Insulating Your Pole Barn

by | Aug 26, 2019

Post-frame constructed buildings—commonly known as pole barns—originally grew out of necessity. During the great depression, farmers needed cheaper, faster ways of constructing larger and larger barns that could accommodate new farming equipment and tools. What could be cheaper and easier than vertical beams and sheet metal?

Today, pole barns are still ubiquitous for all kinds of agricultural buildings. But the post-frame construction technique is also used for garages and storage buildings, warehouses, corporate offices, stores, and even residential spaces.

As the use of post-frame construction has expanded, insulating these buildings—especially against the frigid Michigan winters—has become increasingly important. This is whether the buildings are heated or not. And the best way to insulate your pole barn will vary a lot as well, based on how you use it.

A simple garage to store a boat in winter? You may not think you need any insulation, although that’s generally not entirely the case. The right kind of insulation can keep out condensation and humidity that can damage your equipment and tools.

A storefront, “man cave,” or workshop you plan to spend several hours working in? You’re going to need something much more heavy duty so you can keep the building comfortable (and affordable to heat and cool) year-round.

In short, you’ve got options. But let’s start at the beginning.

Why Insulate Your Pole Barn?

A few obvious reasons, in no particular order:

  • It keeps your space from getting too hot or too cold. That’s handy if you’re going to spending hours working or relaxing inside. But even if it’s a garage you only need to be in for 10-15 minutes at a time, a little insulation goes a long way in, say, January!
  • It saves you money if you need to artificially heat or cool your building.
  • It provides noise dampening, great if you’re going to be using loud equipment (or blasting your radio).
  • It reduces airflow, which in turn prevents unwanted moisture and condensation and protects your structure, equipment, and valuables from rust and mildew.

This last point is really important, and why we’d strongly recommend that you insulate your building to some degree (using foam) regardless of its primary use.

The vast majority of pole barns/post-frame buildings are made primarily out of steel. Not only does steel provide basically no thermal resistance, but it’s also highly susceptible to humidity and condensation as the building goes from very cold to very hot and back again.

Those kinds of conditions are what causes tools and cars to rust, supplies to get ruined, and mold and mildew to grow. Even the very structure of the building could become compromised.

And one of the big reasons we recommend using foam insulation for this is that foam insulation provides an effective vapor barrier on its own. With other products, you’d likely need to install a separate vapor barrier in addition to the insulation.

Other key benefits of using foam specifically, as opposed to something like cellulose or fiberglass, include the following:

  • Critters love to burrow and make nests in fiberglass batting. Foam does a much better job shutting them out.
  • A tough closed-cell foam can actually strengthen the rigidity of a wall by a factor of 10. This helps reinforce your structure against weather damage and can prevent or delay the need for later repairs.
  • Foam will hold its shape, which makes it a much better choice for walls that you plan to leave unfinished (which might be the case in large barn structures used for work or storage).

Pole barn insulation

Some Questions to Ask Yourself

So now you know that you definitely need to insulate your pole barn. As you start to think about the kind of insulation you need, it’s helpful to ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do I need to close the walls? Finishing interior walls certainly looks nicer and more professional, especially if your building is being used for office, store, or living space. But it may be unnecessary for a workshop or warehouse. No walls means there’s no hard limit to the depth of the insulation, which in turn means you can potentially save some money by using less expensive, lower R-value foam at a greater thickness.
  • How much soundproofing do I need? Certain insulation products (such as open cell polyurethane) make awesome Others, like really rigid closed cell foam? Not so much. If you’ve got a loud workshop or garage next to residential space, or offices where you work or meet customers, you might want something that absorbs noise.
  • What am I storing in this building? As we said earlier, providing a vapor barrier and preventing condensation is going to be an important goal pretty much no matter how your building is used. But the comfort requirements of, say, human beings definitely differ from those of various animals, tools, cars, or equipment.
  • How often will I need to heat my building? If you’re mostly going to be in one place, for short periods of time, once in a while, a little space heater is probably all you need. But if you need the entire building more regularly—say, with a heavy-duty hanging garage heater or two—then high-quality insulation is going to save you a ton of money in the long run.

These aren’t the only questions to work through, but should give you a good start as you ponder your options.

Call in the Experts for Professional Advice and a FREE Estimate

RetroFoam of Southwest Michigan has been insulating pole barn and post-frame buildings of all sizes, ages, and uses for almost 15 years. If you want the job done right the first time, by people who care, using the highest quality products, you want Bob Hafler and his team.

Our company is built on honesty and quality, and unlike most of our competitors we carry a wide variety of foam products with different properties, advantages, and disadvantages. That allows us to custom-tailor our recommendations and services to best fit your needs and budget, rather than trying to sell you something you don’t need or isn’t right for you.

So if you have a pole barn that needs to be insulated, go with experience and quality—the “Real McCoy.” Click here to request a free estimate, or give us a call at (269) 751-2000. We serve communities throughout West and Southwest Michigan.