On Building Tractor Shops

Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:40 pm

Not to go into too much detail, my wife and I hope to build a house soon.

Along with it, I want a real, concrete floored, maybe with a woodstove, place to work on my relics out of the rain, shop. A good friend/colleague and I were talking today, he's a licensed electrician and has done masonry/construction most of his life before he started teaching. We got on the subject of shops and I asked him what was the "best" in terms of cost.

He's a big fan of cinderblock construction. I have always leaned towards pole barns, mostly from all of those beautiful Morton Buildings ads in Successful Farming magazine I have looked at since I was a kid....he said by the time I bought the metal for the siding, I could spend about the same amount for cinderblocks.

So I know this has been hashed and re-hashed in some way or another, but what's the "best?" Pole barn, masonry, or what? I want this to be my "forever" shop, and want it to last. I know it won't be big enough, etc. etc. etc. BTW I'm thinking about something like a 30x50 or 30x60, with part of it being bona-fide shop and the rest storage/machinery parking. I want at least a 12' high door, for "real" farm equipment as well as antiques, 14' if I can afford it. What kind of cost/square foot to build, etc?

One thing I am thinking on is pouring the floor only for the actual "shop," (about 30x30)and having a wall separating the rest from the "shop" and then gravel for the rest of the floor as a way to cut costs. Thoughts?

I'm in eastern NC, so a good woodstove will probably work for heat. More worried about hurricanes/wind than snow and such.

This is a bit rambling I know, but I'd like to get some thoughts and Ideas. The #1 consideration is cost, but the building must be durable. The whole thing may be a pipe dream but if we build a home as we plan, this may be my only chance....

Have at it,

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:59 pm

Two things jump out at me.

Super A wrote:More worried about hurricanes/wind than snow and such...The #1 consideration is cost, but the building must be durable.

In this case, go with block. After a hurricane plays the big bad wolf and huffs and puffs, you'll more than likely still have a shop instead of a slab of concrete.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:43 pm

I am no expert though but here are a couple thoughts.

If you go to concrete/cinder block walls which is a pretty standard material for commercial buildings, you will have to have some kind of concrete footing with a frost wall if you are affected by frost. Either way, a simple concrete slab even if reinforced with re-bar is not sufficient to support a block wall. So that will add significantly to the cost. Pretty sturdy buildings though.

Pole barns come in a number of different flavours from what I understand. A pole barn to my mind and for what seems normal costruction here is that we build our pole barns with telephone poles that are planted 4-5 feet in the ground. New Home For My Cubs. I am pretty sure that something similar to what I built probably would withstand a hurricane, as it has withstood 3 years of blizzards so far and a blizzard is essentially a winter hurricane. Many of our local farmers harvest logs off of their property, peel em, let em dry for a season or two and then have an auger truck or an excavator plant em. Many use 1x6 or 1x8 strapping and then sheath with various claddings and do not frame walls such as mine which reduces the cost and these are typically uninsulated buildings. I intend to put a solid wood floor in my pole barn as i can no longer tolerate concrete floors with my knee problems.


Used telephone poles are around $40.00 each. Mine cost nada.

I used a lot of recycled material in this project. Also, this year I have most of the pole barn insulated. Reclaimed insulation - fiberglass batts that were essentially new - a relatively new strip mall being taken down for a street alignment project.. but there is still no heat in the pole barn. Yesterday it was -20C with a wind chill of -30C yet in the pole barn with just plywood doors it was very warm. No not shirt sleeve warm, but almost warm enough to work without gloves. Amazing.

So far I have less than $1,000.00 give or take invested in my pole barn project over almost 4 years. Very affordable.

Might be an option of some type.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 8:48 am


I won't go into cinderblock vs. pole construction, sorta like which oil is best. However, when considering ceiling/eve height, additional height, above a determined minimum, is cheap. At that point, all other costs are fixed. So the additional cost is only for the materials and labor to extend the sidewalls another "X" number of feet.

For what it's worth, my Cub House has 10' ceiling and is 24'x30'. Concrete floor, 6" insulation in walls, 12" in the ceiling, drywalled, gas heat. Sure is nice to work in when it is snowy, blustery, and frigid outside.


Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:24 am

We have a lot more problems with frost heave in this area than in your area so we tend to go with pole barn or frame construction, due to the fact that people can do that themselves. In our area to prevent cracking of cinder or concrete block walls it is necessary to use mesh between each layer of blocks, and that is a pain. As to material type, that is up to you and the contractor, as a personal determination.

be sure to put a vapor barrier under the concrete to prevent sweating during rapid temperature changes. Also, put in some insulation, that also prevents sweating, and even thin insulation such as the Solar wrap they use under the metal on pole barns makes a big difference in temperature. I know it is more expensive, but in the storage part I would suggest the concrete floor with vapor barrier, Solar wrap under metal, etc. it will drastically reduce moisture and rust of unused equipment, plus making it much easier to move equipment around or mount it on a tractor. With that much height you have plenty of room to extend your roof and put a lean to on each side with a gravel floor as a place to park your trailer, truck, and as the shop gets fuller, temporary parking for tractors etc. while you need the room to move others around and work on them. If you decide to park a trailer and or truck under there, I suggest 14 feet wide, not 12. words of experience. 12 will work, but it is a closer fit than you think. I made my doors 10 x 10, which for my equipment, truck and camper, etc. is plenty of height, but if I back a wide trailer in, there is only about 4 or 5 inches of clearance on each side of the wheels due to the jamb.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:31 am

I'd go with a steel quanset arch on a concrete slab. Work benches down the side with florecent lights over them.

