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Versatile Outdoor Storage
By: Paul Bianchina
July 26, 2002

If you�re in need of a large outdoor storage building that�s adaptable to everything from crops and animals to RVs and wood shops, a pole building might be just what you�re searching for. Rugged, versatile, and easily constructed in virtually any size and configuration, pole buildings are a perfect storage and weather protection solution for use on large lots and acreage.

As the name implies, a pole building, sometimes called a pole barn, after one of its more common uses � is a structure built around large poles or posts set directly into the ground, as opposed to the more typical foundation and framing method of construction seen in houses. A roof structure sits atop the poles and the sides may be open or enclosed depending on the intended use of the building.

While a pole building can be built on a small, storage shed type scale, their large components and wide clear spans make them much more suitable for large storage applications. Interior heights are typically 10 feet or more and their construction style leaves the entire interior open with no supporting walls, which is what makes them so versatile.


A pole building relies on a series of massive vertical poles set into the ground with concrete and topped with equally massive roof trusses. It is this combination of widely-spaced posts and trusses that allows the building to have an open interior and very accessible sides, but it is also a design that requires some very careful engineering and design work. Both the posts and the trusses have to be sized to the intended overall dimensions and weight-bearing needs of the building, and then adequately braced to prevent lateral (side-to-side) movement.

Most architects and structural engineers can design a pole building for you, and the simplicity of the design and the drawings typically keeps the cost pretty reasonable. Some lumberyards and agricultural supply outlets can also provide you with design services. Some also offer pre-designed pole building kits in a wide range of standard sizes. The kits come complete with all of the necessary construction drawings, as well as all of the structural components and necessary hardware.

Basic Construction

After clearing and leveling the site, construction begins with the installation of the vertical poles or posts. First, holes are dug to the proper diameter, depth and spacing, according to the plans. Next, the posts or poles � typically 6 inches to 8 inches in diameter pressure-treated poles or 6 by 6 or 8 by 8 pressure-treated posts � are inserted into the holes and carefully braced and cross-braced with temporary lumber to hold them steady, aligned and perfectly vertical while the concrete is poured in around them.

Once the concrete has set, the heavy-duty roof trusses are installed using a small crane. In a typical installation the trusses span the full distance between the posts on one side of the building and the corresponding posts on the other, usually with one pair of trusses connecting each pair of opposing posts. Depending on the design, metal-connecting brackets, wood ledgers or a combination of both may be used where the trusses and the posts intersect and connect.

Pole buildings typically use metal roofing, so the next step is to install wooden members between the trusses � usually 2 by 6 or 2 by 8 � to connect and brace the trusses and provide a surface for the attachment of the roofing panels. Diagonal bracing is typically installed between the trusses and between some of the posts to stabilize the structure before the roofing panels are installed. Finally, all of the temporary bracing is removed and the doors and side panels are installed between the posts as desired. The floor may be left as dirt or covered with gravel or concrete.

Remember that pole buildings will require a building permit in most jurisdictions. There may be exceptions in some areas if the building will be strictly for agricultural use. Permits will also be needed for any electrical, plumbing or mechanical systems that the building may require. Some areas may also have architectural design standards or restrictions on the construction of pole buildings, so be sure and check on all of the permits and other permissions required before getting started on the design.

Copyright 2002 Inman News Features

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