A beautiful red Pole Barn that's surrounded by natural and has a warm sunset on its background.

Pole Barn vs Metal Building in 2024: How Do They Differ?

A beautiful red Pole Barn that's surrounded by natural and has a warm sunset on its background.
A beautiful red Pole Barn that’s surrounded by natural and has a warm sunset on its background.

At first glance, a pole barn and a metal building can look the same. Both can have metal sidings, metal roofing, and similar aesthetic features. So, what is the difference between the two? In this article, we will look into the main differences between these two types of buildings. If you are in the planning stages of construction and don’t know which building is best, you might find something helpful in this article. 

Pole Barn and Metal Building Overview

What is a Pole Barn?

A pole barn is a type of building with large, wide-spanning roof trusses supported by vertical wood posts or wooden poles embedded into the ground. Pole barns are also known as post-frame buildings. They can serve a wide variety of purposes, such as hay storage, livestock, and farming equipment. 

Pole barns are a popular choice to be used as workshops, garages, and pole barn homes. Pole barns are often simpler and more cost-effective to construct than traditional stick-built structures, making them a popular choice for agricultural buildings and other types of rural buildings.

If you are keen to learn more about pole barns, we have a complete guide to pole barns with everything you need to know.


  • Cost-effective
  • Versatile
  • Easy to modify or upgrade in the future
  • Easy to construct.
  • More opportunity for cost reduction


  • Requires more maintenance and upkeep.
  • Susceptible to pests, water damage, decay, and mold.
  • Wood can be prone to warp, shift,  and shink.
  • Shorter lifespan

What is a Metal Building?

Metal buildings are commonly constructed with steel or other metal materials. They are known for their strength, durability, and versatility. These buildings are available in various sizes, shapes, and custom floor plans. They can be pre-fabricated or built on-site. Metal buildings can also serve a variety of purposes, including industrial, commercial, and residential, and can be used as warehouses, factories, aircraft hangars, office buildings, schools, churches, metal barns, and even homes. Houses with this type of construction are often referred to as barndominiums.  If you want to look into examples of these houses, you can join our Facebook Group.


  • Durability and longevity.
  • Fire and pest resistant
  • Versatile.
  • Low maintenance.
  • The exterior shell typically comes with a warranty.
  • Wide clear span. 


  • Can be prone to buckling if not manufactured up to standard.  
  • Generally cost higher than pole barns.
  • Can be prone to rust and corrosion.  

Metal building homes are becoming popular. Alternative housing solutions, like shipping container homes and tiny houses, are also growing in popularity. If you want to look into metal building homes specifically, we have an insightful article on the advantages and disadvantages of metal building homes.

What are the Differences Between Pole Barn and Metal Building?

Design and Construction

The material used in framing a pole barn is mainly wood. Posts are erected vertically and spaced uniformly on the ground or a concrete foundation. These posts make up the frame of a pole barn, and it serves as the main support for the weight of the building. The entire weight of the building, including the roof, is supported by the posts. Pole barn roofing is typically made of metal or asphalt shingles. The roof is framed by pole barn trusses that run the span of the building.

Pole barns are less expensive to construct. Building a pole barn does not require specialized equipment, making it easier and quicker to build. Because of this, the construction of pole barns requires less labor and time. This helps lower the cost of the project. 

Metal buildings are framed using high-grade steel or other metal materials. Steel columns are anchored into a concrete foundation and typically spaced uniformly, making up the structure’s perimeter. 

Pre-engineered metal buildings are prefabricated in a factory and delivered to the customer as a kit. Being built in a controlled environment means construction can continue regardless of the weather. This helps achieve shorter construction time with your build. This also means fabrication has a greater level of precision and accuracy. This adds to the reliability and longevity of the structure. 

Prefabricated pole barns are also becoming more widely available. We have compiled an article featuring the top sellers of pole barn home kits.

Longevity and Durability

We now know that pole buildings and metal buildings use different materials for their framing. The question now is, how does this affect the longevity of the buildings?

Without proper treatment, wood can be damaged by pests, decay, and rot. Using pressure-treated wood, which is treated with chemicals, can help extend its longevity. However, it is still not as durable as metal frames. Nails are used to fasten the pole barn frame together. Over time, they can become loose and potentially get dislodged. This can compromise the integrity of the building

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On the other hand, metal buildings use bolts or are welded together. The steel framing is bolted, welded together, or both bolted and welded together to form the structural frame of the building. The roof and walls are typically made of metal panels. This results in a highly durable building. This also means that it is fire-resistant and will not rot. This is not to say metal buildings are perfect in this regard. They are still prone to rust, especially when constantly exposed to moisture.

Resistance to Damage

Both wood pole barns and metal buildings can be built to withstand load bearings and inclement weather conditions. Nevertheless, their resistance level varies depending on the building materials, construction, and design. Steel structures offer better weather resistance, but pole barns can be made highly durable by using high-quality materials such as treated wood and metal roofing. 

