Pole Barn Building: A Guide to Building a Pole Barn

Your homestead: You have the land. Maybe you already have the house and garage, too. What you need is an outbuilding – a pole barn to store your equipment, house your animals or serve as your shop or studio.
But choosing a pole barn builder is a daunting task. Where to start? Here at Lester Building Systems, we hear many first-time customers ask, “What do I need to know when building a pole barn?” So, we thought we’d compile some of the best questions to ask, along with some answers, of course!

What makes you different?

Once you’ve identified a couple of potential pole barn building suppliers that you might want to work with, the very first question you should ask is, “What makes you different from other builders?” You might be surprised to learn that pole barn manufacturers are not all the same. Some, for example, will simply send you a bundle of materials and the rest is up to you. Lester Buildings, on the other hand, with more than 70 years’ experience constructing all types of pole barn buildings, from livestock buildings and equestrian barns and stables to equipment sheds, cold storage facilities, hobby shops and garages – even “shouses” and “barndominiums” – will be with you every step of the way.
A different way to phrase the question might be, “What can you offer me that others can’t?” Again, answers will vary by manufacturer. If you’re looking for peace of mind, for instance, the fact that Lester Buildings offers a structural lifetime warranty on all of our buildings may be music to your ears.

What type of materials do you use?

From the size, species, and grade of lumber to the gauge of the steel – the material for each component has a meaningful impact on a building’s overall performance. Find out from your potential suppliers what materials go into the structures they build. If you’re unsure of what comprises quality materials, refer to our free guide, “Evaluating Your Building Supplier” for detailed information.
Additionally, some builders obtain their materials from a variety of different sources, which can result in certain components not working well together. At Lester, we manufacture most of our own building components, and design an engineered system, resulting in superior, long-lasting strength and durability.

How long will it take?

It’s understandable that you want your new building as soon as possible. However, be sure to inquire how long your project will take – from designing floor plans and elevations to manufacturing the components, site preparation and erection. Knowing the timetable allows you the ability to plan around the entire construction process. Another time factor to consider is when a builder can actually attend to your project. When economic times are good and everyone, it seems, is building, contractors may book projects out six months or more. In circumstances like this, you might need to exercise patience.

How can I save when building a pole barn?

While Lester Buildings offers a turnkey building process on pole barns, some customers might have the desire, skill and equipment to complete some of the initial work in order to maximize their building budget. “If a customer wants to do the site work themselves, we’ll encourage it because then the building is ready to be built when our crews arrive,” explained Lester Buildings Area Manager Rick Sagness. “Our dealers will visit the site and offer insights on how to prepare it – like if it needs leveling or excavation.”  
Even more ambitious customers have the option of purchasing a Lester Buildings’ materials kit if they want to construct their pole barn themselves. Every product that leaves the Lester plant is delivered to the job site with a full set of instructions, plans and drawings. The one caveat to this approach is that it is crucial that instructions are followed to the letter to maintain the validity of our lifetime warranty. 

Permits and building codes and specifications, oh my!

It’s important to understand that the location of your pole barn dictates the structure’s specifications – from building codes, such as snow and wind loads, which are established for each county in the United States, to where your pole barn is situated on your site (Is it on top of a windy hill, tucked into a wooded lot or nestled into a suburban neighborhood?). Make sure your builder understands your unique situation and figures that into the project estimate. At Lester, we can help you learn what codes apply by inputting the zip code where your building will be located to come up with the minimum codes required for your site.
As for building permits, be aware that many builders will take care of them for you, while others may be practicing construction workers, “swinging hammers” at a worksite for 10 hours a day and won’t have the time.  

What are my options?

There’s not just one way to build a pole barn. A quality builder will offer you myriad options including choices for color, trim, window and door styles, and accessories like cupulas. “We often encourage a customer to send us a rough sketch of their dream building,” Sagness said. “Then, we’ll create a color floor plan and elevation so they can see if that’s what they’re looking for. If it’s not on target, we’ll make changes until the design meets their vision and budget.”

Finally, the pricing question.

Everyone wants to know how much their project is going to cost. It’s a fair and valid question to ask – but not always right away, advises Lester Buildings Area Manager Andy McConnaughey.
“There are so many variables that you can’t be sure you’re comparing apples to apples if you start off by asking for a price,” he explained. “Two customers may want the same exact design, but the prices could vary by a few thousand dollars just because the two buildings are located in two different counties and have to meet two different sets of building codes.”
What’s more, it’s important to fully understand what each builder’s estimate is based on. Is insulation included? Are the materials of the same or similar quality? Are the construction methods used to erect the building the same? Are the accessory options equivalent? Without knowing answers to such questions, price comparisons won’t be as meaningful.
As this blog post illustrates, building a pole barn, especially for first time customers, is a learning process. The Lester representative will help you and answer your questions throughout the entire process.  If you have additional questions, visit our FAQ page.
If you’re ready to learn more, contact your local Lester Buildings dealer or representative.