Tag Archives: stick frame construction

Meeting IRC Slab Edge Thermal Breaks With Post Frame

Meeting IRC Slab Edge Thermal Breaks With Post Frame

Reader CHUCK in MUNCIE writes:

“Morning sir, I read your link in your post about post frame buildings for barn houses… one thing I am wondering, is how does the building pass energy code for residential construction, plus the IRC talks about a building being used for residential occupancy needs a thermal break at the foundation wall…. in a conventional post frame building the posts are on footings, and a slab on grade is poured, so how do you provide the thermal break to meet the building code?”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru says:


Post frame construction for residences has no appearance of going away at any time according to my crystal ball. And why should it? Post frame is more economical than stick frame, very DIY user friendly and can be readily super insulated. Here, I previously expounded upon post frame’s residential virtues: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2022/01/why-your-new-barndominium-should-be-post-frame/

Slab edge thermal breaks (slab perimeter insulation) is only required in Climate Zones 3 and greater. You can look up your Climate Zone at codes.iccsafe.org/content/IECC2021P2/chapter-3-re-general-requirements When required, it must be a minimum of R-10 and down two feet (Climate Zones 4 & higher adds a horizontal R-10 component or becomes down four feet).

A common question with rigid foam insulations is how well it resists water. A number of studies show EPS retains less moisture than XPS. A case in point is a side-by-side analysis of these two rigid foam types installed on a commercial building foundation in St. Paul, MN. When extracted and tested after 15 years in service, EPS had 4.8% moisture content by volume, compared to 18.9% for XPS (a four-fold difference). A testing lab also found  XPS holds water longer than EPS. After 30 days of drying time, XPS still had elevated moisture of 15.7%, while EPS had dried to 0.7%.

For installations where insulation will be exposed to large amounts of water or frequent wetting, rigid foam insulation is available with water-resistant facers or pre-cut drainage grooves. Insulation with polymeric laminate facers keep water from entering insulation and also provide an added barrier to water wicking or diffusing through.

Moisture resistance is also important for below grade and under-slab insulation, since wet products provide much lower thermal resistance. Side-by-side insulation comparison found EPS retained 94% of its specified R-value, while XPS lost nearly half of its insulating capability over 15 years.

In addition to higher moisture resistance, EPS also is not subject to thermal drift. This means its R-value stays same over time. By comparison, XPS’s manufacturing process uses blowing agents diffusing from foam’s cellular structure over product life, thereby reducing its thermal performance. EPS manufacturers typically warrant 100% of published R-value for 20 years or more, while common XPS warranties cover just 90% of published R-value.

Whether selecting EPS or XPS insulation, to ensure performance, confirm product was manufactured to meet requirements of ASTM C578, Standard Specification for Rigid, Cellular Polystyrene Thermal Insulation. This standard provides a key quality check on rigid insulation.

As insulation becomes increasingly common at slab edges, understanding performance and cost factors of these different materials is important. EPS offers a number of advantages over more commonly installed XPS, including having highest R-value per dollar among rigid insulations, making it a cost effective choice for many jobs.

Pole Barn Homes

Pole Barn Homes: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Choose Post-Frame Construction

Today’s guest blogger is Esther Williams, She specializes in Real Estate & Home improvement content, and wants to share her knowledge of creative interior designing ideas with those who are passionate about it. She’s also finishing her MA in journalism studies, dreams about publishing a book, and hopes to inspire people with her articles.

If you’re planning to build a house, you know this project requires a great deal of organization, perseverance, and money. At the same time, you will have to make many decisions that need to be thoroughly considered in order to move forward with your project. Like with everything, each decision you make – whether regarding the placement of windows, choice of the architect, or the construction – will have its pros and cons, and you, as the homeowner, need to be aware of them and their consequences.

Before getting started, you need to decide what type of construction you will use to build your house. You will have two options – either post-frame construction (the so-called pole barn home) or stick-frame. And although both options have their pros and cons, there is only one clear winner of this competition – post-frame home.

The Difference Between Post-Frame and Stick-Frame

The difference between post-frame and stick-frame might be confusing to those who have no experience building houses. Consequently, it might be hard to choose the best method for your own application. For this reason, first, you must understand what those two methods are.

Stick-frame building is what people think of when they think about basic home building. Stick frame projects are built on top of a concrete basement or another foundation and use interior walls for support. Buildings constructed on stick frames have complex wall framing structures and are known for a traditional style.

However, post-frame construction is a building method with no interior load-bearing walls. Thus, it is characterized by open interior spaces. The construction makes use of big foundational posts and roof trusses. Posts are buried into the ground for support, eliminating the need for a crawlspace foundation or a basement.

Reasons Why You Should Choose Post-Frame Construction

Generally, there are five top reasons why post-frame construction is nowadays a better option.


