How One Man Built His Pole Barn House.

Milligan's Gander Hill Farm

Blake’s 30x56x14ft high wall pole barn house.

One of my readers Blake who commented on the post I did about pole barn house told me he had just finished his pole barn house and  he had put in a lot of things that I was planning to do. I wanted to see his place and emailed him to see if he wouldn’t mind sharing some pictures of his build and answering some questions on the building process. He said he was happy to answer any questions I might have and would send me lots of pictures of his place. I knew others who are thinking about building their own pole barn house would be interested in these too, so I convinced him to let me do a post about his project. In this post we will go over the entire building process of Blake’s house and get some questions answered so all of us will get a better understanding of what this all entails.

Blake’s house is built near the town of Many Louisiana by the Texas border in the middle of the state, and was built as a vacation home on a lake that Blake and his family use on the weekends and vacations. It is about a three-hour drive from his current home. Like most people who decide to build these types of homes he had a contractor build the outside and then he did all the rest of the work in his spare time. Blake said “it took two years and it was only on the weekends. I also did it cash only, so that dictated the speed of the build as well.”

Front porch of Blake's home.

Front porch of Blake’s home.

When asked I asked him what he did for a living? He said “I am an MRI Technologist. I practiced full-time for 15 years then managed to weezle my way into the executive/ownership side of a multi site medical imaging company.” He said he had  “Zero construction background, but have always been handy.” When asked how long did you plan your home build? ” I went thru several different options and pricing before deciding on a pole barn. I read a lot of post in the Garage Journal forum as well as others. Intensely planned for about 4 months before being completely confident” Blake said.

“I think this is one of the easiest and quickest methods of construction.  The most difficult part is constructing the shell, it must be square and plumb (no secret here) Blake said.” “I think someone with modest skills must research and must have (rent) the proper equipment or at least a tractor with a front end loader, forks, and an auger.”

Convincing his wife might have been the hardest part of the project. “The kids love the loft and spiral staircase. The wife was skeptical of the concept, but now thinks it is nicer than our main home and loves the rear deck, tongue and groove walls, solid granite counter tops in the kitchen, and old barn cypress cabinets (that are not yet complete)” Blake said.

The garage is 30×16 and the living area is 30×40

First Things First

The first thing Blake did was get a permit for the building and do a perk test for the septic system. To prep the site He had to remove 8 trees and three old stumps before bringing in 20 loads of a sand/clay mix for the “house pad”.

The poles were spaced 8ft apart on center and the part in the ground had a PVC sleeve over them so the post wouldn't rot.

The poles were spaced 8ft apart on center and the part in the ground had a Post Protector sleeve over them, that helps keep the post from rotting or getting eaten by termites. You can order your post sleeves here

“Poles are 4 feet into the ground. The soil is very compact clay and we did not use any concrete around the post.” Blake said. “Just a gravel base.”

Close up of the PVC sleeves and you can see were Blake used scissor trusses over the living area and regular trusses over the garage area. It still keeps the roof line the same on the outside.

Close up of the Post Protector sleeves and you can see where Blake used scissor trusses over the living area and regular trusses over the garage area. It still keeps the roof line the same on the outside. To get more information on Post Protector sleeves go here

He used a 2×6 treated base board and 2×6 girts two feet on center, then did the framing for the windows and doors. After the contractor finished the outside frame is when Blake took over. “I had done a rough plan of the plumbing before construction was started, but that changed a little when I started putting them in the dirt” Blake said.

Rough in Plumbing

Plan where your bathrooms and kitchen will go before construction starts.  You will need to know where your sinks, toilets, and washing machine will be so you know where to dig to put  your sewer line. Having your drain lines, toilet drain and vent stacks in place and sticking up and caped so no dirt or cement gets in them is a must before the concrete is poured.

I put a few 3/4″ electrical conduit 90’s in the exterior wall portion of the concrete pad for future electrical runs if I need them, had the dirt pad treated for termites before concrete, and used wire mesh in the fibercrete slab” Blake said. “I only used a plastic vapor barrier, no need to insulate under the slab this far down south.” Notice in the picture above the strings to show where Blake plans to put interior walls.

