Inherited Pole Barn Shop

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Forum topic by DrPuk2U posted 10-08-2018 05:49 PM 2646 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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80 posts in 3060 days

10-08-2018 05:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: pole barn shop

My wife and I are in the process of buying a new home in Oregon. Early this year we sold our house in Illinois, including my beloved 23×19 foot shop in half of our 4-car garage (its Illinois, eh?). My old shop had all the machines, Roubo bench, dust collection, A/C, etc. All the machines are on mobile bases.

Now we are buying a house on some rural land west of Portland. The house comes with a small pole-barn and pasture for my wife’s horse when he retires (from dressage). It also comes with a 25×50 foot pole barn with concrete floors. One side (25×25) of it has large sliding doors and has been used as a garage and metalworking shop. The other side (also 25×25) has a single large door, two windows and has been used as a prep shop for the renovation on the main house, but not really for woodworking – though you can see the owner’s SawStop and a large dust collector in the photo.

My question is general: I have never worked in or upgraded a pole barn and wondered what experience folks on this list might offer about approaches. I have been browsing the old threads as well. Note that this is Oregon, so summer’s are surprisingly hot and dry while winters (up in the foothills of the Coast Range) can be cold, wet and every once in a while, some snow. The shop has its own power (120 amps?) with 120 and 220V outlets and running water.

My thinking is that what needs to happen with the shop (aside from stripping all the previous owners stuff out) to make this into a good 4-season shop includes:

- insulation for the walls and/or ceiling
- possibly add 2-4 more windows
- a mini-split (or similar) for heating and cooling
- surface mount outlets around the shop (currently only a couple with lots of extension cords)
- LOTS more lights
- a sink with running water
- seal/clean up the floor, I.e. epoxy or similar

Eventually, they’ll need to be dust collection and compressor lines, etc. but I’m thinking right now about structural aspects.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

-- Ric, Western Oregon, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"

17 replies so far

View WoodenDreams's profile


1065 posts in 679 days

#1 posted 10-08-2018 06:31 PM

I helped a friend wire his 24’x24’ garage, we upgraded his breaker panel, put in 120v outlets every 6’ on all the walls, and also wired it for some 240v outlets. Insulation & sheet rocked it. Since it’s not my money, If you don’t want to loose wall space, you could place some shorter windows higher up toward the ceiling since you have taller walls. Extra outlets, insulation, sheet rock. Also a good idea to wall off a small area for finishing. I you wall off a small area for hardware storage & to put your dust collector in, this would greatly muffle the sound of the dust collector. Extra lights is always a plus. maybe a wood stove or wood furnace. You could still keep all your equipment on mobile bases. of coarse, not my money…. YOU HAVE A LOT OF POSSIBILITIES. Have fun creating.

View William Shelley's profile

William Shelley

609 posts in 2237 days

#2 posted 10-08-2018 09:39 PM

Welcome to Oregon! Portlander here. You’ll probably want insulation but I’d wait until next summer before deciding whether you need a mini-split AC. Unless you buy a system that does both heating and cooling, I guess. Natural Gas or propane are much more efficient for heating than electricity though.

We only get a few weeks out of the year typically that have “unbearable” heat. And a well insulated shop might cut that down enough that you’d only find it uncomfortable in the late afternoon during those weeks.

-- Woodworking from an engineer's perspective

View CaptainKlutz's profile (online now)


3142 posts in 2262 days

#3 posted 10-08-2018 10:21 PM

Pole buildings are notoriously hard to insulate for weather extremes, especially if sliding doors are involved.
Choices are limited to: plastic faced fiberglass batting (soft walls), Spray foam (odd texture walls with holes that hold dirt), or add interior frame walls with sheet rock and conventional insulation methods (most expensive). If you want true indoor HVAC type of comfort in shop, then frame walls with sheet rock and better doors are proper choice; otherwise you have to up size the HVAC system for lower R values, or plan on different clothes in extreme weather.

