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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.
  • Pole barn plan
    Pole-barn buildings are simple to build and have the added benefit of design flexibility.
  • Pole barn roof
    A metal roof is a great option for a pole barn because it’s fast to install and exceptionally durable.
  • Finished pole building
    A finished pole building makes a great storage shed for equipment, or can be used as a garage, workshop, or shelter for livestock.
  • Pole barn poles
    The best way to install poles is by supporting them with temporary tripods of wood while concrete and soil is packed in around them.

  • Pole barn building
  • Pole barn plan
  • Pole barn roof
  • Finished pole building
  • Pole barn poles

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.

9/6/2018 11:03:22 PM

I just want to laugh at the plug for work from ralphbascomconst7. Lets look at how many of these home-built pole barns that are still standing from over 100 years ago. I dont think there were "contractors" plugging for business when these were errected in the middle of nowhere 100 years ago. Don't let this fool scare you. If you take your time and do as much research as possible you will be fine. I think that if most are reading this article on mother earth they should have an ounce of common sense and an ounce of mechanical knoledge to be able to errect a pole barn. I think ralphbascomconst7 under estimates how capable the readers of mother earth news are. Just my .02 cents worth..

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.

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