Pennsylvania Pole Barns

Reinventing the Pole Barn

How to Build A Pole Barn

 Before You Begin

     *Before starting the ­process of building a pole barn, talk with your local building inspector to see if ­you need a permit, zoning variance or other waivers for the project.

      Let the inspector know if you plan to use the structure for storage or agricultural purposes (which are usually subject to fewer building regulations).

     The inspector may want to see plans or blueprints and a property survey to ensure that the facility meets setback guidelines. You can also learn how deep to dig the post holes.


  Materials Needed For Your Garage

         * Poles made of pressure-treated lumber. Round poles, square posts or utility    poles can be used.      

        * Lumber for the framing 

        * Roof trusses (triangular, reinforced frames that support the roof) 

       * Girts (horizontal nailing boards that are nailed to the posts; siding is anchored to the     girts)

       * 2-by-4s for the frame

       * Purlins (boards that are nailed across the top of the trusses and are used to attach the roofing);

       *  2-by-6s for roof stringers (boards that are placed horizontally at the top edge of the poles, supporting the roof and the trusses)

      * Plywood or steel for the walls

      * Gravel and concrete to anchor the poles

      * Galvanized corrugated steel roofing sections and a roof cap that runs the length of the roof (alternatively, plywood and shingles for the roof)  

      * Straight and screw-in roofing nails

      * Storm clips to help keep your nails in

      * Doors -- Sliding doors will give you a higher opening than an overhead door (the type usually found in many car garages). Overhead doors need at least a foot of clearance between the top of the door and the bottom of the truss. Sliding doors are also a little cheaper.



 Tools Needed For Your Garage:


  • Digging equipment such as a tractor-powered auger, clamshell hand digger or post-hole digger
  • Hammer
  • Electric drill with attachment for roofing screws
  • Carpenter's level, a string level and line
  • Hand saw, a miter saw or circular saw and a bevel square set
  • Optional: backhoe
  • Garage Pole Barn Building Process

    Time vs. Money­
    When Ellen Franklin decided to put a pole barn on her property back in 1995, a local contractor gave her a $10,000 quote. Instead, she drew up her own plans, got to work and did it herself, with a little help from a friend and a backhoe. Her final cost? Less than a third of what the contractor quoted

    Location, location, location.

  • Find a site that is flat, graded and has a well-drained foundation. The site should be at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) wider and longer than the structure's footprint.

  • Then figure out how large you want the pole barn to be. Pole barns are typically built in 8-foot (2.4-meter) sections, so they can range in size from 8 to 16 feet (2.4 to 4.8 meters) to 24 to 40 feet (7.3 to 12.2 meters) in length and width. How you plan to use the barn will also determine its size.

  • Carefully space the post holes, using stakes to mark the center of each hole, taking care to ensure that the structure's corners are square -- exactly 90 degrees.

  • Dig the post holes to a depth appropriate to your area and type of soil. Check to see that the poles are in alignment and vertical.

  • Brace them, checking again that everything is level and square before pouring the concrete into the hole. Allow the concrete to set for several days.

  • Set the stringers securely at the tops of the poles, checking them with a carpenter's level. Putting up the first truss is the most difficult and may require several people, ropes, poles, braces or a backhoe. Additional trusses can be braced against the ones that are already there.

  • Install the purlins across the length of the trusses. If you're using tin roofing, overlap the sections, using screw-in roofing nails.

  • Caulk under the overlapped sections.

  • Install a roof cap. Keep in mind that plywood and shingle roofs require more time, effort, and precise measuring.

  • If you're installing walls, mount girts all around the building at ground level, making sure they're level.

  • Nail the girts to posts in several rows, close enough to attach the siding.

  • Add plywood or metal sheeting, making accommodations for any windows and doors.


    Insulation for Pole Barns

  • Your cows and chickens want you to insulate your pole barn

Just Aesthetics
From an aesthetic standpoint, Foil-Foam-Foil increases interior light when it’s used in ceilings. Foil-Bubble-Foil also has a texture that some say looks like wrinkled elephant skin.

Proper insulation has multiple advantages. It can help regulate temperatures inside the pole barn, make the structure safer for any animals it houses, more comfortable for people and even make the structure last longer. Insulation can also address two problems associated with pole barns: extreme temperatures and moisture.


Any pole barn that houses animals should contain reflective insulation to protect livestock and poultry from heat stress. While heat stress is a function of temperature, humidity, air flow and solar radiation, once the temperature rises above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius), the absorption of solar radiation from the hot roof and walls of the pole barn can pose a problem. Livestock and poultry lack sufficient cooling mechanisms to control their body temperatures. Heat stress can contribute to lower milk production, lower fertility rates and even death. In addition to controlling indoor temperatures and reflecting heat away from the building, reflective insulation also helps control condensation.


The vapor-retarding features of reflective insulation resist moisture. Without any type of condensation control, anything stored in the pole barn can be damaged by moisture accumulation in the walls and ceilings, causing dripping, rot, mold and fungus. Because it is nonabsorbent, reflective insulation won't break down or promote mold or fungus growth.


There are two kinds of reflective insulation recommended for pole barns. Both consist of outside reflective foil layers, but one has a layer of foam in the middle, called Foil-Foam-Foil. The other kind has a center of polyethylene bubble, called Foil-Bubble-Foil. Both are thin, lightweight, flexible and strong. They can be cut with a utility knife, stapled, nailed and glued in place.


Foil-Foam-Foil is more energy-efficient than Foil-Bubble-Foil. For example, Prodex Total Insulation (Foil-Foam-Foil) is tested to perform from 20 degrees below zero Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) to up to 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit)



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