A pole barn is a farm building constructed with timbers and without a concrete foundation. Building a pole barn is relatively inexpensive and, in most instances, can be accomplished with two or three workers. It may or may not increase the value of your property. Even if it does, the increase in value may not recover the cost of construction.
Basic Construction of a Pole Barn
A pole barn is a timber building without a continuous foundation. Individual posts, usually 4x4s or 6x6s, are imbedded directly in the earth or put into individual pits that are then filled with gravel or concrete. Since there is no continuous foundation, heavy horizontal framing members called girts, usually 2x6s, supply the necessary rigidity. Pole barns are often uninsulated and sheathed with lightweight corrugated steel sheets.
Advantages of Pole Barn Construction
Conventional foundations are expensive, requiring extensive excavation and abundant materials in order to construct reinforced concrete slabs, footings and grade beams, principally steel reinforcing bars, also known as rebar, and concrete. The process of constructing a foundation requires many hours of skilled labor building concrete forms, laying out rebar elements and then wiring them together. The principal advantage of pole barn construction is that it eliminates most of this. A post-hole digger and a modest amount of concrete to stabilize each post get the building above ground.
Disadvantages of Pole Barn Construction
Pole barns have been built in the U.S. for at least 200 years. Their long popularity suggests that owners like them. Unfortunately, in many areas, particularly within municipalities, they can no longer be built without violating numerous building codes requiring continuous steel-reinforced foundations and forbidding construction methods that involve putting wood posts directly in the ground. Attempting to resell property with illegal structures can be difficult. Buyers are reluctant to buy them, and banks are reluctant to finance them. Even where they remain code-compliant, they may no longer be the most inexpensive way to build a farm building.
Many U.S. companies specialize in low-cost steel prefab buildings that cost as little as $12 per square foot, including materials and material delivery, foundation and construction costs. These buildings usually come with a warranty, often 50 years. They're stronger than pole-built structures, and because they don't have wood below grade, they last longer with less rot, sway and sag. Because the companies that build them observe local codes, these low-cost legal structures are more likely to increase your property value than a pole barn. If you prefer the rustic look of a corrugated-steel covered pole barn, most prefab companies are prepared to sheath their products in that material.
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