Tag Archives: steel roofing

When Friends Buy Buildings From Others

When Friends Buy Buildings From Others

Long ago, in a galaxy far away……well actually it is in our galaxy.

Jeff and I met roughly 40 years ago, when his mother and my father dated. About 15 years later, I was Jeff’s sponsor when he became a member of Spokane Valley Rotary. In recent years, Jeff invested in a pole building and I was unaware of it until now – when he reached out to me with a challenge.

Jeff writes:

“Hey Mike! I have read the blog a lot and tried my best to understand the insulation issue that seems to get asked of you the most, but I’m just a little slow on understanding. Attached are three pictures of my pole building ceiling that I want to begin insulating. It is 36′ x 40′ with 14′ eaves on a 5×12 pitch. As you can see there is OSB under the steel roofing. The sides are steel from the top down to 4′ where there is OSB and hardiplank siding. Concrete floor. You can see some mold stains from the first year that I did not have a floor poured yet. For the walls I figure I can just use faced fiberglass batt rolled insulation without a vapor barrier then finish with drywall. Not sure about the ceiling. Can I just use rolled insulation? Then drywall or OSB over that? Vapor barrier? Do I need to have the 1″ = 2″ ventilation space between the OSB and the fiberglass? Only one side has the vent opening to the eave, the other side has an open lean-to. Thanks.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes:

If your intent is to insulate between roof purlins with batts, Code requires a minimum one inch air space between insulation and roof deck (in your case OSB) continuous from eave to ridge. There is no way for you to accomplish this, as your building’s purlins block any possible airflow route. Your choice for insulating with a roof plane really comes down to closed cell spray foam. Other issues could be what sort of a dead load your roof system is engineered for. Typically post frame roof trusses are designed for only a five pounds per square foot (psf) top chord dead load with OSB. This would not be adequate to attach OSB, plywood or sheetrock directly to the underside of purlins. Even if trusses have adequate load capacity, your roof purlins appear to be 2×6 and would overly deflect with sheetrock applied – resulting in popped screws and failed taped joints.

In an ideal world, your roof trusses would have been designed for a 10 psf bottom chord dead load. This would be adequate to support a sheetrock ceiling and fiberglass insulation could be blown in on top of it. If this route is taken, you would need to provide adequate ventilation.

A solution could be to reach out to whomever manufactured your building’s roof trusses and inquire about an engineered repair to increase loading. These repair drawings are usually relatively affordable, however repairs often entail a fair amount of time, effort and materials.

As you have no Weather Resistant Barrier (Tyvek or similar) between wall framing and siding, I would recommend using unfaced rock wool or mineral wool batts as they are unaffected by moisture (unlike fiberglass) with a well-sealed 6mil clear visqueen vapor barrier on inside, then your drywall.

Screwed Up! A Poor Installation.

The photo you are witnessing happens to be an example of a poor installation job done by a “professional” builder. I use the term professional here in quotes, because anyone who is being paid a sum of money (or perhaps receiving a horse in trade) in exchange for providing a service could be deemed as a professional.

Professional can be rather like “quality” – just as quality comes in good and bad, so do professionals.

This particular screw happens to be just one of thousands on a very expansive roof – an 88 foot clearspan width by 120 foot long horse riding arena. It turns out the roof has more than a few roof leaks, which (if there are many screws installed like this one) is not sadly overly surprising.

Apparently the partially installed screw method was quite popular for this particular installer, as witnessed in this photo:

It seems whomever was working the eave edge of the roof wasn’t quite certain as to what a seated screw should look like.

While we are looking at this second photo, take heed at the first rib of steel closest to the middle of the page. The overlap is clearly not tight against the underlap.

My suspicion is the builder did not predrill the roof panels (as instructed in the Hansen Pole Buildings’ Construction Manual), given the propensity for screws elsewhere on the roof to have been driven in at an angle, as well as places where two screws sit about two inches apart from each other, with one of them sporting a fresh coat of caulking (not an approved fix for a missed screw).

The engineered building plans and the installation instructions also call for screws to be placed on each side of every high rib at the eave and ridge. These areas have the greatest sheer loads to carry and a shortage of screws at these locations will eventually cause slotting under the screw heads, followed by even more leaks.

Strangely (or maybe not) we rarely have a DIYer experience a roof leak……think about it.

Maximizing the Metal: Why all Metal is Not Created Equal Part III

Yesterday I shared a portion of Sharon Thatcher’s article on how painted steel panels need to be handled with care. The article also touches on the differences in paint, and which ones are the longest lasting. Here is Part III. The final segment of Sharon’s story, as can be read in the September 2016 issue of Rural Builder magazine.


