Progress Report 7 – 30×48′ Pole Barn build

Today we tackle some dirt work, gravel, vapor barrier, gutters, and some temporary lighting! Snow and rain won’t stop us (though we got both).

We left off part 6 with the building crew having finished their part on the building. Now it is up to me to get some dirt and gravel delivered then start prepping for concrete.

Steps to building a pole barn
10 Yards of dirt / topsoil delivered. Waiting for some better weather to backfill around the outside of the building.

Tip on contractors and scheduling

Get used to not knowing when the contractors will show up. It is an interesting dynamic because technically the homeowner is the “general contractor”, but the pole barn sales rep schedules everything that was on the contract. When one crew finishes up, the rep lets the next crew know that they can start at their next opportunity.


For example, one day I took the day off and started moving the dirt I had delivered. Shortly after, the below gutter truck pulls in the cul-de-sac and gets started (I had no idea they were scheduled to show up). But, since the building was complete, it was logical that the gutter guys could then come. It was fine because they weren’t there very long and I just worked around them.

The next day I get the gravel I had delivered and let my rep know it was there so he could let the concrete guy they contracted know. Four hours later 5 trucks pull into my cul-de-sac in unison with a skid steer in tow. They have all the gravel spread and crew gone in less than an hour. Awesome! But again I had no idea they were going to show up then, good thing I was ready and at home to confirm the specs with them.


I’m not mad, I just wanted to give some examples what to expect if you ever do a project like this. Don’t always expect communication on every step, but don’t bug the crap out of your builder either (I tried not to). Be as prepared as possible and try to be around when the contractors are there. I always asked my rep what step was next and what I needed to have done before the next contractor showed up. Do your homework, take notes, and ask lots of questions.


Steps to building a pole barn
Took the day off work and started moving dirt. Got 10 minutes in and the gutter guys showed up to do their part.
Steps to building a pole barn
This 3 man crew was only here for about an hour and knocked out the whole shop and breezeway. They did a killer job too. The whole thing was fabricated on site.

The gutters are typically spec’d on the building drawings. The gutters on the building itself are built level with a drain at either end. However in my case with the breezeway there were a couple of different ways we could do it. I decided to put the downspouts for the breezeway on the house side which makes them not visible from the street. It is good to be around when the contractors are working in case they have any questions.

Backfilling around the outside of the shop

I made an executive decision here and decided to order dirt before gravel in hopes of keeping water on the East side (left) out of the shop. In hindsight though I should have done it the other way around and ordered gravel first.

Since I had the dirt dumped in front of the shop, I couldn’t have the gravel delivered until the dirt was moved. So I decided to take a day off work to get the dirt moved then order gravel. Again, it worked out fine but I could have saved myself some hassle since I was limited on material delivery areas.

Steps to building a pole barn
One dump trailer at a time, my wife and I got the 10 yards of dirt distributed.
My shoulders hurt just looking at this picture 😛
Steps to building a pole barn
Load, back, dump, repeat. Working my way around.

Random thought… about zero turn mowers

I feel like zero turn mowers are capable of more than people give them credit for. Yes they are not a ‘tractor’ in the traditional sense but other than not being able to put a plow in the front, my zero turn has done everything I ever needed/expected it to. Since each rear wheel is independently controllable it makes backing up trailers really easy and doesn’t get stuck. Also, I haul some serious butt when mowing (I think it is rated at 7 or 8 mph).

Check out my article here for when I built a 2″ heavy duty receiver hitch for it:

Steps to building a pole barn
I’m not packing the dirt in yet as there is still a gap under the skirt boards. The dirt would have just gone under the skirt boards and into the shop.
Steps to building a pole barn
That night before the gravel delivery, my OCD got the best of me and I wanted to make sure the dirt was as compacted/smooth as possible. The builders had kind of torn it up, so I used PJ to drive back and forth until it was nice and packed down again.
Steps to building a pole barn
Gutters done, dirt distributed around the outside (but not packed in yet).
Steps to building a pole barn
Hard working tractors…
Steps to building a pole barn
Gorgeous winter sunsets.

