Barns are utilitarian buildings which date back centuries. They serve a specific purpose on your land, be it for horses, storage, livestock, cultivation, or any of its other uses. Whatever your usage, you need a barn that is strong, functional, and dependable. It also doesn’t hurt that your barn is not an eyesore to passers-by.
In this article, we are turning our focus on steel barns and pole barns. We will start with barns that are built with the pole frame method. Then, we will turn our attention to the advantages of steel over traditional construction.
Are you looking to build a new barn, or replace an existing one, and you aren’t sure whether a more expensive steel frame barn is worth it?
Or do you have a pole barn, and you want to find out about the benefits of having a steel frame barn?
Don’t worry; this guide will tell you what you need to know.
In This Article
In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about pole barns versus metal buildings, including what they are and where you can find them. We will examine the basics of these building methods, as well as the pros and cons. Then, we will give you some practical building tips, and the top manufacturers of these products.
So, are you ready to go?
What’s in this guide?
What is a pole barn?
A pole barn is a simplistic style of the barn which uses wooden poles or ‘beams’ for the support of exterior walls and roof trusses. The beams or poles are buried in the ground, and provide large pillars of vertical support. Girts are attached to provide additional horizontal support. Pole barn construction is part of a technique generally known as “pole building construction” or “post frame construction”.
This post frame method of construction gained traction due to its simplicity and its functionality. It is a very basic method of construction. Essentially, the poles are buried and the barn is erected. It is fast and efficient, and the end result is extremely durable and resistant.
These types of barns are also traditionally the cheapest to build, as they don’t require anything like a concrete floor or any other materials other than wood. The frame is the bulk of the construction. Additionally, you save money on labor, as they are able to be built quite quickly.
This makes them some of the most popular types of barns. However, their low cost can quickly increase with things like maintenance and repairs, due to things such as rot and pest infestations.
What is a steel frame barn?
A steel frame barn, on the other hand, is an all-steel structure, which means that it is durable, flexible and won’t quickly become damaged or need frequent repairs.
Steel barns are more expensive than pole barns due to the price of steel, but in return, they are easier to keep and typically, it is 40% less expensive to insure a steel structure.
So while you may be spending more up-front, the idea is to hopefully save money by purchasing a more durable structure. There may not be the need for constant up-keep and maintenance as there would be with a wood barn. Steel will not rot or have pest infestations. A steel barn is an investment in the future, and will hopefully pay off as an investment over time.
Many steel barns will require a concrete floor, or at least a concrete exterior to keep the steel barn stable. However, you can still have the option to have a dirt floor when for use with horses or other agricultural needs.
Plus, sometimes you might only use your barn for storage, in which case a concrete floor might be an unnecessary expense.
What is steel?
Steel is made from iron and carbon, sometimes in combination with other elements, and it is one of the most popular metals in use today.
There are over 3,500 different types of steel, which all have their elements and purposes, and can be combined with different types of metals.
There are four main groups that commercial steel typically falls into:
- Carbon Steels
- Alloy Steels
- Stainless Steels
- Tool Steels
The groups that the steel falls into generally depends on the percentage of other metals that are mixed in, like chromium or nickel for example, as well as the alloy with high temperature.
Carbon steels are the most common forms of steel that are traditionally used for the construction of buildings, including rebar and mild steel.
Why is steel an excellent material to use?
Steel is a great metal to use for this purpose for many reasons, mainly because they have these benefits:
✔ Hot and cold formable
✔ Wear resistant
✔ Hard and tough
✔ Resistant to corrosion
✔ Heat resistant
Overall, the main benefits of steel are its strength and durability. Those who are looking to purchase a steel farm building are likely doing so with the idea of having it last a very long time. The features listed above combine to make this building material long-lasting and reliable.
If you are tired of the traditional problems associated with wooden barns, like rot and degradation, then steel is a worthy consideration.
What are the pros and cons?
So, what exactly are the pros and cons to each of the options available for your barn?
Pole barn pros and cons
✔ Cheaper initial costs
✔ Visually looks warm
✔ Faster to build
✔ No foundation needed
✔ More inexpensive materials
✗ At risk for rot
✗ Regular maintenance required
✗ Leaks and rust possible
✗ They are a fire hazard
✗ Rafters will warp
✗ Size limitations
✗ Pole barns don’t work with basements
✗ Expensive repair costs
✗ Won’t last as long as steel structures
✗ Doesn’t retain heat as well
✗ Riskier for containing livestock
The benefits to a pole barn are typically seen right away. The up-front costs are lower, and the labor is easier, faster, and more intuitive. Due to the simple design structure, you can have a pole barn up in quite a short period of time.
However, over time is when you start to see the downsides of a pole barn building. The wood is vulnerable to rot and regular wear & tear. The constant upkeep may end up costing you more over time, depending on how securely you built the initial structure.
Steel barn pros and cons
✔ Anchored columns
✔ No need for maintenance
✔ Rigid, sturdy frames
✔ No warping
✔ No fire hazard
✔ 40% less expensive to insure
✔ Rust free
✔ Safest for livestock
✗ More expensive
✗ Requires professionals
✗ Might not be as attractive
Quite the opposite of the pole barn package, the main drawbacks of the steel frame barn are seen up front. It is more expensive off the bat, and more complicated to build. This also means that you will require professional contractors. Overall, both the materials and the labor will cost you more.
However, with such a strong and resistant barn, you are due to see cost savings over time. There is less regular maintenance. Also, you won’t have to worry about leaks, warping, or rust.
How Do I Decide?
So now that we have examined the main differences and benefits of a pole barn kit vs. a steel barn, you may have one question remaining – how do I make my decision? They both tote their own advantages, and they both have their own drawbacks. Basically, it all boils down to your personal preferences and requirements.
Both are solid construction alternatives, and both will give you a solid, functional barn. Overall, the steel barn is more reliable and durable, but it does come with the drawback of higher upfront costs. While the pole barn will save you money up front, it may cost you more in maintenance down the line.
It really depends whether you can afford the up-front costs of a steel barn, and whether you think this extra cost justifies the advantages. Think of how important your barn is to your property overall, and consider whether you can justify the additional cost.
Do steel frame barns need a concrete floor?
Although you can have a concrete floor with steel frame barns, you may not require one, and so you can opt out of having one built.
It really all depends on your usage requirements. No floor might be a great option if you work with horses or require your barn for storage.
What pricing can I expect?
So, what costs can you expect from both a pole barn and a steel frame barn?
Take a look below to find out more.
Steel frame barn pricing
Pole barn pricing
Top 5 Steel Barn Companies
1. Steel Structures America
Type: Steel building company
Locations: Idaho, Washington, Colorado
Steel Structures America offers its customers both residential, commercial and agricultural buildings, which include a wide range of pole buildings such as horse barns and hay storage structures.
Their pole barns feature a flexible design, a wide-open interior space and they can be easily customised with steel structures that benefit from a warm wooden exterior.
2. American Steel Carports
Type: Steel building company
Locations: New Mexico
American Steel Carports are a business which is based in New Mexico and specialises not only in creating steel carports and garages, but also agricult