The longevity of metal panels is a selling point but also can create an issue when warranties are involved. “You have these warranties for a long time, so do your due diligence,” said Dan Knight.

Knight recommends that builders have their suppliers walk them through the claims process. “If someone says ‘I have a 40-year warranty,’ understand what that means, and understand the remedy.”

What is covered for 40 years and what isn’t?

“Maybe the best thing to do is to say [to your supplier]: walk through the claims process with me. If I have this product for 10 years and I have a claim in 10 years, what happens? Whoever they’re buying it from should be able to tell them how it works.”

Also make sure you keep your receipts. Your bill of receipt will contain important coil numbers, batch numbers and paint code numbers. Assuming you are working with a legitimate company, all that information will help track down vital information about the coil’s production process and warranty details. Paint codes will tell you the type of paint and the years it is expected to last.

A note of warning: while there is a lot of good foreign steel there is also a fair share of cheap and poorly-made foreign steel. Getting satisfaction on a warranty from thousands of miles away, and across multinational lines, can get tricky.

Then there are the instances where a company is not legitimate. The guys at Steel Dynamics have seen it all. “What we find with off-shore steel in particular, they might mimic our warranty. It may be all misspelled, but they’ll copy it, except for the remedy. That’s important. The warranty may say ‘this warranty is only for the cost of the paint.’ So you just paid $12,000 for metal and the paint cost is $800. Or it may say ‘this warranty is not valid within a thousand meters of water, man-made or otherwise; or not in areas of high humidity; or all claims are settled in Chinese court.’ So you have to really understand these things. And compare that to other warranties.”

Switzer has even seen bogus companies passing out Bethlehem Steel warranties and Bethlehem steel hasn’t been in business since 2002.

The victim is ultimately the building owner, but of course everyone along the supply chain are victims as well, from the roll former who purchased that problem steel, to the builder who bought the finished panel and installed it.

Understand the claims process and your level of risk exposure.

“It’s one thing to sell a building to someone with a 40-year warranty, but it’s another thing to have that person come back and discover there’s nothing behind that warranty. And you live in the same town and go to the same church. It’s going to be hard to tell him, ‘well, I can’t really fix this.’”

Unfortunately, the consequences may come when you least expect it. “Even a marginal product will last 10 years pretty much anywhere in the country. So what’s going to happen in 10 years, faster in the south, there’s going to be a day of reckoning, where the offshore stuff people buy, the red is going to turn pink, the green is going to turn white or yellow.”

Bottom line: “Just understand there is a lot of exposure to this. To replace or repaint a roof is considerably more expensive than the cost of the metal.”

Can I Repair a Steel Panel?

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: While installing the metal roof, we managed to bend a piece and a hole formed in one of the high ridges. Other than replacing the piece, is there an approved repair method? The tear is probably 2 inches long.

Question from Dana in Catharpin, VA

DEAR DANA: If it makes you feel any better, you are not the first person (including many skilled contractors) who have had the very same thing happen. Sadly, builders often find a way to “hide” the problem, at least long enough to be paid and off to the next project. I’d like to be the bearer of good news for you, however the only solution which is approved, and which you will happy with over time is to replace the steel panel.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I have a pole-built home with 8×8 posts set below the frost line. All of the usable living space is on the second level. The ground level is gravel with a small finished utility space. I want to build out the ground level using an FPSF. How should this renovation treat the existing poles? Should they be cut off at slab level, removed and backfilled? Or left in place with some type of isolation from the slab?

Thanks! John H. in East Thetford, VT

DEAR JOHN: My eldest step-son did a lot of research on Frost-Protected Shallow Foundations before he added onto his home last summer. I was skeptical, at first, but it appears there is solid research to back this system up. I’d suggest placing the insulation boards on the outside of the existing columns. The National Association of Home Builders has some excellent information at: https://www.nahb.org/assets/docs/publication/Energy-efficient-frost-protected-shallow-foundations_1211200244041PM.pdf

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Screw Placement on Steel Panels