Gravel delivery

Here is a note on gravel. About a year ago WAY back when we started this process, my rep told me to order 3/4″ gravel for fill before concrete on the inside. This is exactly what I ordered, but it turns out the concrete guys HATE gravel this big and I didn’t confirm with my rep again before ordering (his suggestion had changed over the last year). According to the concrete guys, the bigger gravel is hard to work with and spread out. Having now worked with it myself, I also agree with them. It turned out fine in the end though.

I believe there is a smaller size that we should have ordered which is 1/2 to 3/4″. Be sure to double check with your sales rep and/or concrete contractor (if you have the concrete guy’s number, otherwise you will just have to rely on the sales rep) on what size to order before ordering it.

Steps to building a pole barn
~30 tons of gravel delivered. This should cover 4″ of gravel inside the building and enough to finish the driveway and fill in around some French drains I have planned.
Steps to building a pole barn
Later that day since I was working from home, I went out on my lunch break to go hang a couple of lights. I got one hung (literally just zip tied to the truss so I didn’t have to use a halogen light at night) then the concrete crew showed up.
Steps to building a pole barn
30 minutes later the gravel is spread.

Determining the height of the gravel

On pole barns, the top of the concrete is at the line between the two skirt boards. Therefore the crew spreading the gravel was able to just pull a string line between the walls and measure down to determine where the top of the gravel should be. This can also be done with a laser but since the building is already level it is easier to just pull a string line if you have multiple people. In my case I have 5″ of concrete and 2″ of foam for my heated floors, so the top of the gravel is 7″ from where the top of the concrete will be.

Steps to building a pole barn
The crew also put down a vapor barrier for me. This is 6 mil thick plastic. The wind kept coming under the sidewalls blowing it around, wood scraps from the trash pile came in handy.
Steps to building a pole barn
That evening I got another 3 lights zip-tied to the trusses for a total of four 4′ long LED lights linked together. It is more than enough light to work inside at night.
Steps to building a pole barn
Here are the lights I ended up using. These are the same exact ones I have in my attached garage other than the end caps are black instead of white. They are SUPER easy to install and only weight a pound or two each. They are also linkable so I only had to run one extension cord to power all 4.

Check these lights out at the link below. I have had these in my attached garage since 2018 without a single failure. You can check out my more detailed writeup on them in Shop light install Part 1 and Part 2.

Drainage Dilemma

Be sure to pay attention to the weather and have a plan. Despite the fact that it is January we have had some days with A LOT of rain lately. Below are some of my sad attempts at temporary drainage, but it seems to be OK so far and we are getting through it.

Steps to building a pole barn
We have since had some MAJOR rain. I put some temporary extensions on the gutters to get the shop water away.
Steps to building a pole barn
I still ended up with a moat in front of the shop though. The driveway drains towards the shop and had nowhere to go. The extension cords in standing water probably isn’t a great idea…

The breezeway is AWESOME! I had to build it to satisfy the city, but now that it is there I have got to say it is pretty great to be able to walk back and forth to the shop without getting rained on.

Steps to building a pole barn
This is the east side of the shop where the water is puddling. Luckily since I backfilled against the shop it wasn’t coming in under the gravel. I will have to figure something out for this area.

Here on the east side of the shop I am eventually planning on renting a mini excavator and digging a trench to put in a 4″ perforated drain pipe and gravel for a French drain. During planning, I didn’t want to raise the shop any higher than I had to, so I knew I was going to have this problem. We will get it fixed one way or another.

Steps to building a pole barn
Another beautiful sunset.

That’s it folks! Lots of progress so far and a bit more stress than I would like to admit, but it will all be worth it in the end. I am to the point where I am ready for this project to be complete (or at least the major parts of it).

Tune in next time where we will start laying the foam and tubing for the heated floors.

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