After the slab is poured

After the slab is poured

Framing interior walls

Milligan's Gander Hill Farm

Spray foam insulation really stops all air infiltration and really makes the pole barn house more energy-efficient.

After finishing the concrete pad Blake started framing the interior walls. He framed it as you would a regular stick built house. Another option for framing the outside walls would be the bookshelf method that uses even less lumber. After running all his electrical wiring he then had a contractor spray the foam insulation. “We had open cell spray foam sprayed directly to the metal siding (3″) and metal roof (4″) which makes for a very efficient building. The foam also cuts the noise from rain to levels of a shingle roof” Blake said. From here on out the building process is no different then building a regular home.

Sleeping Loft

Sleeping Loft

Finishing interior walls

Milligan's Gander Hill Farm

In the kitchen area that will be mostly covered up with cabinets he used drywall.

Having a good lighting plan before construction is started makes the whole project go much faster.

Having a good lighting plan  that includes knowing were all your lights, receptacles, and switches go before construction is started makes the whole project go much faster.

He then used tongue and groove knotty pine siding on the rest of the walls.

Milligans Gander Hill Farm

He then used the same siding on the ceiling.

Box beam to hide where the seem comes together on the ceiling.

Box beam to hide where the seam comes together on the ceiling

Last but not least

Milligan's Gander Hill Farm

For the flooring Blake chose to go with tile for the kitchen and bathrooms and Laminate flooring for the living room, and everywhere else.

spiril stair case.

He then put the spiral stair case for the sleeping loft in and trimmed the house out with knotty pine trim. Now all he has to do is finish up the kitchen cabinets, counter top and add appliances and he will be done.

“The cost of the whole thing will be right at 80K after I get the cabinet doors back from the cabinet maker. This came out less than my estimate of 90k when I first started” Blake said.

When I asked  him if there was a chance to do things over again what would you do different? he said “Of course I would have gone a little bigger! I also would have spent more time in the planning stage with the window and door placements. The poles dictated where a few of my windows and doors had to be placed, this never occurred to me during planning. I ended up having to cut one post for the kitchen window and using long 2×12’s above and below the cut connecting the adjacent poles to reduce any structural issues. I also had to move another post over by 1 foot in order to fit my large living room window (went from 8ft on center to 9ft between those two poles).   I had to actually leave one window out of the build in the living room area and had to choose sides of a pole that ended up right in the middle of my bedroom wall. These situations could have been accounted for if I had only realized it before hand and planned accordingly.”

Blakes ceiling fan

What a great example of pole barn house that is maintenance free, and that I think will stand the test of time. I want to thank Blake for sharing this with us. I hope you all have learned something on how to build a pole barn house, and are a little more confident to take on your own project, I know I am.   If you have any questions about the building process feel free to ask them here.

Blake has sent more pictures below of his home that some of you have requested.

z interior 002 z interior 003 z interior 004 z interior 005 z interior 006 z interior 007 z interior 008 z interior 009 z interior 010 z interior 011 z interior 012 z interior 013 2 z interior 014

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About Gordon Milligan

I am a conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I plan to retire to in 3 yrs. I want to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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147 Responses to How One Man Built His Pole Barn House.

  1. Hi Kevin, I am just guessing on the loft size but should be close to 600 square ft. Spray foam insulation can cost 3 to 4 time more then conventional insulation.

  2. Kevin says:

    Does the $80,000 include or exclude that the property?

  3. Sam says:

    Closing on a little 55 acre ranch in South Tx and Ive been wanting to build a pole barn house and you have given me plenty to think about. What size is your place in square feet and what did the building cost before you hired a contractor to put it up? Thanks in advance beautiful place.

  4. Monte Gullion says:

    The framing around the doors and windows is brilliant! Thanks for sharing. Can you share how you flashed the windows with the metal siding? This seems to be a subject that no one answers well. Thanks.

  5. Chris says:

    Did you poor a footing under load bearing walls for loft subfloor?

    Do you have a floor plan you can share?

    Thanks

    • Hi Chris and everyone who comments here. Just realize that I am not the one who built this house. I did this post and a guy named Blake built this place and he doesn’t always check in to answer questions on this build. So if I don’t answer your questions I don’t know the answer. To answer your question Chris there is no floor plan and I don’t believe he used footings under the slab where his load bearing walls are on the inside. He can probably get away with that because there is not much weight in his loft, but if there was a bathroom and more weight I would use a footing under the load bearing wall.

