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Community and Q&A

Existing cedar wood pole barn insulation

Todd4391 | Posted in General Questions on

I am VERY new at this!! I know there have been many people asking questions about their pole barns. I have not seen one similar to my situation though. I have an existing cedar wood pole barn on concrete. It is constructed on 6 x 6 wood poles and is about a 40′ x 40′. There are only vertical wood slats covering the outside and 3 internal sections. The left and right sides have garage doors at each end and the middle has only one. So it has a lot of air flow. I use this mostly for storage but I want to use it occasionally as a heated working area. I wont be in there too much and just want to be able to heat it while I am out there working. There is a small second floor area too. All of my air flow and insolation would have to be on the inside. I hope I have described this situation enough for help. There is obviously a lot of air movement in all 3 sections. Is there any reason I can’t use something like Tyvek on all of the inner portions of all external walls, one side of the common inside walls that separate all 3 sections, the ceiling portion of all 3 sections, the underside of the rafters, and then use insolation. I probably will want the middle section more air resistant and was thinking of poly on top of the insolation. Thank you in advance for any advice!!!!

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  1. seabornman | | #1

    I know this is an energy conscious forum, however, I have owned and still own pole barn structures, and don't recommend trying to make a pole barn into something it's not. It is very difficult to meet energy code requirements in a pole barn. You can spend lots of time and money trying to air seal and insulate, but for intermittent use I've found that some temporary heat, oversized for the space, is a reasonable approach. You won't heat the air up to 70 degrees, but you'll be able to take the curse off the cold, have a heater to warm your hands by, and be able to do most of the things I have wanted to do in the space. If you want to improve the space a little without breaking the bank, I've found that adding a layer of iso insulation on the interior and taping the joints will cut the infiltration and give you a bit more control. I've used 1 inch foil faced.

  2. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #2

    You could go with spray foam, but it’ll be very expensive. If this will be a DIY project, I’d use reclaimed polyiso. You’re going to find that pole barns are generally pretty leaky structures though, so it’ll take a lot to heat it unless you really sink a lot of time and money into insulating and airsealing the structure.


  3. Todd4391 | | #3

    Thank you both for your replies. I guess I should be a little more clear. i know I am not going to make this very energy efficient. However, cutting down the airflow with the garage doors closed will allow me to heat the space while I am working in there. It is a project I will be doing myself. I was just concerned about my approach because of concerns raised in many other posts I have read related to potential buildup of moisture. I did not think this wold be an issue with me since I know I will never keep this heated/cooled 24/7. Only when I'm working out there. I did not mention this my original post. There is a small added on room to this structure that was built in a similar manner.A contractor insulated the ceiling and walls in there. There is a very big difference in how this room maintains its heat. However, I am very conferenced about the moisture issue. I cant remember the R value, but I did have better garage doors added on. Thanks for any help!!

  4. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #4

    Insulating only one side of the wall is unlikely to cause any moisture issues. What you don’t want is a vapor barrier on both sides, which can happen if you put foam on one side and have poly over batts on the other. In your case, there would be foam on the inside, but exposed wood on the other, so you’ll have drying outwards for the walls.

    If your concern is humidity buildup in the interior air, I doubt very much you’ll get the building sealed tightly enough to worry about that. Overhead garage doors are notoriously leaky, and pretty much impossible to seal completely, so you’ll always have a lot of air movement there.


  5. Jon_R | | #5

    Even 1" of spray foam insulation would be a whole lot better than none. With enough adhesive, you can also use spray cellulose (walls and ceiling) - would be better from a fire standpoint.

    Radiant heat plus reflective walls/ceiling allows for more efficient heating even with large amounts of air leakage.

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    There shouldn't be any particular reason to worry about moisture. Your challenge is air sealing.

    You basically need to build a house within a house. For all intents and purposes, your existing structure is worthless except to keep off some of the rain and snow. You're starting from scratch. Build whatever wall and ceiling you can afford, paying particular attention to air sealing, and you'll be in a better situation than you are now.

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