Friday, July 1, 2016

Choosing a barn builder

Once I knew what kind of barn I wanted, I needed to find someone to build it for me.  While I'm quite handy, and technically capable of building a barn myself, I knew that doing so would cause me far more frustration and exhaustion than I wanted.  I'd much rather pay an expert to build it in a couple weeks.  Fortunately, in an agricultural state like Nebraska, there's no shortage of companies that build pole barns.

I came up with a short list of builders by visiting the Home & Garden Show and talking with friends.

Everybody said that Morton was the Cadillac of pole buildings.  High quality, but also high price.  I knew this barn would already be expensive, so I didn't even bother calling Morton.

Cleary (working out of Roca) also got good reviews.  I spoke with a few friends who had Cleary buildings, and they all spoke highly of both the building quality and the process of dealing with the builder.  Cleary was reputed to be on the low-to-middle end of the price spectrum.

Astro Buildings (working out of Crete) was reputed to be in the same price range as Cleary.  They were the only builder present at the home show we attended.

Mi-Way Enterprises (Wayne Stubbendeck and working out of Elmwood) was also recommended as making a good quality building for the money.

Several people recommended Pickrell Lumber (in Pickrell) was recommended by several people as being a very low-cost builder.  They don't have a web presence.  I called them twice and left messages with actual humans, but their pole building expert never called me back.

When I called Mi-Way, they came out that same evening to look at my site & talk with me about my plans.  He was very friendly, and seemed easy to work with.  Unfortunately, after that first meeting, I never could get him to return any more calls or emails, so I gave up on him.

Astro was fairly responsive to my emails.  I sent them my sketches & list of requirements, and they quickly sent me back a quote that didn't even remotely resemble the building that I'd described.  He came out to my acreage later to look over my site, and I gave him printed copies of what I envisioned.  He soon sent me another quote that was closer to what I wanted, but still had some glaring differences that indicated he really wasn't paying attention to what I was saying.  That's not the kind of builder I want to deal with, so I gave up on them, too.

Cleary took a while to get back to my initial inquiry.  Once I finally got a hold of them, though, I found Pat Welch (their sales guy) to be very knowledgeable, friendly, and easy to work with.  His first quote was pretty close to what I'd asked for, and he made several good suggestions for improvements to my plan.  I learned that they had built barns for numerous people that I know.  During the lengthy design phase, Pat & I exchanged many emails & phone calls.  He sent me several computer renderings of the design we were discussing.  He even recommended several opportunities for me to do work myself or obtain parts myself rather than buying them directly through Cleary so that I could save a fair bit of money.

Cleary's rendering of my final design

In the end, I signed my contract with Cleary.  I'm writing this on the first day of construction, and so far, I haven't regretted my choice.  The only caveat is that you should pay close attention to the plans and the quote that you're given.  We had a couple small miscommunications that would have been frustrating if I hadn't been watching closely and caught them early.

I ended up agreeing to do (or at least arrange) a fair bit of work myself, including building 40' of 9'-tall double-bypass sliding doors for the machine shed lean-to, because Pat said that Cleary doesn't build doors like that.  We'll see if I end up regretting that by the time winter hits.

If any of you have any experience with building an out building, I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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