Erecting a Pole Building

If you need an affordable, sturdy house for yourself or shelter for livestock, a pole building is a good option.

| November/December 1984

  • Pole Building - barn, with white horse in front
    A barn is a well known type of pole building, but the technique can be used for houses as well.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • pole building - fig 1, all parts of a building
    Here are all the parts of a pole building ā€” the trusses, plates, girts, purlins, and of course, poles.
  • pole building - fig 3
    Level the ground, either by removing the high spots, filling in the low, or doing a little of both. If you can't eyeball the site for hollows, humps or runs, use some twine and a line level to help.
  • pole building - fig 2
    A layout with properly squared corners is vital. For any rectangle, you can check the squareness by measuring the diagonals. If the rectangle is square, the measurements of diagonals A and B will be the same.
  • 090-114-01
    Once your layout is level and squared, you can begin digging your holes. The stakes you've set represent the outside corner of your poles, so your hole should be dug accordingly.
  • pole building - fig 5
    In effect, poles are the foundation of a pole building; choose them carefully. To determine the correct length, add the desired depth of the pole below ground to your eaves' height, plus a foot. For poles in a gable end, add enough so the truss can be nailed to them.

  • Pole Building - barn, with white horse in front
  • pole building - fig 1, all parts of a building
  • pole building - fig 3
  • pole building - fig 2
  • 090-114-01
  • pole building - fig 5

It's a fact that can't be ignored: The cost of building is leaping skyward at a tremendous pace. In just the past ten years, building costs have doubled, the rise being attributable to the increase in both material costs and labor rates. And today's higher prices have forced many people to abandon the idea of erecting buildings that they both need and want.

That is the reason we decided to print this feature, adapted from the book Pole Building, by Norm Ecker, Sr. and Jeff Flanders. Norm and Jeff don't feel you should have to go without the garage, shed or barn you need any longer. Pole building can save you money! For openers, you can knock 50 to 70 percent off the cost of a building by doing the work yourself. The simplicity of this method of construction allows even an inexperienced builder to erect a sound and safe shelter. With the proper tools, and using the systematic approach presented in the following pages, you can put up your own building and save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.

It's not just doing the work yourself that will save money, because pole building also conserves material. Pole structures don't require conventional foundations, which means you won't need to hire a backhoe at $20 an hour to dig a footer, or hire a mason at $15 an hour to lay block for the foundation. Pole buildings also use less lumber than do conventional structures, and at the price of 2-by-4s today, that material can add up quickly.

With this article, some simple tools, determination, and a little healthy sweat, you can have that building that you were going to postpone or go without entirely. Norm and Jeff will lead you through the construction step-by-step, and when you're done, you'll not only have money in your pocket, but also the satisfaction of having created your own place.

One of the advantages of building a pole structure is that it requires only basic hand tools from the ground up. Most people will have a majority of the tools needed, but if you're missing something and can't borrow it from a friend, try a rental agency, which carry most anything, usually at very reasonable rates. The following is a list of the tools you will need:

  • Posthole digger
  • Handsaw (good and sharp)
  • Chain saw (optional)
  • 4-foot level
  • Nylon chalk line (200 feet)
  • Shovel
  • Large wrecking bar
  • Framing square
  • Try square 
  • A good rule
  • Tin snips
  • Two 100-foot tapes
  • Hammer
  • Line level
  • Circular saw

We've prepared a Pole Building Illustrated Guide to help you keep track of the descriptions and instructions that follow.

12/13/2007 1:38:35 PM

This project looks like something i can do, thank you.


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