If you’ve ever wondered about those big ole barns or warehouses with the rounded metal roofs, you’ve seen post frame construction in action. But what exactly is post frame construction and why has it become so popular? Read on friend, and I’ll explain everything you need to know about this versatile and cost-effective building method.
A Brief History of Post Frame Buildings
While post frame construction may seem like a modern innovation, it actually has its roots in the barns and equipment sheds of the 19th century. Farmers realized they could use large wooden posts spaced several feet apart to create structures with wide, open interiors. This allowed them to store livestock, hay, and equipment all in one place.
As industrialization ramped up in the 20th century, builders saw the potential to use these same post frame techniques to create large warehouses and manufacturing facilities. This allowed the construction of spacious buildings at a relatively low cost.
Meanwhile, engineers were innovating on post frame design. The introduction of laminated wood columns and gang nail trusses allowed for stronger, more stable structures. And the development of precast concrete foundation systems provided affordable ground stability.
Today, post frame buildings are used across industrial, commercial, and agricultural industries. From distribution centers to airplane hangers, gymnasiums to dairy barns, post frame offers an efficient and customizable solution.
The Structural Components That Make Post Frame Work
Post frame buildings rely on just a few core structural components to create large clear-span interiors with plenty of strength. Here’s a quick overview of what makes these buildings tick:
Foundations – The Groundwork for Stability
Post frame buildings need strong foundations to keep those giant posts stable in the ground. Most post frame structures use:
- Concrete columns – Pre-cast columns sunk into the ground provide strength and prevent moisture damage.
- Concrete slab – A poured slab foundation can also be used if there’s no need to sink columns.
An innovative option is precast concrete columns like Perma-Columns. These pre-made columns elevate the wood out of the ground to prevent rotting. Perma-Columns also allow for fast and easy wood-to-ground installation.
Columns – The Superstructure’s Support System
Giant laminated wood columns provide the critical structural support in post frame buildings. These columns are:
- Constructed of layered, compressed wood for exceptional strength. Southern yellow pine is a popular choice.
- Spaced 8-12 feet apart to minimize interior supports.
- Joined together with sturdy steel brackets.
Laminated columns give post frame buildings their essential sturdiness and load-bearing capabilities.
Trusses – Spanning the Space
Post frame buildings achieve their signature clear span interiors using heavy duty roof trusses. These trusses are:
- Framed with dense triangular webbing for structural integrity.
- Centered directly over each vertical post to transfer weight efficiently.
- Spaced anywhere from 18 to 81 feet apart.
The result is a spacious interior free of support beams and walls.
Exterior Walls – The Protective Barrier
The exterior walls of post frame buildings shield the interior from the elements. Most commonly, metal wall panels are used to cover the framing.
- Ribbed steel sheeting is a popular choice for its durability and affordability.
- Other options include brick, stone, masonry block, or vinyl siding.
Metal sheets screwed into horizontal girts and vertical purlins provide a long-lasting, low maintenance exterior shell.
Roof – Where It All Comes Together
The signature element of post frame construction is the angled metal roof built from the upper trusses. This roof is normally sheathed with:
- Ribbed steel panels that match the exterior walls.
- Purlins running perpendicular to the slope.
The angled trusses and sloped roof allow snow and rain to easily run off while providing uplift resistance against wind forces.
Why Post Frame Buildings Are So Darn Useful
Now that you understand the components, let’s talk about what makes post frame construction so gosh darn handy for all sorts of applications.
Cost Savings – More Bang For Your Buck
Post frame buildings cost less per square foot than traditional construction for several reasons:
- The spaced out framing requires less structural material.
- The modular design enables rapid construction.
- Minimal foundation is needed when using columns.
According to the National Frame Builders Association, post frame buildings can be erected much quicker than other buildings – sometimes in just days!
Strength and Durability – Built to Last
Don’t let their economical price tag fool you – post frame buildings are remarkably strong:
- The sturdy laminated columns and heavy trusses handle heavy snow loads and high winds.
- The angled roof design sheds precipitation and provides uplift resistance.
- The steel exterior panels stand up to decades of wear and tear.
Properly constructed post frame buildings can have an almost unlimited lifespan!
Design Flexibility – Make It Your Own
Post frame construction allows for tons of customization in both form and function:
- The lack of interior columns enables you to fully customize the floorplan.
- You can choose from various exterior finishes like metal, stone, or brick.
- Modify the roof pitch, height, and shape to your specifications.
Whatever layout or look you want, post frame can make it happen!
Energy Efficiency – Insulate Without Obstruction
Thanks to the widely spaced framing, it’s easy to pack post frame buildings full of insulation for energy savings:
- Uninterrupted expanses of insulation can be installed in the roof and walls.
- High R-Value insulation up to R-40 can be added.
- This can reduce heating and cooling costs substantially.
Post frame buildings can meet even the most stringent energy standards with proper insulation.
Common Uses for Post Frame Buildings
This versatility makes post frame construction ideal for:
Agricultural – Where post frame buildings got their start as barns and equipment storage. The clear spans suit cattle, horses, tractors, and more.
Commercial – Retail, storage, and warehouses benefit from adaptable post frame facilities. Amazon distribution centers are often built this way.
Light Industrial – Manufacturing and workshops allow flexible equipment layouts within post frame’s open floor plans.
Institutional – Universities, airports, and municipalities use post frame for gymnasiums, garages, hangars, and more.
Recreational – Golf courses, parks departments, and equestrian centers love customizable post frame buildings for their arenas and facilities.
No matter the industry, post frame has you covered!
Constructing a Post Frame Building from the Ground Up
Constructing a post frame building is a straightforward process:
Site Preparation – The land must be cleared and graded with proper drainage established. Electrical and utility lines are mapped.
Foundation – Concrete columns are precast offsite and then trucked in and installed. Or the slab can be poured on-site.
Setting Posts and Trusses – The laminated posts and roof trusses, fabricated offsite, are tilted up into place and joined.
Exterior Shell – The steel exterior wall panels are screwed into the girts, and roof sheets attached to purlins.
Interior Fit Out – Insulation is added before utilities, lighting, and any custom interior finishes are installed.
With manufactured components and rapid assembly, most post frame buildings can begin hosting your horses or widgets in no time!
The Simple, Adaptable Appeal of Post Frame Construction
Post frame buildings provide an ingenious blend of simplicity and customizability. Their straight-forward wood-frame design allows structures of all shapes and sizes to be constructed efficiently and economically.
Yet durable materials like laminated columns, precast concrete foundations, and steel exteriors give post frame buildings exceptional strength and longevity.
So if you’re looking for no-fuss construction with unlimited flexibility, post frame is the way to go. With smart enhancements like Perma-Columns, these buildings can serve your needs for generations to come!