Pre-fab is all the rage.
More than half the farm buildings constructed in the Ozarks today are selected from the wide variety of “pre-engineered” structures available from commercial manufacturers or large contracting firms, according to a University of Missouri Extension Publication, “Buying a Packaged Farm Building.”
“Package buildings are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, and they contain features that reflect both the needs of their intended use and the choice of their designer. Their purchase can be compared to that of a tractor or an automobile – there are high-price models, economy units and usually a variety of optional accessories that add to the cost.”
Which is best for you?
“You can find those prefab barns with designs that are very extravagant to very simple and modest, and I think a lot of your purchase is going to be on what you need it for,” Dr. Evan Whitley, manager at the Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies at the Samuel R. Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla., said. “Do you need storage space, which is conducive just to a square barn, or do you need equipment, storage, maybe some fabrication or mechanicking? That’s a different type of barn than one that is just pretty simple in design.”
It’s also possible, if you have the expertise, to build your own barn from scratch. Whitely said a manufacturer near Ardmore offers both basic materials and prefab buildings complete with construction plans; the plans are also online and provide a materials list, along with a schematic showing the outlay of the barn. If your plans for the barn don’t match the designs available, you may have to combine two or more of them, or come up with unique innovations on an existing design.
He highly recommended using a method that will let you visualize the barn before it’s built. You can do it “the old school way of putting it on a piece of graph paper to scale, or for some of the more modern, computer literate folks, just go into Excel and do the same thing,” Whitley said. “It’s a little bit easier to visualize than if you’re just taking a contractor’s word for it, or looking at some of the spec sheets of some of these prefab buildings.”
Once the site for the building has been selected, it needs to be prepared. The Missouri Extension publications says that will involve removing topsoil, leveling the area, and bringing utilities such as water and electricity to the site.
As far as ensuring your barn will stand and is safe, Whitley says it’s very similar to building a house.
“You want to make sure that your weight bearing metal meets specs,” he said. “Your manufacturer will help you with that. Make sure that your outside walls are of the thickness and the type that will withstand the environmental conditions that you’re expecting the barn to withstand.”
The Missouri Extension publication says a 4-inch-thick concrete floor is sufficient for most farm buildings. Reinforcing is not necessary if floors are placed over a well-drained, compacted fill material. Floors should be thickened to 8 inches for a distance of 2 feet in from doors where equipment will be entering the building.
You also have to make sure the roof you’ve selected is compatible with those prevailing climate conditions, so rain or snow will run off as quickly as possible. Here’s where you might want to get some advice from your local metal supplier, who also supplies and talks to contractors. “They can give you a pretty good idea of whether or not you need a 2:12 or a 3:12, what kind of pitch you might need; whether or not the contractors are typically guttering the buildings or not and you need to redirect that water,” Whitley said.
If you’re not comfortable making some of these decisions yourself, it may help to pay a consulting fee to a professional contractor.
The important thing, he said, is to have a plan going in. You can expect to spend $10 to $12 a square foot, so that’s a sizeable investment.
“Are you going to do all the work, or some of the work; or are you going to contract somebody to do a guaranteed job? I think that helps you define some of the next steps in terms of working with a contractor, what they’re going to do, what your expectations are, and making sure that you go into the process with a really good understanding of what the barn is going to look like, and what your responsibilities are moving forward,” Whitley remarked.


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