What is a Pole House?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A pole house is a house in which the internal framing, sometimes referred to as the “skeleton,” of the house bears all of the weight. This is in contrast with other types of framed houses, in which some of the walls are designed to be load bearing. Pole houses appear to be native to Africa, the South Pacific, and parts of Japan, although today they are build all over the world. For those readers who are struggling to visualize what a pole house might look like, it may help to think of a traditional Polynesian or Southeast Asian house, as many are built with this technique.

The weight of a pole house rests on its frame rather than its walls, making it more modular.
The weight of a pole house rests on its frame rather than its walls, making it more modular.

With a pole house, minimal site preparation is required, because the house is lifted up off the grade of the ground. Construction of the house starts with the establishment of a foundation which is designed to support a series of vertical poles. Once the poles are in place, the framing can be established, designed in such a way that weight is transferred evenly to the poles. After framing, the home can be roofed and walls can be put in place.

This building technique is sometimes referred to as “semi-modular,” because a pole house is very easy to reconfigure. If a wall is in the way, people can just take it down, without having to worry about compromising the structure of the home. Likewise, if a pole house starts to feel too small, it's easy to expand. In climates where weather can be quite variable, a pole house can be extremely useful, with open walls in summer for ventilation, and closed ones during the monsoon season to protect the occupants and contents of the house.

Building a pole house tends to be less costly than other types of construction, and it can also be more environmentally friendly. The impact on the site is reduced with this construction method, and people can work with environmentally friendly materials to reduce the overall impact of building the house. In climates where pole houses are native, the design is especially ecologically sound, as it has been tailored to these regions of the Earth.

In regions where these houses are common, numerous contractors are usually available to build pole houses or to consult on projects where people want to build their own homes. Outside these regions, people may need to seek out a specialty contractor. They can also use pole house kits available from several manufacturers which allow people to build their own homes. These kits are usually very easy to configure so that people can create a house which will specifically meet their needs.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


i have acres of timber on a south pacific island, and am excited about building a pole house there.

any suggestions would be appreciated! thanks!

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