  6. Joseph Kelly says:

    I think it would be less money and easier to stick frame.They built a pole barn then they had to frame a house they could have just built a house. Regular framing allows window and doors to be water sealed. I think the 4″x4″ sleeves may trape water.P T lumber is supose 2 stop bugs 4″x4″ r made 2 plant in ground packed the post holes with some stones and they will drain.

    • Hi Joseph, actually it is much cheaper and faster to build a pole barn then a regular stick framed home. It uses less lumber and since it is so much faster going up saves on labor cost. you can frame the walls like Blake did but you don’t have to. if you use the book self method uses less lumber and it seals around windows and doors like a stick framed house.

    • David says:

      If you put the girts in flat between the post you don’t have to build the walls inside of your post which would actually cut your cost down even more from what was spent by building walls between the post. I am getting ready to start building a pole barn house shortly and been doing tons of research. Most people who do build pole barn houses do build it with shelf girts so the need for framing walls between post is not necessary. Still put the girts at 2 foot centers , the only draw back is it only gives you an 1 and 1/2 to hit when putting your sheet metal scews in. But anybody who is serious about building a pole barn house should do enough research to know you can build it with shelf girts.

  7. Kevin says:

    Does the price of the house include driveway, well, septic and power to the house?

  8. Michael says:

    I want to do the open cell foam in my pole barn. What kind of contractor does this? I can’t find anyone in Colorado.

    • dirk says:

      be careful. some say spraying foam directly on the backside of steel will prematurely rot the steel. I heard it traps the moisture. Either house wrap or plastic the outside of the girts before putting steel siding on

    • bruce schorr says:

      Why not use closed cell foam??

      • DJ Feitl says:

        Closed Cell foam is a vapor barrier and air seal. Trapping moisture in that wood on all three sides is not a great idea. Open Cell will allow that wood to breathe as well as expand and contract with the building throughout the seasons.

    • bill fosburgh says:

      i did mine myself. i used closed cell. bought it on ebay. 600 sq. ft. kits are $582. was very easy and i love it. we did our 2nd story 24×30 walls and celings. i got an estimate and doing it myself cut a little more than half of the estimate

  9. Those are Plasti-Sleeve Post Protection, the first and original post protector by many years. Please link to the proper website http://www.plastisleeve.com, Nice looking project!!

  10. Tammy Smith says:

    How many bedrooms & bathrooms are in this one? And is there a bathroom up stairs?

  11. Eric says:

    Hey man love the house me and my wife are about to start one in a couple of months on my farm. We been studying this idea for 3 years. I have a few questions for you. Since I work in a factory 40+hrs a week how is the concrete floors with the other floors down? And did you run your plumbing under the concrete or overhead and finally where did you get that pine it’s beautiful? That’s for taking time and sharing your home its beautiful.

  12. Mike says:

    We just bought 1 1/2 acres in southwest louisiana and will be building a 32×40 pole barn house on it. The contractor we are using to construct the shell will be providing everything (including R17 insulation w/radiant barrier, gutters, and aircraft cabling crisscrossed between the posts across the floor before poring cement) with exception to the french doors we want (they’ll install them but we have to buy them elsewhere). The actual living space will be a 32×32 one bed, one bath with a pantry/utility room. I designed the floorplan myself to have an open floorplan kitchen/dining/living room. Exterior walls will be 10 1/2 feet with a 6 on 12 roof, which will provide an upstairs area of about 10×16 with 8 foot at the peak, which will be eventually turned into a guest room. The entire roof is scissor trussed, so all the space beyond the upper room’s walls will become storage. The cost of construction for the shell is approximately $30k. I have bought all my interior wall siding and flooring from a local sawmill (300+ 16′ 1×6’s and 62 16′ 1×12’s, all rough cut and stacked in my barn to airdry for the next three months) at a cost of $2,200. The pantry and bathroom floors will be done in tile that looks like wood. I have salvaged a bunch of weathered tin which will be cut into a chair rail on the bottom 3 1/2 feet of interior wall and everything else will be finished in the roughcut pine, lightly sanded, stained and sealed. We have spent about $700 so far at local flea markets and antique stores buying odd items which will be converted into lighting. The vanity will be an old whiskey barrel ($200) with a brass bowl sink ($20) mounted on top. Shower and tub surround will be light gage galvanized tin trimed in cedar. Ceilings will also be tin. Still working on the cabinets and countertops, but will most likely go with a rustic look with chicken wire and plexiglass inset doors and cedar planking for the tops. Leaning hard on using small tankless, point of use water heaters, to be more energy efficient. I’m just guessing at this point, but I’m estimating total cost of contruction for the house to be around $45k not including appliances, which will all be new since we lost everything in a recent flood. This doesn’t include the cost of all the dirt I’m having to bring in to build the pad, the cost of a septic system or the well. Hopefully will be able to complete everything for under $80k.