The wood of pole barn frames can be susceptible to fire and termite damage if not treated properly. However, modern pole barns can be designed with fire-resistant materials like metal pole barn siding and roofing. The wood is typically treated, so it is resistant to natural deterioration and insects. 

Generally, metal buildings are naturally superior in terms of resistance to damage. No amount of wood treatment can make a pole barn frame as durable as high-grade steel. 


The foundation is a crucial component of any structure as it supports the weight of the building and everything in it. Without it, the building would quickly settle unevenly into the ground, causing cracks and other damage. Even during a flood or earthquake, a correctly designed foundation will keep the building level and supported. Pole barns have a simpler foundation. Since they are constructed using poles driven into the ground, the concrete where the poles are anchored serves as the building’s foundation, and you can opt for dirt flooring. This may not be as durable as other foundation types. However, its simplicity means that it is significantly cheaper.

On the other hand, metal buildings require a concrete slab for their foundation. This type of foundation provides a stable base for the building, which helps it distribute the structure’s weight. Concrete is an excellent long-term solution as durability and longevity are its main features. However, installation can take time, and it drives up the cost of the building. 

The concrete slab of a metal building allows for a wide range of flooring options. You can use tiles, vinyl, natural wood, stone, or bare concrete for the flooring of your building.


The cost of a building can depend on several factors such as location, floor plan design, size, and of course, material. Generally, pole barns are less expensive than metal buildings because they use fewer materials. They can also be built more quickly, meaning you can save on labor costs. 

The table below shows a cost estimate of steel buildings compared to pole barns by General Steel.

Steel BuildingPole Barn
A cost estimate of steel buildings compared to pole barns by General Steel.

As you can see, pricing can be similar for smaller buildings. However, when it comes to larger-sized buildings, steel buildings tend to cost more.

Keep in mind that the cost of a foundation will add to the overall cost. As mentioned earlier, pole barns can opt for a simple, low-cost foundation. It is also important to remember that long-term maintenance costs can have a significant effect. Less durable pole barns can mean more spending on maintenance and repairs. Aggressively cutting costs, especially on the footings, will compromise the integrity of the building.  Keep this in mind when you are going for the lowest possible pole barn prices

In addition, insurance costs tend to be cheaper for metal buildings as insurance providers consider the durability of the building. Metal buildings also hold more market value. This is important to consider if you plan on selling the building in future. You can request a quote from your local builders for a more accurate estimate.


Both pole buildings and metal buildings are great options for smaller buildings. However, pole barn buildings are faced with a limitation in clear span at around 60 feet to 100 feet. If the design of the building exceeds these spans, the cost can escalate dramatically. However, this would still depend on your location and builders.

In comparison, metal buildings can be built to have wider clear spans without any issues. The material can support heavy loads and allow you to install things like massive hangar doors. 

Which is Better Between a Pole Barn or a Metal Building?

Deciding which is better between the two types of buildings is not as easy. This is because the answer depends on several factors. What is the intended use of the building? How much is the budget? Where will it be built? What is the personal preference of the owner? The answers to these questions will help an individual determine the better choice. 

How to Choose Between a Metal Building and a Pole Barn

As mentioned, choosing between the two hinges on several factors that you need to consider. This section will help you decide between a metal building and a pole barn.

Choose Metal Building If:

  • The primary purpose of the building is for agricultural, industrial, commercial, or residential applications such as barndominiums; investing in sturdy metal buildings is ideal.
  • You are mostly concerned about the durability of the building. Metal buildings are popular for their longevity and will likely outlast their owners.
  • You don’t want to hassle yourself with maintenance. Investing in metal buildings can give you peace of mind. You don’t have to think about repairs and maintenance costs as often as a pole barn.
  • You are building in a location known for harsh weather conditions. The durability of these buildings allows them to withstand storms and heavy snowfall. 

Choose Pole Barn If:

  • The primary use of the building is for non-heavy-duty commercial or residential purposes. 
  • You don’t mind more maintenance over time to ensure the pole barn is in good condition.
  • You want to construct a building quicker and with lower costs.
  • You don’t need concrete flooring on the building. Pole barns can be built with a dirt floor.
  • You want more flexibility with the build. Pole barns offer great customization options for a unique and more personalized design. Some metal building contractors don’t offer this option. If they do, it is often with much greater cost.
  • You plan to build in a location with a moderate climate. Harsh weather can be a problem for pole barn buildings. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a pole barn and a metal building is an important decision you need to make as both building types are a huge investment. Both offer unique advantages and disadvantages; deciding based on your needs and preferences is important. You can consult a professional builder if you are still unsure which building to pick. The bottom line is that both buildings are excellent options for a wide range of uses.

With careful consideration of the information you have learned here, you can choose a building that meets your needs and can provide reliable and long-lasting performance for many years.

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