A Comparison of Steel Building Designs

Pole Barn


Quonset Hut

Steel buildings are proving to be a popular build option. Not only does steel construction save trees and help the environment, there are practical bottom line reasons to erect one too. They include lower cost, greater resiliency to Mother Nature and adaptability.

In this article, we'll compare top brands such as Mueller, Olympia and Armstrong for the following steel building types:

Metrics to consider

Steel buildings are an excellent alternative to traditional brick and mortar or wood construction facilities. Before you pick what kind of steel building you want, think about these characteristics to ensure you choose one with the features that work best for your intended purpose.

Straight Wall

  • Sizing considerations. How much room do you need? Is it just floor space? A traditional Quonset hut is a full arch, limiting cubic storage space. If straight walls are a must for racks or other storage, determine your square footage requirements.

  • Construction speed. Steel buildings can come in a kit and go up in just a few days to a few weeks, depending on accessories and delivery times.

  • Durability. The thicker and stronger the steel, the more durable the building. However, thicker steel costs more as well. In general, steel buildings will weather almost anything and last a long time with minimum maintenance. Make sure the extra cost for increased durability is really necessary.

  • Popular structural uses. Steel buildings make excellent livestock buildings, retail or warehouse storage facilities, and are good for other commercial uses such as garages, workshops, airplane hangars, church buildings, gymnasiums, riding or sports arenas and self-storage facilities. People have begun to use the method to construct living quarters in addition to more common residential uses such as storage or garden sheds.

  • Insulation type. Different types of insulation are ideal for different steel buildings. Some builders use a variety of insulation to gain the combined efficiencies of insulations better suited for walls versus ceilings for instance. Types of insulation include loose-fill, batt and blanket, spray form, rigid board and the most popular option, fiberglass.

  • Kits. Kits contain pre-fabricated and cut materials so you can assemble it on your own. Many kits are customizable so you can add or substitute components to construct the building you need.

  • Pricing. Prices vary from as little as $1500 for a 6’ by 9’ foot shed to tens of thousands of dollars for larger facilities.

Design comparisons

Despite some similarities, each steel building manufacturer has an element that sets them apart from their competition. Investigate strengths and weaknesses to pick the provider that gives you the steel building that meets your needs.

Pole Barns

A pole barn is a building constructed on a basic foundation with poles set in the ground, connected by beams and enclosed with steel panels on top and all sides. It is a basic structure with several uses, such as livestock pens, storage, garages, workshops and much more.

Pole BarnsMuellerOlympiaFutureArmstrong
Sizing24' x24' x10'24' x24' x10'24' x24' x10'24' x24' x10'
Construction Speed2 - 7 days2 - 7 days3 - 10 days3 - 10 days
Durability30 year warranty on walls; 20 year warranty on roof40 year warranty, all parts20 year warranty, all parts25 year warranty, all parts
Specialty Uses Garage, workshopWorkshops, storageGarage, storageStorage, workshop
AccessoriesRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk Doors
Insulation TypeAllAllAllAll
KitsYesYesYesYes
Pricing$3,600 - $4,500$3,700 - $4,500$3,400 - $4,200$3,800 - $4,400
Quonset Huts

A Quonset hut is much like a pole barn but instead uses a semicircular cross section that gives it a rounded shape. While some versions have straight walls and an arch roofed, the traditional Quonset has no straight walls.

Quonset HutOlympiaFutureArmstrong
Sizing30' x 40'30' x 40'30' x 40'
Construction Speed2 - 7 days3 - 10 days3 - 10 days
Durability40 year warranty, all parts20 year warranty, all parts25 year warranty, all parts
Specialty UsesWorkshops, storageGarage, storageStorage, workshop
AccessoriesRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk Doors
Insulation TypeAllAllAll
KitsYesYesYes
Pricing $7,500 - $30,000$8,500 - $30,000$7,000 -$30,000

Straight Walls

A straight wall building uses steel columns and rafter beams to create a single frame for the building. Sometimes confused with pole barns, straight wall steel buildings offer the added benefit of a larger clearspan without the need for load bearing columns or walls.

Straight WallsMuellerOlympiaFutureArmstrong
Sizing24' x 30' x 11'24' x 30' x 11'24' x 30' x 11'24' x 30' x 11'
Construction Speed2 - 7 days2 - 7 days3 - 10 days3 - 10 days
Durability30 year warranty on walls; 20 year warranty on roof40 year warranty, all parts20 year warranty, all parts25 year warranty, all parts
Specialty UsesGarage, workshopWorkshops, storageGarage, storageStorage, workshop
AccessoriesRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk DoorsRoll Up Doors, Trim, Walk Doors
Insulation TypeAllAllAllAll
KitsYesYesYesYes
Pricing $4,000 - $4,600$4,200 - $5,000$3,800 -$4,400$4,200 - $4,700

Choosing a supplier

When cost and features all rank about the same for you, the deal breaker can be what other users thought of them. Here are some things to look at that can help you decide.

Good reviews. Visit various websites and look for comments about the type of steel building you’d like to construct or about the brands. If it is working, other consumers will take the time to say so. Likewise, they also will if it is not working to their satisfaction.

Awards and recognition. Other industry leaders will reward good product and service. Outside industries will too, especially if it is a product in popular use, like pole barns on a farm. Look for current awards in the last three or four years and for recognition in energy efficiency.

Help and support centers. Once a building is up, you would think it wouldn’t need in the way of support. But you never know what question may come up and when so it is nice to have someone who will answer the phone 24/7/365.

Geographic coverage. If you are going to have the manufacturer erect the building for you, try to choose a quality dealer in the local area to cut down on delivery costs, travel time and other costs.

Training and maintenance agreements. There are many do-it-yourself kit options. If that is your chosen route, look for one that offers training on assembly, guarantees the materials for a period of time, or offers other maintenance features.

SupplierMueller OlympiaFutureArmstrong
BBB RatingA+A+A+A+
Most Recent AwardN/AIAS Certificate of AccreditationN/ANominated for 2014 Denver Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award
Help & SupportCall center M-F 7:30 am - 6:00 pm CST; Saturday 8 am - 1 pm 24 hour call center; Dealer supportHelp desk, call center, online assistanceHighly trained authorized dealers
Geographic Coverage31 locations in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and ArkansasNationwideMidwest13 Dealers in the US
Training & SupportCall center for assembly help 50 year structural warranty30 year rust perforation guarantee; 24 hour call center with access to engineer team Online service reps for every type of question

Ready to work with Steel Building suppliers? Start here. Still want more purchasing advice? Read our Steel Buildings Purchasing Guide.

Get Quotes

  • We contact sellers
  • They compete for your business