Getting started on 30x50 garage/shop build

Would you share with us why you went with the heavier PEMB red iron type versus the newer, "lightweight" metal building?

I was looking at doing a 30x40 and about to get started in March 2020 and then...... So I waited, then materials doubled, tripled, so I bought a boat instead.
Basically because it was what I'm familiar with and was comfortable putting up myself. It's also largely clear span, and allowed me (if my math is correct) to get my vehicles over my head with a 2-post lift, while keeping a 12' eave height and low roof pitch (to save costs). I work for a structural steel fabricator and have been in that line of work for nearly 20 years, so I had access to helpers that knew their way around steel objects with holes in them, which is essentially all these kits are-- I was amazed how easy it was to put it up. I still have to install the sheeting/insulation though.

The "lightweight" tubular and truss-style buildings are really no different except lighter pieces that are easier to handle, but there's more of them and many are not clear span. I'd imagine putting it up would take longer due to amount of assembly required. But in the end, both are engineered to your local building codes, so are essentially the same structurally. I don't consider the "red-iron' building to be particular heavy duty (it's the engineering and how the pieces work together that does the magic)-- my teenage kids can carry any piece around by hand with one at each end. The heaviest pieces are the rigid frame members at the center which are actually made from structural steel, and even they weigh 200 lb or so at most. The rest is made from thin (14-16 gauge) cold rolled steel.

Wood scares me, I know nothing about it except how to cut it, sand it, and a few other elementary things.

If I had to do it over again, I'd probably build a simple pole barn style building. Folks around here are much more familiar with them and the building would have been up months ago. Finding concrete contractors familiar with rigid frame steel building requirements (more elaborate footings, proper steel reinforcement, etc.) was a real challenge. And what money you think you might save on a $17K steel building kit over a pole barn, will be eaten up and then some by concrete costs.
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Project is on hold until Monday. My eave struts were formed to the wrong roof pitch. I thought they looked odd when I unloaded them off the truck, like they were bent too far, but I didn't question it as this is my first foray into erecting one of these buildings.

It jumped out at me on Sunday when I was up at roof level installing the sill angle on the gable sides. When I got to the eave struts (they line the building on the sidewalls), they were pointed downhill at the top, instead of up with the roof pitch. The sides where the sidewall sheets attach are nowhere near plumb. They were clearly made for a much taller roof pitch.

Contacted building manufacturer with photos and they're sending four new ones, but won't be here until Monday. Costly error on their part, 600lb of steel shipped three states away can't be cheap. Easy fix on my part, only six bolts attach these and they're easy to get out, but another delay I don't need, especially in the midst of wonderful weather. If I were renting equipment instead of borrowing it, I'd be really upset.

Installed walk in door yesterday. Few other small things I can do, but mostly on hold till the new eave struts come in.

Wife and I went through the trim pieces and got to see the colors we chose up close and personal, instead of in a brochure. Trim is a "deep river blue", and walls are "smokestack grey".

The smokestack grey is a strange color, in the shade it brings on a bit of green hue to it (pictured), while in the sun a blue(er) hue comes out. The idea was for the walls to somewhat closely match the house (which I call duct tape grey), and a blue trim. Personally I don't think there's enough contrast, and perhaps we should have done blue sides w/ white trim or something bolder. But I don't think it'll look bad. We're out in the county with few neighbors, so aesthetics wasn't a huge priority.




House color:

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Got replacement eave struts installed yesterday, they're still bent at too great a pitch (I think it happens when they strap it down on the truck, not in manufacturing), but these ones are workable, nothing a couple 2x4's used as shoring / a wedge couldn't fix.

Started sheeting today. Had to take a break from the 92 degree humid and sunny weather. Sunburn + fiberglass particles = bad time. About to get back at it. Now that I've got the gist of it, it should be smooth sailing from here, and weather cools off considerably on Thursday.


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The invisible roof (extra cost option) leaks just a little, still need to fix that. All walls done. Vinyl insulation facing could have come out with less wrinkles, but if there's a 2-man crew out there battling 20mph wind that can do better, send me their number, because that part of the job sucks! But we did take the time to lap it and fold over the edges top and bottom properly, which a lot of installers skip. Will be just fine for a workshop. Photos do a real good job of picking up imperfections that I'll fix in due time, but you can't tell looking at it in person. I'm super grateful for all the help I've gotten from various friends! Lots of work left to be done.


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Finally emptied my yard of building parts and put the last piece on Monday.

Now I can move onto more enjoyable things like garage door, electric, gutters, some site leveling/drainage and especially installing 2-post lift. Definitely on the downhill side.

Still need to get my county inspector out here to finalize my building permit, wonder how long it takes before my tax bill goes up...

Started this whole thing with only some very rudimentary construction knowledge, sure learned a lot. Wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into, but these kits are not terribly difficult to put up, insulation is by far the worst part. But without the insulation all you have is a metal tin can IMO. It's amazing just the sound deadening that the insulation provides. Aside from the frame which took 4 people, most of it was done with just the wife and I, and a friend (with even less construction knowledge) on days the wife had stuff going on. 6 vacation days off work and 2-3 weekends is about the time I had in the actual construction of it, but we hired out the concrete. Being able to borrow a forklift & scissor lift from work which allowed me to take my time, was invaluable.


