Tag Archives: stick built building

Doesn’t Like Idea of Concrete Slab on Grade Foundation

Doesn’t Like Idea of a Concrete Slab Foundation

Loyal reader ASHLEY in KELSO writes:

“I will be building in southwest Washington – Cowlitz County. We are wanting around a 2800 square foot home. I do not like the idea of a concrete slab “foundation”, we are going with crawl space (I read your blog on that =) ) I have just a few questions. Do you offer your services in Cowlitz County? What permit codes should I be looking for when contracting out/doing it ourselves to make this into a home? Not only is this our first build, it will be done by us so Will contracting out be more expensive for a pole barn home since it’s not a typical stick built? Or is the work roughly the same? Hope this all makes sense. Thank you so much.”

Well Ashley makes total sense.

Hansen Pole Buildings actually provides more buildings in Washington State than anywhere else in the country! In Cowlitz County alone, I would not be surprised if you couldn’t find well over a hundred of our buildings.

You will find crawl spaces to be a very effective alternative to slab on grade using fully engineered post frame construction and we see more and more people interested in this as a design solution. Personally, my knees would scream at me if I had to stand on concrete for more than perhaps 15-20 minutes.

Self-contracting will save you a good chunk of change (often 25% or more) and if you are reasonably physically capable and will read our step-by-step assembly instructions you can successfully erect your own beautiful building shell yourself. You will find a post frame building shell goes together quicker than stick built, because there are frankly fewer pieces to handle!

Any subcontractors for electrical, plumbing, HVAC should be roughly similar in price whether stick or post frame – your savings comes from being your own general contractor, DIYing as much as possible and a huge reduction in foundation investment.

Here is your Planning and Building Department ‘homework’ to get you started:



Stick Frame and Some Limitations

Stick Frame and Some Limitations

Perhaps stick built construction’s biggest advantage is builders and tradespeople are very comfortable working in and around stick framing. All registered architects and most building inspectors are very familiar with stick framing. The International Residential Code (IRC) provides a prescriptive ‘cook book’ to follow for adequate structural assembly, within certain limitations. These limitations include, but are not limited to, no story height of greater than 11 feet 7 inches (R301.3), no hurricane prone areas with a design wind speed of 130 mph or greater located south of Virginia, or 140 mph elsewhere (R301.2(5)B), and no ground snow loads over 70 psf (R301.2.3).

IRC802.10.2.1 further limits truss spans to a maximum of 36 feet and building lengths to 60 feet (measured perpendicular to truss span). Trussed roof slopes must be at least 3:12 and no greater than 12:12.

Wood is a very forgiving building material and, even when miscut, replacement material is usually only a short drive away. America’s home building industry has built traditional, wood stick framed homes, on site for decades.

Many builders, architects, carpenters and other subcontractors prefer to work on stick built homes as compared to alternative building systems.  Because traditionally framed houses are so popular, dimensional lumber and stick built framers are readily available.

Another advantage of stick built homes is they allow for a great level of design freedom.  You can design your barndominium with various ceiling heights, angles and curves, niches and other details. Stick framing one to achieve those unique details at a fairly affordable cost.

Despite its popularity, stick framing does have some drawbacks. Because stick built homes are assembled outside, over several weeks, framing lumber is subject to outside moisture.If lumber gets too wet, it can shrink and warp as it dries and cause cracks in the attached drywall.  This shrinking and warping can also make it difficult to properly insulate. To decrease  risks of potential moisture problems, ensure exteriors are covered with an appropriate and well-sealed Weather Resistant Barrier and lumber is properly dried before drywall and insulation are installed.

Another drawback of a stick built home is it usually takes several weeks to complete framing.  Total amount of time it will take will obviously depend on size and complexity of house plans and size, experience and availability of any particular framing crew.

A framing crew must precisely cut, assemble and erect barndominium framing components sometimes in adverse weather conditions.  Working around adverse weather conditions is another challenge with stick framing.

Although site-built, stick framed homes clearly dominate America’s housing market, there are several other ways to build a barndominium’s structure. These include post frame, PEMB (pre-engineered metal buildings), weld up steel and concrete.

Beginning a Shouse Journey in Washington State Part I

A shouse (shop/house), barndominium or post frame house project may seem daunting, however by doing lots of reading, research and asking questions, an average individual can craft for themselves a home they love, tailored to meet their family’s wants and needs.

Loyal reader ROBERT in OLYMPIA writes:

“Hello to the Pole Barn Guru or whoever reads this!

​I came across Hansen Buildings a few years ago when I first became interested in pole barn homes, and have been following the content posted by the Pole Barn Guru in various places online- always great information!  I am finally zeroing in on purchasing a piece of land and I would like to get some more information on going the “Hansen route,” either for a shouse or a house and detached shop, or for just a shop.​

I’ve spoken with my county’s planning department and was informed that there would be no problems building what I want.  The land is already improved with water and septic, is nice and flat, is south facing, and is zoned accordingly.  There is actually a building permit currently active from the previous owner’s stick built project (who passed away, and never further than the dig out for his foundation).  They told me that I could bypass some of the headaches (such as the Pocket Gopher review process) if I renew the permit before it expires (4/2020) and submit the new site plans…​

