48 x 48 barn and Writer's Retreat Loft in Iowa (second project here)

Started by fritz, August 31, 2011, 05:50:02 PM

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Hi all, I'm Fritz and in 2007 I began posting about the dog trot I built using two of John's plans. http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=2983.0 This past week, I broke ground on project number two for me:  a 48 x 48 pole barn, with a loft residence that will be a "writer's retreat" for grad students and other creative types who need a place to get away.

The plans came from another site (I checked with John to be sure there were no hard feelings posting here) and I hope to share as a way of giving back for all the help I received the first time around!

We're pouring 35 concrete footings next week I'll upload a few snap shots and some crude 3-d imagery of what I hope to build.

Barry Broome

"The press, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a terrible master."


Hi all, we're drilling holes today for the footings and sonotubes.  We've been given a great week or cool weather and no rain.  Here are some very quick and crude 3-d sketches of the building:

it's 48 x 48 -- the center 24 x 48 will have a radiant heat floor and a loft above I'll rent as a writer's retreat and use as a guest space.
The left hand (west) 12 x 48 is half kitchen.bath, half shop.
The right hand (east) 12 x 48 is open run-in - machine shed, space.

Other views are in the gallery there


Like the ceremonial "first pitch" in baseball, the first hole.

The holes are 4 feet deep (we have an approximate 32" frost line) A 12 inch sonotube will rest on a footer tied with re bar and be topped with a Simpson Strong Tie ABU66.

The center 24' x 48' will have a radiant heat 4 inch floating slab sitting on sand, a vapor barrier, and 2 inches of foam board.

As I found before --- and many of you have also found -- the differences in "local custom" and printed plans are some times great opportunities to have discussions on the job site.


With the footings poured, and the 12 inch sonotubes filled, we spread sand, a vapor barrier and 2 in foam before the re bar grid and then laying 4 "loops" of 7/8 pex on 12" centers...nearly 1200' feet a tubing.  It ties to a manifold with a pressure gauge to check for leaks before the pour.

The sub contractor jumped the gun and started laying the pex before I was on the job site.  He had it 2/3 laid out on 16" centers before we checked signals.  Fortunately, he had not cut the final ends off the tubing, and was able to take it up and re-lay on 12" centers.

His crew did a great job, they kinked the tube in one spot (which required a cut and mend) and we had some initial leaking connections, but in the end, it held 50 pounds of pressure.  IN the end, he moved me ahead of schedule by a day or two. 

The slab pour was yesterday and came off without a hitch.  (On the center 24 x 48 is slab, the outer edges will be rock and or sand or in one place, wood floor.


We set the poles yesterday and are bracing them today.  Here is a photo form the back (north) wall looking down the center 24 x 48 main barn floor.  The wood enclosure in the foreground is the radiant heat manifold,  it will be in a utility space under the stairs to the second floor loft.

From here on out, I'm on my own until I hang the roof steel.  The main building is a 10/12 pitch, the lean-to add ons are a more manageable 4/12.....

Also, progress will slow way down    :-\ --- but despite the challenges, its been great to have a sub crew around this last few days.


Cant wait to see more. Great site on the farm too. Keep us updated.
K.I.S.S.---Keep It Simple Stupid


Fritz where is the barn in relationship to Dogtrot?  On the same parcel of land or elsewhere?


Hi all, a short update.  Redover, its the same ground, 200 feet or so away  in the photo above with the poles, we are at the north property line looking south and you can make out the deck of the dogtrot the the right of the pickup facing us at about top level.  I'll take some better site photos later.

Here's a shot taken from loft level looking south -- there will be a large window facing south to take advantage of this view.

(Spoiler alert)  I had a terrible experience with my concrete sub --- I really got burned because I trusted too much.  So we're having to re group and accomodate the screw up. That said, in a small town, where most everything is done by trust --- working out problems is a delicate process.  More on that later

Alan Gage

QuoteI had a terrible experience with my concrete sub --- I really got burned because I trusted too much.  So we're having to re group and accomodate the screw up. That said, in a small town, where most everything is done by trust --- working out problems is a delicate process.

