How To Choose Between A Wood Pole Barn or Prefab Steel Building

At first glance, wood pole barn kits might look cheaper than a pre-engineered steel building package like those provided here at Global Steel Buildings Canada.

But look deeper – is it really cheaper?

In this article, we will review what pole barns and pole barn kits are, then we’ll carefully compare wood pole building kits and prefab steel buildings by examining and comparing the structure and quality of their key building components. If you’re not convinced after that, we’ll even give you a free quote with an exact price for a metal building with an endless variety of uses. Once you know all of the facts, you can decide for yourself which building type is best for you.

Let’s get started!

What Is a Pole Barn?

The name “pole barn” comes from the 1930s. During the Great Depression, farmers turned to the most cost-efficient materials they could to construct new buildings: recycled telephone poles. These “telephone pole barns” were shortened to simply “pole barns,” ushering in a new era of construction.

Pole barns are a type of post-frame construction, which is a technique that has been used for centuries to rapidly build solid, dependable structures. Pole buildings are designed with posts as framing members buried a few feet into the ground. These posts serve as a main component of the foundation of the entire barn. Advocates for wood pole barns argue that they are far less than expensive and time-consuming to prepare compared to other types of construction.

What Are Pole Barn Kits?

A pole barn kit consists of pre-packaged materials for your building project. You’re responsible for supplying the tools and labor. Pole barn kits can be purchased at the nearest home improvement retailer (i.e. Home Depot). Price varies by size, features, and current material costs.

A pole barn kit consists of pre-packaged materials for your building project. You’re responsible for supplying the tools and labor. Pole barn kits can be purchased at the nearest home improvement retailer (i.e. Home Depot). Price varies by size, features, and current material costs.

With over 35 years of design and construction experience the Global Steel Buildings Canada team are trusted for their superior product, reliability and excellent customer service.

✔️ Let’s get started . . .

Wood Pole Barns vs. Prefab Steel Buildings: A Part Comparison

Structural Rigid Frames (Columns and Rafters)

Global Steel Buildings Pre-Engineered Rigid Frames

Steel buildings consist of rigid frame, plate steel and H beam construction, similar to a traditional H column. Pole framing is a building technique adapted from the labor-intensive traditional timber framing technique. It uses large wooden poles or posts buried in the ground or on a foundation to provide the vertical structural support, along with girts to provide horizontal support. A major difference with a pre-engineered steel rigid frame is that the frame is uniquely engineered for your building. Because these frames are machine-designed to withstand specific wind, rain, snow and seismic loads in your exact area, satisfying local building codes, no two rigid frames are the same.

Did you know that there are several active seismic locations in Canada? British Columbia is most likely to have a major earthquake with the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River valleys coming in a close second.

Canadian steel buildings like ours are designed to handle the seismic loads needed all across Canada, whether you’re looking for steel buildings in Alberta or steel buildings in Ontario. Ask your builder if the type of pole barn frame structure they are quoting you is being computer designed to withstand specific wind, rain, snow and seismic loads in your exact area to satisfy local building codes. They will probably tell you that their pole building design is NOT even classified as a permanent structure.

Since no wood is used in our pre-engineered steel buildings, no warping will occur, there’s no risk of fire or termites AND insurance premiums will be less expensive than for wood DIY pole barns. Wood pole storage sheds are a fire hazard and become a target for termites and other insects, raising the costs of insurance.

The truss of a prefab steel building, on the other hand, does not need a cord going across it, which means there is complete unobstructed space within. Birds cannot perch and defecate on the equipment and machinery like inside a wood pole barn, which will save you tremendous costs on maintenance.

Wood Pole Barns Columns and Rafters

Wood pole buildings sometimes called post-frame buildings manufactured using the frame construction method will eventually warp over time.

Ask your builder if the type of pole barn frame structure they are quoting you is being computer designed to withstand specific wind, rain, snow and seismic loads in your exact area to satisfy local building codes.

They will might tell you that their pole building design is NOT classified as a permanent structure

Wood pole buildings are more expensive to insure because of their vulnerability to things like termites and fire. Wood Pole Buildings are more expensive to insure. On the other hand, our prefab buildings have a 40 year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship on all structural components.

A completely wood structure (excluding the metal roof) is NOT often a popular option for valuable vehicle storage, even more valuable farm equipment as agricultural buildings or common uses such as storage buildings for commercial buildings for commercial use for high value contents or tenants.

Wood pole building manufacturers typically require a cord spanning across the truss width causing tremendous loss of space. This creates a perch for birds – with caustic defecation potentially damaging your machinery and equipment.

Roof Purlins and Girts Comparison

Global Steel Buildings Roof Purlins and Girts

A purlin used in steel metal building construction runs parallel to the building eave and supports the roof decking or sheeting. Purlins are supported by the main frame rafter (part of rigid frame).

A girt, or sheeting rail, used in steel metal building construction runs parallel to the building eave and laterally supports the wall panel or sheeting to resist wind loads. Girts are supported by the main frame rafter (part of rigid frame) or endwall column.

The purlins and girts for our pre-engineered steel buildings are superior, 16-gauge zinc-galvanized steel. These buildings are all steel; there is no wood used anywhere.