    Thanks for posting this thread as it answered some questions I had about a couple of things.

    • Thanks Mike for sharing this, sounds like you get this whole sustainable living concept down. Good luck with your project.

    • rbrown452 says:

      Mike if you could post some pictures, I would love to see what yours looks like. My husband and I are considering doing similiar to what you have mentioned. I don’t know that is an option on this site, but it would be great.

    • Melissa says:

      Mike, have you kept a photo blog of your build?

      • Mike says:

        I have tons of pictures, but haven’t done a blog. We are currently finishing the inside with the rough sawn pine we purchased from the mill last year. Just two walls to go and we can poly everything before the ceiling and floors go in.

        To answer another question regarding inspections. So far we have had to follow every inspection the parish requires, just as it were a normal house.

  13. Allison says:

    Would you happen to know the roof pitch on this home?

  14. Bob Wells says:

    Building a pole barn house can go from one extreme cost to another, just depending on your wants & how you shop for material. One good thing you can do is buy used trusses. You can buy chicken house trusses used with 40′ clear span & made of 2×6 pine in the $35-$50 range. Don’t let the previous use stand in between you & the purchase. The chicken houses have a ceiling in them & they usually look just like new. They also are a scissor type truss & have a slight vault to the ceiling part, raised at a angle on the bottom cord. They also have the used roof material as well. I would not suggest using this on the roof though, too many screw holes to worry with trying to align back to material to put a screw in. However, you could use it on the siding if you like. I think they are usually on a 5/12 pitch. I hope this helps!

  15. Caleb says:

    How tall are the walls? Is there a way to get a copy of the plan?

  16. Lane says:

    What was the thickness on the tongue and groove on the ceiling

  17. Tammie malpass says:

    very interested in this model . What kind price is on this ?

  18. Kj says:

    I am currently living in a pole barn that has an 700 sqft area already converted to living space. I am looking to convert the rest of the space (approx 600 sqft) to living area, remove the garage door, add more windows, glass doors, etc. Make it look more like a home on the outside rather than a garage. 🙂

    I am trying to decide between building a loft above the current living space, or just opening up the ceiling of the current living space so we can have tall pitched ceilings.

    Any suggestions? What do you think the cost would be to build out the additional 600 sqft of space? Also, my structure is on slab (like most pole buildings) but does not have concrete footings. Would this inhibit my ability to build a loft without the footing? I am a total construction laymen so I hope this all made sense! lol

    • Your comment reminds me of all the things I had to think about when I was planing to build a pole barn house. First off I am not a construction professional but I think I can answer your question on the loft. I wouldn’t put in the loft and I say this because You would have had to put in a bigger footing at each pole when your pole barn house was built to handle the extra weight of the loft. They would have been a little wider and deeper than for a standard pole barn. You would have also wanted to put a footing where you would have support post to support your floor joist for the loft. These would have been poured before your slab would have been and they would have went. So no I wouldn’t do the loft.

      Your second question the cost depends on what you are going to put in the other 600 square feet to know how much it would cost. Is there going to be bathroom or just bedrooms. Are you going to do spray foam or fiberglass bats for insulation? So it all depends what you are putting in that new area you want to expand to. I hope this helps you and good luck on your project.

  19. Patricia says:

    Looks great were fixing to do 1.im understanding u put up ur 4×4 frame for form then some of outside wall then poured slab? I’m just starting your gather information on it.

