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Our $24,000.00 heartache, and how you can avoid it in your build.

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

Have you ever just happened upon a pile of money?...No? Well, me neither; however, I do know how it feels to see a pile of money disappear into thin air.

We expected our building shell to majorly absorb our budget. We talked it over, and over, and over, and became comfortable with the numbers in front of us. I'm a cheapskate, so it took me a good while to get there, but until just a few days ago, I was happy.


Our building needs to be 3 feet taller, and it’ll cost us $24,000.00 to get it there.

After getting that news, I looked a little like this...

You may be wondering how a 20 foot tall sidewall isn't enough to accommodate a 2-story home. I'll explain...

Focus on the area circled in red, that's the thing I totally missed.

Our wall girts are 20 feet tall, our purlins take up 3 feet of our sidewall height. All along I accounted for 9ft ceilings on both floors and 2' floor joists, BUT, I never realized that I needed to factor in the ceiling structure or how the purlins connect.

Had we elected to keep our 20' sidewall height, we'd end up with 9' ceilings on the first floor, 18" floor joists, and 6' ceilings at the sidewalls on the 2nd floor. It may work for someone, but not for me.

This oversight was brought to light by our engineer. It slipped past E. and I, our contractor, and every metal building guy who quoted this project.

The lesson?

When you get quotes, double check the measurement of the purlins and factor in the amount of sidewall height they occupy.


If you need a laugh, like I did, listen to this next part.

I had the bright idea to ask what 22' sidewalls would cost us. My thought was, "If we do 22', I can still have 8' ceilings upstairs and 9' downstairs, that'll be great. Lets ask."

I honestly thought that would make a sizeable difference.

It took about an hour to get the numbers back...

Our big savings would be:


Yeah, I'll spend the $2,000.00 and get my 9' ceilings on both floors. At this point, what difference does it make.

So everyone, lesson learned, factor in your purlins and ceilings.


Fortunately, we've come up with a few ways to get around this issue (I'm too attached to my current design to use either of them).

  1. Raise your roof pitch- this option was suggested to me by the Queen of Barndominium design. Increasing roof pitch often gets you a little more bang for your buck. Typically metal buildings come with less than a 4:12 pitch (4 inches of rise for every 12 inches of run), upping that to 6:12 or 8:12 could potentially make useable space in your 2nd floor without significant compromise.

  2. Consider a gambrel roof-

Gambrel- "A gambrel or gambrel roof is a usually symmetrical two-sided roof with two slopes on each side. The upper slope is positioned at a shallow angle, while the lower slope is steep. This design provides the advantages of a sloped roof while maximizing headroom inside the building's upper level and shortening what would otherwise be a tall roof."~ Wikipedia

All of that to say, if a gable roof and a hip roof had a baby, it would be a gambrel.


We hope that sharing this hard-learned lesson saves you some headache and heartache in your own build.


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