walkway paths, sidewalks, decking, stairs or driveways which can wick or leach water and chemicals into or out of the product.

Step 4
Starting on one end and working across the wall, measure and trim the first cement panel siding making sure the edge falls in the middle of a blocking member for support. Using the chalk line as a guide along the panel’s top edge, carefully position the panel and secure it with suitable fasteners and fastener spacing for the particular application. As installation continues, check the vertical edge of each cement panel siding with a four foot level. Leave an appropriate gap between panels (1/8 in is the most common) and do not jam panels up against one another, as this can cause warping over time.

Step 5
Caulk all cement panel siding joints with an elastomeric joint sealant which complies with ASTM C920 Grade NS, Class 25 or higher or a latex joint sealant complying with ASTM C834. Panels may be installed first with caulk applied in the joints after installation; or as an option, after the first panel is installed, apply a bead of caulk along the panel edge. When the next panel is installed against the first, the edge embeds in the applied caulk creating a thorough seal between the edges of the panels.

In some applications such as multi-story structures or at gable ends, it may be necessary to stack siding. The horizontal joints created between cement panels must be flashed properly to minimize water penetration. After installing the lower course of panel siding, install vinyl or coated aluminum “Z” flashing at the top edge of the panel. Make sure the flashing is sloped away from the wall and does not rest flat on the top edge of the panel. Install the second level or gable panels leaving a ¼ inch minimum gap between the bottom of the panel and the Z flashing. This gap should never be caulked.

The Case of the Termite Shields

When it comes to post frame building construction, I know a little bit about a lot of things. I get asked a lot of questions about how to solve post frame building challenges and do a pretty fair job of answering them. When I do not know an answer I feel confident in, I have no problems with doing the research or reaching out to an expert. Such was the “Case of The Termite Shields” (sound almost like a Sherlock Holmes story).

In this case, I went to “The Bug Doctor” Jerry Schappert of www.pestcemetery.com

Here was my question:

mr owl tootsie roll pop“We have a Building Official asking for a termite shield for a post frame (pole) building. The building utilizes pressure preservative treated columns embedded in the ground with a treated splash plank around the base of the walls. At the bottom of the steel wall siding is what is known as base trim, it is steel and extends outward from the splash plank 1-1/2″ with the outer edge being a downward bent lip. This should serve to function just like the steel termite shields we have viewed online. 4-5/8″ of the pressure preservative treated splash plank is visible below the base trim. There is a product called a plastiskirt which is vinyl and designed to wrap the splash plank. In your opinion, what would be the best design solution to protect the building from termites as well as to meet the requirements of the Building Code?”

The good doctor replied (in very short order I might note):

It sounds to me you’ve met the code already? What more does he or she want?  There are ‘pipe shields’ on the market but they are just basically what you describe. Pole barns here in Florida basically have very little code requirements and we are the termite capital of the world.  So without knowing what more the inspector is looking for I wouldn’t know how to answer.

Need a bug expert, try Jerry. Need a post frame building expert? I will give my best impression.


Miracle Truss Concerns

One of the great things about being the Pole Barn Guru is helping people who have construction challenges of all sorts – even those who do not have post frame buildings.

Here is a recent one:

Hi Pole Barn Guru, and thanks for your informative website and blog. I’m using email rather than the website question portal so I can include pictures. I’m a contractor, but my normal specialty is finish carpentry. I wouldn’t normally take on a pole building job, but this one is for my father so I’m helping him build it to try to save some money.

We’ve acquired a 51 x 120 ft building package made by Miracle Truss, a company which is apparently out of business, hence the lack of manufacturer support. The building was purchased years ago by a businessman who never put it up and finally decided to donate it to a church for a write-off. Long story short it eventually made its way to us, still palletized as new, for an incredible savings. So off the bat I’ll apologize for not buying a product from you, as we already have one. But I’m hoping I can use your expertise and perhaps do business in the future.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Miracle Truss, their design uses open-web steel trusses with owner-provided wood purlins and girts. Clips are welded to trusses to receive wood members. The design gives the strength and span benefits of metal with some of the economy of locally sourced lumber. It seems like a good design, but we’re still only in the planning & groundwork stages. The package includes Metal Sales siding and roofing.

My question relates to the use of “splash planks” on a metal-sided building. I know the purpose of the splash or skirt board in typical construction, but I’m doubting its necessity in this particular design. As you can see in the attached pictures, their plans call for a treated 2×6 splash plank which is used as the outside form board when pouring footings, with anchor bolts pre-installed, and then simply left in place and attached to the sill purlin. This places the outside plane of the wall 1-1/2″ outside of the concrete footing. There’s nothing wrong with this design of course, I just wonder if it’s necessary. I’m considering eliminating the permanent mud board, removing the concrete forms and using the sill (bottom) purlin to attach both the flashing and sheet. The last picture is a quick drawing of what I have in mind.