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: Hi, I wanted to know the best location for screw placement on my pole barn roof. Should I place them on the raised rib or in the lower flat area? Thank you! WILLING IN WAVERLY DEAR WILLING: Screws should always be placed in the “flat” areas of the steel panels. The first panel will have an overlap on the leading edge (closest to the end of the building). Place a #10 x 1-1/2” screw next to this rib, into a roof purlin, and continue screw placement every nine inches across the roof.  The exception will be at the eave and the ridge, as this is where the greatest shear forces are. At these locations use either a diaphragm screw or a #14 x 1-1/2” screw on both sides of every high rib. Diaphragm screws will have some advantages over the #14 part (and can be used everywhere on the building). They have a narrower #12 shank, other than just below the head, so they are easier to drive and less likely to split the purlins. They also have a ¼” hex head, so driver bits do not have to be switched back and forth. You can read more about the development of these screws at: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/08/this-is-a-test-steel-strength/

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I am currently building a pole barn and looking at pricing on an overhead door. Opening is for a 12 x 10. What option do you offer for an overhead door with latch for security? Thank you. OPENING UPWARDS

DEAR OPENING: The options are innumerable. We offer about every “look” on the market –we’d just need to know what features you want such as glass inserts, designs, etc. Most of our clients use sectional steel doors with inside slide locks. These are available in a commercial pattern (with heavier hardware) as well as numerous profiles of raised panel doors. If you are trying to create a unique or upscale look, carriage house style doors are also available.

In the event you think the building might ever be climate controlled, it is advisable to go with insulated door panels initially, as the cost and effort of retrofitting may prove prohibitive. https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/12/insulated-overhead-doors/

One thing many people do not consider is wind rated doors. For more information please read: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/10/wind-rated-garage-doors/

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I was looking at the video you have on your site! I was interested in the 2nd building you showed ……..the Arena. Was thinking of turning this into a home. Possibly one half its size.

and another barn for 3/4 horses 5/6 cows 2/3 goats rabbit hutch and a milking stall…the other end of this huge pole barn would be for equipment vehicles farm equip snow mobiles ATV’s other stuff and attached to this a Butchers House with Freezer Controls to make it nice and cold like an operating room to kill bacteria and germs with several sinks and tables for meat processing and a small walk in freezer with meat hooks to hang game i.e., deer elk bear etc…….

below the home a basement the same size as home only access to half…the other half hidden with secret access via bookshelf or storage rack…..and a basement under the other barn as well with a tunnel leading from the barn to the hidden basement under the home!  The home will be very open with huge living areas. We want the Shell Built totally insulated wiring and plumbing. We want 2 huge stone fireplaces with swing hooks to cook over the fires if we desire and 3/4 wood burning stoves throughout.

Notice your design on the video of the Arena….see where the lower roof meets the upper room…… I want it to be much higher than this and I want a stair case leading to this loft where there will be one of the two big bathrooms (the other downstairs) and the rest of the huge space all bedrooms with an open entertainment area for pit group and big screen TV…….. possibly a sunken area downstairs for huge pit group and TV as well… We want a huge kitchen area.

We also want to put in 5/6 long greenhouses but ours will be built 5/6 feet into the ground to take advantage of geothermal energies/forces to grow all year round…… the roofs will be above ground level with every other roof panel being a SOLAR PANNEL… We want this built so we have access to it from the house possibly heavy duty heavy security glass sliding doors????? And we want a power distribution center building built for battery backup system and the ability to tie in Solar, Wind and Hydro power sources into the grid………  We want to be hooked to the grip but have the option to shut power down from main grid and just go solar wind mill and hydro power or a combination of all.

We are looking for a rough estimate for a barn as described above with Butcher House and Arena Home with basements a tunnel way between them both design the bathrooms one up one down, sunk in entertainment area down stairs 2 huge stone fireplaces and about 3 wood burning stoves. The Arena Home is to be totally insulated heavy beams and wooden floors…kitchen area to use imitation marble tiles…….

just a rough estimate   off the wall TICKLED IN TEXAS

DEAR TICKLED: Thank you very much for your interest. The scope of your project is far beyond what our normal scope of work is. We would recommend you contract with an architect to create the overall design and budgetary figures. We would be happy to work with them on our portion – which would be the building shells only.

Steel Siding Failure?

In my fledgling days in the pole building industry, we jumped on board when ASC Pacific began offering “Twice the Life” Zincalume® coated steel roofing panels as an alternative to bare galvanized. Keep in mind, back in the early 1980’s almost every roof was unpainted – so this was huge!

One side benefit of Zincalume® is the aluminum content of the protective coating causes the bare panels to oxidize to a milky white over time, unlike the red rust of galvanization. One prolific Pacific Northwest builder even sold Zincalume® to customers telling them they would eventually have a white roof!

My business had provided a three sided “machine shed” 40 foot deep by 60 feet long and 10 foot eave to a farmer in the state of Washington. Within a year after he had the building up, he called because he had fist sized holes in the roof of his barn!

