It’s the time of year to tackle those necessary building repairs, renovations and additions on the farm and ranch.
Construction companies across the Midwest are busy building farm shops, pole sheds, garages, and even combination home-farm shops.
“From now ‘til winter, it’s getting very busy – 80% of our buildings are for agriculture-related projects, and we offer all the materials for either a wood frame or steel frame building, as well as the plans for a customized building,” said Mike Skillstad, building manager at Farm and Ranch Building Supply in Norfolk, Nebraska.
There are certain sizes that work well, but if someone prefers a custom-sized building or specific doors, Mead’s folks work from scratch to create it however the customer wants, Skillstad said.
“This year has been a crazy year with all the storm damage,” Skillstad said. They’re in the midst of building a 60- by 104-foot structure to replace one a tornado hit near Niobrara, Nebraska this spring.
In Kansas, requests for farm and ranch construction have increased dramatically this summer. A north central Kansas company has been building a shop addition adjacent to their own store where they manufacture trusses. Belleville Hometown Lumber in Belleville, Kansas builds trusses for pole sheds and floor systems for houses.
“We built our current truss shop (66’x144’) in 2019 and are currently in the midst of doubling its size; by attaching another building to it. Besides more space, this will allow us to add a second automated saw, another assembly table and more staff to increase production,” co-owner Monica Douglas said.
“Barndominiums” are a newer trend. The barn or shed converted into a condominium or house is also called a “shouse.” They’re considered an economical way of building houses today, and are especially requested in rural settings. They’re also an option for homeowners who need extra storage or for repurposing a large garage, creating a workshop or storing an RV.
“We tailor to each person’s needs. We just finished erecting a bardominium in northwest Kansas, and what’s most appealing is there’s no maintenance on the outside with the metal siding,” said Brad Leitner, owner of Leitner Buildings based in Hays, Kansas.
The barndominium they just built has four bedrooms with an attached garage. The customer hopes to move into it later this summer.
Leitner said people are looking for a more affordable home due to changes in the economy.
His company designs, builds and erects custom buildings across Kansas. They handle farm buildings, garages, livestock, residential and storage buildings. They’re very busy but they’re taking orders.
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“In our company in the last 10 years we’ve never built the same building twice,” Leitner says.
Farm and Ranch Building Supply in Norfolk also builds “shouses.”
“Shouses are very popular lately, built with post-frame building principles and at least part of the building is going to be a house. Sometimes the whole building is going to be a house,” Skillstad said.
They’re working on a 60-by-88-foot shouse near Pierce, Nebraska. They build everything from scratch.
Three weeks is a common time to build from beginning to end, depending on labor which has been the most difficult part of construction lately, Skillstad said.
For farmers, ranchers or anyone looking for a building ready to go, pre-engineered steel buildings of all sizes are available from a company near Hoxie, Kansas.
“All we do is erect pre-engineered steel buildings, all sizes,” said Jared Dowell, who owns and operates Elite Steel Inc.
Their standard building is generally 5,000 square feet, up to 15,000 feet. Most of their work is for individual farmers, seed sales people, nutrient or fertilizer suppliers or feedlot work.
“When I first started, 80% of our business was farm buildings in 2008. A large percentage of our work is ag related,” Dowell said.
Elite Steel works across Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado, and has its first Missouri project.
Typically, there are two primary purposes for farmers’ buildings: either storage of equipment or as a workshop area or a combination.
Dowell’s company just finished a large building for a customer who provides liquid fertilizer, enabling them to take bulk fertilizer tanks in and out. They’ve also erected quite a few projects for a family in northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska who owns several feedlots.
When it comes to choice of materials, steel buildings are more economical to build to the height and width that can accommodate bigger equipment and storage. They require more concrete structure than wood structures and they tend to “weather” better, Dowell said.
After helping farmers and ranchers build and re-build for over 40 years, the construction business is second nature to Skillstad: “I stumbled into it, and haven’t been able to get out of it.”
Reporter Amy Hadachek is a two-time Emmy Award winning meteorologist and a storm chaser who earned her NWA and AMS Broadcast Meteorology Seals of Approval. She and her husband live on a diversified farm in Kansas. Reach her at [email protected].