Another challenge is roof structure. Only having trusses every 10-12 feet reduces the amount of loading that can be safely added to inside of building (lumber, lights, ducts, etc). If you want to store your lumber in rafters, you can’t store much. Typically need to add some type of structure inside the building (walls/posts/etc) to create a loft area, where you can store heavy stuff like lumber. The upside for adding a supported ceiling is it provides easy way to mount lights, power, and/or dust collection. In your case, would even consider framing entire 25×25X10 area into one/two rooms and opening up loft area only to the garage side of building (with sliding door) for access to bulk wood storage via stairs. It’s also a decent place to hide the air compressor. :)

Due both of above and general noise issues of metal roof/walls; you sort of have a key decision to make:
Do you save a few dollars by only adding some foam or fiberglass to walls to create a shop that might not be perfect in extreme cold/hot weather, or do you spend more money and build an indoor workshop inside the ‘outdoor’ pole barn structure?

PS – Many building codes have relaxed rules for pole structures, especially ‘county’ rural codes for buildings on agricultural or dual use land. But once you add things like potable water and/or sewer hook up inside, you have more stringent ‘occupied home’ building codes to follow (and these will require permits + inspections). So before you develop a plan of attack that includes adding water/sewer, suggest you research your local building codes?
Another source of code compliance information can be original builder of pole structure (if it is fairly new, say less than 10 years old?). They will know exactly what can and can not be done to a pole building in your area and will usually consult/quote upgrades for free. :)
If you haven’t done paperwork on the new place yet, might want to specify a building inspection/compliance report on pole building as a purchase condition. Just in case last owner has embellished the building without permits and you already have code compliance issues that need fixed.

Have fun with new shop.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View DrPuk2U's profile


80 posts in 3060 days

#4 posted 10-10-2018 01:36 AM

Thanks folks. Great feedback and much food for thought. I am going up there tomorrow for final inspection and I’ll definitely be looking at the shop with clearer eyes!

-- Ric, Western Oregon, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"

View tmasondarnell's profile (online now)


130 posts in 2557 days

#5 posted 10-10-2018 01:07 PM

Having a wife who is also a member of “The Church of the Horse” while I try to wood work, I would recommend you get your shop in there asap—before she decides that she needs a larger tack room. I got run out of my original workshop space for that very reason.

On to your question: for insulation and if it is in the budget, I would highly recommend 1+2 inches of closed cell spray foam on the interior. It will act as an air seal, is not susceptible to moisture issues and is rodent proof.

I am also a big fan of Mini Splits as well.

IIf you have not looked, I would recommend going over to and looking at their forums. Looks of good information on converting pole barns to workshops.

View tomsteve's profile


1037 posts in 1987 days

#6 posted 10-10-2018 01:36 PM

if its not in there yet, add a bathroom-mainly toilet.

View squazo's profile


173 posts in 2413 days

#7 posted 10-10-2018 01:48 PM

spray foam is good but you only need closed cell if it is going to be exposed to the elements, you should use open cell if possible closed cell costs twice as much. I run a spray foam business, I don’t do much its a side thing but I do have some experience with it.

View Snipes's profile


459 posts in 3013 days

#8 posted 10-10-2018 02:50 PM

hard to tell by the pictures, but those trusses look a bit sketchy, might want to shore em up a bit.

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View DrPuk2U's profile


80 posts in 3060 days

#9 posted 10-10-2018 03:11 PM

@tomsteve Nice suggestion, but unfortunately, there is no septic field near the shop so I would have to put one in and that’s WAY too expensive. The house is only 50 yards away with a mud-room and adjacent toilet. Besides ,the shop is located in several acres of pasture, so …

-- Ric, Western Oregon, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"

View webman66's profile


1 post in 792 days

#10 posted 10-10-2018 07:27 PM

Hey everyone. I’ve been lurking for awhile and never posted since I don’t have my new shop up and going yet. I’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time. But I saw this post and have some knowledge of pole barns and shops in them. My shop was in part of my pole barn also before the barn was destroyed by a fire that started in another part. Ric, your barn looks to be of similar age to mine. A couple things to look for. The 6×6 posts, are they sunk into the ground or on piers? Mine were sunk down below the frost line (36 inches here). When I started cleaning up after my fire, we discovered that half of my posts were rotted off a few inches below the surface. The ones I managed to pull had very little of the treated wood left. Also, my metal siding was put on with nails that had rubber washers that seal the hole and kept water from getting in. After so many years of constant heat and cold, the rubber dry rots and disintegrates, leading to leaks. I did frame in between my posts and built interior walls and added ceiling joists and a ceiling since my shop only used part of the barn. Good luck.