Well, there was a “Paul Harvey” to his story….he had enclosed the open side of the building, and then used it for raising hogs! The building had absolutely no ventilation provisions, nor was there a vapor barrier installed under the roof steel.

The wastes produced by the hogs contained a very high amount of ammonia, which reacted with the aluminum in the Zincalume®, and literally ate holes in it!

rusted steel sidingWe recently had a client send us the photos seen with this article. Their four year old building had developed a series of rust through holes and the client wanted to know if the steel panels were still under warranty.

Strangely, the holes are all in a straight line, across one panel of steel and just onto the next panel. The line of holes just happens to coincide with the location of a “bookshelf” style wall girt on the inside of the building. Nowhere else on the building is there any sign of rust.

While the ultimate authority will be the steel roll forming company, my suspicion is some corrosive material was placed on the bookshelf girt (which was being used as a shelf), and it leaked or spilled along the girt line.

What came to mind first was an old battery. A frequent poster to internet discussion boards, from Tennessee, had this to say about battery acid and steel:

“I fought the battery acid contamination for years on mine equipment on metal a heck of a lot thicker…” “What I found is no amount of rinsing, or pressure washing will stop the damage from continuing and once the metal is contaminated replacement is about the best solution. The problem with acid is not just having the corrosive substance lying on the surface dissolving the metal, but the fact that once contaminated a chemical reaction is started that is very hard to stop! The acid will “eat” into the metal and cannot be simply rinsed off nor is it easy to neutralize for the same reason.”

Steel roofing and sidings are strong and affordable, however care must be taken to protect them from caustic situation, which may lead to premature failure of the product.

Dear Pole Barn Guru: How Do I Keep My Pole Barn Roof Square?

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: Does Hansen have a referral program (existing customer to new customer) at all? COOLING IT IN COLORADO

DEAR COOLING: Certainly. In order to qualify, the referring person must be the purchaser of a complete Hansen Pole Buildings kit package. The referral person must not already be in our data base.

Currently, once the referred person has ordered their complete Hansen Pole Buildings kit package, and paid in full, they will receive a $100 discount (thanks to you) and you will receive a check for $100 as well.

We reward our previous purchasers for being loyal customers, and their friends, for becoming our friends as well.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: Thanks for all of your information. I am a carpenter but it would be much easier for me and time saving if you have some limited prints that i could assemble the building. NOT ILL IN ILLINOIS

DEAR ILL: Unlike most suppliers of pole building kits, Hansen Pole Buildings does not just dump a pile of materials upon your doorstep and say, “Good luck”! Every complete post frame building kit package comes with two sets of completely detailed plans which show where every board and piece of steel on the building are installed.

Here is an example: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/sample-plans.htm

You also get our 400+ page Construction Guide, which gives step-by-step instructions, details and photos.

Keep in mind these buildings are designed for the average Do-It-Yourselfer to successfully craft a beautiful new building. For more on this subject: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2013/02/pole-buildings-3/

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I am squaring my roof and am able to pull it to square but I can’t pull it far enough beyond square so that when I release it the roof stays square.  It wants to return to being 1.5″ out of square.

My thought is to permanently install a steel cable to hold the roof square during, and after, installing the roof steel.


 DEAR KING: You are finding one of the miracles of pole building construction, it doesn’t take much to move the roof around, when it is framed only.

Once you have the roof pulled to square, leave the cables, ropes, braces, etc., in place, until after the steel is installed on the roof. You can then remove everything you used on a temporary basis to get the roof square in place, as the roof steel will hold it.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I’m about to build a pole barn storage shed for my lawn and garden tools. Do I need a building permit for such a small building? FLUMOXED IN FLORIDA

DEAR FLUMOXED: Great question. There’s a common misconception building permits are only required for sheds larger than some arbitrary size. Do not just guess – contact your local Planning and Building Department. They can provide you with information to adequately determine if your proposed building requires a permit.

There are several very good reasons why a permit may be required, even for a relatively small (or at least by your assessment) building.

The Building Department will want to make sure the shed is built to code so it won’t sink into the ground, suffer a catastrophic roof collapse, or be blown over by a strong wind. (Go ahead and laugh, but all three incidents occur all the time.) Code compliant structures must be able to withstand wind, snow and seismic loads.

The Planning Department will need to approve the proposed building site to ensure it isn’t encroaching into wetlands, sitting over a septic system or straddling a property line.

