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Thread: The Pole Barn and Post Hole Thread

  1. #1
    LHBA Member LarryNut's Avatar
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    The Pole Barn and Post Hole Thread

    We discussed this briefly on the last zoom and it seems the more I look into setting posts the more options, “new and best way”, sales pitch or something to sell.

    For the last 100 years posts have been set in the ground and backfilled with dirt tamping your way up. When I took down my great grandpa’s tobacco barn a couple years ago not a single post was in the ground. It was either sitting up on cobblestones or nailed down to another timber. Yes it had some rot but had been standing almost 75 years and broke a rope several times and fought us all the way to the last pull with a truck and still came down only in sections at a time. Now there is….just to name a few….

    1. Set post in hole and backfill with dirt.
    2. Set post in hole and backfill with concrete.
    3. Put gravel in bottom of hole then backfill with concrete and dirt
    4. Put concrete in bottom of hole backfill with concrete and dirt.
    5. Put concrete cookie in bottom of hole and backfill with concrete and dirt.
    6. Use a plastic sleeve around the post and backfill with concrete and/or dirt
    7. Use expanding foam in the hole around
    post.
    8. Pour in sonotubes and wet set brackets from the cheap ones to the expensive permacolumn ones.
    9. Pour in sonotubes and use L brackets to top surface mount posts…..

    So what say Ye? I know code requires different things in different parts of the country, but if you were not getting it inspected what would be your favorite and preferred way of setting a post for a shop or barn all things considered for both strength and longevity.


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    LHBA Member loghousenut's Avatar
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    Myself, I can't see the need for concrete if the post is in the ground. Once four or more posts are upright and tied together, they are all trying to keep each other straight and square.

    In fact, I'm not a fan of concrete holding any buried wood upright. When I was a cement mixer driver, I musta poured mud into a skillian post holes. I guess it really matters little on a barn that should stand for 4 generations, but for fence posts it seems pretty shortsighted. It is so hard to replace a 20 year old rotted post when there is a big, hollow, manmade rock under it.

    But mud filling the hole is the common way to do it except where the Inspectors require something else. Usually the impetus for brackets in Sonotubes and those augered-in supports is to keep the posts from rotting. There are plenty of schemes to fix that post rot in 40 year old buildings, and if the building is in the right place and condition, it will be worth the repair at that time.

    If a pole barn is what you want, you probably want to save time and money today. That two or three thousand dollars saved by burying the posts could draw a lot of profit if you bought Apple Stock with it.

    Just random, waking up thoughts.

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  3. #3
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    Well, how much do you love your pole barn?

    That approach for the tobacco barn is a great one.

    Concrete is great for holding a post as it was set. It's also great for holding water and encouraging the post to rot.

    If the approach of a post in the ground is OK with you, then I'd do everything to keep water away from the wood. Gravel at the bottom of the hole could help a little. Large eaves could help keep water off the dirt holding the posts. And sloped soil could help make sure water drains away ASAP.

    Techniques like that will buy some time.

    When I replaced a mailbox post last year, it was because the wood had already rotted. The old one was done by someone before, so I don't know how long, but the house is not all that old. So I bought the new post, marked on it the highest point dirt would be, and then laid it on sawhorses while I put on several layers of roofing tar (for the buried portion, and then some), followed by several coats of paint, and made very sure every crack was filled. Zero wood was exposed to dirt or rain when I was done.

    That may be too much work for all the poles you have, though. But it's food for thought.

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    LHBA Member eagle's Avatar
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    The last set of poles I did was 14 years ago for a storage garage with no door. I just dug about a foot and a half in the ground and poured concrete in the dirt. Bought those post brackets to set in the top of the concrete while wet, I haven't checked in awhile but they were doing good last time I checked. I always wondered how those plastic covers work, I guess you would have to seal the top???
    Ken and Audra Dinino
    "Determined to build my log home before I leave this world"

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    LarryNut if your dream is a Pole Barn, you could probably find an electrical contractor that would part with used poles for almost nothing just to get rid of them. Some may be able to be cut to your desired length. As for setting them in the ground, they will have been treated early on in life with creosote and very well will still last another 20-30 years just in regular ol dirt. Tamp them very well and 3'-4' deep should be plenty. I will try to post a pick of my party patio when day light allows.
    Last edited by jgrajiola; 09-28-2022 at 06:53 PM.
    The Grajiola Family

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    This was in 2013 construction and it still stands strong. Used old utility poles.


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    The Grajiola Family

  7. #7
    LHBA Member LarryNut's Avatar
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    Very cool Juan thanks for the pictures and all the feedback from everyone so far. The plan is the log home just building the outbuildings and barns with timber and some barnwood already have on hand. I’m leaning toward putting a little gravel in the bottom for drainage then putting some builders felt around a pressure treated post and pour some concrete around it and backfill with dirt and let it eat. Should outlast me…..and sounds a little like setting the first course so if it’s good for that than should be fine for this.

    I did go an auction about a month ago where the guy must’ve had an unlimited supply resource of telephone poles cause every barn he had was built out of them and was even using them for fence posts. My 15x40 lean to on the back of the barn is held up with telephone poles I had.

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    All the micro-organisms and scientific stuff that decomposes wood is in the top 3-4 inches of soil. Even in areas with a high water table, if a wood post is rotted at the ground, you can dig down a little deeper and find wood. If you use concrete, bring the top of the concrete above grade and slope it away from the post... Either way, keep it dry and it will probably outlast you.

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    LHBA Member rckclmbr428's Avatar
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    My choice is to use locust logs, bury straight in the ground and let my great grandkids worry about it when the locust finally rots
    www.WileyLogHomes.com
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  10. #10
    LHBA Member loghousenut's Avatar
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    Locust is great wood for a number of reasons if you can find it. Around here it is rare.

    When I was a Boy Scout, we made Troop money by cutting and selling Yew wood fence posts. The Government would let us harvest them and even guide us to where they grew prolific. Fabulous, rot proof wood.

    I have pulled up and refenced 100 year old Yew fence posts that would ring a high note tune when struck with a hammer. Really tough, really dense. Really pretty wood.

    In the 1970's all of a sudden Yew wood bark had some chemical in it that was curing cancer. A mini industry grew up selling Yew bark. Of course the tree didn't survive. Now it is nearly a capital offence to have a freshly cut Yew fence post in the back of your truck. The replacement is Juniper, from eastern Oregon. It's just not the same.

    It was pretty rare to find one tall enough to make a pole barn anyway..



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    Last edited by loghousenut; 10-04-2022 at 03:56 AM.
    Every time I have strayed from the teachings of Skip Ellsworth it has cost me money.

    I love the mask mandate. I hardly ever have to bruh my teeth anymore.

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