And build it twice the size you think you need!

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 2:37 pm

I've seen some very attractive pole buildings, Cowboy's actually comes to mind. Especially when it comes to storage. Depending on your terrain, if you have any rolling hillsides or maybe an area with a sharp difference in elevation, then i'd have to go with the cinder block. We are pretty big on bank barns around this way which gives you access to the upstairs area of your building. This is the way I built and with a 16' ceiling I was able to build a loft over three quartes of the upstairs area. This makes for a lot of storage area.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:06 pm

Dirt or gravel floor almost the same as being outside, BTDT. Concreted back in'93, all the difference in the world. Might work IF you have NO moisture comming under the wals or doors.,IMHO.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:18 pm

I agree with the others. A moisture barrier and full concrete floor is the only way to go. Don't forget some floor drains.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 7:40 pm

A concrete slab with a heavy poly vapor barrier below for moisture control is the way to go.

As a side not. After visiting many wind storm damaged areas , this tye of building will stand when all other types have been badly damaged. Same goes for portable the carports with a similar design and anchored properly .

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Tue Feb 15, 2011 8:29 pm

No matter how you do it if you have the storms as you described tie the roof into the sides with steel ties. If you do block put rebar into some of the hollows in the block and fill those holes with mortar. Tie the roof to the rebar areas. Block needs the weight of the roof to hold it up in severe wind. Roof needs to be well tied in to do it's job.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:48 am

Even after concrete, I have had water come in under the footing (shallow). Last time after a toad strangling rain (Aug., 08) and having banked up dirt all around the back and sides of building. Make sure that all ground water and roof runoff flow away from building. Good idea to have floor slightly higher than soil outside.

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:40 am

Thanks DaddyDip

Hi Al

I don't know anything about block buildings. But I have learned a few things in general. Keep the building at least 12" above the surrounding ground. So in the spring when the snow is melting water runs away from it and it will not get in even in heavy rains. If you have clay soils this is even more important. If you dig a hole in clay and fill it with sand it becomes a bathtub and holds water. All doors on gable ends :!: It will keep rain from running off on you when you go in and out and may save your live in winter by not having snow avalanche off of it and crushing you. It also keeps ice from building up when it get warm in winter by not having it drip infront of the door. Door on both ends so you can drive through and in summer open them up for a nice breeze.

Get wide doors it makes it a lot easier to get in out and get things positioned. I have a 14' wide door in the front and 18' wide in the back. If I am working on tractor in the doorway for better light I can still get smaller tractor and fourwheelers in and out. I mounted my sliding door on the inside so if it snows I can open it with out having to shovel away from the barn.

Go with at least a 10' side wall. I prefer a 12' Its a lot cheaper to put on a lean to for more room than build another building. And if its taller you can put a bigger lean to on and still have a 8' ceiling height. On my roof trusses they put 2x6's sticking up between the header and nailed the trusses to them. It gives them a lot more support and strength.

Even though I used a gravel floor I still put a vapor barrier under it.


Here's the pole barn I had put up last year



Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:22 pm

Cowboy, Who'd you buy your building from?

Another forum member sent me this link:

I must say I like this setup, especially the steel trusses. Are they as good as I think they are? Am I wrong in thinking they'll be stronger than wood?

I did some sketching on what I want. Maybe I need to see if I can get on "Extreme Makeover!" 8)

Thanks everyone for the advice. Keep it coming. This may all be a pipe dream but if we are able to build our new house (If the state of North Carolina doesn't lay me off first :( ) I might as well go "all in."


PS Cowboy, I appreciate the warning but in our climate, I doubt I'll be crushed to death under an avalanche from the roof if I do a door on the sidewall....of course after this winter, you never know....... :lol: :lol: Sorry, I couldn't resist!!

Re: On Building Tractor Shops

Sat Feb 19, 2011 8:52 am


We got it from a builder that just does pole barns. But he took what we wanted and went to Carter Lumber and they drew it up with all the materials. Of course he does so much business with them he gets a huge discount. Our barn was $34000 built.

That armor building looks nice. I don't think that it would be stronger or weaker as they are all designed to handle a specific load depending on the code for snow load in the area. Although I am sure you can tell them you want it to handle more weight. The only thing I can think of is that it would be hard to put a ceiling in it later. We had our trusses put on 2' centers so we can just nail OSB to the joists and blow in insulation if we want.

You know the weather has been crazy the last few years :D

Just looking at the DSCF and it looks like Mr E has steel truss building ya could ask how he likes it.