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Poles rotted, pole barn sagging. Any hope?

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  • Poles rotted, pole barn sagging. Any hope?

    My pole barn board and batten three bay carriage shed/garage is slowly sinking into the ground on the 30' backside. The posts have been rotted for sometime but I had it braced to help hold it up while I waited out my ex-husband to settle our divorce. I am now refinancing the farm in my name, and starting to repair what has "gone south" in the last 6 years of "divorcing".

    The super structure is good, the roof is good, the board and batten looking rotten where it is sagging in the back and a little on the sides. (there is no front...just two posts dividing the car spaces)

    I've been talking to some of the local barn companies (and I have a wide choice in Lancaster County, PA.) and I've been getting a wide range of suggestions. One Amish builder said he can fix anything and cheaper than a new one. (but how expensive is a new one in his book) Another said he will talk when he sees it. (He's coming today) Another well known pre-fab barn company salesman said he can custom build me a modular to look like the current carriage shed for less than repair (but he didn't take in consideration that I will need a footer for it and that will be expensive.)

    I have four guys coming to look at it. ( two today, two on monday ) Any suggestions on how you fixed the problem would be helpful and how expensive was the repair? (been told a new garage/carriage shed pole building 20 x 30 would be at least $20,000.)

  • #2
    Shouldn't be a big issue to correct. Jack the puppy up and install new posts.... look at a Morton built barn... usually they will laminate three 2by6s together to make a post.... using that style of post you can insert a new post pretty easily without disturbing the structure too greatly

    Tom King should have greater insight, if he does not see this thread contact him directly


    • #3
      I would go with the Amish builder that said he can repair anything. Any new structure will require permits and will probably cost more that repairs. Jacking and bracing a racked building is done regularly.
      Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
      Alfred A. Montapert


      • #4
        It depends on why it's "sinking into the ground". Is the problem from below or above? Posts don't just rot. Jacking everything up, tearing out everything that's rotten, and then digging out and installing a new footer, posts, and board/batten is totally doable but not a particularly minor fix.


        • #5
          Is that on a concrete pad or on a dirt floor?

          We repaired an old wood, long cattle shed, that the termites had eaten the posts up to 12" off the ground, by digging holes and putting old railroad ties right against the post.
          We nailed and wired the railroad ties to what was left of the post and the 2 x 4s the sides were nailed to.

          Now what you want to do with your pretty structure, but you get the idea.


          • #6
            Let all of the "fixers" come and look. Listen carefully to what they all say. The repair anything guy may be good or just know one too many shortcuts.

            Before you sign anything with anyone, check them out. You obviously have an excellent relationship with a lawyer, have him check your contract.
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            • #7
              You've done the best thing by getting several different people to come look at it. It's not the kind of thing that anyone will know what to do about it without looking at it.


              • Original Poster

                Well, one builder/barn repairer came today. He said it's do-able. Explained that the board and batten on the back would need to come off and be replaced since the bottom is all rotted about 6" up due to it sagging about that much into the ground. But once removed they would jack up the building, and put new poles in, and do a row above and below ground of block (to stop the water from flowing through it in the heavy rainstorms. (and another row of block along the higher short side to stop the water coming in) Then they would repair or replace the rest of the poles. Sounds pretty labor intensive. I'm looking forward to that estimate.

                Second guy didn't make it. He was tied up at an earlier estimate. (I personally think he got a good look at the pictures I emailed him and was gunshy)

                Monday will bring two more guys. Plus I talked to several others today. They will all be coming next weekend. Gotta get these guys here now or they will all be going to the wonderful "mud sales" in Lancaster Co. in March (so will I )

                Modular (coming in two sections) custom carriage shed estimate is being mailed based on my measurements and photos of current carriage shed (garage) I will get estimate from an excavator on the footer and site prep myself.

