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Stick Built vs. Pole Barn Home (First home, saved a lot, need info.)

soupking's picture

Hi FHB folks,

From what I've gathered the past few days this is well tred discussion so thank you for taking your time to read my specific question(s) regarding the topic.

I'm almost 40 and have enough to finally (hopefully) buy a small piece of land and build a small home/garage and work from there in what we hope to be a somewhat rural area outside the city.

Being that what we're looking to build is roughly a 2-level loft with an attached double garage to shelter a truck/RV to handle the transition, the idea of home vs. barn has brought up a lot of things to consider. I've done a good deal of searching online and there seems to be a lot of opinion in both directions depending on who you speak to.

Since what we're looking to build is smaller I think that makes the argument for either imminent as pole barns are essentially barns made into homes (right?). Mansions aren't really made from that sort of design (to my knowledge).

In any case, I'm looking to ask the best questions possible to determine the right path for what we look to build. We'd like to build a relatively open 2-level home (16x24) adjacent to a 20x24 2-door garage. Both paths look pretty similar in scale and approach for what we are looking to achieve, but I'm no expert and want to learn more bout the process.

If anybody has any feedback as to what questions I should really consider or ask towards making that decision I would be grateful.

Thanks again for reading.

A "pole barn" is a particular (post #215063, reply #1 of 5)

A "pole barn" is a particular way to build a barn-like structure.  Basically poles are embedded in the ground like telephone poles, and these then form the "skeleton" of the building -- there is no conventional foundation (and generally the floor is just dirt/gravel).

While people do sometimes convert these into homes, and occasionally use the technique for building new homes, it's not ideal, as the lack of a foundation creates some problems, and the poles as framing likewise.  (I don't have any direct experience with pole barns, though, other than having been in some occasionally.)


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Right, the concensus I seem (post #215063, reply #2 of 5)

Right, the concensus I seem to read is that if you want a home that is like a barn-conversion go with a pole frame build. If you want something built like a house, do it the standard way it's done.

My wife wants to just build something modest that we can use in simple fashion. I agree, but as well for me, I'm thinking renovations and a lot of people say online that insulating and modifying a pole barn frame construction is a whole other ballgame conpared to a stick built home. On the other hand, I also read the latter from people who build them so it's a bit of a head-turner.

What we're building is pretty small anyway, so either won't probably put us out too much. Thanks for the response! :)

There is nothing wrong witha (post #215063, reply #3 of 5)

There is nothing wrong witha pole barn type structure as a house. They actually lend themselves quite nicely to do-it-yourselfers as they don't require concrete floors and can be plumbed and electric installed with so much pre-planning. Manyb California hill side homes are built this was, they just aren't called pole barns. FH had an article years ago about just such a house in SF I believe that was very highn end.

Set your poles, I'd use square rather than round as they will make sunsequent work easier, then frame the floor at whatever level you'd like. If your site isn't level this eliminates any need for fill  or grading  for the house as you can install a level floor wherever you need.

The flip side is that if you are going to hire a contractor make sure you hire one who is familiar with this type construction. If it isn't commonly done in your area it will probably cost more as you have to pay for the contractor's learning curve.

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.

You're thinking a 36x24 (post #215063, reply #4 of 5)

You're thinking a 36x24 building for a home & garage?  Your posts and whatever you use for interior walls are going to subtract a foot or more from you inside dimension, pretty small house you'll end up with.

And since you want the house portion 2 levels, subtract a bunch more for the stairs.

Smaller & smaller.

Joe H

either or, short version (post #215063, reply #5 of 5)

I'm not exactly sure what you're asking but I'll give you my take on pole barns vs. house framing. I've done quite a few of both, also hybrids  and at least one pole frame house.

Pole barns usually only pay off if you are not going to have a concrete or frame floor and have minimal plans for interior finish or insulating. If you build habitable space inside one you get to do the walls twice in essence. Usually very wasteful of material and labor. If you are building a structure with a good slab floor you usually might as well stick frame the walls without the poles unless the side walls are very tall or other special situations.

Working with poles is frustrating always if you are trying to keep everything square and plumb. 

One way I do like is pole frame platform floor with stick framing from the floor up. It's not an ideal design for all situations but is fast and potentially sturdy. But there issues with longevity and wind.

If you are building a house conventional techniques usually win out as most practical. Of course it is easy to screw up any technique with lack of attention to detail.

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