If you build any structure on your property without first obtaining a building permit, you may end up having to move the structure, or even take it down completely.  Asking first can save a huge headache (and expense)

Galvalume ®

Galvalume SteelMy first exposure to Galvalume ® was when ASC Pacific introduced “twice-the-life” Zincalume in the 1980s. They were marketing the product in its bare (unpainted) form as an alternative to the more familiar bare galvanized sheet steel. It looks similar to galvanized steel, but the visible crystals (or spangle) are smaller and close together, giving it a smoother appearance.  The combination of zinc and aluminum enhances both the positive and negative effects of aluminum.

Because aluminum is corrosion-resistant, Galvalume is more corrosion-resistant than galvanized steel, but because aluminum provides barrier protection instead of galvanic protection, scratches and cut edges are less protected.
Most consumers are familiar with old barn with bare galvanized steel panels which rusts (oxidizes) red. Bare Galvalume steel panels are not bright and shiny when new, unlike galvanized panels. As Galvalume ages, it oxidizes white. One prolific builder in the Pacific Northwest was actually even selling the product as a white roof!

Galvalume is a sheet steel with a hot dip applied alloy coating of about 55% aluminum 45% zinc. It is manufactured and sold as a trademarked product by companies such as Bethlehem Steel and National Steel.

I did find out, (the hard way) there are some limitations to uses of bare Galvalume steel panels. When the product first came on the market, we provided it as roofing for a building which later became a hog confinement barn (unbeknownst to us). The client called within two years of the roofing being installed, to complain about fist sized holes developing in his roofing. According to the roll former, It turns out the Galvalume coating had a chemical reaction to the confined urea, which basically “ate” holes in the steel. For this reason, Galvalume is best not used in animal confinement buildings.

Prepainted Galvalume roofing and siding panels are now used on buildings everywhere. It combines well with most other building materials and treatments. As such its versatility allows it to be used almost anywhere on building exteriors. Its excellent corrosion resistance has been proven by field performance on buildings for decades. An estimated 40 billion square feet of prepainted Galvalume sheeting covers buildings in all kinds of climates and environments in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The combination of long-lived Galvalume sheet with a wide range of modern high-performance paint systems results in a functional, durable, eye-appealing building product.

Pole Barn Guru’s Roof Rules Part Two

From Friday – Nothing is worse than a roof gone wrong. Leaks frustrate everyone involved, and are usually avoidable. Poor design and poor installation are equal factors in the roofs which just are not happy.

If you missed my blog Friday –you may want to review it as the first part of my Rule for a Happy Roof.  Or should I say Rules for a Happy Client with a new roof?!

Vent Plumbing near the Ridge

Like chimneys, plumbing vents should penetrate a roof near the ridge rather than near the eave, for two reasons: While ridges are dry, eaves are wet. Eaves see much more water over the course of a year than ridges, so any defect near an eave will leak more water than a defect near a ridge. In north country, snow and ice can tear a plumbing vent right off a roof, especially if it is located near the eave. It’s much safer higher up the roof.

In a pole building with a vented unconditioned attic, it’s easy to install a couple of 45° ells in the vent pipe so the pipe penetrates the roof near the ridge. The same approach is also possible in a barn with a trussed vaulted ceiling, although the bay in which the vent pipe is run will not be as well insulated as the other bays.

Choose Metal Roofing

Despite there being many “good” choices for roofing materials, I have one that stands out from all the rest in every way. I’m just expressing my opinion here.

Clay tiles and slate are expensive. Concrete tiles are fragile and tricky to walk on. Cedar shingles are beautiful, but they are time-consuming to install and (because of their flammability) are illegal in some jurisdictions. Imitation slate and imitation wood shingles look like they belong on a 70’s restaurant. EPDM and roll roofing, if visible, are ugly. Asphalt shingles, they have their downsides, of course — they are made from petroleum, are susceptible to algae, and don’t last very long.  First good wind comes along and there are shingles blowing all over your, and the neighbors, yard.

My favorite type of roofing is ordinary through-fastened steel roofing. It’s available in a wide variety of colors and can be ordered cut to any length. It goes on fast, lasts a very long time, and is recyclable. It costs far less than standing-seam metal roofing.

Flash it right

Installers of steel roofing often do a sloppy job with flashing. When I install steel roofing, I always plan carefully for any roof penetrations like vent pipes, chimneys, or skylights. There are many really good flashings available, and my experience has been, they do an excellent job.