                Wildblue and Bluey, to answer your questions: The garage is part of my paved driveway. There is asphalt in the building and the exteriior of the high side is paved as well between the garage and bank barn. The back of the building adjoins a pasture on the back and the lower side adjoins my ring. The back and high side poles are rotted at the ground but not above ground from the close to forty years of wet ground (clay soil), and rain water runoff on the high side and back.

                thanks for all your encouragement


                • #9
                  Originally posted by blue phlox farm View Post
                  Well, one builder/barn repairer came today. He said it's do-able. Explained that the board and batten on the back would need to come off and be replaced since the bottom is all rotted about 6" up due to it sagging about that much into the ground. But once removed they would jack up the building, and put new poles in, and do a row above and below ground of block (to stop the water from flowing through it in the heavy rainstorms. (and another row of block along the higher short side to stop the water coming in) Then they would repair or replace the rest of the poles. Sounds pretty labor intensive. I'm looking forward to that estimate.
                  Pretty much what I've seen done, based on your description. Free advice from a random internet stranger: What are they setting the blocks *on*? Just setting them on/in clay soil that gets wet isn't a solution as they'll eventually heave and buckle and cause the back of your building to sag--damaging both support structure and roof. Normally, this is handled by digging out and pouring a footer, and then setting a block or poured knee wall on top of the footer. Also, you can't exactly grade the high side if it's paved, but do make sure your gutters are in good shape so you're not adding more water than necessary. If they have the asphalt opened up to install a footer, that's the perfect time to make sure you install drainage (at least gravel) on the outside of the knee wall to protect it.

                  Since they're talking about adding a knee wall under your support posts anyway, you may be able to get away with cutting off the bottom foot or two of some/all posts and replacing them with masonry piers rather than replacing the whole post. Finally, check what material they price out to use for replacement siding--some woods are considerably more durable than others.

                  If you can, before choosing anyone, go see work they've already done. It may take up a bunch of your weekend, but you really need to see the quality of work these guys do. Some are craftsmen, but many half-a** things. Having a detailed quote and good contract (as mentioned previously) are also a great idea, but so is making sure someone (yourself or an experienced friend) checks each stage of the work to make sure you're getting what you expected.

                  Good luck!


                  • #10
                    I am so not qualified to give an opinion but, take care to where your newly diverted water will drain off to.
                    You have a lower pasture on one side and your bank barn directly below? So anticipate any new drainage patterns you create so they don't create a new problem in those areas.


                    • #11
                      I agree with Tom King. Pictures speak a thousand words. This sort of thing can be a can of worms. So when it comes to estimates be wary. Unless the person spends time checking out everything and has lots of experience with barn rehab and restoration the cost could sore well above the original estimate after getting into the project. Sometimes this is by design so the person gets the job, sometimes its just due to lack of experience and sometimes its just the nature of these sort of projects even with the very experienced. But I have found the very experienced will warn you of this. Our farm is in SE PA on the boarder of Chester and Lancaster counties where Amish country begins. I have seen some very good work by Amish and I have seen even more substandard. Borderline dangerous.
                      Our giant early 1700s bank barn had been maintained/worked on by Amish according to the pervious owners of close to 100 years. It was shocking how things were done. There seemed to be no basic understanding of structure engineering. People seem to think that it’s a given that all Amish are great craftsmen and carpenters. That’s like thinking all people of Chinese decent can make fabulous Chinese food.
                      Again, having not seen pictures and there could be more going on then what you have described. I’ll assume that it is just the posts and the structural damage caused is limited to the general area. I’ll assume that the posts have solid wood above the grade/ground and have limited to no damage above. If this is the case I would jack up, cut off the bottoms, pour concrete piers for each, set a bracket lower the post and bolt to the bracket. Repair and or replace what is necessary. If this were the case we are not talking a lot of time and materials. However if this had been going of some time and involved a lot of the structural components on that side other structural parts of the barn may have been subjected to loads it was not designed to carry and may need to be inspected and addressed.
                      Do not be put off by someone who will not give an estimate but rather will only do the work for “time and materials”. Especially if they have a solid background and good references. You will get quality work and in the end may even be cheaper. It was generally the only way I worked when I did this sort of thing be it old houses or barns. But they should give you a pretty good idea of cost. I buy a lot of materials from Graber Pole Barn builders, http://www.polebarn.com/ great people to work with and generous with advise. Don’t know if they do rehab but worth a call. If not good chance they will refer someone who can. I have seen some of their barns and areas and they do great work no only here but in many parts of the country.
                      If you are near the Cochranville area be happy to take a look and tell you what I think.


