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  1. #1
    Platinum Member sawtooth's Avatar
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    Default Pole barn or block foundation

    Our family farm was started around 1850. During this time there were 12-14 barns and 1 house. Most barns deteriorated due to bad roofing. But were talking about stuff that lasted 100 years and some longer. We still have 4 barns left and the house which are all sitting on stacked 36"x36x12" thick hand cut stone. My question is im getting ready to build a new building so is this type setup better than a standard pole barn? If so why does everyone then do pole barns? I could do a block foundation vs rock if this is a better way to go. The equipment building will board and batten with concrete floor and be 60x40 or so in size. Im looking for longevity and want to avoid rotting post.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Super Star Member murphy1244's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Its great that your family goes back that far in that farm. Pole barns are cheaper to build.
    Murph ------------

  3. #3
    Veteran Member KennyG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    If you can build a solid concrete foundation, you can build a pole barn on top of that by anchoring the posts to the concrete. In most places, you will have a lot more concrete than a barn with buried posts. Check some previous threads. Some people are big fans of pouring concrete piers and setting posts on top of them.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Rather than being totally overly wording, I've included links here to articles which may prove helpful.

    100+ years ago, there did not exist a reliable pressure treating process which would preserve wood (timbers/lumber) which was embedded in the ground. As a result, farm buildings were constructed similar to what you describe. The stone piers, were probably adequate in area to prevent buildings from settling, however they would prove no resistance to either frost heave (in areas which have frost issues), or uplift situations. If stone piers were the solution, they would be both Code conforming, as well as used extensively for new construction.

    How Untreated Wood Decays - Pressure Treated Wood Prevents Decay

    Post frame (pole buildings) have decades of reliable performance. They are the most economical permanent structure which can be built.

    Although properly treated timbers will easily outlive any of us alive to read this thread today, there are many lumber yards selling pressure treated wood which is not designed for structural in ground use. The Building Codes require any wood which will be embedded in the ground, for foundation purposes, to be pressure preservative treated to a UC-4B (UC is Use Class) rating. Look at the tags on the treated lumber next visit to a lumber yard or big box lumber provider. If the tags say UC-3 or UC-4A, they are not designed to be embedded in the ground.

    If you are not convinced UC-4B will last, there are several manufacturers of plastic sleeves, which can be placed over the base of the columns, isolating them entirely from the surrounding soils.

    There are tremendous, and in my mind unnecessary, costs involved in pouring concrete footings and properly constructing either a concrete or block foundation to place a building on. There are engineered brackets which are designed to be poured into the top of foundation walls (again, beware - most post base brackets are not designed to withstand the moment loads induced into them by bending columns). Taking an educated guess, they would probably be inadequate with a block wall, unless the block had adequate rebar and was poured solid with concrete.

    Attaching Pole Buildings with Concrete Brackets
    Buildings: Why Not Stick Frame Construction?

    If your considerations include cost, being maintenance free and longevity, in my humble opinion board and batten siding is probably not the most effective design solution. I made the error of siding two of my own buildings with cedar siding, and after twenty years of having to solid body stain them - repeatedly, I would never do it again. Painted steel siding is without question going to be the most cost effective and durable design solution.

  5. #5
    Super Star Member dave1949's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Depending on your local market, meaning if you are reasonably near a town where folks have money , there could be a good market for your old foundation stones in the landscaping or hardscaping business. They can bring good prices. Check out how much they ask for new natural quarried and dressed stone if you want a shock.

    I think it would be a challenge to use the blocks and get a good seal between them to keep critters out, get a level base to build on, get a good mechanical attachment from blocks to wall, and so forth.

