post frame building guide

Pros & Cons of Post Frame Construction

Post frame construction has become a popular option for residential barn style homes due to their cost and time efficiency. But lower costs and quicker construction aren’t the only benefits that post frame homes offer. And this construction method isn’t perfect (there are some drawbacks).

To fully understand the benefits and drawbacks, you need to understand what a post frame home is and the planning process.

What is a Post Frame Home?

Post frame homes have highly engineered wood frames and a variety of exterior options. It’s a construction technique adapted from the timber-framing technique.

The concept is simple. Instead of using steel framing or traditional studs, posts (or poles) are buried into the ground. Building on a foundation provides vertical structural support, while the girts provide horizontal structural support.

Posts are typically buried 4-6 feet into the ground to provide support, and this eliminates the need for a crawlspace or basement.

In a post frame home, the roof trusses are secured directly to the posts, so there’s no need for load-bearing walls. This is what gives post frame homes their characteristic open feel. Without load-bearing walls, you’re free to make your home’s layout however you want. The design and nature of a post frame home can provide clear spans of up to 100 feet.

Post frame homes can be built on a variety of foundations:

  • Concrete columns in the ground
  • Over a basement
  • Monolithic slab

Some post frame builders have their own foundation options.

The beauty of a post frame home is that you have virtually unlimited options for the exterior. While metal is a popular choice, you’re free to use a wide range of materials to cover your post frame home. In many cases, you can’t tell the difference between a post frame and traditional stick-built home.

Post Frame House Planning

Planning a post frame home isn’t unlike planning any other new home construction. The costs are generally lower, and the construction is quicker, but you’ll have to go through the same steps no matter what type of construction you choose.

Design

The first step is the most exciting – the design stage. Here’s where you’ll decide on a size and floor plan for your home. Maybe you have a custom design that you want to bring to life, or maybe you’re going to go with a model from your builder.

Here are a few tips:

  • Plan with your posts in mind. The posts that support the structure are usually placed at 8’ intervals, so plan your doors and windows around them. The less you have to move the posts, the better.
  • Determine how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want early on.
  • Make sure that you plan for the utility room. Post frame homes don’t typically have basements, so make sure you include space for your HVAC system and water heater.

Remember that post frame homes can be made to look like any other home on the block, so choose your options wisely.

Permits

Post frame homes do require permits – just like any other new home construction. Check with your local planning department to figure out what types of permits you need.

Permitting can take several months, and this is usually the longest part of the process. Permits also come at a cost, so make sure that you plan for this expense as well. Some builders will help with this step as well.

Financing

Financing is going to require some additional work, but it is possible to get financing through a Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgage. Two important criteria need to be met to ensure that your financing goes through:

  • At least 50% of the space needs to be designated for living space
  • Footings need to go below the ground and require a concrete slab

You may have issues when it comes to appraising the home due to the post frame design, but an experienced appraiser will be able to correctly determine the value of the building.

Site Work/Construction

Before your home can be constructed, your site will need to be prepped. The amount of work that needs to be done will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Whether you’re installing a septic and/or well
  • The condition and slope of your lot
  • Whether you need to clear trees
  • Whether an access road needs to be put in

The site work can take a month or more, and these are costs that are generally not included with the price of the home.

Once the site work is complete, construction can commence. Post frame homes can be constructed in as little as two weeks.

Post Frame Building Benefits

Post frame homes have a lot of benefits over their stick-frame counterparts. These buildings include:

  • Foundation. Post frame homes don’t require a costly foundation. Instead, these homes can be placed on a slab. The floor can also be added after the posts are in the ground.
  • Energy efficient. Post frame builds have posts 8’ apart or more, allowing you to put in more insulation and lose less heat transfer compared to a stick-built model.
  • Open spaces. Interior support walls aren’t required due to the post frame design. Posts and trusses are used, allowing for wide open spaces and even large-scale windows and doors.
  • Less expenses. Construction time is faster and there’s less time spent on framing. For you, this means that the construction costs are lower.
  • Less maintenance. In most cases steel panels are used on the exterior of the building. Due to the strength and resistant properties of steel, your home or building will require far less maintenance than a stick-built model.
  • DIY options. A lot of post frame builds offer plans and materials for building the shell, but you can choose to finish the interior. If you want to truly customize your home, it’s possible with a post frame model.

There are post frame building benefits, but there are also a few drawbacks that need to be considered.

Post Frame House Cons

Post frame builds are becoming more popular, and the post frame house does have its advantages. But a few of the main concerns over a stick-built home also need to be addressed:

  • Cost. The savings can be massive, but you’ll have to make the right choices when designing your building. When you add in high-end features, the costs can be negligible. You’ll save on materials and foundation, but all of the interior work, plumbing and electric will still cost the same.
  • Permitting. Steel siding and post frame homes may or may not be allowed by your local zoning board, it’s important to discuss zoning requirements and inquire about permitting prior to purchasing a post frame.
  • Appraisal issues. Lenders want to know how much a home costs and will be valued at before signing off on a loan. Due to the nature of these builds, the appraiser may have to consider this a “wood framed” house to truly value it properly.
  • Mortgage. If you want to get a mortgage through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, be sure that 50% of the space is for living. You’ll also need a concrete footing that goes below ground to be approved for the loan.

A lot of these issues are minor and can be worked out in just a few days. The benefits of a cheaper, more open build definitely outweigh the disadvantages of a post frame house.

Conclusion

Post frame homes are a great opportunity to save on the cost of a home or opt to have a home that has more open spaces. These homes are faster and cheaper to build, and in terms of energy efficiency, they outperform their stick-built counterparts.