                      • Original Poster

                        Hey Gumtree, you and I deal with the same people. Graber was the first call I made. They don't do repairs but gave me the name and number of a guy who they turn all their repair work over to. He's who came yesterday. He made a bunch of notes, measured the building in all directions and then took a slew of pictures. I'm all the way in the middle of Montgomery Co., not too close, but if you come my way, I'd love you opinion on this project.

                        and Wildblue, he's planning on a fairly deep footer for the block wall. I believe he said 30", which is pretty standard around here for freezing and heaving. I guess I didn't explain that too clearly.

                        Tomorrow I have three guys coming. I hope they don't dally, and I end up with two in the driveway at once. (I did that once while selling a 12 year old car with 147,000 miles on it. Two people overlapped their time slot to see the car and both decided they wanted it and I was dying. But I got my full asking price!)

                        I'd post pictures of this folly but I don't know how to. Anyone want to accept my email of pictures and want to post them?


                        • #13
                          Be certain they use treated or marine grade wood for your new poles

                          Rotting poles indicates perhaps they did NOT use "treated" poles - but as Clanter stated it is relatively easy to "jack up" the sagging wall, rip out old pole and replace it (using laminated TREATED wood is a great suggestion). Much less expensive to replace than build new.
                          Now in Kentucky


                          • Original Poster

                            Back when this building was put up, they didn't have pressure treated wood. Just the five gallon bucket of creosote. I think the one guy that is to come today is talking about concrete pylons that they will bolt the cut off base of the original pole to somehow. The man who came on Saturday is saying pressure treated, and the whole pole would be replaced. I'm afraid I will be getting methods of repair from all over the spectrum.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by blue phlox farm View Post
                              Back when this building was put up, they didn't have pressure treated wood. Just the five gallon bucket of creosote. I think the one guy that is to come today is talking about concrete pylons that they will bolt the cut off base of the original pole to somehow. The man who came on Saturday is saying pressure treated, and the whole pole would be replaced. I'm afraid I will be getting methods of repair from all over the spectrum.
                              search 'this old house' for methods
                              I think ole Norm has run into that problem a time or two....


                              • #16
                                I got used poles from the Telephone company. 25 years ago they were free for hauling them off. They are pressure treated. The soil might need to be treated for termites. The poles can be replaced and the rotted planks replaced. I hope you get it repaired soon. I know how it feels to have jobs like this that have to be done. The longer they are put off the more damage has to be fixed. See if you can get the pressure treated poles from the Telephone company. that will save you lots if you can get them.


                                • #17
                                  when we had this problem, we just knocked the whole thing down and started over..........very glad we did. But, ours was probably in a lot worse shape than yours is...
                                  Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors

                                  Stop Wasting Hay and Extend Consumption Time With Round Bale Hay Nets!!


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by blue phlox farm View Post
                                    I think the one guy that is to come today is talking about concrete pylons that they will bolt the cut off base of the original pole to somehow.
                                    Don't let that scare you--I have a ton of those in my big, 2-story barn and nine years of hard use hasn't affected them a bit. When I bought the place, the entire main floor of the barn was covered in about 4' of cow manure and the bottom couple feet of a bunch of the supposed-to-be-load-bearing posts had rotted off into the mire. Two plusses: Masonry is resistant to moisture, so it's a great choice if you're going to have water against the building. And, you don't have to monkey with any of the (load-carrying) pieces of wood that are attached to your existing post.

                                    Good! I'm glad they're including a footer. It seemed a really bad oversight. Hang in there--lots of different approaches gives you plenty of options in figuring out what's best for you and your long-term plans for the building.