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  1. #1

    Question Barn Builder Problems

    I am having some issues with a barn currently under construction, and I would like to hear any opinions.

    The biggest issue is how the slope (of 3-4 feet) was dealt with. Dirt was brought in to build up the site, and a concrete slab (3000 psi) was poured for the aisle and the side with rooms. No dirt was removed from the higher side, and no concrete was used on the stall side.

    Forms now surround most of the barn, and they are already bulging in many places. The builder claims that it only needs additional dirt around the barn to support it (at my expense). Others think that I have been scammed, and some have suggested that it needs extensive concrete work around the perimeter to properly support it.

    Below is a link to some pictures. (Also note the Dutch doors with plywood and tongue-and-groove crossbucks. This is one of many other concerns with how the barn has been built.)

    Any opinions on whether this is acceptable work?

    Thanks.

    Link to pictures
    Last edited by delcastillo; Jan. 7, 2013 at 03:29 PM.



  2. #2
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    What does your contract with your contractor say? It should come under 'scope of work'. If you don't have a contract then contact a lawyer.

    From the pics there is a great deal of earthwork that needs doing and by a professional who can compact rock and dirt to support the barn.

    Good luck!


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  3. #3
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    All I can say is it doesn't look right to me. The bulging forms do not look structurally sound, and I can't imaging that a bunch of loose dirt stacked up against them is going to provide much "support," that just doesn't sound right to me. I wouldn't feel comfortable relying on dirt work to support my barn. I'm NOT a builder, though. My advice would be to pay a consulting fee to have a well respected barn builder in your area come and inspect the barn. I would be careful to choose a builder that does not have any ties to the builder you are using so they will feel comfortable being honest.


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  4. #4
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    Wow. Maybe barnbuilding is different where you are.

    When I built my barn this past summer, I had to have the site prepared. It had to be leveled within 2% slope.

    We laser leveled it. Remeasured. The builder also measured for level.

    Barn was built. Some backfilling afterwards. But not much. And I live on a HILL.


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  5. #5
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    Are the posts holding up the overhang really as small as they appear, or is it just some weird perspective in the photo? They look like 4x4s?

    Why are the forms still on the concrete? I would have thought the concrete would have to be fully cured before commencing the rest of the construction, and forms pulled...so it isn't clear if the wood form is just pulling away or the concrete is actually bulging.

    Sure makes me nervous looking at it...if those posts are really as small as they look, and then seeing the t&g used on the doors...it shows a lack of attention to details and a do-it-cheap technique that would make me worried about other aspects of the building. How thick is the plywood on the doors?

    I wonder if the county building inspector could direct you to someone that could check it out. I assume the county wasn't inspecting...probably like here, where ag buildings don't need it?

    ETA just re-read your post and see there isn't concrete at the stalls...so all that wood is just holding the dirt in place? And the building on top of that?! Yikes, that does look precarious!


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  6. #6
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    You have some issues here my friend. Who built this? Amish or your brother in-law?
    My sister had a pole barn built by Amish a few years back. Similar situation, building site was not prepared properly. And the grade on one end was several feet lower then the other end that was flush to the grade. When she complained they said “you didn’t say anything about leveling the buildings “foot print” and grading the surrounding area. Whole lot more expensive to have it done after the fact. She also did not require them to get building permits.
    Don’t know if you bid this job out. If so this is a good example of the lowest bid not always being the best bid.
    From looking at the pictures I am not sure what to assume was done right and what wasn’t. Obviously this was built on a cement foundation and assuming that footers were poured first with rebar sticking up and then the forms were put up to the height necessary.
    Assuming the footer was dug to the code specified depth and rebar was used I would not worry to much about the poorly built forms that resulted in some bowing. I hope when they filled the inside they took the time to do it in layers power tamping each layer. If not there is a good chance it will settle with time and the slab will crack and become uneven.
    Hope the foundation was at least “square” to build up from.
    Long and short IMO no this work is not acceptable. As I said above the building site and surrounding area should have been graded and prepared before a hammer was even looked at. It is just easier and less expensive then doing it after the fact. And it is going to be more expensive to do it right now. If not done right you are going to have issues in a few years. I don’t think structurally, if the foundation was built correctly but more due to settling, run off, etc. But you are knee deep now. I wouldn’t blast the builder right now, they have got you by the ***. Throwing them off the job and bringing in lawyers will only you cost more money. You could get a judgment, but have fun collecting. I know got a T-shirt or two. If you have a contract that specifies what was expected to be done this should have included site preparation in detail. If not I perfectly understand why you would have expected/assumed that you would be able to walk a horse out of any door without jumping off a cliff. Even if it does state this, or not, you have to “massage” the situation and try and get some “give” from the contractor. There is going to be A LOT of additional labor, equipment time needed. Back fill is not that expensive but the trucks that bring it are. If the contractor is completely uncooperative then screw them and throw the book at them. Get a building inspector on the sight and have him write up everything that was done incorrectly and read them the riot act.
    IMO this is an expensive way to built a barn. I far prefer Pole Barn construction. Foundation work is expensive and IMO not needed with barns. In either case site preparation is paramount and should be a “given”. Feel free to PM with any other questions or concerns.


