What trees to use for pole barn?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by thegriffiths, Jun 20, 2006.

  1. thegriffiths

    thegriffiths Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    186
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Charleston, WV
    I have asked previously about using my black locust trees for poles for my pole barn. I am now thinking I shouldn't waste them on the barn since the barn will be enclosed and not out in the weather.

    So now my questions...(By the way, I live in West Virginia and I dont have any cedar and very little pine on my property.)

    What trees are best to use for pole barns? (I am coating the bottom with preservative before setting them in the cement)

    What wood shrinks very little when dry?

    Do I need to remove the bark?

    I figure I need 10 inch diameter, 10-12 ft poles.

    Any advice would be great!
     
  2. michiganfarmer

    michiganfarmer Max Supporter

    Messages:
    6,609
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2005
    Location:
    Near Traverse City Michigan
    cedar is used a lot for fence posts because it lasts very long when it is exposed to the weather.
     

  3. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    12,323
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2003
    Location:
    Carthage, Texas
    do you have post oak? One of my great uncles built a pole barn 5 miles down in the 'river bottom', out of post oak, and the poles are hard as steel, above and below ground... this was built back in the 40's... I'm using post oak poles in one section of my barn... it's nail bender tough... have to drill pilot holes for nails!
     
  4. boonieman

    boonieman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    292
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Location:
    Meade Co Kentucky
  5. just_sawing

    just_sawing Haney Family Sawmill

    Messages:
    1,187
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2006
    Location:
    Liberty,Tennessee
    Black locust is real good.
    Red Cedar is real good
    Post Oak is good (better if pretreated where wood is below ground with used oil)
    Walnut dark only good.
    Red Oak if soaked in used oil for a time is OK
    If will pay you to have a sawyer square the post. This gives a smoth surface to work with and the sap wood is where bugs attack.
    Never put any sap wood in the ground.
    It isn't a good idea to put post in Concrete. Using dry for packing is OK
    If you will pour pillars and put post on top of them you can use popular or what ever.
    Don't be fooled to thing honey locust and black locust are the same. Also Black locust is better cut in the winter.
     
  6. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

    Messages:
    4,568
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2002
    Location:
    Maine
    Do you have tamarack (larch)? It's working well for us.
     
  7. Lynne

    Lynne Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,775
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Maryland
    "telephone pole" trees, you usually find them along side state and county roads. Sorry I couldn't resist! Thats what we used, if you talk with the road crews they will leave them on the side of the road for pick up - no charge. Save your trees for other uses like having them cut into boards for siding.
     
  8. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

    Messages:
    7,220
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2005
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    i live in pa near the maryland line, so i guess our climate is similar. mostly oak is used around here. that is quite pricey these days. if you have oak for the posts it should do well.

    i am curious as to what some folks here think of using hemlock. hemlock is supposed to have natural insect resistant properties. they grow nice and straight. i have no idea how they would do in the soil. like anything else, it will be protected from the weather as long as the soil is not wet all the time.

    texican was talking of post oak. i don't know what that is but i do know the sawmill down the street sells alot of black and or rock oak for railroad ties.
     
  9. woodspirit

    woodspirit Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,274
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2005
    Location:
    Bristol, ny
    Hemlock was the first tree I thought of too. Around here and in PA. many, many barns are made from them. I used to have exterior stairs that were made from hemlock in contact with the ground and they weren't treated. Solid stuff but watch out for splinters.
     
  10. Justaplain

    Justaplain Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    99
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    Washington Co NY
    Don't!! when you come to square the building,lining a bunch of trees up 2 ways is imposseable. Then getting them truely verticle to carry your ledgers and roof, will make a grown man cry. I did it 50 years ago with "Koppers" treated southern pine. Look at how Morton is putting theirs up these days. bcs
     
  11. thegriffiths

    thegriffiths Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    186
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Charleston, WV
    Thanks for the input. We dont have many oaks that I would be willing to cut down. Not sure about hemlock...I will have to figure out what that one looks like.
     
  12. DaleK

    DaleK Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,094
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2004
    Location:
    East-Central Ontario
    Hemlock will work for strapping if you can get it cut and nailed down while it's wet. If you let it dry first, it will twist, and it also gets so hard you have to drill it before you can put a nail through it. I don't know if I would trust it for poles or not, I think it might twist enough to throw the walls out of square.
     
  13. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    14,800
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Under no circumstances do you want to "set your poles in cement" (ie, in concrete). They will rot extremely fast. It's okay to set your poles on a concrete pad or on concrete filled sonotubes, but never embed your posts into concrete.
     
  14. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,725
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2003
    The post needs to set on a bed of rocks that provide drainage. You can put a ring of concrete higher up for stability, but keep the bottoms open for drainage.
     
  15. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,183
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    In my climate I would _NEVER_ set a wood post in concrete. Wouldn't last 5 years. A real bad idea around here anyhow. Not sure of your construction plans, but use a bracket & surface-mount the pole if you are having a footing the poles are on.

    If you are doing a real pole building, I would use the sonotubes of concrete as Cabin mentions. There really is nothing that you can self-treat that will last any amount of time in the ground. The concrete tubes will not cost all that much, will save you some wood, & give you a life-long & beyond building.

    --->Paul
     
  16. vicker

    vicker Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    9,557
    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2003
    Location:
    Central S. C.
    I agree with Cabin and Rambler. Pour footings and fasten your post to them. Most people around here use oak (and most put them in the ground and set them in concrete). Many of the small saw mills around here will sell you some posts. Or, if you have your own trees, they will cut them for you if you can get them to the mill. Plenty of folks around here have portable saw mills as well. You could also get a chainsaw mill. They should work fine for squaring posts. White oak is best. As far as shrinkage goes, you needn't worry about the length, as the posts will have minimal shrinkage length wise.
    Ps Look for posts with the pith (center of the tree) on both ends.
     
  17. langoley

    langoley Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    45
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Location:
    West Virginia
    If you use the locust you don't have to set them in concrete! They will last 75 years or longer set in the ground ! We have 3 pole barns here on our Greenbrier county Wv. farm that are living proof.
     
  18. thegriffiths

    thegriffiths Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    186
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Charleston, WV
    I am not very knowledgable about pole building so I am surprised by the advice of not using cement.

    I thought I could dig the hole, put some gravel in the bottom for drainage, then put the pole in and pour the concrete around the pole. And the poles would last many many years.

    If I didnt put the pole in the ground how would I attach it to the concrete footing?

    < I am here to learn from those who know...teach me! >
     
  19. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,853
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    To affix the poles, you would set some steel in the concrete and then bolt the poles to the steel. The sonotube approach is preferred IMO.
     
  20. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,183
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    Where I live there are not many of the native rot-resistant trees mentioned here.

    Seems anything you buy is cheap & poor & bent or not really rot resistant 'here'.

    This web site explains a pre-made setup of concrete & wood that is really good. You want to end up making something like it. We see way too many pole barns around 'here' that look like the rotted off pic they show.

    http://www.permacolumn.com/

    --->Paul