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Pole Building Glossary

When talking with your Kirkham Building System representative, or reading our informational booklet, sometimes the construction terms we use can get a bit confusing. That's why we're providing you with this ultimate guide of easy-to-understand terms that you can reference when planning your building.

General Terms

Pole Building/Post-Frame Building: A construction technique where large poles or posts are buried in the ground, or on a foundation, to provide vertical structural support, along with girts to provide horizontal support.

Galvalume: A specialized combination of aluminum, silicon, and zinc which is applied to a steel substrate through a patented hot-dip process. The result is a corrosion resistant sheet of steel roofing or siding.

Garandominium: Our version of a 'barndominium'. A dwelling of half garage/workshop space, and half living space.

Grade: Where the ground meets the building

On Center: How far apart the poles are placed. For example, 8 feet 'on center' means there's 8 feet from the middle of one pole to the middle of of the next pole.

Pressure Treated Wood: Lumber that has gone through a process of being infused with a solution of water and preservative agents to protect the wood from rot and insects.


Secured Loan: A type of debt where the borrower pledges some collateral. For example, their house or car.

Unsecured Loan: A type of debt that is not protected by a guarantor or collateralized.


Builder's Risk Insurance: Covers your project (material and labor) in case of fire, natural disaster, vandalism or theft.

Liability Insurance: Insurance that covers bills should an accident occur during construction that damages a person or property.

Parts of a Pole Building

Concrete footer: The purpose of footings is to support the foundation and prevent settling.

Cupola: A relatively small, dome-like, tall structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout, to admit light and air, or to place a weather vane on.

Diaphragm: A roof, floor or other system transferring lateral forces applied to a building to the vertical elements, such as the shear walls.

Eave Side: Side of the building where gutters are installed

Gable End: Sides of building where you can see the peak of the roofline going upwards

Knee Braces: An inclined diagonal lumber piece connecting to, and extending from, the sidewall columns. They are usually several feet below the truss to column connection, across and attached to the face of the trusses. They are intended to supplement the lateral resistance of post frames when loaded by lateral wind forces.

Overhang: How far the roof is hanging past the walls.

Roof Purlins: Pieces of lumber that provide structure; where the metal panels are attached

Trim: The finish materials, mostly around openings

Trusses: The support system of the roof; provides interior ceiling

Wainscot: A strip of steel installed on the lower section of the building, typically in a contrasting color

Wall Girts: Provide lateral support to the wall panel, primarily, to resist wind loads


General Foreman: Person in charge of the construction crew.

Subcontractors: Groups of people, or a single person, hired by the main contractor (us) to complete specific, smaller parts of a project. For example, electrical, HVAC, and concrete pouring.

Superintendent: Coordinates construction crew, suppliers and third parties on job sites.


Accessory: An extra building product that serves the main structure (i.e. the house). For example, garages, barns, decks and pools.

Addition: An extension or increase in floor area or height of an already existing building.

Agricultural Exemption: Different townships and municipalities have different rules on what classifies a building or property as 'agricultural'. Most will require the property to be more than 5 acres, and the building to be used purely for livestock or farming purposes. With an agricultural exemption, you are not required to follow the zoning rules of your area.

Non-conforming Use: Any use, structure or building that doesn’t comply with the applicable zoning regulations.

Setback: How far your building must be from other structures, property lines, or the road.

Variance: A discretionary, limited waiver or modification of a zoning requirement. It is applied in situations where the strict application of the requirement would result in a practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship for the landowner.


To learn more about our post-frame building system, visit our features page or call our office at 740-548-7810.

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