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Building Tips | Structural Integrity | Repairs & Renovations

How Can I Keep My Pole Barn Columns from Rotting?

January 3rd, 2022 | 5 min. read

Julie Kimpel

Julie Kimpel

Julie graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communications Design. From a young age Julie has always had an interest in art that later turned into career in brand development for various companies throughout the Northwest Indiana area. Julie joined the FBi marketing team in 2021 as a Marketing Content Creator. You might get a phone call from her to schedule a visit to your FBi building so she can take pictures for our website or you might get a brochure she design from one our FBi sales reps. One way or another Julie loves to help the marketing team in any way she can. In her free time, Julie enjoys walking her dog and spending time with friends and family.

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It can be argued that one of the most important elements on your pole barn is the columns, also commonly known as posts or poles. The pole barn columns support the entire roof system and vertical loads that may occur, such as snow loads

Columns are also the backbone of the walls and combat horizontal loads, such as wind load ratings. It goes without saying that pole barn columns are vital to the structural integrity and longevity of your post frame building. 

Therefore, it’s only natural that you would want to know how you can keep your wooden posts from rotting and extend the lifespan of your pole building. If you have an older post frame building, rotted wood could be more likely. However, it doesn’t mean that the problem can’t be fixed.

In this article we will review the following:

  • What causes pole barn columns to rot?
  • What does rot look like?
  • What is FBi’s solution to column rot? 
  • Can your rotted columns be replaced? 

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What Causes Pole Barn Columns to Rot?

Wood rot is a form of decay activated by the mixture of moisture and fungi. Fungi only grows on damp wood; it will never grow on dry wood

For the fungi to develop, the wood must be continuously damp for long periods of time, commonly experienced in winter and spring. When wood dampens enough to have 20% or more moisture content and can’t dry out quickly or is repeatedly dampened, it creates the ideal conditions for wood-eating fungi.

The key to avoiding wood rot is to be proactive with your post frame construction, which we will discuss later, and to know what signs to look for so you can address the problem sooner rather than later.

 

What Does Rot Look Like?

Millions of fungi exist in the air and soil around us. They come in many forms, such as yeast and mushrooms.

However, here are the three general categories you will see fungi as it relates to wood:

  • Brown Rot: Also commonly referred to as “dry rot.” This type of fungiFBi_Blog-Rot-Brown targets the structural makeup of the wood, causing the wood to shrink and turn a deep brown color, giving it an appearance of looking dry.

    This fungus is known to spread rapidly and thrive in temperatures from 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • White Rot: Very similar to brown rot, this fungus will target the structure of the wood and spread faster in warmer temperatures. The only real difference is the appearance.

    White rot will appear spongy and have a whitish or light yellow color.
  • Soft Rot: The good news is that this fungus is very recognizable with its honeycomb appearance, and it causes the wood to decompose more slowly. The bad news is that it can grow at any temperature.

    You’ll generally see this fungus growing on fallen logs and trees, not super common on pole barn posts, but it could happen if the conditions are right.

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What is FBi’s Solution to Column Rot? 

As a post frame company that’s been around for 60+ years, and the core foundation of our product is wood, we’ve run into our fair share of rotted columns and/or wood. 

The truth is that wood is a natural element, and mother nature cannot be defeated. However, we have found solutions that prolong the battle of wood rot and keep your pole barn standing for decades. 

For your posts, also known as columns, we recommend three different options: laminated columns, Perma-Columns, or bracketing your columns to concrete.

  • Our laminated columns are treated wood made from 2 x 6, 2 x 8, or 2 x 10 planks mechanically laminated with nails. They are strong, stress rated and pressure-treated for longer life. They have greater longevity because each plank is permeated with wood preservative and kiln-dried to lock in the treatment and prevent rot and termite damage.

    Laminated columns are the most cost effective because they are installed the traditional way, buried in the ground. Therefore they will still rot over time in 30 – 40 years. This can depend on how wet and sandy your soil is.

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  • For better protection, FBi recommends Perma-Columns. The environmentally friendly Perma-Column systemwill keep your wood above ground and dry inside your pole barn.

    Perma-Columns are a concrete and steel-reinforced system that goes above and beyond the industry standard (this is our high-quality column option). This option will completely prevent rot from being an issue in the future.

  • For the best protection, FBi recommends bracketing your columns to concrete. To accomplish this you will pour a concrete footer around the building that you will then bracket the columns to. Which gets everything on the column out of the ground. This is one of the best approaches but it does add a lot of concrete cost.

 

Can Your Rotted Columns Be Replaced?

If you have an existing pole barn with columns that are starting to keep you up at night because you’re concerned about rot, then we have great news! Yes, rotted columns can be replaced with the right equipment and crew. 

No two pole barn builders will have the same cost to repair rotted columns, and no two situations will be the same. For example, are your current columns in gravel, dirt, or concrete? Many factors come into play when pricing out column replacement projects. At FBi Buildings, our starting price is a minimum of $500 per pole (with at least six poles). 

How Will You Prevent Your Pole Barn Posts from Rotting?

Short answer - keep them dry! Do whatever you can to prevent moisture from penetrating the wood. 

Whether that’s utilizing treated wood laminated columns, upgrading to Perma-Columns, or bracketing the columns to concrete. FBi Buildings can provide you with the best solution for your pole barn.

If you have an existing building that is in need of column repair, we can also help you get them repaired. We have dedicated crews that work exclusively on building repairs.  And best of all, it doesn’t matter who built the original building.

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Have more questions about open-sided buildings not covered in this article? Please contact FBi Buildings at 1.800.552.2981 or click here to email us. If you’re ready to get a price, click here to request a quote, and a member of our sales team will call you.