The 16 Hard Truths About Pole Barns Vs. I-Beam Structures

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In between investing in a steel barn or pole barn on your property? Not sure which one to choose? Sure, both buildings have their advantages and disadvantages and they relatively look the same aesthetically but there are some major fundamental differences between these two barn types.

What is a pole barn?

Let’s begin by looking at the pole barns construction method.

Pole barns are erected by wooden poles that are buried in the ground. These buildings use columns for the roof. Pole barn walls are usually made of tin or wood that are screwed or nailed onto the wooden poles. 

Pole barns’ poles are buried into the ground. Henceforth, they are susceptible to the unstable nature of the ground in which they are buried into causing them to shift and sink over time.

This puts more pressure on the building and the building owner, aka you, requiring much more maintenance, repairs, and overall upkeep.

As the foundation poles shift, a pole barn may have to be straightened every five years, essentially costing you several thousand dollars every 5 years!


The many disadvantages of pole barns will likely steer you away from investing in these buildings.


Pole barns are NOT considered a permanent structure.

Instead, they are considered an accessory structure, or a structure that has minimum value and utility. This technical definition has many consequences regarding mortgage loans and permitting. Obtaining a mortgage can be extremely difficult and truth be told you most likely will not qualify for a loan.

In regards to permitting, you may run into a lot of trouble trying to obtain a permit for your pole barn especially if you are looking to use it residentially. In some counties, pole barns are not allowed as residential buildings. 


Here’s the thing, wood burns…

Hence, pole barns are pretty susceptible to fire damage. According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2006 to 2010, there were 830 structure fires in farming buildings reported to U.S. fire departments per year, averaging in property damage cost of around $30 million.

Another not-so-fun fact: the great Chicago fire of 1871 started in a wood-framed barn and the massive damages convinced Chicago to try and end the construction of wooden buildings.

Consequently, these dangers that come with owning a pole barn will directly contribute to paying higher insurance.


Not only will the poles buried in the ground shift and move with the natural tendency of the ground’s movement, but they will also decay.

Like we said before, a pole barn is not considered a permanent structure. Usually, pole barns can last up max up to 50 years, with a lot of upkeep.

Listed below are potential damages that can come with owning a pole barn.

  • If not treated properly, wood will rot and deteriorate over time
  • Unless you use a lot of pesticides, wood is not termite resistance 
  • Wood is susceptible to mold and other fungi such as dry and wet rot
  • Pole barns are more likely to be damaged by lightning 
  • Pole barns are usually not recommended for livestock because there is a risk of poisonous and unsanitary conditions due to the style of construction
  • Pole barns perform horribly with heavy snow load 
  • Pole barns are not suitable for locations with intense winds 

Advantages of Pole barn

Short term use 

If you are looking for a quick makeshift barn that is intended for short-time use pole barns might be a great option.

Another advantage of pole barns is their low cost. Unlike most forms of construction, pole barns do not require a level ground saving you money.

While these wood structures are initially less expensive than a metal barn their overall cost is more expensive when you factor in pole barn maintenance and lifespan. 

Pole barn interiors are easier to construct since you can apply drywall directly to the wood supports.

Meanwhile, I-beam steel buildings require you to attach a hat channel to the steel supports before drywall can be attached. 

Why go with an I-beam Steel Building?

One of the most popular forms of building construction is the I-Beam, named for its horizontal cross-section that looks like an upper-case “I”.

The steel mainframe acts as the support for the building. The steel columns are anchored into a concrete foundation. This foundation makes the building more durable, strong, and easier to maintain. Making these buildings more equipped in handling extreme environmental strains as well as structural strains.

These buildings are also very easy to customize to your needs and have a quick manufacturing turnaround time. Especially if you go with MBMI where we do not outsource our engineering, designing, or drafting services.


I-beams are also extremely weather-resistant, to both extreme weather and mild weather-related damage.

Given the high-quality materials and building techniques, damages caused by earthquakes, storms, or heavy rains are minimal compared to the pole barns. Not to mention these buildings are also fire resistant.

This gives you substantial insurance savings since many insurance companies provide discounts for steel buildings. 

Another great advantage is saying goodbye to mold and other microbial infections. Those harmful organisms cannot live on steel surfaces.

Termites are another devastating pest that steel buildings are not affected by, saving you money on termite pesticides and repairs.

Low Maintenance

Another I-beam benefit is their low maintenance.

Since they are on top of a durable concrete foundation they do not demand the frequent foundation maintenance needed by pole barns. The hygienic metal used in these buildings also provides you with almost no upkeep.

If you decide to go with MBMI, we provide you with a 40-year warranty on the color steel panels, and a lifetime warranty on the components and fasteners that are guaranteed not to rust. 


I-beam buildings are usually made out of steel, sometimes other metals which are most likely recycled. MBMI buildings are designed to be Green using up to 60% recycled steel and 100% recyclable meeting the environmental demands and pressures. 

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