Tag Archives: Wick Buildings

How to Avoid a Disastrous Pole Barn Project Part III

How to Avoid a Disastrous DIY Pole Barn Project

This is part three in a three part series on how to better ensure a great pole barn project, by getting rid of the pitfalls.

I’d like to thank Bret Buelo of Wick Buildings for the basis of this article, which appeared on the Wick Buildings website (www.wickbuildings.com) August 12, 2016. Information from Bret’s article appears here in italics along with my own input as well. Wick Buildings is highly rated by the Better Business Bureau and has been an NFBA (National Frame Building Association www.nfba.org) member for decades.

Part of the fun of any DIY project is learning new skills to complete a project. However, there is a point where you venture too far into the unknown and begin to cost yourself time, money and perhaps even your own personal safety.

If you’re a DIYer with lots of time on your hands and potentially cash to burn, by all means, you can take a shot at any pole barn project. But if you’re on a budget and time is of the essence, there are tipping points when you can find yourself in over your head.  Many pole barn jobs can get extremely complicated, and if you’re not careful, can lead to some significant mistakes.

We reached out to Gordon Sebranek, who manages the Engineering Department at Wick Buildings, for some insights. Following are the last three of nine potential pitfalls he outlined to help you decide if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

Go to parts one and two to get up to speed. To continue:

  1. Don’t Know the Specialized Building Tricks

General building training and experience is great, but there are also specialties within post-frame construction that require a different knowledge base.  For example, free-stall dairy setups involve a number of unique parameters. And these specialized projects tend to also require specialized equipment.

Guru comments: For those rare and unique projects, this may be the case. The Hansen Pole Buildings Construction Manual includes numerous tricks to a successful end result which are the product of experience of those who have constructed over a hundred thousand buildings. They are tried and true methods which allow the average DIYer to build like a pro.

  1. Lacking Time and Money to Make Mistakes

This category is entirely subjective. As we mentioned earlier, if you have unlimited time and money, then you’re never really in over your head. But if you are on a tight timetable or budget, you may soon find yourself in some serious soup.

Gordon notes that the length of a project depends on the specifics of the size and complexity.  He’s seen an experienced person design a 30 x 50 building in two hours. “Some jobs might take six weeks, because they’re very involved,” he said.

Project durations become longer depending on your experience level, too. Do you have the patience to teach yourself how trim out a building nicely, and to correct mistakes if and when they happen?

Guru comments: Tight time tables often occur when trying to hit the window of opportunity for a high quality post frame building contractor. When I was a building contractor, there were certain times of the year when it could be six to eight months before we had a construction crew available to put up your building.

Put structural design in the hands of the experts and you will be time and money ahead. Please – I implore you – do not attempt the structural design of a building on your own unless you happen to be an RDP, and even then, you might be ahead to farm it out to the specialists who do nothing but post frame buildings every day.

Doing things like cleanly installing trims is as easy as opening your Construction Manual and looking at the details and photos which walk through even the most challenging of applications.

And in construction mistakes can and will happen. I used to employ the best post frame building crews in the industry (in my past life as a pole building contractor). Even then, I’d see a crew blow half a day of time on something which could have been handled in five minutes by contacting the office for assistance.

This is why Hansen Pole Buildings offers free unlimited technical support via email during the construction process. 99 out of 100 times the answer was right there in the Construction Manual to begin with, but when something goes awry, it helps to have the experts near to give you the answer you need to quickly move forward.

  1. Don’t Know the Safety Requirements

You’re in over your head when you don’t have the appropriate safety tools to protect yourself on difficult jobs. Or, more accurately, when you don’t know what you need to do to protect yourself.

Wick Builders and the outside contractors that they work with adhere to OSHA requirements. Safety is the top priority on every job. It’s our opinion that if you don’t know the safety requirements for every job, then you are in over your head.

You only go around once, folks. Don’t short-change the safety requirements for a construction job.

Guru comments: I heartily agree. Safety is paramount in any construction project – my Dad was killed in a construction fall in 1988, so I am very sensitive towards avoiding injuries. OSHA (or state versions thereof) has many good ideas for safety and they consume innumerable hours of having to do paperwork – all of which the consumer pays for when they hire a contractor. For the most part, use common sense and play it safe. If you can fall more than a few feet wear a properly secured harness.

