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How To Install Siding On a Pole Barn

Pole barns are relatively simple to build and can provide shelter for animals or equipment. Pole barns are (as the name suggests) built on poles or posts. In contrast to traditional construction techniques that employ masonry foundations and solid walls, pole barns are built on poles or posts which are concreted into the ground.

Since pole barns usually have no solid walls, girts are added between the poles to give the structure more strength and allow the installation of exterior siding.

Source: bridgersteel.com

Today we will discuss the methods used to install metal siding on a pole barn. Traditionally, barns and other storage buildings will use vertical metal siding, as opposed to horizontal wooden, vinyl, or aluminum siding.

These materials are typically designed for residential use and will generally fail more quickly. For this reason, steel siding is the popular choice for pole barns, as it is much more resistant to damage from animals and other strikes.

What Is Steel Siding?

Steel siding is generally considered a commercial product, however, it is commonly used wherever extra durability is required. Steel siding installs relatively quickly, especially when the correct tools and methods are used during installation. Most vertical steel siding products follow a similar design.

Ribs are pressed into sections of steel sheets to reduce the lateral flexing that would occur on a flat sheet of steel. These ribs follow a pattern, which allows them to securely overlap each other and provide a clean, crisp appearance.

These sections, (usually called panels) can be installed using galvanized roofing tacks, exterior grade painted screws, galvanized grommeted screws, or any number of ring shank fasteners, as long as they are galvanized to prevent rust and corrosion. 

The vertical steel siding commonly used on pole barns is designed to use special trim pieces that compliment the look and function of the panels, similar to vinyl and aluminum lap siding Special accessories are also available to aid installation of typical components like light fixtures and GFCI outlets.

Steel siding is available in many colors, as most manufacturers offer a permanent finish that requires very little maintenance. Many pole barn owners exploit the availability of the color variety and use trim to delineate from one color to a complimentary one.

How To Install a Steel Siding Panel

As mentioned previously, pole barns typically will have no solid wall structure and rely on posts or poles for support. To install steel siding, boards called girts are attached horizontally to the vertical poles. These girts provide the connection point for the siding panels.

Some pole barn siding installers will opt to install house wrap around the perimeter before beginning the siding installation. This is typically done if the pole barn will be used as a garage or workspace. Owners who use a pole barn primarily as an animal shelter will often skip this step, although it is still a good idea. House wrap stops the small drafts common to pole barns, making the interior more comfortable.

Here we will discuss the process of installing vertical steel siding on a pole barn, and offer some insight to how the professionals go about it. In most cases, pros will employ special tools to make the job faster and easier, but it is possible to install steel siding using simple hand tools.

Obviously, the most important part of any home improvement project is safety, so anyone installing steel siding should use any and all appropriate safety gear. Steel siding is extremely sharp and fairly awkward to handle, so recruiting additional help is recommended.

Here are a few common tools used to install steel siding, but others are available:

  • Hammer
  • Metal Shears
  • Pneumatic shears 
  • Pneumatic nibbler
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Drywall square
  • Chalk line
  • Marker

Step 1. Installing the Trim and J-channel

As a rule, siding is installed from the bottom up. This allows the course above to overlap the course below, or provides a location for trim, preventing rainwater from getting behind the siding. In a typical project, the installer will do one wall at a time. Professionals installers will usually begin a project by striking a straight, level line along the girt located the bottom of the barn.

The level line is usually extended all the way around the perimeter of the structure. The installer will then ensure that the level line meets itself, guaranteeing that the siding remains level all the way around the barn. Then using a level, the installer will mark a plumb line (perfectly perpendicular) on each corner.

The plumb line marks the location of the outside corner trim, which will be installed over the corner. Next, J-channel is often installed around any obstructions, such as a door or window to accept the siding panel.

