Tag Archives: telephone poles

Old Pole Barn Inspection

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: My school district has two adventure courses on our property. One has been up for approx 20 years. It is made with telephone poles. We are concerned that the poles may be in need of replacement. How would we know? Is there testing we could have done? ROWING ON LAKE RONKONKOMA

DEAR ROWING: Any pole over ten years old should have a pole barn inspection, below-grade, not more often than every ten years. This below-grade pole barn inspection consists of excavating out four inches around the pole, and to a depth of 18 inches. Chip or shave off any loose or decayed wood. Sound with a hammer (this is like tapping a baseball bat on home plate, to determine if it is broken or not). If needed, treat by mopping with preservative paste or the paste and wrapping with a moisture barrier.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I actually have two questions:

1. Can I have 12 x 12 overheads with the poles 12′ on center? 12 foot wide doors are not really 12 feet correct?  I haven’t paid much attention to the actual door width. Just know that an 8′ 8″ wide trailer is tough to get in with only 9″ each side on 10′ door. And actually more like 6″ each side.

2. With 12 foot high overheads, can I really have a 2′ eave light on the side wall with the doors? I didn’t see any pictures in the product guide that had them.  In fact one of the pictures of a 14′ eave and 12 foot doors didn’t look like it would really fit/look good. CLEARLY IN CLARK COUNTY

DEAR CLEARLY: In answer to question number one: NO. A 12′ wide residential overhead sectional door actually has panels which measure 12′ wide. The finished opening is 11’10”. It takes 4″ on each side of the door to mount hardware, so 12′ wide doors could be mounted in bays of 12’8″. Which, if you think about it, would be highly impractical as it makes the acquisition of dents from adjacent vehicles swinging doors into each other all too probable.

As an example, on a 60′ long building, one might consider making the bays 15′ in width and placing a 12’x12′ door in each one. This would allow for a three foot space between each door, and make for a much better target with a wide trailer.

With question number two: You would actually end up with 20 inches of light panel above the door, of which most of it will be blocked off by the top overhead door jamb, the overhead door header and the eave girt. I’d recommend sticking with 3′ tall panels on the side opposite the overhead doors and the light from the opposing sidewall will give you far more light overall.

DEAR POLE BARN GURU: I am putting up a pole building at my home and want to have a 16′ wide garage door in the front of it and an 8′ wide garage door in the back directly behind the 16’er to drive through. My question is how do bear the truss with the posts on ea. side of the doors? Can I just put a LVL header across the 16′ door and have the truss rest on that or what is the best way? LOITERING IN LAUREL

DEAR LOITERING: Small world – my wife and I stopped in Laurel weekend before last to fuel up our motorcycles!

Usually “front” and “back” of pole buildings reference the peaked ends of the building, however since you are asking about where trusses will bear, I will assume your front and back are the eave sides of the building.

You’ve come to the point many people reach who either bought materials piecemeal or a kit package with no or limited plans – stuck. Or worse, done incorrectly so as to risk a future structural collapse.

The best way would be to pay a few dollars for an engineer to properly size the header (probably will be an LVL) and design the attachments, which must be adequate to prevent failure from both wind and snow loads.

Hopefully the columns on each side of the door have been properly designed to be able to support what I will assume to be a 50% greater wind load then the other columns (if they are generally placed eight foot on center). The concrete footings under the columns should also have been increased in surface area by 50% to keep the columns from settling. This is especially important in the case of also attaching your overhead door, as column movement could cause the door to jam, or even worse – fall out of the tracks onto you or one of your vehicles.

Typically I would expect the header to be notched into the columns on each side of the door. The truss (or trusses) should be attached by a Simpson Strong-Tie® hanger adequate in size to resist the wind uplift loads.

Pole Building Design: Do It Right

Pole Building Design: Do It Right

Stressed Pole Building

Logs as poles won't cut it

Old Pole Barn

Unfit Pole Barn Construction

The photos above and quote below are an actual posting on a discussion website I belong to:

“i got this late 60’s 102’x56′ pole barn/shelter.

The poles are set 11’center squire.

The purlins(nailed with 3 spikes each end)to the poles.
rafters are 2×6,4′ apart,then 1×8 boards across and metal roofing on top.
The highest part is 16′ feet high and runs the full 102’lenght. the roof there spans 22′ between the poles.(look at the dinky construction of the rafters)

I got between 1 and 2.5′ of snow on it now,i wonder how much it’ll hold before it’ll come south No deflection of rafters or purlins detected yet

My humble opinion was to donate the building to the local fire department, so it could be used for firefighting practice.

In discussions back and forth with the building owner, it turns out he has the snow manually removed from the roof of this building every single winter. Frankly, I am amazed the building will stand up under its own weight.

Buildings such as this one are why I am an advocate for every building having to have a building permit, and engineered plans having to be submitted in order to acquire a permit. This has nothing to do with me believing governments should restrict what an individual can do with one’s own property.  It is about the mandate of Building Departments to protect against potential loss of life from unsafe structures.

Just to give a broad overview of some of the potential structural issues with this building….

The “posts” are obviously just logs.  As such, they are untreated and have undergone no real “inspection” for structural defects.   Any wood in contact with the ground should be appropriately pressure preservative treated.  It would be nice if it was also graded according to acceptable grading standards.

To give the benefit of the doubt, we will assume the lumber used is all #2 Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) as it has the highest strength values of domestic softwoods available on a retail level.

The 2×12’s (“purlins”) which span 11’ and support rafters spanning 11’ are “only” about 30% overstressed, using a minimal snow load of 20 pounds per square foot. The three spikes at each end had better be big ones, as they need to support in excess of 1400 pounds of load (I’ll keep using the same above minimal snow load).

The 2×6 rafters spanning 11’ and four foot on center are more than 50% overstressed. (This just makes my heart beat faster!)

And the 22’ span which the building owner says, “look at the dinky construction of the rafters” is nothing short of frightening.  (Ok, I am never going near this building, much less into it.)

My real point, in all of this, is you have one chance to have a new building done right or wrong. “Saving” money, only to create a potential failure which could injure or kill you, or a loved one, or destroy the valuables which the building is meant to protect, is just not worth it. Make the choice to do it right.

Contact a reputable pole building kit supplier, where they do pole buildings every day, all the time.  Shop around and do comparisons on pole building design so you know you are getting what you paid for, and at a decent price. But more than anything, ask lots of questions so you know they are not “cheaping out”.  After all, it’s your building.  Your money.  And it darn well better be…your safety.

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