Anticipate Ice Dams

Building in a climate with snowy winters? The roof should include details to minimize the likelihood of ice dams: If the building is heated, use raised-heel trusses. Install a very deep layer of insulation on the attic floor. The insulation needs to be full thickness from outside of wall to outside of wall. Make sure there is adequate baffling to keep attic insulation from spilling into the soffit and to prevent wind-washing. Always use reflective insulation between roof purlins and roof steel (with the shiny side up).

Avoid valleys and, if possible, don’t install gutters.  If gutters are necessary, make sure they are installed below the plane of the roofing so they won’t prevent ice from sliding off the roof.

My “perfect” roof has a straight gabled design, no “holes” in it other than what is necessary for pipes or chimneys, a 4/12 or steeper slope, and is covered with steel.  That’s it.  Sometimes just keeping it simple not only saves money at time of construction, but for many years down the road.

This is a Test: Steel Strength

Once again, we hop in the “Way Back Machine” and visit what to some might be viewed as ancient history. Sometimes in life – to know where we are, it is important to know where we came from.

After selling my first post frame building business, M & W Building Supply, to Jim Betonte in 1990, I did some work for him as a consultant. One of the missions I was assigned to was to determine the shear strength of the steel roofing and siding being used on the pole buildings M & W was providing.

By having tested shear strength, the steel skin could be utilized structurally, much as plywood or oriented strand board (osb) is used. Plywood and osb have values which are published in the National Design Standards (NDS) for wood. At the time, limited testing had been done on steel panels, for shear strength. A testing procedure had been developed by the ASAE (American Society of Agricultural Engineers) Structures Committee, of which I was a member.

Alumax had a testing facility in Perris, California. Under the watchful eye of their then chief engineer, Merl Townsend, we constructed a roof assembly using rafters spaced every 12 feet (to simulate roof trusses), and 2×6 purlins on edge. On top of this, we installed the thinnest possible steel we could get in the marketplace – it barely made 30 gauge (.0127 of an inch thickness). The steel was attached with the industry standard #9 diameter one inch long screws.

Once constructed, horizontal loads were applied to the rafters, using hydraulic rams. The rams were set up so as allow for the amount of applied force to be measured.

As loads were applied to the roof, we had a surprise problem, which we had not anticipated. The one inch screws were pulling out of the framing – and not enough load had been applied to the roof to even make a ripple in the steel.

OK, problem numero uno solved – we replaced the one inch long screws with 1-1/2” long screws. This length of screw did not pull out.

Next cyclical loads were applied to the assembly, to simulate applied wind loads. As these loads were applied, we started to notice slots forming around the screws, in the direction of the load. The slots became long enough to be past the edge of the steel grommets on the screws. While this would not have caused a structural failure – it would be considered a failure by most building owners, as their roofs would be leaking!

Merl was one very smart guy. He designed a screw to solve both the pullout and slotting problems. This part was 1-1/2 inches long, with a #12 threaded shaft, which tapered out to a #14 just below the head. The larger #14 diameter, kept the slots from appearing as testing went forward. Merl’s screws are now featured as the standard part in every Hansen Pole Building with steel roofing or siding.

Viewing the testing was amazing – waves would appear in the steel between the roof purlins, several inches tall. When the load was taken off, the steel snapped back to flat. Eventually, a 9600 pound horizontal load caused the steel sheathing to buckle permanently.

From my previous experience in testing nail laminated columns, I knew we could only use 40% of the ultimate value (failure point) for designs. At the 40% point, there was not even the slightest ripple apparent in the steel roofing. The results of our testing have been accepted and are published in the National Frame Builders Association “Post-Frame Building Design Manual” Table 6.1 test assemblies 13 and 14.

These tested values are very comparable with those obtained from plywood and osb sheathing, so think of steel roofing and siding as performing like very thin, very strong plywood.

Solar Panels with Metal Roofing

With the latest technological advancements, innovations, and commercially viable implementation of thin-film solar roofing technology, we can now benefit from solar roofing products which offer revolutionary simplicity. Thin-film solar panels are light-weight, easy to install and can last a long time, requiring no penetrations to your roof.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. One of the latest technological innovations the integration of solar roofing panel laminates with steel roofing by the use of a peel and stick method.

Mess-free, light-weight and long lasting, this energy efficient roofing solution pays for itself.

Thin film solar roofing panels are light-weight and easy to install. They are made to fit standard steel roofing panels. Thin-film PV solar panels do not require any penetrations to the roof, and can be easily attached to steel panels using a revolutionary peel and stick method.