This means I would have to form my foundation 1-1/2″ outside of the stock plans, but save me 340 LF of AWW 2×6. Any thoughts on eliminating the outside splash board?

I’m also trying to decide the dimensions of my footings. Each post will sit over a buried Sonotube pier with a Bigfoot base, which will bear the weight of the building. The footing is really just a concrete”tie beam” and provides a sill for the walls, without really bearing anything. The total thickness of the wall is 17.5″ at the posts (our posts are W12″ I-beam, plus 5.5″ girt.), but only 5.5″ in between posts. I could form a continuous 17.5″ footing over the top of the Sonotubes (my original plan), or form an offset 8″ w footing to match the outside of the wall. I also am not sure how to choose footing thickness, since it’s not bearing. No guidelines are given for foundation in the package instructions, since climate makes a big difference. We are in southern Alaska, our code frost depth is 4 ft, which is where the tubes will sit. But I’m not sure what the footings should be. Any comments?

Thanks again for any advice you can give. I really appreciate the resources you offer. KADIN in KENAI

Dear Kadin:

Thank you for your kind words. We strive to be informative and entertaining.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The response below is only in regards to the now defunct Miracle Truss which produced the building package you now own. The Miracle Truss brand name is now held by Spider Steel Buildings, LLC. The current Miracle Truss was formed in 2015 and has no connection with the prior company or its products. According to their attorney, Kevin R. Coan of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, the current Miracle Truss can and does provide the lumber package as part of its services. Find out more about the new Miracle Truss at https://miracletruss.com/.

My objections to the defunct Miracle Truss system has always been how does one go about finishing the inside of the building with the steel frames in the way and (very important to most) the having to source one’s own lumber which can end up in a sticker shock situation.

Your Miracle Truss building’s outside 2×6 splash plank is there for a reason, and should be used. The bottom of it is the point at which level grade is on the exterior of your building. If it is not present the steel base trim will probably end up in contact with the ground outside of your building – which will result in premature deterioration as it slowly rusts away.

As to your footings, the best advice I can give would be to contract with a registered professional engineer in your area who can do an analysis of the forces upon your building, wind load, snow load, seismic, exposure, et. al. Also the engineer will need to take into account the bearing capacity of the soils at your site.

Good luck and let me know how it all turns out!
Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Lowe’s® on the Line

The phones ring at Hansen Pole Buildings every day from dawn-to-dusk, and sometimes both before and after. Some calls are a little more interesting than others.

Bright and early, first thing this morning Eric (one of the owners of Hansen Pole Buildings) gets a phone call from Lowe’s®.

Composite GradeboardIt seems Lowe’s® has a pole building contractor customer who really likes to use composite skirt boards. As Lowe’s® did not have a source, they started doing some research. It turns out the caller from Lowe’s® had read my article about them online (which prompted the call): https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2013/08/composite-grade-board/

Eric and the gentleman from Lowe’s® had some friendly discussions about not only the composite skirt boards, but also in regards to the company which typically promotes and sells them. It seems the two of them were pretty much in agreement in their negative opinion using composite material for skirt boards.

The fun part of the conversation came later…after it was related to Eric how the builder (after sharing his love of composite skirt boards) proceeded to explain how he ran his interior liner steel to grade then filled it 4″ high with concrete on the steel ! Not only was the builder doing this, but he was proud of it!

For those readers who are unfamiliar with steel liner panels, they are most often used in the Midwest. The panels are typically the same profile as the steel roofing and siding. They are oftentimes very thin (sometimes even 30 gauge material) and feature low cost typically white polyester paint over a minimal galvanized or Galvalume® substrate.

Here is where things could get dicey for this particular builder.  Pre-painted Galvalume® sheets are not to come in contact with wet concrete. Concrete’s high alkalinity attacks aluminum in Galvalume, causing coating to peel. How would the builder know what the substrate was? He’d have to be asking who he purchased it from, and unless it was directly from the manufacturer, there is a good chance he won’t get the correct answer.

I am not a huge proponent of steel liner panels to begin with, but if I did have them in my building, I’d prefer the paint stayed on them!

Scratching my head, I am still trying to figure out why the builder is pouring against the liner….and can come up with only two things. The first is – it would save some concrete (between the liner panel and the skirt board). About a yard on an average 40’ x 60’ building. Of course the concrete savings would be offset, to a large part, by the extra four inches of steel liner panel around the entire perimeter.

The second reason….(and this is merely a guess) is the composite skirt boards may be too flexible to reliably pour against without bowing outward, or requiring a tremendous number of stakes to hold them in place.

Any ideas from the audience?  My wife, in a previous marriage, was married to a hog farmer – and she relates one of their buildings was done exactly like this – and why it was done that way. As happens in our “almost perfect” marriage, we don’t always agree – which is why I married her – we can “agree to disagree”.  Anyone else besides my lovely bride of 14 years have good reasons to run concrete over the bottom edge of horizontal interior steel panels?  Let me know!

