Steel arch building kits are gaining in popularity as a way to quickly and easily build a garage, workshop, or storage space. They are also being used for manufacturing and retail space. Metal arch buildings are especially popular as airplane hangars and with farmers for storing grain, hay, and farm equipment.
Most, if not all, arch steel buildings are at least loosely based on the Quonset hut building design that the US military used in World War II. The original Quonset buildings had an inner support framework, but most metal arch buildings that are manufactured today do not have any inner structure. The corrugated metal arches are the structure.
There are a number of different shapes and designs for a steel arch building kit. Most manufacturers use letters to designate the shape of the building, but not all of them use the same letters for similar shapes. For instance, what one company calls a "P" model may be called an "A" or a "G" by another company:
- "Q" is a half-circle Quonset building with no peak.
- "P", "A", or "G" has vertical sidewalls that curve into a pitched roof with a rounded peak.
- "S" has vertical sidewalls that curve into an arched roof with no peak.
- "A", "X", or "G" has angled sidewalls that curve into a pitched roof with a rounded peak.
There are also variations of the designs above. For instance, you can get a "Q" with one vertical side wall, or a "Q" that is set on top of two vertical side walls to make a two-story (or more) building, where the arches are basically just the roof structure.
Steel arch buildings come in a variety of sizes. Some designs start out as little as 10' wide, and the "Q" or "S" designs can be as much as a couple hundred feet wide (now THAT would be one heck of a garage!). The styles with sharper corners and roof peaks (P, A, G, X above) top out at about 30' wide from most manufacturers, but other companies (FutureSteel for example) offer wider widths. One of these buildings can be made pretty much however deep you want it to be, usually in two foot increments.
Metal arch buildings have a number of advantages. They are naturally suited to high wind and snow loads due to the strength of the arch design. Arch steel buildings are also easy to maintain, like any other steel building. No painting, no termite treatments, no rodent damage, no fire risk. It is also very easy to add length to the building later. Because there are no trusses, tall objects will fit inside with a lower roof height than with a wood truss roof system.
Arch steel buildings are very easy to construct without any special skills or heavy equipment - no crane needed! They can be erected very quickly because there is no inner structure. You don't have to mess with support columns, trusses, roof stringers (purlins) or wall slats (girts). Almost any able-bodied person can assemble a kit for a small to medium sized building with the help of a couple of friends.
If you would have to hire a contractor to build a wood frame garage, but can assemble an arch steel building yourself, there is a huge cost savings. Even if you are capable of stick-building a wooden garage or pole building yourself, the time savings is tremendous with a steel arch building kit.
Here is a short video showing how an arch steel building is assembled:
There are some disadvantages to arch metal buildings, though. It is difficult and expensive to add side windows or doors to most models. Likewise, it is difficult and expensive to attach a carport or shed roof to the sides.
Arch steel buildings may look out of place in a residential neighborhood, and actually are prohibited in some places because of that. The end walls can be made from whatever type of material you want so that they will match your home, but there isn't any way to hide the sides and roof. The material cost for metal arch buildings is also higher than the material cost for similar-sized pole buildings.
They can also be difficult and/or expensive to insulate effectively. Outlets and light fixtures require conduit to be run to each one, instead of just installing the wire inside the wall and hanging lights from the ceiling like you do with a wood-frame structure.
A steel arch garage kit is a great option as long as you can live with those limitations. One can be assembled by almost anybody, for a lot less money than hiring a contractor to build a different type of garage or workshop. Before deciding on one though, I recommend that you consider your other options, too. Take a look at our menu of Related Pages above on the right.
Even if you pay someone to assemble a steel arch building for you, the labor should be far less than it would be to build a different type of structure. The advantages of low maintenance, simple design, and wide open useable space make the steel arch building an attractive choice for a garage, workshop, or barn.