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Installing Purlins in Your Pole Barn

Purlins are pieces of dimensional lumber that are fastened to the top chord of pole barn trusses to connect and brace them. Purlins are used to fasten the steel roof. Along with the siding, purlins produce a diaphragm effect. They are typically spaced 24 inches on center in low snow loads, but that distance can be reduced based upon the truss space and snow load.

Three methods can be used to fasten purlins to the top chord of trusses. If the purlins are laid flat, use two 20D ring shank nails for each connection. For hung purlins with wide span trusses, use LU26 hangers for 2x6 and LU28 hangers for 2x8. If the purlins are placed on edge and overlapped (not butted) for trusses 8 to 9 feet apart, use one 60D galvanized ring shank nail.

The most commonly used method is to lay the purlins (usually 2x4s) flat and nail them to the trusses using two 20D galvanized ring shank nails. This can be done for trusses from two to five feet on center.

Trusses five feet on center with flat purlins are recommended for 30# ground snow loads or less in most cases. If the snow load is higher, the purlins will need to be closer together. If the snow load is too high, the purlins can fail regardless of how close together they are placed.

A 4 foot on center design can be used for snow loads up to 60# in most circumstances. For a higher snow load and larger space, the purlins will need to be spaced closer than 24 inches on center in the drift area.

If snow loads are greater than 60#, the trusses should be closer together. Spacing of 3 feet on center for 9 foot on center post spacing can handle most snow loads, but 2 feet on center trusses with 8 foot on center posts are stronger. With 2 foot on center truss spacing, use 7/16 inch osb or plywood sheathing for additional strength to replace the purlins, deaden the sound of rain or hail, and make it easier to walk on the roof.

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