How to survive in an uninsulated pole barn this winter?

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Forum topic by LVWorkshop posted 09-20-2020 06:13 AM 1954 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View LVWorkshop's profile


12 posts in 460 days

09-20-2020 06:13 AM

I’m in a weird situation because I’m going to be moving my workshop into an uninsulated barn but only for the next 6-8 months. I don’t own the barn so I’m not trying to spend a bunch of money insulating it. The space is about 20’x25’ and the ceilings are about 15-20’ high. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to maintain some semblance of heat in there. I’m keeping my finishes/adhesives and lumber inside my house but any suggestions on heating? I’m willing to buy some kind of heater because I can keep that when I leave. I’m in North Eastern PA so it can get pretty cold, and I’m planning on being in the shop almost daily.


34 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7300 posts in 3780 days

#1 posted 09-20-2020 10:48 AM

Sometimes what we want to do just isn’t possible…and it seems like that’s your case. But I would consider one of those patio heaters kinda look like a torch aire lamp fastened to a 20# propane tank. Some extra tanks as well. There are LP fired salamanders, but I think the infra red type of heater make work a little better. I would (personally) avoid the kerosene fired salamanders because of the odor; but the fuel is a hell of a lot cheaper.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View tomsteve's profile


1182 posts in 2506 days

#2 posted 09-20-2020 12:04 PM

as fred said, this isnt possible without insulating. you might be able to find deals on insulation at building material salvage yards.
or have a few hundred thousand btu furnace

View clagwell's profile


396 posts in 1079 days

#3 posted 09-20-2020 01:33 PM

One approach is to enclose the area with heavy (8 or 10 mil) plastic sheeting, paying particular attention to the ceiling. You’ll need to add some kind of supports to drop it well below 15’ and, if not already partitioned, to support the sidewalls. You see this a lot on construction sites. It can make a big difference.

Allowance for condensation drainage from both the metal barn roof as well as inside the bubble may need to be addressed, especially if you use a flame for heating. Ventilation also needs to be considered.

-- Dave, Tippecanoe County, IN --- Is there a corollary to Beranek.s Law that applies to dust collection?

View northwoodsman's profile


682 posts in 5033 days

#4 posted 09-20-2020 02:15 PM

With ceilings that high it’s going to be very difficult. At night it’s going to get cold and when you heat it up in the morning it’s likely condensation will form if you use propane. Condensation = rust on tools.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View Woodmaster1's profile


1860 posts in 3874 days

#5 posted 09-20-2020 02:47 PM

Since it’s not your barn a pellet stove or corn stove is probably not feasible. That would heat the barn well my friend did that to his pole barn. He farms so corn was no problem for him.

View rustfever's profile


801 posts in 4597 days

#6 posted 09-20-2020 03:01 PM

Large heat source [wood stove?] and air circulating fan[s]

-- Rustfever, Central California

View 987Ron's profile


2453 posts in 603 days

#7 posted 09-20-2020 03:19 PM

Find another place to temporarily move to. Maybe a warehouse with extra room or a vacant store front.
Good luck on a solution.

-- Ron

View HarveyM's profile


159 posts in 3309 days

#8 posted 09-20-2020 03:22 PM

I’m just spitballing here, but I got interested in straw bale houses before buying our current home. They have a R-18 value. For the size of the barn, if you insulate 10 feet high (then put in a temporary ceiling) would cost $1,350 given $5 bales.

Here’s a pict of one such setup


-- Just a Duffer

View ibewjon's profile


2680 posts in 4080 days

#9 posted 09-20-2020 03:37 PM

Find another place would be 1st choice. Heating that open space would be expensive any way you do it. Maybe a 10’ high 2×4 wall sheeted with styrofoam. The bales would tip easily if unsecured and bumped. Good luck with your search.

View bigblockyeti's profile


7774 posts in 3008 days

#10 posted 09-20-2020 03:48 PM

How drafty is it? I would get a forced air kerosene heater 250-300K BTU and point it toward where you’re working. You’ll only need it when you’re out there and can heat a small area up very quickly. By small area, I mean a corner where you might be laying out or a tablesaw where you’re milling pieces for a project. They do present a combustion concern but don’t need to be run (and shouldn’t be run) unsupervised. Buy a used one and sell it for what you bought it for when you’re done.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View rustfever's profile


801 posts in 4597 days

#11 posted 09-20-2020 04:18 PM

BTW, to store glues, finishes and the like….An old refrigerator with a 110 35 watt light bulb burning 24/7 will keep the interior and contents nice and toasty warm. [Incandescent light bulb, not the new ultra-low energy type]

-- Rustfever, Central California

View HarveyM's profile


159 posts in 3309 days

#12 posted 09-20-2020 04:34 PM

I’ll gently disagree that straw bale walls will tip easily. Straw bale mazes are pretty common attractions come fall, but you don’t read of falling walls. There’s simple ways to keep them secure like staking them with dowels.

-- Just a Duffer

View AlaskaGuy's profile


6775 posts in 3596 days

#13 posted 09-20-2020 04:43 PM

For only 6-8 months, Get the right clothes and a good supply of Mukluk.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View therealSteveN's profile


9246 posts in 1861 days

#14 posted 09-20-2020 04:55 PM

How drafty is it? I would get a forced air kerosene heater 250-300K BTU and point it toward where you re working. You ll only need it when you re out there and can heat a small area up very quickly.

- bigblockyeti

300 K can heat a 32×48 barn with wind rolling through it to 55 to 60 in not much time. BTDT, got the T shirt. Thing about it getting COLD when you aren’t there, even at 70 or so, that cast iron stays cold as ice for what seems like 2 weeks of constant 70, to get where your fingers don’t become stiff when you lean on the TS table.

Other thing is don’t point the flamethrower at you directly. That “perfect mix” of air, fuel, and a fire (heat source) can happen. I also had the T shirt…... Believe me it’s a crap yer pants kinda moment when that BIG* flash goes off. But darned if I wasn’t already warm, or the sudden warmth may have made me loose consciousness. Thing is if the fuel source is just the dust in the air, it burns out as quick as it starts.

-- Think safe, be safe

View LVWorkshop's profile


12 posts in 460 days

#15 posted 09-20-2020 05:10 PM

A lot of good suggesting here. I thought it would probably be helpful to put a few images of the actual space in here. One half of the workshop does have somewhat of a roof overhead in the form of an overhead storage area. The area above the bandsaw does not have any cover. That area is about 10’x10’. Would it be crazy to slap a couple sheets of OSB over that area and make a ‘roof’? I know it’s not anywhere near ideal, but if I had that covering the heat might not leak out as badly.


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