Tag Archives: steel truss

Fun With a Cheap Steel Truss Pole Building

Most of our country is unfamiliar with low budget steel truss pole barns produced and sold primarily in Southeastern states. There is a reason these are prevalent where there is no snow – just in case you were wondering.

Disclaimer, I have no issues at all with prefabricated light gauge steel trusses, provided they have been manufactured to engineer sealed drawings, specific to loading conditions where they will be put into use. AND if they are fabricated by a certified welder (rarely occurs).

Reader KEVIN in COLUMBIA writes:

“Hi Guru,


I recently purchased a home and the property included a 32×84 Pole barn. The barn was never dried in and was barely completed by the previous owner. However, everything is solid, square and plum; with the exception of a few pieces of steel on the roof that were never installed, it is a solid structure. Immediately after purchasing the home I had a monolithic slab poured under half of the structure that will become the foundation for the home of my new shop. I am quite comfortable with carpentry, but not so much with insulation. How do I go about condensation proofing the roof? I really do not want to pull the existing roof panels off to lay a vapor barrier over the purlins. My intention is to have a well ventilated attic, insulate the walls, and blow in insulation over the ceiling. I have heard of some people installing foam board to the exposed steel. Spray foam is an option, but one that is out of my price range for the moment. I have attached some images for your inspection. The 3D CAD models should provide a better illustration of what is under the roof. I look forward to your response.”

Kevin is now experiencing joys associated with buildings sold ‘on the cheap’ – with barely enough materials to get a roof on with a minimal budget. It would have been so simple for this building to have been originally sold and erected with provisions to control roof condensation. Either a Reflective Radiant Barrier (RRB) or an Integral Condensation Control (ICC) would have easily avoided your current situation.

This style of building does not lend itself well to installation of a ceiling (there are no clips along truss bottom chords to accept ceiling joists). My educated guess is these trusses are not designed to support weight of a ceiling. With 2×6 purlins spanning 12 feet, they are sadly not stiff enough to keep drywall joints from cracking – so you are going to be faced with lots of limitations.

Foam board might be a solution, however you would need to have each panel 100% air sealed between purlins in order to do so. Chances of success range close to zero. You are left with two choices – remove roof steel, install a RRB and reinstall roofing or two inches of closed cell spray foam (roughly $5700). Hopefully you have poured your slab on grade over a well-sealed vapor barrier, if not – use a sealant on top of it (not as effective, but better than nothing).


Problems in Steel Truss Building Land

Problems in Steel Truss Building Land

Disclaimer – Hansen Pole Buildings does not provide steel truss post frame buildings and I have never personally been involved in the structural design of one, however there are a plethora of readily evident challenges with this building which should be properly addressed.

Reader JAMES in TALLAHASSEE writes:
“I am framing in three sections of a five section clear span metal truss barn. In addition to the roof purlins on top of each truss there is a row of 2×6 lateral bracing running through the web of the truss. Can I remove the two that would be running directly through my framed wall? It’s not vertical but angled toward the peak so framing and siding around it will be trial and error. I even considered pulling it and using a steel cable to replace it. The ones I am speaking about are over each window in the picture but it is the opposite wall I am concerned about.” Mike the Pole Barn Guru writes
James ~

I will address your question first, then will share some challenges I see with your building – many of which should be addressed to the engineer of record (EOR) who sealed the plans for your building.

It is unlikely you would be able to safely structurally remove the braces, they keep the bottom chord of the truss members from bucking in the weak direction (towards the endwalls) under stress reversals caused by high wind loads. It might be possible to cut them and anchor them into each side of your interior framed wall, provided the wall is adequate to support the imposed loads. This is a question which would need to be posed to the EOR. AS for replacing the lumber braces with steel cable – not going to work. The cable would be strong in tension, however offers no resistance to compression. If the cables were to be placed in an X fashion (going from top of one truss to bottom of the next, as well as bottom to top) it might be possible, however again poses engineering and connection challenges which should be addressed by the EOR.

Moving on to some structural problems I see with your building (again all of these should be addressed directly to your EOR as he or she has placed their seal on the plans and have ultimate structural responsibility)….

As best I can tell, the columns and steel truss frames of your building are placed every 12 feet. If they are over 10 feet apart, a single 2x member as bottom chord bracing is inadequate – under load they will buckle in the weak direction. Solutions could include – adding a 2×4 to the top or bottom of the 2×6 to form either a T or an L. Typical attachment would be with a 10d common nail, generally at 12 inches on center.

It appears your building has 12 foot sidewalls, if so engineering is required to design the size and spacing of the studs in your walls. You have a serious problem in your endwalls – code requires the studs to run from the bottom plate to the roof line continuously. In your instance, a hinge point has been created at the plate line running across the endwall at eave height. Without some serious engineering analysis to brace this point, your endwalls will buckle at this point under windloads – generally being sucked outward.

I am also seeing “air” between the roof purlins where they cross the endwall truss. In order to adequately transfer the wind shear loads from the roof to the endwalls – solid blocking is required between the purlins at the endwall.

In the event an engineer was not involved in the original design of your building, I cannot recommend strongly enough for you to hire a local Registered Design Professional (engineer or architect) who can physically visit your building and provide structural solutions for the challenges visible in your photo, as well as others which may not be readily evident from our limited viewpoint. I am not trying to get you to spend your hard earned dollars for naught, I would just like to make sure your building stays upright in the next wind event.

Second Floor Mezzanines and Heights

Second Floor Mezzanines and Heights

As humans, the great majority of us are dimensionally challenged. Stop the snickers and giggles as this has nothing to do with human anatomy. In this case the dimension challenge is as it relates to post frame buildings and mezzanines.

All of this was begun with a question from DAMIAN in AVON: “Do you offer steel trusses and can I get 16ft wall height as I want a second floor mezzanine and tall auto lifts? My building dimensions will be 60×80.”

Damian’s first question was in regards to steel trusses. Steel trusses done right appear to be a rarity. Back in the 1980s, when I owned M & W Building Supply in Canby, OR, a gentleman named Stanley Floyd was a Building Designer for me. Stanley is far better known for his gospel songs (which you can listen to here: https://www.airplaydirect.com/music/stanleyfloydhighmountain/) than buildings – but he does know his buildings.

Stanley’s dad had built steel truss frame buildings in Arkansas. With my blessing Stanley went out on his own and founded Web Steel Structures (now Web Steel Buildings Northwest, LLC https://wsbnw.com/). He has moved back to Arkansas and I have discussed building steel trusses with him. A big part of the steel truss equation is finding a manufacturer who can provide an engineered steel truss, some semblance of quality control and a somewhat affordable price. When we find such a manufacturer, Hansen Pole Buildings will offer them as an option for those who are so interested.  Otherwise, they may be in Hansen Pole Buildings’ future.

According to Wikipedia: “A mezzanine is an intermediate floor (or floors) in a building which is open to the floor below. It is placed halfway up the wall on a floor which has a ceiling at least twice as high as a floor with minimum height. A mezzanine does not count as one of the floors in a building, and generally does not count in determining maximum floor space. The International Building Code permits a mezzanine to have as much as one-third of the floor space of the floor below. Local building codes may vary somewhat from this standard. A space may have more than one mezzanine, as long as the sum total of floor space of all the mezzanines is not greater than one-third the floor space of the complete floor below.”

The absolute minimum finished height of a room (other than a kitchen or bathroom) is 7’6”, which means double this would be 15’. In reality, to create truly usable space above and below a mezzanine, an eave height of 18 feet should be used. This would allow for easily finished ceiling heights both above and below the mezzanine of eight feet, as well as it compensates for the thickness of the floor framing system.