A purlin used in steel metal building construction runs parallel to the building eave and supports the roof decking or sheeting. Purlins are supported by the main frame rafter (part of rigid frame).

A Girt or Sheeting Rail used in steel metal building construction runs parallel to the building eave and laterally supports the wall panel or sheeting to resist wind loads. Girts are supported by the main frame rafter (part of rigid frame) or endwall column.

Pole Barns Purlins and Girts

Wood pole building manufacturers typically use wood purlins and girts, which will bow or bend causing screws to loosen, sheets to flap and leaks to occur within the pole barn.

Roof Sheeting Comparison

Global Steel Buildings Roof Sheeting

The Global Pre-Engineered Steel Buildings steel roofing system consists of maintenance-free 80 yield, 26-gauge, AZ55 Galvalume®, which consists of 55% aluminum, 44% zinc and 1% silicon. This steel is among some of the best building materials you can buy on the market today, and for good reason.

The steel mill provides a 25-year rust proof warranty on perforation, meaning that if a hole develops in a roof panel due to corrosion, the steel mill will replace it.

Our steel buildings have a 1½” depth in our corrugation in the sheeting. Our extra depth of corrugation adds strength to the roof.

The sheeting on the roof of our steel buildings has a depth of 1½” in the corrugation. The depth adds strength to the roof.

Our panel overlap (called a reversed “L”) prevents water from backing up through the overlap into the Global Steel Building.

Pole Barns Roof Sheeting

Pole barn builders offer only a 15 year guarantee on the roof sheeting. Typically Wood buildings only use sheeting with a zinc coating that eventually will oxidize, fade then rust causing perforation holes allowing water inside the building.

Meanwhile, wood pole barn builders offer only a 15-year guarantee on their roof sheeting. Typically, wood buildings only use sheeting with a zinc coating that eventually will oxidize, fade, and then rust, causing perforation holes and allowing water inside the building.

Wood pole barn buildings typically only use 29-gauge steel on the roof trusses, which is lighter than 26-gauge steel, and only a 5/8″ depth of corrugation that does not provide the extra strength a Global Steel building has.

Often pole barn kit manufacturing competitors use an ‘R’ panel roof, which means the sheeting only overlaps a third of the way into the corrugation. This doesn’t prevent leakage as well as the reverse ‘L’ design that Global Steel uses because the water will back up into the pole building.

Fasteners Comparison

Global Steel Buildings Fasteners

Our capped fasteners are top quality materials stainless steel.

They won’t rust and includes an industry warranty. It is very important that the fasteners be compatible with the AZ55 or AZ50 because the steel mill will not warranty the wood pole barn roof if they’re incompatible.

Pole Barns Construction Fasteners

When it comes to wood pole barns and pole barn kits, building manufacturers typically only warranty the roof for 10, 15, or maybe 20 years if you’re lucky.

Wood buildings typically use fasteners with an alloy head that will tarnish and turn dark gray or black; the roof of the barn then loses its luster and beauty.

Paint Coating Comparison

Global Steel Buildings Paint Coating

The paint used on our Steel buildings has a 40 year warranty against chipping, cracking, peeling and blistering.

The coating is a baked-on polyester paint so that the Global Steel Building metal pole barns maintain its colour and beauty for a lifetime.

Pole Barns Paint

When it comes to wood pole barns and pole barn kits, building manufacturers typically only warranty the roof for 10, 15, or maybe 20 years if you’re lucky.

Foundation Considerations

Global Steel Building Foundation

Pre-engineered steel buildings utilize an engineered concrete foundation that integrates with the rigid frame and end wall columns.

Your foundation engineer will provide exact details to you and your construction manager on what is required for a foundation in your area with no guessing on your part.

The concrete slab is poured after the structure foundation is complete.

Additional features can easily be included in the slab design like in-floor radiant heating.

The foundation can also be designed for building expansion or additions like expanding the length or adding a lean-to.

Wood Pole Barn Foundation

With post-frame construction of a pole barn, wood posts or columns are set in concrete like a fence post, but this can be a problem in frost areas like those throughout Canada.

This approach to pole barn plans is to use low-tech building materials.

Freezing will cause the post to expand and crack the concrete post foundation. Sometimes it softens the wood post, and that moist, softened wood leads to rot.

Many builders believe that pressure treated wood posts solves that problem. But your horses are going to nibble at the wood which leads to eating arsenic and potentially poisoning them.

Builders with years of experience know there are other workarounds but again this is not a permanent building so you will end up replacing your custom barns.

Steel is Supreme

For all these reasons and more, building a structure primarily out of wood is not recommended, especially for uses like a storage facility, a garage, or workshop. Prefab steel buildings are the best choice for buildings like these.

Common uses for pre-engineered steel buildings include airplane hangars, metal shops, and industrial buildings. Steel buildings can also replace wood buildings that are commonly used as horse stalls, indoor riding arenas, and to house livestock.

Steel buildings are trusted for their ability to protect their contents from even the harshest of elements. Not only are pre-engineered steel buildings great at protecting their contents, but they are better for your bottom line, saving you costly insurance and maintenance costs.

With over 35 years of design and construction experience, here at Global Steel Buildings Canada we are trusted for our superior product, reliability and excellent customer service.  We are happy to provide a free quote for your next prefab steel building Click Here.