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Converting pole barn into a home.
puphollywood
October 13, 2012 in Design Dilemma
How can you maintain the beauty of the interior post and beams when finishing the ceilings and walls . Is it posible to add some kind of additional roof over the current one so as to keep the interior ceiling in a natural state? The location of this property has cold weather. apx 3,000. square ft. to heat. thinking of radiant floors. Any other sugestions for energy saving options for heating?
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BeautifulRemodel.com
Hi puphollywood,

The problem with adding a roof over the top of the existing one is that it is an elaborate structural project. Its possible, but highly unlikely, that you can add the additional roof load required (consisting of framing, roofing and insulation etc) to the load-bearing walls, beams, posts etc without them needing to be heavily reinforced. They were only designed to handle the load that's there (Both live and dead loads)

It is possible to build a new lower insulated ceiling underneath the existing one, but unless you get creative with glass for portions of the ceiling, you'd lose the sight of your slate in some or all of the areas.

If this is a project you're seriously considering undertaking, the most sensible next step would be talk with a structural engineer, architect or qualified design/build company. For a nominal fee, they can complete a site visit and let you know how possible (or not) this is. They will need to see the interior construction etc before they can give you any meaningful advice.

Steve
October 13, 2012 at 2:57pm     
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puphollywood
Thank you so much for your feedback. I haven't purchased the property yet. And yes I am planning on paying an engineer to scope the project for me. This is on my "bucket list" so I'm doing some homework now. I have seen post and beam projects where they insulated and sheet rocked in bettween the rafters. Thanks again.
October 13, 2012 at 3:05pm   
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
Beautiful structure. What a neat project this would be. Keep us informed on how it goes.
October 13, 2012 at 3:16pm   
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BeautifulRemodel.com
HI puphollywood, you're very welcome. I agree with Deborah that this would be a great project, I love that you're considering remodeling this already beautiful space. You're absolutely right about being able to insulate between the rafters etc, but as you know you'd lose sight of the slate. If you decide to go that route though, I recommend looking into a closed or open cell spray foam insulation. I've used Icynene with great results, and it has a higher insulation value per inch than batt.

Best of luck with the home!

Steve
October 13, 2012 at 3:21pm   
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Virgil Carter Fine Art
Converting a pole barn into a habitable building to live in part-time or full-time is a very romantic idea. Be very cautious and do your full due-dillengence before making any commitments. Problematic issues range from site drainage and run-off directions, to lack of adequate (any) foundations that will meet building code for dwellings, to wall insulation, to roofing, roof drainage, roof insulation and interior floor levels and materials. If concerns about the foundation and building envelope are not enough, consider the building systems that will be needed and how they may be impacted by the existing pole barn: structural spans, shear resistance, heating, cooling, plumbing, storm and sanitary drainage.

Here in Pennsylvania, lots of folks love the idea of converting historic old field stone masonry bank barns into romantic-appearing dwellings. It can be done, but the square footage costs almost always far exceed the cost of new construction, even reproduction construction (new buildings that look historic). Proceed prudently--good luck!
October 13, 2012 at 3:22pm     
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Kaplan Architects, AIA
Steve at BeautifulRemodel had some good advice. You might also check the zoning in your area. I don't know whether there are any restrictions on the number of living units on a given property where this is located. Converting a barn into a house may not be allowed. I would call your local Planning Department to be sure...
October 13, 2012 at 3:22pm     
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puphollywood
It actually has 3 buildable lots. Checked on that. Also I understand it's a good thing there is not a foundation I was told it will be less of expence to put in radiant heat then have a pour after. I have to say I just love hearing from all of you. It's a wonderful thing to "pay it foward" with your life experiances. Feel free to give more feed back on heating a structure like this. Looking into pellet stoves as well as solar panels.
October 13, 2012 at 3:32pm   
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Kaplan Architects, AIA
Hydronic radiant heat may be the best approach energy wise but this type of system tends to be more expensive to install than any other heating systems. I also think Virgil Carter's advice should be taken very seriously. Converting a structure that was designed and built for animals will be missing many important elements the code may require for human habitation.
October 13, 2012 at 3:47pm   
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thorwebtech
Hi all! Puphollywood's husband here. Thanks for the good and thoughtful info.

I have a couple of questions. We are looking to do hydronic radiant heat with an 18 inch insulated earth box under a 4 -6 inch slab. hydronic pipes will be in both the earth box and the slab. Heat source will be solar augmented with a gas furnace.

The barn currently has no foundation or slab, so that would have to be dug and poured, regardless. Is it really that much more expensive for this system than some other heating options? Plex pipes vs duct work woud be a wash. Probably a bit more plumbing, though.