  20. Pam says:

    Hi Gordan. Just found your blog and appreciate the knowledge you are sharing. My husband and I recently bought a piece of property with a decent size pole barn- fairly old – about a 50ft -70ft. It has a small apartment, about 800 sq ft located inside it. We are contemplating the idea of renovating and enlarging the living quarters versus building a new home of about 1500 square feet. Id like to know what kind of permits are needed for remodeling inside a barn. Also wondering about resale of pole barn homes. The property we bought did not advertise the living quarters. It was just an extra perk- a nice one at that. How is that classified and how are loans generated for this type of property? Any light you can shed on this will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hi Pam, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. To answer your questions I wouldn’t know what permits you would need to do your project. Each state and counties have passed different regulations. the best way to find out is to call your county and get that information. The county here in Iowa where I live is considered a permit free zone. The only permit I needed was required by the state of Iowa and that was an electrical permit.

      The living quarters of the polebarn that you bought probably wasn’t permitted and that is why it wasn’t mentioned when you bought the place, just a guess.
      It still is hard to get a conventional loan for these types of home, but there have been people that has gotten one but I am not sure how or where to go for one. Sorry I am not more help and I wish you luck on your home. With all the work being done inside of your pole barn, no one can see what your doing and you could probably get away with remodeling and expanding your living quarters without a permit.

  21. any thoughts on insulating the inside of a arch type building? i hear a lot about needing a CUI as well as a thermal break, the building maker commented that a lot of owners use the spray foam, and as the building has a 35 yr surface warranty i would like to think it would be ok to spray. the one i ordered is 10,750. and is 25 x 50, w side wall connectors as well as two end walls, one w 8 x 10 cut out and ind. connectors for 40′ that price is delivered, i have put one of these up before, had some leaks, but never got to fix them, most seemed to come from side walls that were not grouted as instructions called for, and i had made my own side wall connectors. i am building this one as my home and am thinking of solar floor heat, but im not sure if that would be worth the work and money here in Mississippi, as i’ll be on a slab, i’m looking at solar asst split ac/heat pump’s as well

    • Thanks James for commenting, I think the way to insulate your metal arch type building would be with closed cell insulation. Just 2 inches thick should be all you need. With that type of building it would only last as long as the outside metal skin. Closed cell foam would stop any warm most air in the winter from causing condensation that would develop on the inside of your metal building. I am with you on the solar heat in Mississippi not sure if it would be worth the cost.

  22. James Wilbert says:

    Great post, we are thinking of the pole barn in West Georgia… 40×60 x16 high…. I like the wooden post idea.

  23. Melissa says:

    I’m wondering about building inspections, and then how do the property tax people tax this? Like a house? Along the same lines… if we decide to sell in 10 years, would the potential new buyer be able to get financing on it?

  24. Greg says:

    Gordon – great write-up. This seems to be a very popular subject! Wife and I are fully involved with a similar build (our retirement home), but ours is a smaller footprint at 56 x 36 x 10. It is a single floor, with no loft. People always seem to want to know this, so our total cost at this point in our build as of today, is right at $73K – which included build permits, pole barn kit, well, septic, electric, concrete, all labor…plus 10 acres of land. We stayed involved and watched what was happening at every step, and learned a ton about this type of building. To prevent hassles, everything is permitted, and meets code. The barn quality has turned out fantastic. We too are finishing the inside (plumbing/elect/framing), but were smart enough to let the pros with the proper tools do the hard stuff!!

    If anyone is curious, our step-by-step progress (starting with the land search), is posted at our web site, supplied below. We started January of this year, and now have much of the infrastructure done; final step is the well, and then we have to insulate.This really is a good efficient way to build.

    To Melissa; building inspections are the same as with any house. Research zoning restrictions first and become informed of any limits before you start. If you do, things will run very smoothly, and you will end up with a great house for a fraction of the cost of a custom home.

    Good luck to all embarking on these labors of love!

  25. Melissa says:

    Greg, thank you so much for replying! We decided to purchase a foreclosure and then gut it/rebuild it. The end result will be the house we want at a lot cheaper cost. Land and septic costs are so high here it took away any savings that a pole barn house would have given us.

  26. Steve says:

    Great job Blake!!!

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