About Hansen BuildingsAlthough post-frame construction has been popularized thanks to pole barns, the truth is they are not your only option. Post-frame construction is nowadays used in many cases. For instance, you can build a pole barn garage – the garage door cost won’t be high, and the construction process itself will be very simple and quick. 

Moreover, you might also project a workshop and use it for an art studio or home business. Workshops will give you a lot of space to perform your hobbies and passions without disturbing family members or neighbors.


Post-frame construction has a simple yet incredibly effective design. Additionally, it doesn’t require as many materials and as much financing as stick-frame construction. The process is simpler and faster, which lowers the cost when hiring constructors.

Moreover, the posts supporting the whole structure are placed directly into the ground, which means no foundation costs. In short, post-frame construction is a great option if you want to save some money and, at the same time, have a good-looking, solidly built house. 

Long-Lasting Effect

If you decide on post-frame construction, you won’t have to worry about your home structure’s durability, no matter what the external conditions are that you live under. Pole barns are designed to withstand years of wind, rain, and snow. The force of snow and wind is actually transferred right into the soil thanks to the deeply-grounded poles. 

Generally, the deeper-seated the pole, the better resistance it will have to harsh weather. This gives post-frame construction a significant advantage over stick-built designs. Consequently, the construction will have a longer life span and will serve you for years to come.

Open Space

Post-frame construction is ideal if you envision having an open floor plan, which means you won’t have any interior walls. This provides an amazing modern design for the house and can also work wonders when it comes to event planning. When throwing a party, a post-frame house will function as a large space where all the guests will fit. 


Since post-frame construction doesn’t require many materials and it generally has a simpler design, the time it takes to build your home will be much shorter than in the case of stick-frame buildings. You will also save on time when it comes to the posts – they don’t require you to prep, pour, and cure a traditional foundation. 

This construction style doesn’t need thoughtful planning when it comes to terrain, as it adapts well to any kind of land. This makes the whole process affordable, simple, and pretty straightforward.

When it comes to building a house, the process could either be expensive and tedious, or affordable and pretty easy – it all depends on the decisions you make. One of the most important factors to consider should be the type of construction for the building – post frame or stick frame. Although both have their pros and cons, and it’s always valuable to be aware of both sides of the coin before spending your money. Nowadays, there is no doubt the more beneficial option is post frame. 

First of all, it enables you to use the building for many different purposes. Secondly, it’s also significantly cheaper and faster than a traditional stick frame. Moreover, the building will last long, even in harsh weather conditions and climate. 

Lastly, post-frame buildings come with great interior design possibilities, thanks to a lot of open space on the inside and a lack of walls. That allows you to experiment with your interior more and express your unique personality in the best possible way. 

Before making the final decision, you might want to contact specialists to make sure this type of construction will work for you, and you might want to read up on the subject on specialist forums on the web. 

Why You Should Install Post Frame Roofing Before the Walls

Over roughly 40 years of post frame construction, I have seen photos of one or two (or perhaps thousands) of post frame buildings under construction. I can pretty well tell from these photos if those doing assembly are (or were) stick builders.

I grew up as a framing contractor’s son (and later working for dad and my uncles stick framing), where we built walls with sheeting (and often siding) on them and tipped them up into place. This is all fine and dandy for ‘conventional’ stick frame construction, however not necessarily easiest or best when it comes to post frame.

In post frame construction, trusses extend from column outside to column outside (plus any overhangs). If walls have been framed (girts, headers and door jambs placed) trusses will have to be jockeyed around to be lifted in place from inside the building. This is especially true in applications with bookshelf (inset) style wall girts.

Most post frame buildings have one or more columns out of perfect placement along building length. Accept it, this is just going to happen no matter how perfect you or your builder might be. Most buildings have a far greater roof purlin quantity per bay, than wall girts per bay. By framing the roof first, all purlins (assuming they are inset) can be cut to the same length in each bay, this is determined by engineered plan column spacing, less truss assembly thickness. When trusses are in place, column tops will easily move forward or backwards so all truss supporting columns end up spaced per plans. This also aids in an overall building roof length creation matching expectations.

During the truss placement process (regardless of method used) there will come times when it is highly convenient to be able to walk ‘through’ a wall. Girts in place means having to fit through girts or walk around – either of which slowing construction processes.

It is far easier to square up the roof without wall framing member resistance. Once roof sheathing or roof steel is in place, it makes it simpler to plumb building corners.

With roofing in place and walls open, a concrete slab may be installed if desired. This helps protect concrete pour from weather elements, especially heat in summer or rain. Pre-mix trucks can access and chute through any accsessible sides or ends. This can eliminate the need to pay for a pump truck.

Want your new post frame building as perfect as possible and completed quickest? Then roof first, walls after is most probably your route to success.