Crystalline solar panels can generate twice the amount of electricity of the thin-film solar panels. They are, however, bulkier and use a special mounting system, which requires roof penetrations. The only exception is a steel roof. You can attach a solar panel holding brackets to the raised ribs of the steel roof.

Thin-Film PV solar panels are designed to integrate seamlessly with a steel roof. They have a very low profile, which can be a significant architectural factor. They can generate electricity even on cloudy days, in the absence of direct sunlight.

Unlike the ubiquitous asphalt shingle roofs, modern steel roofing systems are made to last and can be considered permanent. They are manufactured using a significant proportion of recycled metal content, and are fully recyclable themselves, hence qualifying as sustainable green building materials.

When a steel roof is installed by a trained professional, it will last for many decades, and thus can be a permanent platform for a solar roofing system whether it’s crystalline or a thin film PV solar.

Steel roofs combined with renewable energy technologies can create a perfect combination of light-weight, long-lasting and affordable solution for Solar Electric and Solar Hot Water systems.

There are numerous benefits to having a steel roof combined with Solar PV panels, and other renewable energy technologies. Longevity, durability, and cost savings which add up over time are just a few.

When comparing shingles and steel roofing you should also consider a steel roof will help save our landfills from getting more old roofing shingles, petroleum based products, being dumped there every time an old asphalt shingle roof gets replaced.

Steel roofing provides a permanent and energy efficient roofing solution which can generate electricity when integrated with solar roofing panels, and various other solar technologies such as solar hot water systems.  If you are considering solar roofing panels, think steel roofing for your optimal combination.  Still thinking asphalt shingles with solar panels?  See my blog from yesterday and hopefully it will give you pause to reconsider.

Pole Buildings: Colorize it!

If we are going out for an evening on the town, my wife won’t let me pick the clothes I am going to wear.  While I am sure it has something to do with my inability to match colors, even I sometimes wonder about colors people choose for their pole buildings.

Several years ago we had a customer pick their pole building colors and to our absolute horror, they chose Evergreen walls, Brick Red roof and White trim! Everyone in the office who looked at this questioned the sanity of their choice. The consensus was…it would look great at Christmas, but what about the other 11 months of the year?

Turns out – everyone was wrong – except the customer.  The building looked great!  It looked clean and sharp with all the contrasts, and surprisingly, no one started singing “Jingle Bells” when they saw it. Obviously the customer knew far better than we did.

Color choices can be a difficult decision.  Do you try to match or complement colors of other buildings?  If this is your first building on the building site, do you pick out bright colors so the building makes a statement, or soft “blending in” colors so whatever else you choose, it won’t look like you plucked these randomly from a color chart?

Even though I don’t claim to be an expert, and would never, ever help you choose your colors, there are a few things I’ve learned over the years.

Trying to “match” pole building colors against another existing structure is nearly impossible. By the way, I’m talking about colors for all types of siding and roofing materials.  Since color pigment bases fade at different rates, what starts off as a close “match” may not end up close in a few years.  When I added on a dormer type closet to our house with steel siding and roofing a few years ago, my wife asked me why I chose a “totally different shade of blue” for the roofing.  She gave me one of those wifely “uh huh!” looks when I calmly told her I bought the “exact same” color we always had, but it was 15 years after the original steel roof had been installed.

We live by the lake, and the sun/winds and water effect are harsh on our roofing and siding.  The blue still looks great…just not the same exact “shade” as was originally put on the house.  You would never notice it had faded, unless you put on a few sheets of all new roofing – in supposedly the “same” color.  It was just this past summer (and 5 years of fading) I smugly pointed out to my bride how “see, honey how the roofing all matches now.”  I think she mumbled something about “lucky for you”!

Speaking of sun/water effects – keep this in mind in picking out the darker colors.  If you don’t mind a little fading, this is not a problem.  But darker colors also love the sun, so will make it warmer inside your building.  My wife insisted on a black roof for our huge accessory building, which I have to admit looks awesome against the white walls with black trims to set off windows and doors. I offset the sun-loving color of black with super-duper insulation and good venting/cooling.  It all worked out just fine.  And the extra insulation actually cut down on our heating costs in the winter.

So back to trying to “match” colors – you have two solutions.

The first is to do a “switch”.  Use a color close to the existing buildings trim color for the body of the new building and the existing “body” color for the trim.  This takes away from noticing a few differences in color shade.  We get a lot of folks who do this switch and it seems to tie all the buildings together. We had a customer who had painted lap siding on their house, but “switched” placement for steel roofing & siding colors which were “close” on their garage.  We had to look hard to tell they are not an almost perfect match.

