Pole Barn Foundations: Your Complete Guide

You can’t ignore it. You want that new structure, but first you have to have a pole barn foundation. Without this vital piece of the building, your pole barn will lack the needed structural support and integrity needed to ensure that you can use your building for what it’s worth. 

In this article, we will explain the different types of pole barn foundations and the appropriate time to use each of them. If you have specific pole barn foundation questions, skip to our FAQ section

Alrighty, ready to get an education? Read on! 

A pole barn with a pole barn foundation.

What foundation is required for a pole barn?

Well, we’ve both come to the conclusion that everyone needs a foundation for a pole barn. But the question remains what foundation should be used? This question is nuanced, and is dependent on the ground that you’re planning to build on (jump to our detailed answer to this question). But generally, there are two main pole barn foundation options: post in the ground or the monolithic pad

A pole barn with a post in the ground pole barn foundation.

Post in the ground

With the post in the ground method, posts are anchored in concrete bases as the foundation. How does this pan out? Every post is buried 3-4 feet in the ground and is made stationary on a base of concrete surrounding the pole barn footings. Then, from there we can get to the building! 

A pole barn with a monolithic pole barn foundation.

Monolithic pad

When you choose a monolithic pad as your pole barn foundation option, a concrete slab will be poured beforehand. Then, each pole will be anchored on top of the concrete foundation. To further clarify, the difference between a monolithic pad and post-in-the-ground foundation lies in the posts. For monolithic concrete pads, a concrete pad is the anchor for the posts. On the other hand, the post-in-the-ground foundation places posts directly in the ground and then creates a solid foundation with poured concrete around the posts. 

For a pole barn foundation, it’s imperative to build a solid pad where there’s dirt, gravel or concrete. If you’re building a dirt pad, make sure it’s packed in hard with heavy equipment. That will give it a solid base in which to start laying the foundation. Additionally, always ensure that there is ample space for water drainage. When you add several inches of gravel, water will be able to drain efficiently. 

What are the best foundations for pole barns?

While you’re thinking about building a pole barn foundation, you have to consider the ground surrounding the final location of your pole barn. In short, if you’re planning to build over rocky soil, a monolithic foundation is your best bet. But, a post-in-the-ground foundation is recommended for compacted soil

A pole barn with a solid pole barn foundation

Monolithic Foundation 

So your land is pretty rocky? No worries! A monolithic foundation will save your contractor the hassle, time, and energy of jack-hammering into the solid rock. Instead of drilling footers and holes, a monolithic foundation will, inevitably, reserve your time and money. We just created extra cash to invest in your future, am I right? 

A pole barn with a pole barn foundation.

Post-In-The-Ground Foundation 

Now, if you have really great digging conditions and the soil is very compacted, then drilling footers and holes and setting the posts in concrete would be the best and most cost-effective method

What are the different kinds/styles/methods of pole barn foundations? 

For pole barn foundations, there are a few different styles of pole barn footings that can be utilized. These options include:

  • Post-In-The-Ground with concrete and no post protector
  • Post-In-The-Ground with concrete and a post protector
  • Monolithic Pad 

Post-In-The-Ground with concrete and no post protector

With this method, posts are placed in the ground with concrete holding its center. Because there are no post protectors, you do take the risk of running into contamination or micro-organisms. 

A pole barn with a pole barn foundation.

Post-In-The-Ground with concrete and a post protector

We just went through and explained this style of pole barn foundations, but now with added post protection you are accumulating many different advantages, including:

  • Decay Prevention. Post protectors add a layer between the post and soil, reducing the risk of decay caused by microorganisms, fungi, and insects. 
  • Increased Longevity. By preventing decay, post protectors significantly increase the lifespan of the wooden posts in your post frame foundation. 
  • Cost Savings. While a post protector may give a small, initial “sticker shock,” the benefits will potentially save you money in the long run. 
  • Code Compliance. Some areas of the United States may actually require your post frame foundations to have post protectors. 
  • Enhanced Aesthetics. Especially if your pole barn is used for commercial use, post protectors may add to the overall aesthetic. 

Monolithic Pad 

As we’ve outlined before, a monolithic pole barn foundation is a concrete foundation laid with poles made stationary on top. 

Style Pros Cons 
Posts with no protector Cheaper initially; great for compacted soil Rotting or exposure to microorganisms may occur; not a good option if building on rocky soil 
Posts with protector Protects against decay; increased longevity; saves money in the long run; great for compacted soil Not a good option if building on rocky soil 
Monolithic Pad Great for rocky soil; stable; affordable; quick pole barn foundation option; easier for the concrete finishers to make smooth Uses more concrete for the monolithic footers 
A pole barn with a pole barn post frame.

How deep should a pole barn foundation be?

For a post-in-the-ground foundation, each pole should be placed 3-4 feet in the ground. If you opt for a monolithic pad, the foundation should be at least a foot thick around all of the edges. 

How is a pole barn foundation different from a normal foundation?

Overall, a traditional foundation requires a concrete base much thicker and further down than a pole barn foundation. 

Traditional foundation 

A traditional foundation needs a trench dug around the perimeter of the building and a concrete base poured well below grade. Next, block is laid to set on that foundation. Then, either a block or concrete wall is brought up to grade or a little above grade. Finally, the actual building would be established on the rock-solid foundation. 

A pole barn with a pole barn foundation.

Post frame

For a pole barn foundation, posts are placed in the ground, enabling every post to be its own foundation like a pier. Alternatively, a pole barn foundation may be a concrete pad poured for the building and the rest of the structure is built on top of that. 

How should I prepare for my pole barn foundation? 

This article is not designed to dig into the nuances of prepping for a pole barn foundation. However, we want to give you a sneak peek at some tips regarding this project:

  1. We know you’re excited about your new pole barn! Who wouldn’t? But before you get too deep into the nitty gritty decision making, check to see what the local building codes are in your area. You might need to get a building and/or zoning permit for this project. For specific answers to your questions regarding pole barn permits in TN, check out our article. 
  2. Ensure your area is clear of any large objects such as trees, stumps, large rocks, bushes, small structures, ect. 
  3. Adding a post frame foundation is not something you want to take lightly. Consider looking around for a quality contractor who you can trust to do that job right. The first time. 
A pole barn with a solid pole barn foundation.


How deep to bury pole barn posts?

While it can vary at times, generally 3-4 feet is the recommended depth. 

How big of a footing do I need for a 6×6 post? 

For a 6×6 post, we recommend a footing 18 inches in diameter and 8 inches thick under the post. 

How long will a 6×6 post last in the ground? 

Most CCA treated 6×6 posts are warranted for 30-40 years. Better yet, some companies including Old South Wood, have a lifetime warranty.

Can you use 4×4 posts for a pole barn? 

No, you can not use 4×4 posts for a pole barn.  

A pole barn with a monolithic pole barn foundation

Summing It All Up…

Hopefully, now you have a clearer understanding of the different pole barn foundations available and the differences between them. If you want to learn more about hybrid pole barns, take a look at our article.

Looking for a pole barn? Here at Troyer Post Buildings, we pride ourselves in building quality pole barns that are fully customizable through our 3D Builder. Take a moment to get a free quote or browse our in-stock inventory

All the best on your pole barn dreams!