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  7. #7
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    Usually the foundation is built first and the forms are off before the rest of the structure goes up, and usually there is at least two feet of concrete forming in trenches below grade. It doesn't look to me as though there is any forming below grade in these photos, which is a Bad Thing.

    The doors look seviceable but pretty darned odd, the X's are in some strange places and not consistent thruout.

    I don't know anything about the contract you signed, where you are, whether permits were needed for ag construction or not, but I don't think your site work was done properly. Additional dirt brought in to raise the grade around the outside of the foundation might work and would certainly make your entrance more useable.

    I'm not an expert in the field so I'd suggest you contact a Civil engineer for an independent evaluation of your project.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by gumtree View Post
    IMO this is an expensive way to built a barn. I far prefer Pole Barn construction. Foundation work is expensive and IMO not needed with barns.
    It's funny, I hear this a lot (poured foundation + stick frame always costs more than pole barn) and it really isn't always the case. When we priced it out to build ours, it was coming out pretty darn close, and we went with the "better" building... and glad I did. Now, we probably could have gotten some crazy low ball pole barn bid but I know better than to try to compare that to what our guy actually built.

    I'm confused so if the OP comes back, maybe they will clarify -- saying there isn't concrete on the stall side made me think they did do a pole barn and just have concrete footers and then poured aisles and floors of rooms on the other sides. So that implied (to me, and I may be misunderstanding) that those wood forms are just basically retaining dirt. Or are they really the wood forms for the concrete of a true foundation?


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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by horsepoor View Post
    Are the posts holding up the overhang really as small as they appear, or is it just some weird perspective in the photo? They look like 4x4s?
    :
    and they are 12 ft centers? if a deck had been built that way wihtout cross bracing the wind would blow it down


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  10. #10
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    No doubt... you have been pouched .. The forms are holding back fill dirt right ?
    This barn is about to be a disaster. Doors that open in mid air ? No way !

    The cross bracing isn't conventional, but should be functional. They should look alot better if they were installed in some order instead of random orientation.

    Start calling for help immediately in dealing with this bandit builder.


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  11. #11
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    You didn't say what was done with the upslope area. What happens to the rain water. Will it flow into your new barn ? Another issue to be addressed.


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  12. #12
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    Aesthetics aside (no way would I accept the shoddy workmanship on those stall doors - was he drunk or just unable to measure?) I would definitely talk to an engineer about both the overhang and the foundation.


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  13. #13
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    I didn't read all of the replies so someone else may have already said this, but I showed my hubs, who works in the building trades, the pictures and his jaw hit the floor. Definitely amateur work at best and you should probably get someone else to make sure the building is built soundly. But I wouldnt give the guy any more money until you get someone else to check it out. Best of luck getting it sorted out!


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  14. #14
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    .... it is not really clear but it appears the latches on the doors are backwards... the throw bolt appears to be on the jamb side...if so a horse entering or leaving the stall could easily hit the bolt with a hip or hang a blanket on the bolt.

    Normally the catch is on the jamb.


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  15. #15
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    Ask your local building inspector for a list of engineers that consult on building problems. He deals with them regularly on such issues. He probably won't recommend one, but will furnish a list. It will be money well spent at this point. It's not a major disaster at this point, but can become one.


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  16. #16
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    Many thanks to everyone who took the time to look at this and reply. I did not expect to see so many replies in just a few hours.

    I’ll try to answer a few of your questions. Feel free to ask more.

    Contract – Regarding site preparation, there is not much detail beyond “site prep” and the amount of 4” concrete (3500 PSI with fiber). (Turns out that 3000 PSI was delivered.) We had discussed the additional cost of dirt during earlier phone calls, but when we met to review the site and sign the contract, we removed “site prep” from Exclusions and added it to the Scope of Work. Since this followed a discussion of whether dirt would be needed and my desire to minimize variable costs beyond the contract price, I assumed that “site prep” included any leveling and/or dirt. They now claim that was not their intention and that the legal definition of “site prep” in Texas does not include the cost of dirt. So they want more money for this work and the dirt, plus even more to bring in additional dirt around the forms.

    Concrete – There is a 4-inch concrete slab on top of the fill dirt. There are no concrete footers. There is no rebar. There is no concrete on the stall side (from the aisle toward the Dutch doors), although the 6x6 poles are supposed to be in concrete. So the wood forms are retaining mostly dirt, along with the 4-inch slab.

