Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn
by Heather Smith Thomas of Salmon, ID
On our ranch we needed additional barn space during calving season (we calve in January and February) – to give shelter to cows with new calves or for sick calves that need to be out of the weather. The price of lumber has risen so much we decided to build with poles, using tall posts for the structural supports and long poles for rafters.
For the new barn we used sturdy posts sixteen, fourteen, and twelve feet long (the tallest ones at one side to give slope to the roof), and set them all three to three and a half feet deep in solid ground firmly tamped. The roof was made of metal sheeting, screwed to pole rafters set on a double pole support securely nailed to the upright posts. The pole rafters were put every two feet, and the roof structure is also reinforced with crisscross poles underneath.
To put the roof on, we drove our two cattle trucks into the barn area to use as “scaffolds” – setting boards across the truck racks to stand on while putting up the pole rafters. We were able to put the roof on in three segments, moving the trucks to the next segment as each was finished. This was much easier than trying to work from ladders.
For the walls we put up poles to give support to particle board, which we will eventually cover on the outside with metal to keep it from weathering. The inside of the barn can be partitioned into stalls of whatever size we need, using portable panels secured to the upright posts that support the roof. We have a lot of flexibility in use for this barn, making several large aisles or a number of smaller stalls. We can take the panels out or move them to the side for cleaning the barn with a tractor, or for using the barn the rest of the year for machinery. One reason we made it so tall was so we could park machinery out of the weather during the rest of the year when not using the barn for calving.
We also built a hay shed with this same type of construction, using taller posts (twenty-one feet, set three and a half feet in the ground), and long poles for roof rafters. Because this roof is even higher, the trucks were not tall enough to use for standing on – so we stacked the hay there first, to use it for a “base” to work from in putting on the roof. The poles were enough cheaper than lumber that we could afford these two new sheds, which would have been difficult to pay for otherwise.