Part 2 Building a Pole Barn – Who is responsible for what?

This was a tough one to figure out. The first place I started was calling pole barn builders. Seems like the logical place, right? Well it turns out there is a lot more to it than just getting a builder because they aren’t the general contractor…YOU ARE!

I had grand delusions ordering a turn-key building where I was able to call a contractor, say I want a building in a certain size on my property and somehow magically they plan everything, sketch it up, get permits, build it, finish around it, then BAM! you have your building.

Turns out it is more like the following post. This won’t be true for all situations but should give you a good idea of who does what when building a shop. Not trying to scare you, but I am trying to give you a realistic idea of decisions that need to be made based on my recent experience.

Steps to building a pole barn

Pole barn builder responsibilities

The building and labor to build it. Typically, this can include:

  • Building framing and covering (sheetmetal / roof)
  • Gutters
  • Windows, Doors, Garage doors (and opener)
  • Insulation and inside tin/plywood
  • The concrete inside the building

General Contractor responsibilities (YOU!)


YOU are responsible for all the planning. Each category has a plethora of subcategories. I could go on and on here but will keep it high level to give you an idea. Good building contractors will walk through this with you, but you need to go into the conversation having worked through my other article Part 1 – Planning to determine what you want and what your needs are.

  • What size building
  • What materials you want it built out of
    • Roof (steel or shingles)
    • Siding (steel, wood, vinyl, etc.)
  • How many doors/windows/garage doors and their location
    • Man door
      • Size? Steel/Fiberglass? Window?
    • Windows
      • Vertical lift or slider? Single or double hung? LowE?
    • Garage Doors
      • Size? Insulated? Steel backed? Garage door opener?
  • What thickness and type of concrete
    • Typically, 4″ but you might want 5″ or 6″ for heavy trucks/RV’s or if you are going to install a 2 post lift
      • Note: for the 2 post lift, if you want 4″ concrete and know where you are going to put the lift, you can dig out two ‘trough’s’ in the gravel where the lift will be that way there is 6″ of concrete where you need it.
      • Rule of thumb I heard was 4″ is good for ~10,000lbs
    • Vapor barrier
    • PSI spec (e.g. 4,000PSI)
    • Rebar spacing (typically #4 rebar spaced 24″OC – On Center)

Planning drawings

This might vary by builder. I made my own drawings during the planning/idea stage (see Part 1 for my planning post). I think some builders/salespeople might do some simple mockups for you if you asked them to. I did mine well enough that my sales guy didn’t need to. HOWEVER, the actual engineered stamped drawings used for permits are typically handled by the builder so you shouldn’t have to worry about that. More on this later as I haven’t submitted for permits myself yet.

Steps to building a pole barn
My mockup during the planning stage


Hate to say it, but permits are on you bud.

YOU have to go to the county, city, and your HOA (if you have one) and figure out what you are allowed to build. You can either call them directly or go to their website to see what you can find. Keep in mind everything may or may not be explicitly laid out for you. It takes a lot of phone calls to a lot of different people to figure these out.

Dirt Work

Again, dirt work is on you.

I’m not sure if it is always this way, but I have called at least 15 dirt work contractors for this project and haven’t had a whole lot of luck. I just did a search in google for Excavation and dirt work in my area and started making calls. Of the 15 I called, 3 had their number disconnected, 4 I left voicemails with that were never returned, 2 told me they were too busy, 3 I had good chats with but they never showed up to actually give a quote, and the last 3 I am still working with trying to get quotes.

Concrete (outside of the building)

Some dirt work contractors also do concrete, so it is worth asking while you are quoting dirt. I had one guy tell me that typically when the concrete contractor is at the site doing the concrete inside the building, the owner / homeowner sometimes asks them if they would like to come back and do the driveway (assuming they did a good job inside the shop). I haven’t hit this step yet.


I’m sure I left out some details, but this should give you some good ideas of who does what when building a shop like this. Hopefully by reading this I can give you a head start when you start your project. Stay tuned for the next part where I actually start doing stuff!

Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

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