As you may have noticed from your research, there are many nuanced terms associated with the barn building process – even more than DC Builders lists in its glossary! While industry terms like dormers and cupolas are helpful to know in general, there are some essential terms that every buyer should understand before deciding to add a barn to their property. Among the most important in our book are post and beam construction and post-frame construction, considering these two framing methods are often confused for one another but couldn’t be more different in their approach. While we offer both post and beam and post-frame construction as framing options for our barn kits, there are a few advantages and disadvantages with either to consider for your project.
What is Post and Beam Construction?
Post and beam construction is a centuries-old building practice that utilizes heavy timbers joined by metal fasteners to form the frame of a structure. Like timber framing, post and beam construction uses large timbers in place of dimensional lumber to create dramatically open interiors that are generally free of structural constraints. Due to the strength of these heavy timbers, post and beam structures do not require load-bearing walls to support the upper floors and roof. This construction method also sees that the exterior walls of the building are positioned on the outside of the frame. As a result, our clients can enjoy the look of exposed wood members in nearly every area of their barn.
The Pros of Post and Beam
Aside from their obvious beauty, there are several benefits to building a post and beam barn on your property. One of the major selling points of this construction style is its superior structural integrity, considering post and beam buildings are some of the most durable structures built today. At DC Structures, we use select-grade Douglas fir — one of the best wood types for residential and commercial construction in North America — as our standard framing material for our post and beam structures. Grown here in the Pacific Northwest, these specialty timbers will keep your barn standing strong and looking beautiful for generations to come.
Another notable benefit to post and beam construction is its open-ended design, considering there are no pesky load-bearing walls to work around inside your building. With only minimal wood posts to consider as part of your design, you have complete freedom to do as you wish with your interior area. The lack of load-bearing walls in a post and beam building also means clients can place their windows, doors, and horse stalls wherever they see fit in their space. With this extra flexibility, you can explore endless options for your barn interior.
Lastly, our post and beam barn kits make construction easy and efficient for our clients and their builders. Thanks to our Simple Build System, every piece of framing lumber used to create your exterior walls, floor components, and roof arrives pre-cut, drilled, and labeled on your job site. As a result, our clients can enjoy a framing process that takes far less time, money, and labor than a conventionally framed structure while guaranteeing the highest quality results for your project.
The Cons to Post and Beam
While there are minimal setbacks to building a post and beam barn for your property, something that can deter people from investing in a post and beam barn is their upfront cost. Because post and beam buildings are more costly to construct than many metal-built, stick-built, and post-frame barns, these structures may be out of range for some buyers interested in building a barn kit. However, post and beam buildings are far more likely to retain their appearance and durability over time than cheaper alternatives, making them a long-lasting, worthwhile investment for those who can afford their initial price tag. With a post and beam barn, you can expect your structure to last you decades, if not centuries while increasing in value over time.
What is Post Frame Construction?
Commonly associated with pole barns, post-frame structures are pre-engineered wood-framed buildings that use large pressure-treated wood posts or laminated columns to create the structural frame. This construction method relies on the strength of its wood posts or columns to support the upper floors and roof system, with these members often buried 4-6 feet in the ground. Many low-rise buildings like warehouses and agricultural facilities are post-frame structures, considering post-frame buildings offer wide-open interiors and exceptional loadbearing capabilities. This construction method, combined with clear span truss construction, can also provide the ideal framework for an indoor riding arena.
The Pros of Post Frame
Like post and beam construction, post-frame construction is known for its flexibility of design and ease of construction. Thanks to its interlocking frame and support columns, a post-frame structure does not require load-bearing walls, resulting in wide-open interiors that are malleable to one’s vision. Post-frame buildings are also easy to construct, considering these structures are often pre-engineered to facilitate a fast and efficient framing process. Like post and beam buildings, post-frame barns require fewer materials and labor to build than a conventionally framed building, making them a sound investment for clients seeking a cost-effective structure that can go up quickly.
A big reason why people like post-frame barns is because these structures offer a low-cost yet wide-ranging alternative to stick-frame and post and beam buildings. Because post-frame barns do not require a support foundation or basement, these buildings are usually much cheaper and quicker to build by comparison. This construction method is also suitable for large, low-rise buildings, making it the ideal solution for commercial, agricultural, and industrial applications. With its wide-open interiors, durable framework, and relatively inexpensive price tag, post-frame buildings are a worthy consideration for many buyers in the market for a barn.
The Cons to Post Frame
Although post-frame barns might seem like a better investment than post and beam structures to some, there are a few significant downsides to post-frame buildings that buyers should consider before making their decision. For instance, post-frame buildings are typically designed as low-rise structures due to their simple framework and cheap cost to build. Although these structures can function as multi-level buildings, an upper floor or basement will inevitably drive up construction costs for buyers and require more planning in the design phase. Another disadvantage to post-frame structures is that many banks won’t offer construction loans on post-frame barns designed for residential use. If you’re looking to build a post-frame barn with living quarters, you’re more than likely to run into roadblocks with securing financing for your project.
Something else to consider is that while post-frame buildings are considered sturdy, these structures have an average lifespan of 40-60 years. Though burying pressure-treated posts in the ground has its cost benefits, these posts are far more susceptible to moisture build-up and eventual rot than those installed above the ground. With our proven post and beam method and powder-coated knife plates, we can keep our heavy timbers protected from damage associated with moisture and dirt and ensure the longevity of our post and beam barns. Additionally, many post-frame buildings are not nearly as attractive as post and beam buildings, considering the methods and materials used for a post-frame structure typically result in an average-looking barn. With a post and beam barn, you can look forward to a beautiful interior and exterior that stuns with its heavy timber elements.
Making Your Decision
The choice between a post and beam barn and a post-frame barn ultimately comes down to your preference and the plans you have for your structure. If you’re seeking an economical, low-rise building for commercial use, a post-frame barn may be the right solution for its intended purpose. However, if you’re looking for a beautiful wood structure that can house your horses, hobbies, vehicles, and even an upstairs living space, a post and beam barn could be the perfect addition to your lot.
DC Structures has a proven record of success in designing and producing post and beam structures that last. Take a look at our catalog to see how we can transform your vision into a reality.