Also, there is electric, public water, public sewer, and gas in the barn already. What might be any other elements that code might require for human habitation? What should we keep an eye out for?.
October 13, 2012 at 4:44pm   
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Kaplan Architects, AIA
I would check with your local Building Department about this. Here in California when we change the use of a building we often need to bring it up to the current building code. That could mean doing seismic upgrading. Also we have energy laws in California that require a certain amount of insulation in the walls and roof and that may affect how your structure will look inside. Anyway, the Building Department can give you some good advice about what issues might come up in this type of conversion.
October 13, 2012 at 5:09pm   
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thorwebtech
thanks for the feedback. We will definitely be getting a local architect who should be familiar with local codes involved early in the project.

The property is in a cold climate (climate zone 5), so we want a tightly sealed well insulated envelope. Considering doing double insulated walls for a thermal break, and large triple pane windows on the south facing long wall to facilitate some passive solar heating. the barn is a blank slate, so we are excited about what we could do. Of course this will all be based on budget, and what the engineer/architect tells us as far as how doable our plans are within the existing structure.

I must say, this site is a great resource for us newbie builders/renovators. thanks for the great advice!
October 13, 2012 at 5:35pm     
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Virgil Carter Fine Art
Folks, you will have to put in a continuous perimeter foundation (footing and stem wall) around all of the perimeter of the structure. Your floor slab will be poured inside the perimenter foundation, once the foundation is in place. You may also have to have continuous interior foundations and/or isolated foundations, depending on where your load bearing walls and posts turn out to be.

Unless you have an unusual pole barn, with existing perimeter foundations designed for a 1-2 story load, all of your exterior walls and poles are going to have to be removed to allow sufficient room for excavation, forming, reinforcement and concrete pour/finishing for the foundations of your permanent dwelling! I don't thinnk you can excavate, form, reinforce and pour a continuous concrete foundation without affecting the existing poles and metal walls! Have you recognized this? Will you place your foundations inside the exterior of the pole barn, so as to not disturb the existing poles, metal walls, etc?

Said differently, a pole barn is an inexpensive, temporary structue. A dwelling is an expensive, permanent structure. It's going to be very costly and time consuming to "insert" a permanent dwelling inside a temporary structure and still retain the appearance of a pole barn. It can be done, of course, but the old construction motto should be kept in mind: "it's just time and money!"

I don't want to be a wet blanket, but you might save time and money by demolishing the old pole barn and designing/building a new house in the same footprint that has the aesthetics of a pole barn--a pole house! Good luck with whatever you decide. It's a great opportunity!
October 13, 2012 at 6:05pm   
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BeautifulRemodel.com
Hi Virgil,

While what you're describing is quite possible, there are other less drastic scenarios too. The posts are most likely sitting on cylindrical footings, terminating above grade, per code.

Because of this, another possible option is that the perimeter is essentially left *alone*, (with the exception of upgrades as needed for framing tie-ins, drainage and waterproofing etc) A mono-pour interior slab could be created spaced away from the exterior walls (less work and more stable imo than a stem and separate slab). Any interior bearing posts could be integrated into carefully planned interior walls.

Then new framed (pre-sheathed) walls are built and raised inside. Tying in to the rafters *could* be as simple as blocking, strapping and H25's. (Unless they're in seismic zone 4 ;)

This would not only create a structure somewhat independent and isolated from the existing exterior building, but also allow for deep window wells etc, which would be a cool aesthetic detail for the barn.

All scenarios right now are pure speculation of course, so a site visit by qualified personnel will determine exactly what their options are

Steve
October 13, 2012 at 7:17pm   
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Virgil Carter Fine Art
Steve, good suggestions and ideas. Of course you are right: a site visit by qualified professionals and a check with the jurisdiction for zoning and code requirements are the important initial steps.

I was worried that, as in some agricultural areas, the poles are simply placed in the ground with tampled earth or a simple fill of rough, non-structural concrete around their base. And concerned that existing rafters are just enough to hold sheet metal roofing pieces--widely spaced 2X4s or perhaps 2X6s not designed for dead, snow or wind loads.

Let's see what develops. It is a good idea, if the pole barn cooperates.
October 13, 2012 at 7:43pm     
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snowball_369
I am building a Pole Barn house at this time. It is a kit from a business in Monroe, WA. They have some photos on their site you might find interesting to check out. They might also be able to give you some ideas or people to contact. They sell their kits all over North America. The company installing my kit is DC Building. They also work all around N.America. They might be helpful with ideas as well.
Good Luck.
November 19, 2012 at 11:30am   
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snowball_369
oops The pole barn company is BarnPros.com
November 19, 2012 at 11:31am   
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Baltimore Architectural Detail LLC
You have poles, you need panels. I would seek a construction firm versed in SIPS panels, these insulated panels will prevent you from using up any more of your prettypole structure than you absoloutely need to for structural purposes.
November 19, 2012 at 11:49am   
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