Bummer, I'm sorry to hear that. I know what you mean about the small town thing. Everything is intertwined.



Aerial Site view (Via Iowa State GIS and USDA)

After this weekend, the west half of the main building has the loft floor in place.  The east half will go up Wednesday.  The tops of the floor joists are at 9'...the side walls continue as a knee wall to 11'5 with a double plate.  Gablend ends are traditionally framed and the ridge rafter sits at 22'6.

The east add on / lean to is open stall, so it's framed and ready to have roof rafters placed.  The west add on lean to is the most problematic after the concrete poor (misspelling pun intended  >:(  so I'm still working on alternatives.  ???

I'll shoot a full set of photos later in the week.


Good morning all,

I took some photos last night of the property and progress to date on the barn and writer's loft.  Unlike the dogtrot, that I built solo, this project is bigger and I'm using neighbors and some hired help.  Pole buildings are easy to build -- but all the lumber is 12 foot and longer and tougher to manage with only two hands  :D But still, being part of the building process is rewarding.  We've been working as a pair or in a trio.  This week, we're hiring some younger men to help with rafters and sheating the roof. 

But for today...
This is the view from the driveway....

The new barn sits just at the north property line.  If you look at the next picture, you can see a panorama view line up the old barn in the photos.  The old barn was built by Art Andrew in about 1940.  It's not timber frame and in those days around here, they just stuck the local timbers in the ground with little thought of foundation.  The loft floor in the old barn has settled about 18 inches over time at the north end..

This is the East end of the new barn.  Its 12 x 48 machine shed or open run-in.

This is the West end of the new barn.  It is 12 x 48.  The front two bays will be a 12 x 24 shop.  The West wall (closest to the camera) will have a 6 foot sliding door into the shop and a second from the shop into the center.  The back 12 x 24 will be entry, kitchen and bath for the living area in the loft. (it's like a 12 x 24 "Little House").  The stairway to the loft will be at the rear and begins at the dividing wall between this lean - to and the main building.

This is the main bay, 24 x 48, which will have by-pass sliding doors for the front

The two final shots are the front view of the new barn an a view of the property from the dogtrot to the new barn.


Good looking job there Fritz.  Shoot I would like to have it for it's original intention of being a barn.  Never have enough storage for equipment here.


thanks for the kind words.  My neighbors all say I'm "building a shed" -- I guess compared to their big cattle barns, it is.  It's mostly a garage on steroids.  Not quite big enough for serious farm equipment, but plenty big for my needs. My boat will finally have a home after sitting outside since 2003!

My fear of having something bigger is that I just gather more "stuff".  The living space in this building will be nearly 2 time the living space in the dogtrot.  Again, the neighbors are telling me I should move.....maybe they don't like my little cabin?  They keep asking me "when are you going to enclose that middle part?  did you run out of money????" ???


Before we lifted the first ridge beam -- I had the crew all sign their names to it.  IN 50 or so years, when the barn comes down, it might be an interesting memory.  Art Andrew -- who built the older barn on the property around 1940 signed one of the roof boards --- you can still read his name today.

One quick note.  the top of the ridge beam is 22'6" from the ground/zero point.  The top of the loft floor is 9' and the knee wall is at 11'8.  The original plans called for a rafter with a tail that hung out over the side add on / lean to buildings which nobody liked (not me, not the lumber yard, not the roofing folks......  It created a messy tie in and complicated the roof line and created a potential space for birds.  SO we cut the rafter in the plans to the edge of the building -- and then will raise the rafters on the add-on lean-to to join the main rafters.

The lumber yard did the math and shipped us 16 foot rafters..... when we went to cut the first one in our measured jig -- it was short!  So we re-figured an found we needed 16' 2" +/- of rafter length.

So we dropped the peak of the building to 22' even and can cut the rafters to fit as needed.


Hey all, awesome weather continues here, so the crew and I keep making progress.  We work about 2 days a week.  Yesterday, we came close to finishing the sheathing.  We finished the east side rafters in the morning, along with the blocks between each rafter that rest on the sill between the add on buildings and the main building.  I think I mentioned, we adusted the add on roof from the original plans.  The original plans had the add on roof attached to the side of the main building with a ledger....we raised it a few inches to rest on the side wall plate, tied the rafters from the main building to the add on building with a truss plate, and then blocked and nailed between the rafters.  This gives moth an air/fire/insect block and a place to nail roof sheating and metal roofing.