The second choice is to just not try to match at all.  Choose colors which “complement” – (i.e. -look good together), and you end up looking like a professional design and color artist!

Check out the Paint a Building feature on our website to play around with color combinations.   You can click on the paint can on our website homepage, or click here to play with colors:


Have fun picking colors and if you call to ask my advice on pole building colors, I’ll gladly hand the phone to my wife!

Steel Roofing: Hail, Hail the Gang’s all Here

A couple weeks ago I posted about vinyl siding damage due to hail storms in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. Vinyl siding was not the only thing damaged – on my four mile running loop are numerous yard signs from roofers. The roofers are replacing shingles which were damaged by the same storm.

When I first began providing building kits in the Midwest, I was stymied by the number of clients in Michigan who were asking for shingled roofs, instead of steel.

Initially, I thought this must be a regional aesthetics thing. My curiosity finally got the best of me, so I asked about it. The answer – fear of steel roofing being damaged by hail! I never would have guessed.

My first reaction was to call each of the six steel companies who supply steel roofing and siding for our buildings. Only one of them had ever even had a claim submitted to them for hail damage! This certainly seemed contrary to the perception of pole building clients in Michigan.

Metal roofs are very tough and highly resistant to hail damage.  Hail will not penetrate a metal roof.  Even a new asphalt shingle roof won’t protect a home from the next hailstorm.  In fact, many metal roofing products have the highest impact resistance and hail rating (Class 4) granted by Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL).  This means that a sample of the product did not crack when hit twice in the same spot by a 2-inch steel ball, which, in a storm, would translate into a huge hailstone.  As a result of metal roofing’s superior performance in hail prone areas, some insurance companies even provide a reduced rate for homes protected by metal roofs.

The durability of the metal roofs along my running route would seemingly back up the tested results – nowhere along my running loop was a single steel roof being replaced, or even showing signs of cosmetic damage.  My son’s new garage in Maryville, TN, (built less than a year ago), has a steel roof and has not a dent or even a hint of one on his roof.  I’d like to think this is where we got the phrase, “Strong as Steel!”

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Roof leaks: Where does condensation come from?

Roof Leaks: Where does condensation come from?

When the weather turns cool in the fall, we get calls from customers with “roof leaks”, even when it has not been raining. These “leaks” are actually from condensation and are often reported as, “My steel roof is sweating”.

Steel roofing does not sweat. Having no sweat glands, it cannot produce moisture on its own. Condensation is a result of warm, moist air coming in contact with anything below the temperature of the dew point.

A classic example – ice cold beer on a warm day, moisture forms on the outside of the glass. The beer glass is not sweating and probably not leaking. It is just colder than the dew point causing moisture from the warm air to condense on the outside of the glass. Glass cannot absorb moisture, causing water droplets to trickle down the sides of the glass, creating a puddle or ring around the base.

Like glass, steel does not absorb moisture. Condensation, forming on the underside, falls off and drips on everything below. As steel is a heat conductor, it gets to the same temperature as the outside air very quickly.

Where does this moisture come from? Even in naturally low humidity climates, some degree of moisture is always in the air. You, as well as any animals housed in your building, produce a tremendous amount of water vapor, merely by exhaling. However, most of the moisture is coming from the ground beneath your building.

Do you believe concrete is a solid? Concrete actually acts far more like a sponge, soaking up moisture from below and allowing it to pass through into your building.  Check out a concrete floor when frost is coming out of the ground and the air is warmer above.

Try this experiment either on a humid day this summer, or on a cool day this fall – lay a piece of cardboard on the concrete floor in your building overnight. The next morning lift the cardboard, the underside will be damp from moisture passing through the concrete slab!

Reflective Insulation

Reflective radiant barrier will prevent most condensation

OK, so what do you do about condensation issues in a building?  If the roof has steel siding, this is actually pretty easy.  We put a condensation barrier under the steel, such as reflective radiant barrier. This has white vinyl on one side and aluminum facing on the other, to reflect heat from the sun, with a layer of air cells sandwiched in between.  It’s actually the air cells doing all the “no condensation” work by creating a thermal “break”.  Bonus points are having deflection of heat with the silver surface, making the building cooler.  And yes, this reflective radiant barrier does have a very minimal “R” value.

Back to the water issues.  Putting just plastic sheeting or house wrap on your building won’t do the trick against condensation.  You need a thermal break between the warm air and the steel.  And down the line in another blog, I’ll discuss building ventilation to decrease condensation as well.  For now, just keep in mind roof “leaks” don’t have to happen.

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