Most post frame building projects can (and should) be built on a DIY basis. This is a great way to take pride of ownership and get more out of your building dollar.

Once again I’d like to thank Wick Buildings for their contribution to this blog series, and to the fine art of pole buildings in general.

How to Avoid a Disastrous Pole Barn Project

Part two of a three part series. See yesterday’s blog for part one.

I’d like to thank Bret Buelo of Wick Buildings for the basis of this article, which appeared on the Wick Buildings website (www.wickbuildings.com) August 12, 2016. Information from Bret’s article appears here in italics along with my comments as well.

Part of the fun of any DIY project is learning new skills to complete a project. However, there is a point where you venture too far into the unknown and begin to cost yourself time, money and perhaps even your own personal safety.

We reached out to Gordon Sebranek, who manages the Engineering Department at Wick Buildings, for some insights.

Pitfalls 4, 5 and 6:

  1. Can’t See the Big Picture

Construction talent is required when you execute the plans – but what about creating the plans?

Gordon notes that designing a pole barn requires some innate talent as well. “You have to be able to build this in your head,” he explains. That requires envisioning how everything fits together in a building.

Beyond a natural conceptual ability, Gordon said that most designers have advanced schooling in the field, typically a four-year college degree in construction management, or a two year degree in architectural design.  And even then, there’s a certain amount of on-the-job experience required to hone that talent.

“We start out entry level designers with simple buildings, and as they get more comfortable, we move on to more complicated jobs,” he said.

Guru comments: We have two things happening here – the design for functionality and the structural design.

For functionality, it takes common sense, and can be helpful to work with an experienced company who does nothing but post frame (pole) buildings.

My recommendation is always to construct the largest building which will fit on your property and within budget. In nearly 20,000 buildings, I have yet to have a client ever come back to me and tell me their building was just too big!

steel-garageFor buildings which will house vehicles or equipment, it is best to start from the doors. Standard production cars and pickups will fit through nine foot wide by seven foot tall overhead doors – however it is usually best to err on the side of caution and go 10 wide by eight tall. Need two vehicles through the same door (saves on the cost of an opener)? Then increase the width to at least 16 if not 18 feet. Boats, RVs, etc., are usually happiest with 12 foot wide doors and with a 14 foot height, if it can legally go down the highway, without special permits, it will fit through the door.

Place doors three or more feet apart to avoid door dings. Avoid sliding doors unless the building is purely agricultural.

Take the dimensions of stuff you want to place inside the building and allow for enough room to comfortably walk around them.

Add at least two foot in eave height to the tallest door (at a minimum).

For structural design – rely upon a post frame building kit package provider who includes plans sealed by a registered design professional (RDP – architect or engineer) only. Don’t take anything to chance or luck. It isn’t just a ‘pole barn’ it could be the life of you or a loved one!

  1. Planning Not a Strong Suit

One area that is often overlooked by DIYers is the task of pre-planning.  Wick’s approach is much more in-depth than scratching out a shopping list for a lumber yard.

“We give very detailed instructions on how this gets put together,” Gordon said. These construction instructions include line items that specify parts and procedures for construction. They range in size from 20 to 100 pages, and the designer specifies how the project will fit together.

The point is to methodically think through every element of the project beforehand. It’s not that a DIYer can’t do this, it’s just that many don’t have the time, patience or understanding how to create a thorough construction instruction packet.

Guru comments: I agree 100% with having not only plans which spell out what every piece is and where it goes, but also detailed instructions. The Hansen Pole Buildings Construction Manual, as an example, is over 500 pages in length and deals with the specifics of the great majority of how to assemble your new pole building – from dirt to the last screw.

A few pages off a photocopier are not going to provide the in depth tricks of the trade which will save hours of time and give a superior finished product.

  1. Don’t Have the Experience

Much of what we’ve alluded to already could be lumped under a general heading “experience.” This is a difficult category to write about, because we simply can’t tell you all the tricks of the trade that will help.

Consider Gordon’s explanation about making a pole barn square:

You have to set up your batter boards, run your strings to make sure you’ve got a square box outline to fit your building in. Then you have to make sure all your columns are plumb. But even though you’ve got all of the columns plumb, when you get your trusses set, you have to make sure you’ve got a straight wall at the top and the bottom.

That’s a simple procedure for a builder who’s done it a thousand times. But for the novice, it’s an oversight that could significantly impact your building.

