What you need to know about placing poles in a pole-frame house

The first step of building a pole-frame house is planning the placement of the poles. Before you get started, here are some tips that should help you determine the best pole locations.

What you need to know about placing poles in a pole-frame house

Getting started the right way

  • If possible, space poles so that standard sizes and lengths can be used for beams.
  • Though large spaces between poles would mean fewer poles to work with, the strategy can turn out to be a false economy — fewer poles means more load per pole. This can lead to instability and a need for extensive cross-pole bracing and additional footing reinforcement.

How to prepare your outside poles

  • Placing the perimeter poles on the outside of the walls simplifies construction, provides more unobstructed floor space and makes it easier to fit flooring.
  • As well as perimeter poles, the ends of the bearers could be exposed to the weather.
  • Durable wood should be used; alternatively, the exposed areas could be treated with preservative or paint.

Protect your poles on the inside of your house

  • Placing the poles completely inside the building means that all the essential pole-to-beam joints are protected from the weather.
  • Because of this, the beams and joists need a lower level of preservative treatment. (In fact, treatment may be unnecessary.)
  • Beams do not penetrate the wall cladding so they do not require flashing or waterproofing treatment.
  • There is a small saving on wood costs because shorter spans are required for the beams.

Incorporating poles into the walls

Poles can be incorporated into the walls.

  • Horizontal girts are attached to the poles and support the cladding.
  • A disadvantage of this system is that as poles are never perfectly straight, the attachment of a regular wooden frame, and particularly cladding, is difficult to do neatly.
  • In time, shrinkage gaps may appear at the corners; these may grow larger if the pole shrinks.

For extra economy, try cantilever

Where joists or rafters are continuous beams, they can cantilever (or extend) beyond the supporting poles by up to one half of the span between the poles, provided the wood is durable. Since the beams are subject to greater stresses they must be thicker.

  • A cantilever at either end of a building provides a greater floor area for the same number of poles and may give the building an interesting architectural effect.
  • Decks or verandahs are often cantilevered, but rooms can also be extended in this way.

What you need to know about foundations, bracing and roof-line

Wherever pole-frame houses are built — on steep slopes, sandy dunes, flood plains or other difficult sites — a solid foundation is essential. There are two types of foundations that are suited to a pole-frame house. With both methods, minimal preparation is required. Not only is this economical, it also helps to reduce the impact of the building on its immediate environment.

  • Bracing of the poles with diagonal struts is usually necessary to stiffen the building frame and to prevent horizontal movement. Even if the structure is stable without bracing, the aesthetic appeal of a pole-frame house might be enhanced with a well-placed brace or two.
  • Topping out the house, planning the pitch of the roof and the means of securing the roofing needs careful consideration, especially given that pole-frame houses are often built in particularly hilly or windy locations.

The key to planning a professional pole house is the placement of the poles. These tips should help you make sure your pole house has the right amount of support.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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