Barn building has come a long way since early farmers first started protecting their most valuable assets. Early log barns were based on designs brought across the Atlantic by English colonists. The lower logs had mortar between them to keep out cold winds, while gaps between the upper logs allowed for ventilation. Accessed through eave doors, the threshing floor took center stage, with areas along the side allocated to crop and grain storage.

As farming progressed to include dairy and livestock production, so barn designs were also updated. Circulation of air was improved with the addition of windows, clapboards, and cupolas. Entrances on the gable ends increased air flow, allowed wagons to pass through, and made it easy to expand the barn. Mortise and tenon beams were made popular by Dutch settlers, while prairie barns used the two additional slopes on each gambrel roof wall to significantly increase the storage capacity of the loft. Round barns, tobacco barns, corn crib, and bank – barns of every style have a role in American history.

Writer E. B. White professed, “I am always humbled by the infinite ingenuity of the Lord, who can make a red barn cast a blue shadow.” Fun fact: The reason so many American barns are red is because they were coated with a mixture of skim milk, lime, linseed oil, and a dash of ferrous oxide. The resulting rust was a superb sealant – and an effective fungus and moss killer. As paint became readily available, many farmers chose a red hue for their barns as a nod to the tradition.

With electricity being used for lighting and ventilation, internal combustion engines replacing people and animals, and mass production techniques being used wherever possible, many of the farmers’ problems were solved. Nature’s direct influence on barn design thus became less important.

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Dolly Parton is quoted as proclaiming, “I compare myself to a good barn. You can have a good barn, and if you paint it, it looks a little better. But if you take the paint off, it’s still a good barn.”

Looks aside, the functionality of barns is its most important criteria. Modern era farm buildings needed to remain tough, dependable, and changeable no matter what circumstances were to come.

The term “pole barn” was coined in the 1930s. Farmers in rural areas were driven to use reclaimed telephone poles as their major building materials due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. Originally referred to as “telephone pole barns“, and then shortened to “pole barn“, the description signaled the beginning of contemporary American pole barns.

While the technique for building pole barns has not changed much in the last 100 years, the materials have. Today’s pole barns are enclosed with materials that are durable yet lightweight, e.g., aluminum and steel. Additional insulation and even wooden or brick facades are added.

Based on post frame construction, a pole barn uses metal or wood posts and cross beams as a framing member that is anchored a few feet below ground. Because the sturdy frame serves as the foundation of the barn, there are various advantages:

  • Laying a concrete foundation usually accounts for 10 – 20 percent of the overall cost of construction. Because this is not necessary for a pole barn design, that is a massive saving.
  • If you do not have level ground on your site, then pole barns are an ideal option as they only require concrete footing below ground.
  • Not only is this less costly, but the process is also less time consuming.

Other reasons why landowners opt for pole barns include:

  • Fewer materials are needed for post frame structures than for other construction techniques. Using less wood and metal puts money directly in your pocket.
  • Time is money. The savings are not just in the materials, but also in the labor costs involved as pole barn construction is quick for pros and DIY-ers alike.
  • As well as the financial benefits of saving time, a speedy build can be essential when time is of the essence.
  • In areas such as Colorado Springs where hot and cold temperature extremes are experienced, insulation is essential. The fewer thermal bridges a structure has, the less thermal transfer occurs between your interior environment and the weather outside. Therefore, the low number of breaks in the framing of pole barns provides good insulation. The elevated metal roofs have both a good ability to emit heat and high solar reflectance.
  • Structures are robust thanks to the:
    • Stability of the columns
    • Strength created by the horizontal posts
    • Integrity of the roof trusses.
  • At the same time, post frames are also adaptable. Pole barns are used for a plethora of functions, for example:
    • General shed
    • Storage barn for equipment and feed
    • Shelter for livestock
    • Horse barn or riding arena
    • Garage for cars, RVs, ATVs, and boats
    • Workshop
    • Man cave or She shed
    • Even business configurations or accessory dwelling units (ADU).

Peak Pole Barns and Manufacturing is a full-service business that specializes in pole barns, from conception and custom designs to professional construction. Over the years, we have come to appreciate that building a barn is a big job that requires careful planning, design expertise, and skilled execution. Here is everything you need to consider about barn building before getting started.

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1. Determine How You Will Be Using the Space Now and in the Future

Depending on how you plan to utilize the space, there are certain criteria and minimum square footage requirements. Say, for example, it will be used for farm equipment. Take into consideration whether the barn will be merely a storage space, or if additional space is needed for servicing tool storage.

Because building a barn is a big investment, it makes sense to get the most bang for your buck. Generally, the overall cost does not increase as much per extra square foot when compared to the “overhead” costs. That being the case, go for a bigger barn than you think you need right now. Alternatively, opt for something that offers the flexibility to be expanded as your circumstances change.

