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Designing a Pole Barn for Hay Storage


A pole barn can be the ideal location to store hay for your horses. It needs to be constructed properly and in the right location to protect the hay from moisture that could cause damage.

Build your hay barn in an area with good drainage. The ground around it should have a downward slope of at least 5 percent.

The hay barn needs to be easily accessible by vehicles that will transport the hay. Make sure there is enough room to turn around and that it will be accessible all year, even if it snows.

In order to reduce wind loads and protect the hay, the building should be constructed with the open end facing away from the direction of prevailing winds.

Hay can spontaneously combust. If your hay barn is near other buildings and catches fire, the flames could spread. Build your hay barn at least 75 feet away from other structures to reduce the risk of fire.

A hay barn can generally accommodate 10 to 15 square feet per ton for square bales and 16 to 24 square feet per ton for round bales. Round bales can usually be stacked two or three high.

Before you choose your building dimensions, decide if your pole barn will be front- or side-loaded. A side-loaded hay barn will give you more access to hay and will allow you to use the space more efficiently. However, posts can restrict equipment access, and it will have greater wind uplift forces on the roof than a front-loaded building.

The floor in your hay barn should have an 8-inch layer of compacted gravel on top of a sheet of filter fabric. This will allow water to flow through but will keep soil particles from migrating up into the gravel and making it lose its strength. Concrete is more expensive and will not allow water to drain.

The sidewalls in a pole barn are not designed to carry significant loads. Hay should not be leaned against the sidewalls because it can cause the walls to bend. If this cannot be avoided, the walls should be braced.

The building needs to be braced at the corners. It should also have X-bracing at end walls and mid length, knee braces to the top chords of the trusses, and bracing at the tops of the posts on the open sides.

Soil forces acting on the posts help the building resist wind loads. The posts should be at least four feet in the ground and should have concrete collars. If your building is especially tall or has an open front or widely-spaced posts, the posts should be embedded at least five feet.

Your hay barn needs to be ventilated because hay is not completely dry when it is stored and needs to continue to lose moisture. Respiration within the hay creates moisture that needs to be removed. High humidity in the barn can reduce the quality of the hay and can cause condensation in the barn that can drip onto the hay. You can add air inlets to the eaves and along the bottoms of the walls or use natural ventilation or ridge vents.

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