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Got the lift finished today. Instructions were terrible and they had the chain routed wrong from the factory, the secondary safety locks wouldn't work. So I had to remove a lift cylinder after it was installed which was quite messy, in order to reroute the chain. The other side I figured out how to do it without removing the lift cylinder, but having the lift cylinder there bruised up my hands pretty good working in that tight space. Oh well it's done now and I can put cars in the air. Still don't have electric (probably tackle that in the next month or two), running it off a 240V generator for now.

Seems my math worked out, I can put my tallest vehicle over my head (I'm 6'2) and I still have 1-2' of clearance before I come close to the roof purlins, on a building with 12' eave height. Still a little apprehensive working with 4800lb of vehicle over my head, but I'm sure I'll get used to it :)

I was a bit uneasy about installing it since my garage door won't be coming in for another 4 weeks, but if somebody wants to steal this thing, they better bring a lot of help. It's not coming down without a fight.


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Working on electric today, got the main cable fed.

Went with #2-2-2-4 MHF (mobile home feeder) cable which is dual rated for direct burial and for use inside structures. It's aluminum wire which is not very flexible, but it went through the 1-1/2" conduit without too much difficulty. I used conduit so I only had to dig an 18" trench (was worried about my water line which runs underneath somewhere) as opposed to 24" for direct bury, county requirements. Whole thing was smooth sailing.

Wire is code compliant for 90A service to the subpanel. I used a 60A breaker at the main panel because that's honestly all I'll need for quite some time, and it was a $16 breaker as opposed to $75+ for a 90A breaker. But upgrading to 90A service is as easy as changing the breaker inside the main panel.

Got a 30-space 100A panel for the shop. Still need to do ground rods, but have to run back to the store for those & ground wire. Electric stuff adds up quick! I'm going to hopefully mount everything, fill in the trench and get ground rods installed, maybe at least install a quad outlet so I'll have some sort of electric in the shop by the end of the weekend.


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Got the electric tidied up, panel fully mounted. Put a temporary 120V quad receptacle and a 240V outlet in just to run things until I can get EMT conduit run and outlets placed where I want them.

Also finished installing the first lighting circuit, used 15A breaker /14ga MC cable for that, but nearly all of it is hidden. Picked up a bunch of LED fixtures on clearance at Rural King about a year ago for $4 a piece, too good a deal to pass up and figured I could utilize them in the shop somehow... I think they turned out pretty good. I still have to put in real overhead shop lighting, but at least the LED fixtures will keep the sides of the building out of the shadows, which is typical on a lower roof height when you just install overhead lights.


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About have this thing wrapped up. Garage door finally arrived and was installed after about a 10 week lead time. Standard insulated raised panel residential door. Hired that out, but will install an opener myself when time permits.

Electrical is done for all intents and purposes. It's way overkill. I made heavy use of multi-wire branch circuits which allowed me to run two 120V 20A circuits to various locations while sharing a neutral wire. Code only permits 9 current carrying wires in conduit, but when a neutral is shared in a MWBC it's no longer considered current carrying. So less conduit/wiring/labor was required and allows me to convert or add 20A 240V outlets in the future if I need them for my welder or something. The downside is I had to use a lot of GFCI outlets (double pole GFCI breakers are way too expensive) to meet code. The inspector passed me, but noted there was conduit not secured within 3' of boxes and I have one junction box he considered overfilled which I fixed with a simple box extension.

We had 50+ mph wind gusts the other day which really tested the building and garage door-- both held up fine but I realized the man/entry door that opens to the outside is a disaster waiting to happen even though I had it open toward the prevailing wind direction. Installed an automatic closer which worked out fantastic. No more kids slamming the door or wind whipping it out of your hand.

In spring I have to do some more grading around the building (there's some low spots which pool water) and finish the driveway. My goal is to do a wraparound circle driveway with a garden/decorative sort of thing in the middle. The wife might have other ideas though.


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Still need to get my county inspector out here to finalize my building permit, wonder how long it takes before my tax bill goes up...

Not long, At times I think that's the only reason they have you pull permits....So they can tax you accordingly. The guys that "inspected" my shop building didn't inspect anything.
Not long, At times I think that's the only reason they have you pull permits....So they can tax you accordingly. The guys that "inspected" my shop building didn't inspect anything.
You're exactly right. I got my tax bill last month and the property value went up $50K. They made no mention of the new building, so I naively thought it was ordinary appreciation (property values going up like crazy here), so wanted to dispute it.

I emailed our county property value administrator directly, and he responded something like:

"We got notice that the building department passed the final inspection, so we sent our deputies out to your property to take measurements and ascertain a value on the new building. If you'd still like to dispute it, you can file a formal dispute."

Oh well, between normal appreciation for this area and what I have in the building (and what I think I could sell the whole place for), I think it's fair. Fortunately our property taxes on a percentage basis aren't too crazy.