If you’re going to build an agricultural building, you’d better do it right. It takes a durable structure to withstand the forces of mother nature, gravity, animals and more. Here are five tips for building an agricultural building with durability in mind.
We realize how enticing it can be to always choose the cheapest building option. You see cheaper materials or services that seem equal to their more expensive alternatives, so you choose the cheaper option. A building’s a building after all, right?
Absolutely not. That’s like saying “a car’s a car,” but everyone knows a 1990 beater is definitely not equivalent to a brand-new Mercedes. There are a lot of details that go into a building, and those details – no matter how small – can make or break its durability.
The inventory and equipment inside your agricultural building might be worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. At the end of the day, investing in a durable structure up front will ensure your production equipment and other items remain safe, and will also prevent constant costly repairs throughout your building’s life.
5 Ways to Ensure Your Agricultural Building Remains Durable
1. Make sure the building is properly engineered. When contracting for a building, you need to know that the person or company designing it will think about the entire scope of the building and the construction process. That involves considering the building’s purpose, the soil conditions and exposure, the materials being used to construct it, and how those materials are put together.
A reputable building company with construction standards designed by licensed, professional engineers consider all these factors. Make sure they send their completed plans with a set of construction details to the crew erecting the building. This will help ensure that it is built as designed in every detail, which provides the greatest longevity and least amount of maintenance for your building.
2. Properly prepare the building site. A level site is instrumental for the construction crew to build your structure easily and efficiently, without having to cobble things together. Cumbersome sites with steep drop-offs can be difficult to navigate, and might require compromises that could affect durability.
Additionally, every site should include a solid drainage system. Especially if your building is on the side or bottom of a hill, make sure drainage will prevent water from pooling against the structure. We recommend hiring a highly experienced excavator who knows how to properly prepare a site to deal with soil and water conditions.
3. Use high-quality materials. Lumber, steel, door and window materials are the four most important materials involved in building a post-frame structure. Here’s what to look for in each:
- Lumber. For a durable post-frame building, you need Machine-Evaluated Lumber (MEL) or Machine Stress Rated (MSR) Lumber. These ratings indicate a machine tested the lumber for strength, and then classified it based on the strength.
The alternative to machine-graded lumber is visual grade lumber – which is graded based on how it looks. Lumber that doesn’t qualify for machine-graded status is rated as #1 (looks good) or #2 (not as good-looking). By using lumber with a MEL/MSR grading, your engineer knows the exact strength and durability of every piece of wood, which is crucial for any well-built structure.
The type of lumber is only one piece of the puzzle. How you bond it all together is equally as important.
Make sure your builder uses high-quality fasteners and nails for attaching the lumber together, and columns are bolted to trusses rather than just screwed or nailed together.
- Steel. Steel is the skin (and muscles) of the building. And all other things being equal, the stiffer the steel, the stronger the building. Some companies will promote their 26 gauge commercial grade steel (tensile strength of 30,000psi) as being better than 29 gauge full-hard steel (80,000psi).
The truth is that the good quality full-hard steel will have twice the impact resistance of the softer commercial steel. This helps the steel resist denting when hail falls on it or stones are kicked out from a mower and hit the side of the building. Plus, when properly attached to the building, the added stiffness increases the rigidity of the structure, preventing movement and flexing of the building.
The key to a secure skin lies in how you fasten the steel to the structure. Always ensure screws are used to fasten the steel instead of nails. When you hammer a nail, you’re essentially displacing the wood fibers downward. However, these fibers instinctually want to spring back up, pushing the nail out over time.
Conversely, a screw pulls the fibers upwards toward its head as you tighten it down. When those fibers try to straighten out, they actually reinforce the screw’s strength. Scientific testing has proven that screw fastening of the steel is over twice as strong as nails.
- Windows and doors. Only use high-quality materials for windows and doors. You might pay more upfront, but you’d pay a lot more later when that door has a bent hinge or the frame is rotting out because it wasn’t properly sealed.
A high-quality door and window will last the life of the building. You can’t say the same for cheaper doors and windows that will likely need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years.
Not only would you need to purchase the replacement doors and windows, you’d have to pay to remove the old ones and install the new ones. Over the life of the building, that cheaper door and window would cost you many times what the higher-quality version costs upfront.
4. Hire a good crew. A good crew understands the engineering behind a building’s design, and they adhere to those specific guidelines set by the designer. If they don’t, the building’s durability will suffer.
A reputable crew also uses the proper power tools required for building a durable structure. Always remember, crew of four with the proper electrical tools, lifts and training will produce a building that is far superior to a 12-man crew with hand-powered saws and hammers.
5. Include durability features. While lumber and steel comprise the majority of your structure, several additional features can also improve the durability of your building – especially when it comes to agricultural structures.
- Ventilation. Installing a good ventilation system is smart for any structure, but it’s absolutely vital in agricultural buildings.
When animals expel urine, manure, or even breathe, they create a lot of moisture. If this moisture builds up inside your structure, it can deteriorate the wood and steel, and over time it can loosen the fasteners where materials meet.
A well-designed ventilation system gets rid of moisture, keeping the outside and inside of the building in optimal condition. Moreover, it cycles fresh air through your building, which is better for any animals living inside.
- DripStop. This moisture controlling material is a polyester felt-like layer that is installed underneath the steel on the roof to trap moisture. This prevents the moisture from condensing and dripping onto purlins, trusses and whatever you have inside your building. Over time this dripping from condensation can deteriorate the purlins, trusses or inventory down below.
When building an agricultural building, durability trumps upfront cost every time. Incorporating these five tips into your design plan will ensure your structure remains solid throughout it’s entire life, without needing to pay for constant maintenance and upkeep.