    Workmanship – Contract states that work will be done “in a workmanship like manner and in compliance with all building codes,” but the county apparently has no codes or inspections for barns, although a permit is required.

    Overhang - The posts are 4x4. They are supposed to be in concrete, but I've only seen dry concrete at the surface.

    I really appreciate everyone’s help for a new guy here.

    Thanks!



  17. #17
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    Backfilling to the foundation is common here in KY, but we have bedrock in the form of limestone very close to the surface so digging down to the bedrock, pouring your basement on top of it and then completely regrading the site isn't unheard of, but that's for housing, not a structure with a purpose such as a barn.

    A barn is a great deal more like a commercial building or a garage because of the use needing to be at grade - like for example your stall doors - on a house no biggie, you'd just build a little deck and stairs to get safe access but for an ag building you need to be able to drive indoors, barns on sloping sites in New England are built as story and a half bank barns to keep at least one area at grade.
    Here in KY they built a new supermarket and they had to blast with dynamite to get the site the way they wanted it (they had to hire a guy with a license and he got in all kinds of trouble for creating "fly rock" , ie sombody had a rock generated by the blasting come flying through their roof a block away).

    All that aside, I'd be consulting with an attorney after consulting an engineer to see if there isn't some way to salvage this - but there could be massive problems rearing up in the future from the type of fill dirt that was brought in as well, our shop was built on native clay soil excavated into a pad with a shallow ditch at the meeting of the slope and the pad for drainage and then 4" stone and smaller gravel was laid on top of that (depth unknown to me) before the fiber reinforced concrete was laid. We have some cracks, not bad considering the previous owner drove a monstrous ancient Cat bulldozer with the treads into the shop to work on it. If the dirt wasn't the right quality and properly compacted it could subside - that could be rectified on the soil side of your barn by removal and replacement, but under the slab . . . additionally any backfill will have to be the proper type of dirt to withstand traffic and properly compacted, as well as you'll need either pavement or good graveling at the barn door/entrance or one good downpour and you'll have tire grabbing muck.

    I'm terribly sorry what looks to be a lovely barn isn't going to be suitable for it's purpose without some major tweaking, and although I can offer some advice I am not a professional, which it looks like you need at this point, both to go over the contract you signed and to offer ways to alleviate the problems with the least amount of trouble. Best of luck!
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by dotneko View Post
    Aesthetics aside (no way would I accept the shoddy workmanship on those stall doors - was he drunk or just unable to measure?) I would definitely talk to an engineer about both the overhang and the foundation.
    There is no nice way to put it, whoever made those dutch doors is not a carpenter.
    Please show him pictures of what they are supposed to look, that is a horrible job there.

    I second getting a building inspector out and living with the consequences, that may cost you, as that fellow doing the work is inept, not a professional and probably will skip town when the chips are down.

    Sorry that happened to you.
    Getting a real estate attorney involved may be worth the consultation fee.
    He can guide you with reading your contract, thru getting all inspected and how to proceed.


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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcastillo View Post
    They now claim that was not their intention and that the legal definition of “site prep” in Texas does not include the cost of dirt. So they want more money for this work and the dirt, plus even more to bring in additional dirt around the forms.

    Concrete – There is a 4-inch concrete slab on top of the fill dirt. There are no concrete footers. There is no rebar. There is no concrete on the stall side (from the aisle toward the Dutch doors), although the 6x6 poles are supposed to be in concrete. So the wood forms are retaining mostly dirt, along with the 4-inch slab.

    Workmanship – Contract states that work will be done “in a workmanship like manner and in compliance with all building codes,” but the county apparently has no codes or inspections for barns, although a permit is required.


    !
    gee where to begin... I would like to see this Legal Definition of Site Preparedness that our great state of Texas is said to have... I have been in construction for nearly forty years and have have never run across it as each contract has specifically spelled out just what was to be done to the site.

    As for 3500 PSI vs 3000PSI... well if the concrete was not cured correctly you may have 1000PSI or worse

    Forms are not retaining walls... the forms that I see are of untreated lumber and will rot if covered over

    But the winner for you is "Contract states that work will be done “in a workmanship like manner and in compliance with all building codes,” as there is the National Building Code which in your case would be come the default Code.

    Time to get real legal advise in my opinion


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  20. #20
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    as another note attorneys get screwed in construction contracts also.... my attorney had a very well know nationally advertising barn builder construct a barn.... the question that I raised when I saw the site under construction was the billing for 100 cubic yards of back fill .... which was very easy to calculate that they had only hauled in less the 25 yards.

    After a two year legation process he ended up with a settlement that equaled the cost of the barn plus his fees.
    Last edited by clanter; Dec. 16, 2012 at 11:17 AM.


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