2. Choose a Barn Design that Fits Your Needs and Resources

How to build a barn starts with choosing a barn design that fulfills your needs. Your needs, in turn, are contingent on the purpose of the barn. Is it going to be used as a horse barn or livestock shed requiring stalls, a multipurpose housing structure or garage, or for hay storage? These answers will guide you to determining what features are needed.

If, for example, your pole barn will be housing livestock, you will need proper ventilation to ensure the wellbeing of the animals. Air flow can be improved with windows and wide doors (accommodated by the large spacing of pole buildings), a roof pitch of 4/12 or 5/12, and a system of fans and cupolas.

Qualified barn designers are worth consulting, as they have experience related to the best practices in the fields of animals, fodder, and so on. They are also familiar with local building codes and zoning compliance.

3. What Features Do You Need?

Traditional barns may have a recognizable aesthetic from a distance, but when you zoom in, you will discover a myriad of details that give each building its unique character.

You can add features to customize your personal pole barn with your unique style and needs. Choose from:

  • Eaves, gables, or cantilevered overhangs
  • Overhead doors, sliding doors, or Dutch doors
  • Doors with higher R-values for better insulation
  • Attic lofts
  • Cupolas and weathervanes
  • Attic, gambrel attic, scissor, or carriage style trusses
  • Lumber or vinyl sidings, and so much more.

All these details will make your custom pole building stand out from the rest.

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4. DIY or Enlist Professional Help?

If you prefer a DIY approach, pole barn kits are an option to consider. Not only are they designed by professionals with the proper engineering background, but the materials are selected for their superior quality and suitability. Kits generally come with the design blueprint, building instructions, and the essential materials – including hardware and lumber.

While the cost-saving may appear great, skilled labor is needed to ensure a proper build that will pass building inspections and withstand the extreme Colorado climate. What’s more, your building site must be cleared, and the property line staked out. Doing it yourself also puts the responsibility of understanding local regulations and obtaining necessary permits on your shoulders.

You must also consider your personal time required to do the site prep and construction for the project. A team of well-qualified pole barn builders can complete the job in a fraction of the time it will take a homeowner to do.

Enlisting professional contractors can speed up the process of erecting your post-frame building. This option is also recommended if plumbing, electrical, and other utilities are included in the design.

5. Selecting the Materials and Foundation

Most commonly, pole buildings are made from wood or metal. Each comes with its own pros and cons. For strength, safety, and durability, opt for top quality materials, whichever alternative you decide on.

Integral to the sturdiness of your post-frame building are the poles. Typically, they are fixed in concrete footings in the ground. Vertical loads, such as the roofing system and even snow, are transferred through the posts to the footings – providing structural integrity. This cost-effective and straightforward method of construction forms the foundation of your pole barn.

The intended purpose of the barn will dictate, or at least sway, your construction materials choices:

  • With no need for a traditional concrete foundation, your flooring may be dirt, gravel, stone, asphalt, or concrete.
  • For the exterior sidings, you can choose from steel, vinyl, engineered wood, brick, or cladding.
  • Roofing can be metal or shingles.

6. Maintaining Your Barn

Whether you raised the barn yourself or employed a professional barn builder in Colorado, age and weathering occurs. As with anything you own – be it a vehicle, electronic gadget, or building – the life of your pole frame barn will be extended with a bit of TLC from you. From a safety perspective, and for the sake of its contents, schedule the following routine maintenance of your pole barn:

  • Check for water leaks and signs of rot
  • Inspect the exterior side panels
  • Clear the roof of snow and other debris
  • Examine all the doors and windows for weather-sealing issues
  • Look for and manage pest infestations
  • Deal with the accumulation and source of standing water
  • Keep the interior neat and functional

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In conclusion, here is a wonderful observation from “The People, Yes” by Carl Sandburg:

For sixty years the pine lumber barn had held cows, horses, hay, harness, tools, junk amid the prairie winds… and the corn crops came and went, plows and wagon and hands milked, hands husked and harnessed and held the leather reins of horse teams in dust and dog days, in late fall sleet ’til the work was done that fall. And the barn was a witness, stood and saw it all.”

Peak Pole Barns and Manufacturing appreciates the needs of pole barn owners like you. We design, manufacture, and deliver all the material to your construction site before we process the first payment. Whether you are using the structure to house livestock, store equipment, or keep feed dry, our full-service concierge business is ready to make your vision a reality. Get in touch with Peak Pole Barns and Manufacturing in Colorado Springs today for all your barn building requirements – from custom building designs to building kits and construction.