My neighbor (age 55) and I (51) marvel at the agility of young men.  Yesterday we both looked at each other and realized how foolish we were to think just the two of us could have tackled sheathing the 10/12 roof.  Okay we *could* have done it, but I would still be posting roof progress here next spring....and the spring after  ;D

From the drive

From the loft...the knee wall is 2' 8"  there is about 16 = 18 feet wide of 6 sloping to 8 foot headroom .  Nice space. The collar tie in the photo is 8' at the bottom.  The center supports come out once the gable ends are constructed.

From the foot bridge (also under construction) to the east pastures and habitat.


Nice barn/ shop / big garage!!

Why didn't you lay the sub-flooring in the loft before you started on the roof?  It would have given you a nicer working area to set your rafters.

Interesting you don't set your poles down into the ground on a pole barn back there.  We set them 3 or 4 feet deep here, PNW, for wind resistance mainly. 

I'm not sure I'd trust a 6x6 just set in a  saddle like that,  it creates a hinge point.

  Different areas do different things.   
When in doubt , build it stout with something you know about .


Hey PEG!  Yeah, compared to my neighbor's new cattle barns, they all call this a "shed".

On the sub floor -- we did -- kind of, we laid it on the out edges and tacked it down -- we were concerned about 2 things:  rain -- which we didnt get -- and we left the center poles long so we could fix braces to them to hoist /hold the ridge beam in place --- there are three running down the center --- now that the roof is done, well cut them off at joist height and permanently set the sub floor before we build the gable ends.

The concrete pier is a common alternative footing set up --- yes  a pole in the ground would be cheaper and faster, but I was concerned about frost heave and having wood in contact with the ground.  Most of the main posts in my 1940's barn are rotted at the soil line --- sure there are different materials now, but I first saw the idea in some of John's foundation notes and wished I had done this on the dog trot.


Hmmmmm, the pictures seem to be missing now...  wanted to say I really like the lines of the barn/retreat  [cool]

Never mind, they are starting to show up now  :)

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free


Hi all, we've been blessed with a fall filled with great weather, so as of Thanksgiving, the loft is 90% buttoned up for winter.  The metal roof is up.

There is OSB as roof sheathing, the insulated spaces have foil/bubble/foil between the sheathing and the metal, the non insulated spaces have a synthetic roof felt cover.  We pre-drilled the metal panels on the ground, then used a human chain and rof tacks and ladders to put the panels into place.  The metal was a two day job, the OSB was three.

The gables walls are non load bearing, the end walls were stick built, in three sections:  the outside ends built in place.  The center section with the window (5' x 7; window) was build flat on the loft floor, the window set in place, and then set up in place.

And then from the inside, with the ceiling joists hung.  The ceiling height could be arbitrary, above the window, since the sloping roof line to the knee wall is great than a standard 8' drywall sheet, so we set the flat part of the ceiling with an 8' width to make that drywall easier.  This gives a ceiling height of 9+ feet (I dont recall the measurement)

The "attic" is vented on both ends with an 18" x 24" screened gable vent.

Since there are diagonal braces on the lower level  I am using 1" Dow Tuff R polyiso board as sheathing -- on the window center panels, we used two sheets of 1/2 ' OSB (to match the sheathing thickness)

My "sub quality" concrete sub contractor left us a few ghosts  >:( .  We've got some settling on the west (left) outer piers....so I think I'll wait out a winter freeze and thaw cycle and see how we need to adjust that end before sheathing and building out that floor.

glenn kangiser

Sassy called my attention to this, Fritz.  I don't check in on everything as often as I used to.  Great project.  I dealt for 5 months with bad concrete subs on a job I was troubleshooting and getting back on track.

They can really make a job a lot harder when it is not necessary. 
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.


We are looking for a pole barn with a loft/apartment.  This looks like what we are looking for, suggestion on finding the building plans?