A Word about Pole Building Costs

In answer to an email message.

The other day, I got the following email message from a reader:

Thank you for posting the information on your home. We are interested in doing something similar and were wondering if you had any ball park cost you could share on your project.

I’ve been blogging about the construction of my new home, which was built using post-frame (“pole building”) construction, since May 20, 2014. I’ve even created a series of daily time-lapse movies that show how the building was built.

Although each day’s time-lapse can be viewed separately on this blog, I’m pretty sure this is the only place you can find the compilation of all videos.

A lot of people have asked me why I chose this type of construction. After all, at the end of the day I’m living in a metal building. While it isn’t unattractive, it doesn’t have what most folks would consider “curb appeal.” Surely I could have made something nicer looking with normal framing construction.

Curb Appeal
As this photo hints, the reason I have such a big RV garage is because I have two big recreational vehicles to put into it. And yes, they do both fit inside.

That could be true, but I seriously doubt I could have done it on the same budget. After all, my building has a 60 x 48 footprint with a high roof peak about 30 feet up. That’s a lot of 2 x 4s. And let’s not forget the fact that the RV garage portion of the building has a 16 foot internal clearance with no central posts for support. It took some seriously engineered trusses to make that work. And how about the vaulted ceilings in the living space? Do you know how thick the five glulam beams that support the roof over that area are?

Of course, I have no answer for this person’s question. Every building is different, every builder has different pricing and materials. Before choosing a builder, I got quotes from four of them and they ranged in price from $50K to $250K. Were they all trying to sell me the same thing? I don’t think so.

My building was (obviously) custom, built to my specifications with design assistance from the builder, Western Ranch Buildings. I don’t think they’d ever done a building with such a large open space inside it (24 x 48 x 16) and I know for certain that they’d never done one with so many windows (20). I’m extremely happy with the way it turned out and have absolutely no complaints about the builder, who was completely professional, flexible, helpful, and patient with me. And this was my first (and likely only) time as a general contractor.

Of course, Western Ranch only provided the building shell. I handled everything inside either myself or by hiring subcontractors. There was additional cost for all that. So reporting what I spent on just the building shell wouldn’t offer a complete picture of my building cost. And reporting what I spent on the entire project would include all the high-end finishing touches such as the vaulted ceiling, oversized ceiling fans, custom kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, Pergo flooring, soaking tub, glass block shower stall, etc., etc.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: The cost of any building project depends on the contractor(s), the materials, the type of construction, the size, and the features. My project is unique, so reporting its costs would be meaningless. If you’re interested in building your own pole building, come up with a plan and submit it to several builders. See what they say it’ll cost. Western Ranch was right on the money with their estimates — a reputable builder in your area should be, too.

5 thoughts on “A Word about Pole Building Costs

  1. Watching the full time-lapse was a revelation.
    You had perfect weather (just one day’s rain it seems?).
    With the exception of the busy concrete floor gang, there were remarkably few workers on site at any one time.

    A new home with a footprint about 60% of yours, and with a volume of less than 50%, is taking shape in our village.
    Groundwork started in August, the roof has just been finished but no internal partitioning or fitting work has even begun. They hope to finish by April. The quarter acre plot cost $660,000, the build will be another $600,000. Agreeing the client’s preferences and design with the local planning authority took 18 months of lawyers’ letters and complex appeals.

    Our obsession with 11″ thick double-skin masonry walls slows construction and adds hugely to cost.

    You got a bargain there, Maria. Glulam beams look great and are hugely strong. But heating all that air mass cannot be cheap?

    • The actual construction of my building shell had a crew of 3-4 workers every day. They’d obviously done it many times and worked quickly and efficiently. Even the concrete went in quickly. Did you look at the time-stamping? They only took about 4 hours to lay 2880 square feet of floor!

      Yes, I think I got a good deal. But only the upstairs is heated/cooled — the downstairs garage area, although partially insulated, it neither heated nor cooled. Even if it was, it WOULD be cheap because our power here is supposedly the second cheapest in the country. My living space’s exterior walls are about 6-8 inches thick and filled with insulation. It gets warm (or cool) enough in here, although my floor does tend to get a bit cooler than I like in the winter. Area rugs and slippers help. I love the exposed glulams — which are actually only 1/2 exposed — 9 inches or so are hidden behind drywall.

      I can’t imagine spending $1.2 million + on a home. Sure hope they like it. And with homes like that in your village, it must keep the property values high.

  2. Could your cool floor be solved by retro-fitting Cellotex sheets to the ceiling of the space below? They are very light and yet have ridgidity and are easy to cut to shape with a handsaw. Just a thought…

    The downside of living in a place with high property costs (nothing here under $1 million, for what would be very modest-sized homes in the US), is that young families cannot afford to buy. The village has only 5 children under 10 years. This means that the only population movement is created by the death of the owner. A slightly weird feeling, although we are a busy little community and help each other out.

    Whenever I go to the US or Canada I love to watch tradesmen work, they have a quiet efficiency and always have the latest tools. Big plots allow space for big trucks like those that delivered your concrete. That beast would not be able to get up my drive.

    • The amount of time each year that a cold floor is bothersome is too small to do any kind of fix. My garage ceiling/living space floor has R20 (at least) insulation so anything I do would have to be under the floor instead of on the garage ceiling. And I really don’t want to pull up my floor!

      According to City Data (http://www.city-data.com/city/Malaga-Washington.html) Malaga is above average in income and housing values for the state of Washington. That said, down near “town” — a gas station with convenience store and a post office — there are lots of very shabby trailer homes. But up in what I’ve begun calling “the Heights,” there are quite a few very beautiful custom homes on acreage that’ll likely sell in the $1 million+ range. I have to think that it’s these homes and the people who own them bring up the area averages. I know that when I tell local people I live in Malaga, they likely think of those homes downtown or the ones around the Three Lakes golf course, which is decidedly middle class. My immediate area is rural — my 10-acre lot is one of the smallest around; most of my neighbors have 20 acres. The big city nearby, Wenatchee (http://www.city-data.com/city/Wenatchee-Washington.html), has homes at every level with lots at every size. I like a good mix of people with me somewhere in the middle as far as finances are concerned.

      As for workers — there’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching professionals work together like a well-oiled machine. These guys did that and I consider myself very lucky to have had them on my jobsite.

  3. Thanks for the demographic data, Maria. Fascinating.

    Our two lands share a language but there are huge cultural differences for many historical reasons. We Brits live on a crowded island (260 people per kilometre) you have space. This makes your land far cheaper and plots far larger. My cousin in BC has ten acres, like you. They try to grow a flower garden, in the English manner, but the deer eat all the flowers.
    Because US domestic construction is timber-framed, in the main, your houses are far cheaper, more spacious and also cheaper to heat, as you mentioned.
    UK average home is $457k. In my postcode, (HP 4) condos average $522k and detached houses $1,485k.
    But this is a misleading quirk of house price inflation.
    Nearly all home owners in my village could not possibly buy their houses at today’s prices. We bought ‘back in the good old days.’ Village mean age is 50+, much more than Wenatchee.
    The top fifth of UK earners average $122k per household while the bottom fifth earn less than $8.5k. That is a 15:1 ratio but is flattened out, after tax, to a 4:1 difference because UK welfare is generous by your standards.

    But the big difference between us is cost. Everything (apart from good healthcare) is cheaper in the states.
    It costs me $90 to fill my Toyota. You can probably fill the R44 for not much more?
    I have not worked in the US but I sense that self- employed workers do OK? If I have to employ an unskilled labourer he will cost me about $120 a day. A skilled mason, $250+. How does that compare?

What do you think?