Guru comments: Post frame buildings are great for the average DIYer, as the skills are not ‘rocket science’ for those who can and will read the instructions.

To my Readers… Come back tomorrow for the third installment of the series on DIYers who build their own pole building.

Saving Money With a Pole Barn

Eight Nifty Tricks to Save Money When Building a Pole Barn (reprised)

Bret Buelo of Wick Buildings® wrote an article by this title last year, some of the items I agree with, some not so much. I will offer my “take” on his points.

“1. Spacing of your columns. Builders typically space columns anywhere between six and 12 feet. The wider your column spacing, the less costly your structure is going to be because each column and accompanying truss costs you money.

But some builders may lack the engineering knowledge to design the columns, trusses and the rest of the structure to the load requirements needed for your building. They’ll place columns every eight feet.  And guess who ends up footing the bill?

Reduce the number of columns, and you’ll also need less trusses.”

The number of columns and trusses in any given building are a feature, not a benefit. The benefit being the ability of any given system to be able to adequately carry the imposed loads. In many load cases, the most cost effective column and truss spacing is indeed going to be 12 feet on center. https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2011/06/pole-barn-truss-spacing/

Carrying this further, most builders lack the sufficient structural knowledge to adequately and efficiently design any portion of a post frame (pole) building. While their philosophies may “sound good” – they are unable to prove what they design with calculations and code conforming support.

“2. Choose durable materials. Saving money up front by purchasing less expensive materials isn’t always good in the long run. Ideally, you want to use materials that will last as long as your building does to avoid renovation costs.

For example, purchasing an inexpensive, low-quality door may end up costing more if you have to replace it within 10 to 15 years if the frame disintegrates, door warps or hinges bend.

This is a rule of thumb for nearly every purchase you make for your building— from windows and doors to steel and insulation materials.  Cheap materials up front will always lead to higher maintenance, replacement and heating/cooling costs in the long run.”

I couldn’t agree more. In my mind, one of the core responsibilities of high quality post frame construction is to provide a building which requires little or no maintenance.

The most common materials’ error I see is selecting poor quality entry doors.

Wood doors – don’t even go there. Every “big box” or local lumberyard will happily sell an insulated steel entry door for $139-179. What they do not tell you (or you may not notice) is the perimeter of the door is wood, the steel part is a skin applied over an insulated core, with a wood framework. When the wood gets damp (which it will – this is an exterior door), it will begin to decay. The steel skins are white. Primer white. Most often they include a sticker which tells the end user the door must be painted within a very short time frame (probability of the door being painted? About equal to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series). Adding insult to injury, these doors come with unpainted wood jambs.

More often than not, most of the decisions to use lesser quality materials are made by builders. Read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/06/builder-grade/

“3. Install wainscot. This is a significantly overlooked but important piece to any post-frame building.  Wainscot is a 3.5 foot steel panel placed at the bottom of the building.  It is usually a different color but can also be the same color as the rest of the wall.

While it will cost you a small amount up front, your wainscot will act as a buffer if you accidentally bump into the wall of your pole barn with a lawnmower, tractor or truck.

Another common problem is your mower may kick up stones or sticks, shooting them at your building and scratching or denting the panel.

If an accident happens, instead of replacing the entire length of the sidewall, you would only have to replace the 3.5 foot section of steel — your wainscot.”

I agree 100% with this. Besides the functionality of wainscot, it also affords aesthetic value. With taller buildings, it keeps the structure from appearing to be as tall as it actually is. We can ship a 3’ piece of wainscot by FedEx or UPS, but not a longer wall piece. Not to mention the hassle and expense of the longer steel panel.

double gable“4. Choose building aesthetics wisely. Talk to your builder about ways to dress up your building without adding much cost. For example, consider a double gable to get a more residential look instead of shelling out for expensive siding or roof materials.”

I totally agree with choosing building aesthetics wisely. In my humble opinion, if a feature doesn’t have a benefit, I’d have a real difficult time recommending it. The proposed “double gable” solution, feels like a totally non-functional upgrade. However if you end up with a building where you dislike the overall looks of it, the money savings was not worth it. This is a judgment each person has to decide for him or herself – what cost is worth the final appearance?

Come back tomorrow – where I discuss sliding doors and other suggested money saving “tricks” by Bret Buelo…and my personal recommendations in Part II of a two part series on pole barn money savings.