Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Paying for a utility building is not cheap. Property owners want their investments to last for good reason. Customers often ask us the best ways to keep their shops lasting long enough to pass to the next generation.
At Farrow Built we have discovered four main areas that make the biggest impact on a building’s longevity. All of them have tradeoffs in terms of cost and time and all of them should be discussed before building begins.
1. Engineered Plans and Inspections
While there are many buildings out there that have stood for years, the best ones are always engineered. The support column size needs to be calculated. As does truss span length, footing depth, and floor thickness. Getting an engineer’s stamp means the building will be structurally sound for its intended use and conditions.
For a building to be correctly engineered there must be on-site inspections by the engineer. Engineers need to assess site conditions for water runoff, soil, and grading options. Typical snow and ice buildup will play a role in specifying the roof pitch.
British Columbia requires that the engineer do, at a minimum, one on-site inspection. The rest can be done through photos sent in by the contractor or builder.
2. Solid Foundation
The foundation is the most crucial part of any building. If a proper foundation isn’t installed the building may settle at odd angles over time. Other issues, such as heaving due to freezing ground, can be avoided with footings at the proper depth.
This is where an engineer is helpful. They will understand the forces exerted on the foundation from above and below ground.
There are two styles of foundation that are far superior to any others.
The most common foundation is concrete. Whether it is a post frame or a stick frame building, an engineered concrete foundation is preferred.
An excellent alternative to a concrete foundation is screw piles. These steel anchors are useful as pilings where deep foundations are needed. Engineered screw piles are every bit as strong as a concrete foundation. They are also faster and easier to install.
3. Quality Materials
A key component of a strong and durable building is using quality materials. The materials should be suitable for the site and
On-site engineering inspections will ensure the correct materials are being used.
Don't be afraid to ask about the manufacturer's warranty on the building materials. With most cladding and siding you can expect up to a 40-year warranty.
Wood finishes are attractive but require more ongoing maintenance. They rarely come with a warranty.
4. Professional Builder
Hiring a professional, experienced builder will tie the above three points together.
An experienced builder in your area will have connections with engineers and understand the materials that work best for your conditions. Building a shop requires a full spectrum of skills to ensure it’s done correctly.
Site grading, and installing piers, footings, and engineered foundations all require a wide skill set. Getting the site and foundation in correctly is literally the basis of a sturdy, long-lasting building.