Do-It-Yourself Pole-Barn Building

Fast, solid, and cost-effective, a pole-barn building can serve as a workshop, storage space, or livestock shelter.

| December 2009/January 2010

Pole Barn Building

Pole-barn buildings are simple to build and have the added benefit of design flexibility.


If you need to add shelter to your homestead easily and economically, pole barns are right for you. They’re the fastest, most cost-effective way to build permanent, solid shelter to store equipment, house livestock, or function as a garage or workshop facility. You can even use the pole barn approach to build a year-round home. A big part of the attraction is simplicity. There are only four steps involved in pole-barn building, and the first one’s even optional! None of the work requires fancy tools or finely honed skills.

The steps to pole-building success are simple: Create a level base pad (if you want more than just the earth underfoot), set poles vertically into holes in the ground, connect them across the top with beams and braces, then put roof trusses on top. No need for a complicated foundation, either. Even in regions with cold, frost-prone winters, pole barns endure well with nothing more than the simplest connections to the earth. And if this weren’t advantage enough, pole barns also offer the option of using your own logs and rough-cut lumber for many parts of the job. The only thing wrong with pole barns is the name. This building approach is so much more useful than for building barns alone.

If you’ve never constructed anything large before, then a pole building is a good place to start. The information you’ll find in this article will equip you to custom build your own durable pole barn based on universal design and building principles. Most building authorities require simple plans for project approval, though many will accept hand-drawn versions. Agricultural extension services across the continent also offer basic pole building plans for free. You can buy fancier ones online. Either way, success ultimately comes down to the kind of hands-on know-how you’ll find here.

Create a Base

Besides the fact that you’ll need to locate your pole building on flat, well-drained ground, consider adding fill to create a raised base area. This isn’t necessary for all applications, though it provides a more level floor space that’s raised enough to keep water from draining in, even during wet seasons.

There are four reasons crushed rock screenings are my favorite choice for a raised base. Screenings are usually less expensive than other types of aggregate because they’re a byproduct at many quarries. Screenings also are small — typically less than a quarter-inch in diameter, with lots of stone dust mixed in. This makes screenings easy to rake and level accurately. They pack down firmly, too. And screenings don’t ruin the future growing potential of soil forever. When your pole barn needs to come down after its working life is over, scrape off the screenings and use them somewhere else. Unlike larger grades of crushed stone, the leftover screenings that the loader can’t remove will disappear when you till the soil.

Before you order any fill for a base, you’ll need to mark out an area to guide the location and level of material required. Read “Stake Your Ground,” below, for tricks that speed this process and the work of laying out wall post locations later.

7/12/2017 10:33:23 AM

In the uk we tend to use pre stressed concrete panels. Installation is pretty straightforward if you get the right product. For example these ones require no foundation :

7/2/2017 4:14:48 PM

Please do your own research and study proper plans and building practices. This article provides just enough info to make someone without any building experience think they can successfully build a "pole building", instead they will get in over their head, invest money time and materials they cannot finish or will collapse in the first heavy snow storm. Do your due dilligents and hire a professional crew.

1/3/2016 1:19:06 AM

These buildings looks great!!! nice and beautiful. I also in need of pole barn buildings and I have found someone at Texas, they have reputation of creating great quality buildings. Lets hope they do great work for me too. :)

1/21/2015 6:08:04 PM

To make a pole building last a lot longer use precast concrete piers or heavy steel brackets. Links to more pole barn options at

6/25/2014 4:58:41 AM

Though pole barn building is not popular in our country , foreign counties are practicing it. in fact it is the easiest way to make buildings . The buildings made out of pole barn are flexible in its appearance. I have started implementing the method.

4/25/2013 7:51:22 PM

Thanks for sharing this, are becoming quite popular so i wanted to build one myself, and i found the perfect site to help me do that. so thanks again!

eliot d
2/10/2013 7:46:36 AM

Don't pour concrete around the poles. They expand and contract differently and eventually the concrete will crack and water will get into the cracks. The worse enemy of wood is trapped standing water. Pour a footing, put a vertical drift pin (1/2" rebar works great) exactly on layout in the footing when it is setting up, and drill a 3/4" hole in the bottom of the pole. 12" depth is recommended. After lowering the pole into the hole and setting it down carefully, plumb it, and pack (hard) a sand, rock gravel mixture around the pole. Backfill each of the poles up enough to keep them standing plumb and go back and finish the job after all the poles are set. This back fill mixture will provide plenty of support until the first horizontal beams are put on (and forever more) and then it will drain all water quickly into the soil around and away from each pole.each pole.

roger dalton
3/19/2012 12:31:31 PM

This page includes drawings and detailed build instructions

jan steinman
8/25/2010 4:48:44 PM

Also, avoid the use of any chemically-treated wood by charring cedar posts. Build a fire pit and thoroughly char the part of the post that will be buried, with an extra foot or so above ground. Use a large propane torch to spot-char parts that didn't get fully charred, especially the end-grain. Using treated wood may cause you problems later if you want Certified Organic status. Charred cedar will have 90% of the life of treated wood -- 25 to 35 years or more.

jan steinman
8/25/2010 4:40:10 PM

Why the emphasis on trusses? A ridge beam and bird's-mouth notches can use a lot less wood and labour for a smallish building, albeit with the possibility of internal posts. But a ridge beam gives you more useable vertical space, as well.

jim price
8/25/2010 2:46:36 PM

Why complicate the measurement with geometry? Most barns are bigger than 30 feet by forty feet, therefore the 3, 4, 5 triangle up-scaled to 30 feet by 40 feet with a 50 feet diagonal would suffice. A simple explanation of this would get the job done. This 3-4-5 tri-angle would also plumb the poles vertical. ----jim---- "Speak low so that the low can understand and the rest won't have any trouble." ---Abraham Lincoln---

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