Step 2. Install the Panels

To install the first panel, many professionals will begin with a half sheet. This ensures that horizontal joints cannot touch, preventing water from curling under the siding. Taking note that each section has a distinct left and right side, the first panel is set into place by aligning the panel with the plumb and level lines. The panel is then secured to the girt.

To attach the panel to the girt, several fasteners are available. If the pole barn will not use house wrap, many installers will opt to use a metal roofing screw to secure the panels. These screws are self tapping, which means the installer does not need to drill a pilot hole into the steel to start the screw. These screws are also galvanized, and include a small rubber grommet below the head. This creates a watertight connection in the absence of house wrap.

The screws are generally placed in the flat area on the siding, as opposed to the ribs, and tightened securely. If the pole barn is to have house wrap, some installers will opt to secure the panels using a quicker method, such as using a pneumatic nailer or galvanized roofing tacks.

To attach the next panel, the installer notes the left side of the panel and overlaps the previous panel using the rib on the panel. This second panel is then secured using the same methods as the first. This continues until the siding must stop, or be adjusted around an obstacle.

Step 3. Installing the Second Course 

The second course (if there is one) is installed just like the first, with one exception. Just as the second panel overlapped the first to prevent water intrusion, the second course will overlap the first course. Generally speaking, each course should overlap the preceding course by at least 2”-6”. 

Pro Tip. To keep a course straight and level, many professionals will use white chalk on a chalk line to mark the next course. White chalk is temporary and is easily washed off, in contrast to red or black, which are semi-permanent and can be difficult to remove.

The second course uses the same fasteners as the first, but pros will usually place the fasteners so that whenever possible, the screw is holding two panels. As an example, the bottom edge of the panel on the second course overlaps the top of the first course, so there is no need for an additional screw into the top of the first course.

Doing so would cause a bump in the second course, plus add another hole in the siding. So, in most cases the installer will just use a single screw and drive it through both panels simultaneously. When the second course terminates into an obstacle, the panel is then trimmed to fit and inserted into the J-channel around the obstacle.

This pattern continues until all of the borders of the siding are securely inside the channel of the J-channel, or overlapping the ribs of the adjacent panel. 

Step 4. Finishing Up

After the panels are installed, the outside corner trim overlaps the panels and is secured to the wall using the same fasteners as the panel. The final step is to install a base strip to the bottom of the panels. 

This is often optional, especially if the pole barn will not be used as a workspace or garage, or does not incorporate a concrete pad. Installing the base strip is commonly done by removing the screws along the bottom edge of the first course and sliding the base strip under the panels.

This can also be done before any panels are installed, but the pros will often install it after the panels are attached in case each panel is not exactly the same length. This often provides a cleaner, more crisp looking installation. 

Some pole barns will also have a concrete pad that contacts the walls. In these situations, it is often best to install the base trim first, before installing the first panel. This will make installing the base trim much easier, as often the concrete pad gets in the way of the installation if done after the panels are attached. 

Along with base trim, some builders will utilize special foam blocks that are installed between the bottom girt and the back of the siding. This is especially true for pole barns that include a concrete pad.

Due to the ribs pressed into the panel, a small passage remains between the panel and the girt, which can allow vermin and insects to enter. Special foam blocks having the same profile as a siding panel are often used to fill in these gaps, which also reduces drafts from entering the barn.

Design Considerations

To add visual interest, some users of steel siding will divide a large wall into two distinct sections, separated by trim. These two sections will often be two complimentary colors, such as red and green, divided by a third trim color, usually white.

Other styles of steel siding trim, such as fascia and rake trim, often find their way onto a steel siding project. Generally speaking, there is a trim available for every purpose, so steel siding projects are a good place to get creative.

Making a Barn Attractive and Durable

Steel siding on a pole barn is durable, attractive, and with the materials available today, simple to install. Steel siding is considered the go-to material for pole barns because it looks good and has a long useful life. With the colors and styles available, installing steel siding can make something as simple as a barn look crisp and clean with minimal maintenance. 

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