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April 6, 2016

How to Keep Poles Vertical When Building a Pole Barn

Pole barns can be constructed with lumber, telephone poles, or even logs. Depending on the type of wood you plan to use, your poles may not be completely straight. This can be problematic if you want the walls in your pole barn to be plumb.

If you plan to build the walls inside the grid of the pole barn, it will not matter if the poles are not completely straight. They will support a platform on the floor and the roof. The poles’ center lines will need to be vertical for the finished building to look right. If you want to build the walls outside the poles, they will need to be plumb so that the outer faces of the poles are flat against the walls.

To plumb your poles, dig holes where you plan to place them and pour concrete bearing pads in the bottom. The pads will distribute the poles’ vertical loads over a wider area and will reduce the likelihood of the poles settling. This will also help you to keep the poles in a fairly constant vertical position.

After you place the poles on the pads, use string lines to locate them in plan view. Brace the poles so they are roughly plumb and use 3 or 4 inches of gravel to backfill around the bases of each pole. The gravel will help the poles stay in the proper position. Backfilling with gravel is less expensive and easier than filling the holes with concrete and is less likely to trap water and rot the poles. If you want to embed the poles in concrete, you can pour a surface slab after you have finished building your pole barn.

After you have set the poles, you can frame the rest of the building around them. Since the poles are not completely embedded in the ground, you should be able to make them sway and bend to fit the design of the rest of the building. If the poles are too large and stiff to bend, you can use wide trim boards and a lot of caulk. The pole barn itself will brace the poles to keep them vertical. The embedded poles will keep the pole barn from shifting to the side, and the walls and bracing will allow the tops of the poles to remain stiff.




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