Barndominium Costs Part II

Continuing my discussion of Barndominium costs from yesterday’s blog…
For sake of discussion, we will use 2400 sft (40×60) of finished living space (includes any bonus rooms) plus 1600 sft of garage/shop. To have a GC (General Contractor) turn-key this for you expect an average of:

2400 X $165.67 = $397,608
1600 X $83.50 = $133,600
$397,608 + $133,600 = $531,208

This is having your barndominium built (turn key), not for owner-builders.
If your barndominium will be very simple, rectangle, standard sizes, with little to no upgrades on finish materials (counter tops, flooring, cabinets, showers, lighting, trim, etc) then your costs could be less per sft.


On spectrum’s other end would be for very intricate, high end, everything upgraded barndominiums. Including things like custom cabinets, real hardwood flooring, high end appliances, custom fireplace, built in entertainment options, oversized windows and doors, vaulted ceilings throughout, steep roof, extra bathrooms/kitchens, etc.

But what you really want to know is what it will cost for you to build it, right?
We will assume you are willing to do some legwork, so if you don’t do any physical work yourself and just act as general contractor (making phone calls, hiring people, ordering materials, dealing with problems, etc) you can build this average barndominium for roughly $186,000 less than it would cost to hire a general contractor.

I can make a LOT of phone calls for this. In fact, I could easily take well over a year off work and still come out ahead!

Beyond making phone calls, hiring people, ordering materials, and dealing with problems, you can lower your price by doing some work yourself.
It’s all about what YOU are willing to do as an owner-builder.

Our prices above are for “stick frame” construction. By using post frame construction with embedded columns, rather than pouring a footing and foundation, a savings of $11,400 (2011 numbers) can be found: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/10/buildings-why-not-stick-frame-construction/.
This reduces your $531,208 investment by about 3% to $515,271
NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) allocated percentages in their Construction Cost Breakdown. These included:

Site work 7.4% (of this 1.2% was for architecture and engineering)
Foundations 11% (this includes excavation and backfill)
Framing 20.5%
Exterior Finishes 11.8% (siding, roofing, windows, doors)
Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC rough ins 17.9%
Interior Finishes 24% (insulation, drywall, interior trims and doors, painting, lighting, cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, fireplaces)
Final Steps 5.9% (Landscaping, decks, driveways, clean up)

Of framing and exterior finishes (roughly 1/3rd of costs), if you invest in an engineered post frame building kit package and do your own labor (labor being roughly 1/2 of this portion), save around $83,000 from what you would pay a General Contractor (I can take a lot of time off work for this).

Hansen Pole Buildings GuesthouseAnd my engineered post frame building kit package includes engineering, saving $6,400.
Obviously even more savings can be achieved for those capable of doing electrical and plumbing, however assuming nothing other than what has been listed, your $531,208 barndominium has been built and is ready to move in for roughly $256,000!! This resulted in over a 51% savings and kept over $275,000 in YOUR pocket!!

Of course your investment and savings could be more or less depending upon your tastes and location, however this should give you a feel for where you will be headed. It would be prudent to budget another 1% for every month you delay your start, as well.

Post Frame Apartment Buildings

Post Frame Apartment Buildings

I have thought about the possibilities of constructing apartments using post frame construction for years, however a recent query from reader DERRICK in CINCINNATI brought it to the forefront of my thoughts. Dave writes: “Can you build apartment buildings out of your products? Nothing fancy. Just affordable living in a rural area. If yes, have any of your customers done anything like this or similar?

Keep in mind, post frame construction is applicable in any circumstance where stick frame construction could be used. Although roll formed steel roofing and siding is going to be the most cost effective and durable – any choice of covering materials can be used.

Apartment buildings are something I have not done personally, nor have I had a client construct one. Come to think of it, I have yet to have seen any post frame apartments done by anyone.

So why use post frame construction for an apartment building?

Cost savings would obviously have to be a factor. Assuming the same siding and roofing materials the largest cost savings (as well as time savings) is going to come from the foundation. The investment into continuous footings and foundations of poured concrete are immense. These costs accelerate as foundation walls become deeper due to having to get footings below frost lines in colder climates.

Speed of construction. Construction financing can get to be expensive. Every day a project lags before being able to be occupied is reducing profits for the project. Short of using prefabricated wall panels, post frame construction is going to assemble far quicker than stick frame.

And wall panels are not cheap.

Post frame construction can easily accommodate high R value insulation systems. Certainly there is going to be an investment into more insulation, however tenants show a willingness to pay extra in rent, to see a lower monthly utility cost.

Looking to construct an apartment building or buildings? If the end result will be three or fewer floors with a wall height of 40 feet or less (add one more story and 10 more feet of wall height with sprinklers), then post frame should most certainly be considered as a design solution