My ideal setup would be:​

– 50x90x(16 or 18) building​

-around 1200 square feet of living space, 2 bath, 2 bed, 1 “office”​

-3300 square feet as shop space with 1 bath and 1 utility sink.  Wired with electricity & lighting.​

-Very energy efficient (insulation, doors, windows, leakage).  Prefer spray foam if budget allows.​


-1 large garage door/bay, 3″ thick​

-All large windows to be south facing with appropriately-sized overhangs (passive house principal).  These overhangs could potentially be in the form of a covered porch.​

-Enclosed overhang with vented soffits, but only on the eaves & vented ridge cap.  Solid gables.​

-Concrete piers with post brackets.​

-slight outward slope in concrete where garage doors meet concrete to make water drain away from/out of shop.​

-at least 2 drains in concrete – 1 near door, and one near a corner​

-insulated concrete slab w/ hydronic heating, sealed concrete flooring throughout (no other floor covering)​

-Possibly add ductless heat pump mini-split for additional heating if necessary. ​

-No cooling system necessary.​

-modestly finished interior​

-Ikea or similar non-custom kitchen​

-self-sourced appliances​


Someone at the Thurston county planning department told me that while the project definitely is doable, it might make more sense to build the home and shop as separate structures.  He mentioned that because they were attached, the whole building would have to meet WA energy code.  I guess he was implying that it would be cheaper to construct the shop separately if it didn’t have to meet that code?  Because I would like the shop to be insulated, does this really apply to me?  I’ve heard that insurance could potentially be cheaper with a detached setup, but I can’t seem to find anything concrete about that.  Have you found that to be the case?​

As I mentioned I would like to do hydronic radiant heating (probably by Radiantec) throughout the home and shop.  From my research that seems like the most cost efficient way to heat (mass rather than air).  However, the shop doesn’t necessarily need to be kept at “living temperature” all the time.  I would like it to be comfortable while I’m in there, but beyond that I just need it to stay above about 40 degrees.  I’m interested to hear your input on this.  In reading, it seems like whenever people opt for something like a radiant tube heater or mini-split for the shop, they always regret not going with radiant floor heating.  Natural gas is not available at this location, so my options are propane, oil, wood, or electric.

Because I’m very new to the world of home building, I’m not sure what other requirements there would be in building this.  I know that there are some pretty detailed drainage plans that exist for the previous project on the property, and I’m wondering who is in charge of creating new drainage plans for my project?  Does Hansen do that type of thing?  Or someone local to me?​

Pricing/plans:  Is it possible to get some sort of idea about costs/cost breakdown for the type of building I described?  How about for separate structures?  I love the idea of doing some of the work myself, I’m just not sure how realistic that really is with my work schedule, especially in the summer.  I would probably need contractor(s) to take care of the majority of the major work.​

Do you have any floor plans similar to what I’ve described?  I have a few different ideas on different floor plan ideas but it’s probably easier/cheaper to just use some existing plans.​

I love the “Shouse” idea but I find it a little overwhelming because there is not a “turn key” option like what exists from traditional home builders like Adair Homes in Olympia.  So to get the job done would require basically managing the project with a crew of different contractors to finish the shell, concrete, insulation, electrical, plumbing, finishing, etc……I just would really prefer something a little different and more energy efficient than standard construction.​

As of right now, I think those are all of the questions that I have.​

Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing back!​”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

Come back tomorrow for Part Two.

Pole, Steel or Stud Framed…What’s the Difference?

When it comes to low rise structures (loosely defined as having sidewall heights of 50 feet or less), most people consider one of three options – pole buildings, stud wall framed, or all steel.

Stud WallStud framed (or stick built) structures are how most homes are typically built. Generally they require a great deal of excavation and have a continuous concrete footing and foundation around the perimeter. Walls are typically made of 2×4 or 2×6 vertical studs, placed 16 or 24 inches on center.

By code, stud walls without lateral support are limited to 10 feet in height, unless a structural analysis is done. Roof trusses or rafters and ceiling joists can be no greater than 24 inches on center. In some cases, interior load-bearing walls may be required and door or window openings in load bearing walls must have structural headers.

All steel buildings can have much taller sidewalls and wider clear spans than stud framed buildings. Their main support structure is composed of large steel frames, spaced as much as 30 feet on center. The frames require large concrete footings with carefully placed anchor bolts. In building widths of less than 90 feet, their constructed cost can be almost half again more than a pole building, when the great amounts of concrete and need for heavy equipment is factored in.

Pole buildings allow the greatest flexibility and lowest construction cost of any permanent building. The pole building concept was developed so the least amount of materials could construct the largest building. Typical pole buildings use widely spaced pressure preservative treated timbers for the main vertical supports. The foundation is these treated columns, embedded into the ground, with a small amount of concrete cast around them. Usually roof trusses are aligned with the wall columns which are normally spaced every 10 to 12 feet. As pole buildings are modular, they can be constructed of any length.  When someone asks me “how long can I build a pole building?” my answer is typically, “until your land or money runs out.”  Usually structural headers are not required for windows, doors or other exterior wall openings.

What lured me into pole buildings in the first place, and has kept me there solidly for over 35 years, is their simple, practical, versatile and yet very sturdy design.  Over 14,000 buildings later, I am still excited to get up every morning hoping to design the next homeowner’s “dream building.”