Composite Grade Board

Typically post frame (pole) buildings have a pressure treated board at the base of all enclosed walls.

Composite GradeboardKnown also as a Bottom Girt, Grade Girt, Skirt Board or Splash Plank, it is a decay and corrosion resistant girt which is in soil contact or located near the soil surface. It remains visible from the building exterior upon building completion, and is normally two inches in nominal thickness.

A decade ago, after CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) pressure treating went by the wayside, many splash planks were treated with ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary). When water was introduced into connections between ACQ pressure treated lumber and steel, a chemical reaction occurred, which could quickly corrode steel siding and fasteners. For the most part, ACQ treated lumber is now rarely used, having been replaced by chemicals which do not interact corrosively with steel.

In efficient post frame construction, building components are positioned and connected in such a way to form a diaphragm. The gradeboard is an integral component of a properly designed shear wall (diaphragm) assembly. Structural wall sheathing (most commonly plywood, oriented strand board or corrugated steel) is attached to the gradeboard by sheathing-to-framing connectors which are located at the bottom edge of the structural sheathing panels.

The sheathing-to-framing connectors must be adequate in size, strength and resistance to pull out to be able to transfer shear loads, which are induced into the building by wind or seismic events, from the sheathing into the gradeboard. Similarly, the gradeboard must be attached to the columns at each end sufficiently to transfer the load.

At one time I had read a posting online, which downplayed the structural significance of gradeboards. In my mind, they are a key and important structural member.

Touted as an alternative to the traditional pressure treated lumber skirt board, is the composite grade board. Manufactured in a fashion similar to composite decking, they eliminate any risk of corrosion, rotting or decay.

The composite grade board features a built-in bottom ledge, which eliminates the need for a steel bottom trim (also known as base trim or “rat guard”).

Composite grade boards expand and contract dramatically with temperature fluctuations. As such, potentially unsightly gaps must be left at each end. For a 60 degree temperature fluctuation, a 3/16” gap is required (based upon a 16’ piece).

One of the “benefits” of the composite grade board is supposed to be price. I recently did a price comparison and found 2×8 #2 and better pressure treated at 97 cents per foot, while the composite grade board from the very same retailer was $2.99 per foot (over three times the cost)!

Having used composite materials for decks and stairs, I’ve found composites to not nearly have the strength of the lumber they are replacing. Furthermore, composites seem to allow a great deal of “give” around fasteners. When loaded in a shearwall assembly, I would have great concerns about fasteners pulling through composite grade boards.

The IBC (International Building Code) gives specifics in tables for shearwall construction, none of which include an approval for use of composite materials rather than dimensional lumber framing. Alternative materials are allowed to be utilized outside of the prescriptive portions of the Code, however testing documentation to prove structural adequacy should be provided.

Me…without some actual proven test results, there is no way on earth I would structurally use, or recommend the use of, a composite grade board.


Where is the Top of the Concrete Slab?

This is not like Where’s Waldo?, or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

The relationship of the top of a concrete slab inside your new pole building, to the grade surrounding the building is critical not only during construction, but also in the lifetime of performance of your building.

Hansen Pole Buildings services pole building kit package clients for several major lumber yard chains. One of them kindly provided us with a set of the building plans they had been supplying to their everyday client base. As I began to review the plans, I was astounded to find the building was designed so any concrete floor being poured had the top of the slab even with the grade outside of the building.

In the event of a rainstorm, or heavy snow melt, water would easily coming pour into the building!

Your new Hansen Pole Building has as the bottom horizontal framing member, connecting pressure treated column to pressure treated column, is a pressure preservative treated splash plank. The building design is such so the top of any concrete floor is set at 3-1/2” above the bottom of the splash plank.

On the outside of your building, assuming it is steel sided, the base trim (also known as rat guard), is installed so the lowest point of the drip edge is four inches above grade. This allows for any concrete driveway approaches or doorway aprons to be poured appropriately in relationship to the top of the level of the interior slab. It also keeps any exterior concrete from being poured against steel trims or siding.

While proper jobsite preparation and compaction of fill beneath a concrete floor has more to do with the performance of the slab than does thickness, some clients want floors thicker than the typical nominal four (3-1/2” actual) inches. If a thicker floor is desired, excavate below skirt board bottom, by any slab thickness greater than 4”. In no case, will the top of the concrete floor be even with either the top or bottom of the splash plank.

Occasionally we have clients who ask why they can’t run the concrete to the top of the splash plank, as they want to use the splash plank to “screed” the concrete slab top.   Using any other measure for the concrete slab top, will result in wall steel and doors not properly fitting, as well as possible interior clear height loss.

TIP:  If you want to use a board for screeding the concrete slab, take a 2×4 pressure treated board and nail it to the inside of the splash plank with the bottom of the 2×4 even with the bottom of the splash plank.  This board stays concreted in around the perimeter of your concrete slab.  Quick.  Easy.  And ensures a level concrete slab, at just the right height.