    If you were a restoring an old barn, or building in-place on the existing old barn foundations maybe, then it would be worth working with the old blocks, but for new space, I think you will be ahead to build a pole barn.
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  6. #6
    Bronze Member
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Your Avitar doesn't say where you are located but if you get any deep frost in winter you need be careful with a pole building. We have a marina in Ontario (Huntsville north of Toronto) and we have three pole buildings 60 ft X 200ft that we use for boat storage. Two of the buildings move dramatically during the winter; as much as six inches. The third building seems fine. As all the buildings were here when we bought the business we don't know the specifics of the install of the posts (soil, depth drainage etc) but when the frost moves these buildings we have issues with overhead doors not opening, sliding doors buckling and so on. At our last place we had an implement shed on a floating pad and I think it moved a bit too but as a unit so didn't cause any of the issues we have with the pole buildings. Not saying one is better than the other but I think the proper ground preparation and drainage in either case really does matter.
    Larry

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Can't say I have solutions for frost heave in an existing building, but it can be avoided in new construction. For those interested:

    Pole Building Structures:What Causes Frost Heaves?
    Beat Frost the Easy Way: Post Construction Drainage
    Preventing Frost Heaves in Pole Building Construction

  8. #8
    Veteran Member sam5570's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Quote Originally Posted by dave1949 View Post
    Depending on your local market, meaning if you are reasonably near a town where folks have money , there could be a good market for your old foundation stones in the landscaping or hardscaping business. They can bring good prices. Check out how much they ask for new natural quarried and dressed stone if you want a shock.

    I think it would be a challenge to use the blocks and get a good seal between them to keep critters out, get a level base to build on, get a good mechanical attachment from blocks to wall, and so forth.

    If you were a restoring an old barn, or building in-place on the existing old barn foundations maybe, then it would be worth working with the old blocks, but for new space, I think you will be ahead to build a pole barn.
    this is so ture there was a huge barn on our farm and it was built with post standing on top of huge rocks many years ago we came home one evening and someone or more had went in the lot the only thing left was the rocks and loaded them and gone, we never did find the thief but yeah these rocks are very vaulable.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    What I had done was to dig the hole like you were going to set the post (below the frost line). I had a local welder make metal brackets with rebar welded to the flat end. Form up a square to match the size of the post, pour the concrete, then insert the bracket. The posts sets in the bracket and is attached using two bolts. Building inspector didn't have any issues with it.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Pole barn or block foundation

    Quote Originally Posted by crowbar032 View Post
    What I had done was to dig the hole like you were going to set the post (below the frost line). I had a local welder make metal brackets with rebar welded to the flat end. Form up a square to match the size of the post, pour the concrete, then insert the bracket. The posts sets in the bracket and is attached using two bolts. Building inspector didn't have any issues with it.
    I will truly do my best to be kind, and not go off on a total rant.

    The most important point I am going to make is this - just because a Building Official doesn't have an issue with something, does not make it either Code Conforming, or structurally sound. If I was in Code Enforcement, I would have demanded you provide calculations sealed by a registered professional engineer to confirm the adequacy of this design.

    In My Humble Opinion, what you have is nothing short of terrifying. In the event of the threat of a strong wind, I would encourage you to remove any possessions you value from your building, as well as anything of value which is downwind from the building. Also, make sure you have the building well insured.

    There are numerous commercially available post base brackets available. Very few of them are rated to be able to withstand moment (bending) forces. There is a very good possibility you could have purchased adequate and tested brackets, for less than what it cost to have the local welder fabricate these up for you.

    From the photo, it appears the diameter of the holes is fairly small. If the columns are very close together, or the building has a very small span, they may be adequate to support the building from settling, as well as other issues.

    Buildings of all sorts fail, but very few which have a RDP (Registered Design Professional) involved will ever fail, ad those which do are almost universally due to loads being placed upon the building in excess of the design parameters, materials of lesser quality have been substituted, or plans were not followed. Armchair engineering is rarely a good choice. My best recommendation to you would be to hire a registered professional engineer to do a site evaluation of your building, to determine if what is in place is adequate and, if not, to design repairs to bring the building up to standards which will withstand the climactic loads which will be placed upon it.

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