View nitehorse's profile


85 posts in 887 days

#11 posted 11-07-2018 03:21 AM

I am almost done with the shop. It is a 14×22 foot pole barn type I had added to an existing garage. Insulated overhead garage door. Four double pane windows 4’ off the floor. Floor is 5”concrete on 5” of stone w/barrier. I had the builder staple double bubble under the roof purlins. Then I added a 2×8’s on 16 centers rafters as a ceiling, which is 9’6”, and put R-19 faced insulation between them. I stapled double bubble, reflective both sides, to the horizontal purlins, added 2×6 for walls and stapled faced R-19 insulation. The ceiling and walls are drywalled. All wiring and receptacles are going to be exposed on the dry wall. I believe the shop is well insulated?
The last but not least obstacle is what to use for heat and how much will it need when down to 10 degrees?

View WoodenDreams's profile


1065 posts in 679 days

#12 posted 11-07-2018 06:32 AM

I would have 1 or 2 local Heating contractors come in and quote you some options. Then you could decide with the alternatives, and whether you would like to it yourself or have them. In South Dakota it gets down to -20 to -35 degrees. I had Cove Heaters installed, Less expensive vs. installing duct work for forced air heat. With Cove Heaters, this heats up the objects and floor. So I do have to wipe off any dust from the heaters in the fall before they’re needed in the winter. Several shops I’ve worked in had one heater hanging from the ceiling in the corner, blowing the heat out to the center.

View Zonker's profile


131 posts in 619 days

#13 posted 11-07-2018 10:37 AM

I would suggest more electrical than you think you’ll need. My shop has outlets every 6 feet and I wish I went with four feet. Having said that, I have outlets I don’t use much and others I have a 4” power strip in simply due to their location. The other thing I’ll recommend is LED lighting. It is pretty awesome. We don’t get too cold here in North Texas but it”s still wonderful to walk in the shop, flip the switch and not have to spend the next 15 minutes in flicker hell waiting for the fluorescents to warm up. A new space is both exciting and daunting, In general, I’d advise you to go as big as you can on the structural aspects (insulation, electrical, HVAC) and leave some of the niceties for later as you settle in to the shop. Good luck with your endeavor.

-- Larry A. - I've made a small fortune with my woodworking. The trouble is, I started with a large fortune.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9550 posts in 3096 days

#14 posted 11-07-2018 02:39 PM

My concern would be moisture. And a lot of that is going to depend on whether or not they put poly down under the slab poor.

Walls…. I’d insulate with foil faced ISO board and then put up shiplap, T &VG or T111 interior surface for the interior wall surface and paint it a light color.

Ceiling… I’d be a little concerned about what dead load the trusses were sized for as they look a bit scanty and spaced widely apart. If the purlins are 24” o.c., I’d probably put up fiberglass bat and put an opaque white poly vapor barrier over that.

Floor… I’d go with epoxy paint with flecks of color mixed in it.

HVAC… I agree with the mini-split decision. You’ll find them on Amazon set up for self installation (unit pre-charged and hosed pre-charged and sealed with puncture fittings). Look up Mr. Cool.

Electrical… the more outlets the merrier. Adding Romex circuits into your walls before you close them in is the easiest way.

Code compliance… that will be a tough call. In rural Mainac land, I’d just go for it, sans permit. But I suspect that they are much more into gub’ment control on the left coast. YMMV.

Good luck… let us know how it all turns out.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View DrPuk2U's profile


80 posts in 3060 days

#15 posted 11-13-2018 08:08 PM

Thanks to everyone for great advice. We moved everything from the van into the house and from the PODS into the “garage” side of the shop. Everything seems to have come through intact. Now, I’ve got to design, cost and build out the shop area. My step-son (who is a master builder) will be down for Thanksgiving, so we’ll kick off the process. Meanwhile, there’s one more move, from our temporary apartment in Portland out to the new house next Monday. I will NEVER move again… :-)

-- Ric, Western Oregon, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"

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