The Differences Between Pole Barn and Stick-Built Construction

Owning a home is one of the most sought-after purchases. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that even amid a pandemic, more and more Americans are purchasing homes — whether existing homes or new builds. The market is crazy, and this can lead to rushed decisions. It can be tempting to put an offer on the first home you fall in love with, but you should take your time and go through the different options. 

One of the more recent house style trends is called a pole barn. Pole barns were originally for agriculture or homeowners with excessive storage needs, but that is a thing of the past. These open floor plan dwellings are taking the world by storm as more and more individuals prefer them to traditional stick-built constructions. 


You must understand the differences between the two to make the most informed decision. The information below highlights the disparities between the two. 

1. Cost

One of the differences between the two types of builds is the associated costs. Pole barn homes generally cost less money to build than traditional stick-builds. It’s due to the foundation requirements. Concrete foundations make up a large percentage of the total cost of a build. They are time-consuming, tedious, and the materials themselves are an arm and a leg. HomeAdvisor claims that a foundation can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $13,000. The price varies depending on square footage, concrete type, concrete thickness, and labor costs. 


The other big cost differences are concerning trusses and load-bearing walls. Traditional stick-builds have trusses that are spaced 16 to 24 inches apart while pole barns have large poles that are placed upwards of 8 feet apart. This cuts down on lumber costs significantly. Since pole barns use large posts buried below the ground level, there is no need for load-bearing walls. The posts can fully support the weight of the structure. This cuts down on both framing labor and material costs.  

2. Materials

As mentioned in the cost section above, there are some differences in the materials used in each respective build. By and large, the difference between the two is that pole barns require fewer building components — meaning there are fewer building materials. This is primarily surrounding concrete, framing, and lumber. 


Additionally, most pole barn home materials are prefabricated, then assembled on-site. Whereas stick-built constructions are derived from individual pieces of lumber.  

3. Site Preparation

Traditional builds require a completely level ground for a continuous concrete foundation. This is integral to structural integrity. This means more time spent grading and preparing your land and less time making progress on the actual home itself. 


Pole barn homes do not require level ground — although it is nice to have. Pole barn posts can be cut to size to reflect the grading. A builder can simply add gravel, or some other temporary solution, then once the build is complete, you can attend to the final grade This cuts down on time spent preparing a site significantly. 


Additionally, this gives the future homeowner more flexibility as to where they can build. Not all areas are suitable for home builds, and geographical locations create additional considerations. The good news is that even though pole barn homes in Howard County, IN will have different build considerations than ones built in Honolulu, HI — pole barn homes are adaptable to any site location.

4. Structural Stability

Since pole barn homes do not require a continuous concrete foundation, many assume they are less stable than conventional builds. It’s not the case. These posts are anchored at least four feet below ground level. When wind or other harsh weather comes in contact with a pole barn home, it transfers that energy into the ground. The ground is equipped to handle the elements better than wall studs and concrete foundations.  

5. Build Turnaround

Since there are generally fewer materials used, reduced site preparation, and most materials are prefabricated — building a pole barn is much faster than traditional homes. It may not always be the case (considering who the builder is and how customized your home is), but for the most part, conventional builds have a slower turnaround time.

6. Financing

Traditional stick-builds have the upper hand when it comes to financing. Pole barns are relatively new, so it is hard for appraisers and lenders to value them. In most cases, the appraisal comes in lower than it costs to build the home. You may have to fund some of the build costs out-of-pocket or have a larger down payment to purchase the home.

7. Energy-efficiency

Traditional homes have more thermal breaks than pole barn homes. More thermal breaks result in more energy waste. Conventional builds have studs that are placed 16 to 24 inches apart, whereas pole barn homes have posts that have eight-foot spaces in between — leaving additional room for more insulation. More insulation means less heat escaping and cool air getting in during winter months and less cool air getting out and warm air getting in during summer months.