The Definitive Quonset Hut Buying Guide (2018) - Updated

Buying a Quonset hut and getting it erected is undoubtedly an interesting time.

There are a few things to consider before purchasing your steel building. This includes various matters such as whether Quonset hut kits are right for you, which model type, the size, meeting any relevant regulations and more.

Whilst the process is relatively straight forward, it still makes sense to ensure you have all the facts to hand.

So, if you’re considering a Quonset hut, this guide is definitely a must read.

Let’s get started!

The Definitive Quonset Hut Buying Guide

Contents

CHAPTER 1:
What is a Quonset Hut?

A Quonset hut refers to a prefabricated metal building with an arch-configuration that was developed in the US in the 1940s for the military. They were built for a variety of uses including offices and medical facilities. After the war, military surplus put for sale their Quonset hut stock, to the public. Whilst the Quonset hut may have started out as a military building, nowadays is it commonly used for hundreds of different uses. 

What is a Quonset Hut? It Is a Prefabricated Arched Steel Building

The genius is in the arches

Quonset hut buildings which are based on an arch configuration are more affordable, almost indestructible, quick to construct and offer 100% usable space. This is due to the clever design! 

There are two main elements to a Quonset hut: (1) the arches; and (2) the end walls. The arch comes in various widths and heights with each arch having a standard depth (length) of 0.6m. This means, by bolting rows of arches together, steel arch buildings can be unlimited in length, increasing in 0.6m increments. The arches and end walls are delivered to site in small individual panels that are easily and rapidly bolted together.

Arch building illustration

Prefabricated buildings result in savings

Quonset huts are prefabricated buildings which typically results in savings for the end-user, when compared to traditional buildings. It is a uniquely simple manufacturing process, with less individual parts to manufacture when compared with traditional alternatives. 

Clearspan with complete usable open space and no beams or posts

clearspan building

Thanks to the arch structure requiring no structural framework, the buildings have no beams, trusses or posts and allow for a complete use of interior space, meaning the Quonset is a full clearspan building. The building features a unique corrugation that acts like thousands of reinforcing steel beams, resulting in great strength and durability. As each arch-panel overlaps, it simulates having a steel beam every 0.6m down the length and similarly simulates having a steel reinforcing plate wherever the panels bolt together. It should be noted that in models with the circular arched shape, there is some loss of space in the head space. Finally, because Quonset huts have no trusses, this means there is no place for birds to perch and nest. With regard to Quonset arch homes, this results in wonderfully open spaces within the property.

Quonset hut kits made of a special type of metal

quonset hut kits galvalume

Whilst Quonset huts are indeed made of steel, they are generally made of a superior US Galvalume Steel®; a special steel alloy developed by the US steel industry to provide lifelong durability, with a limited rust-through perforation warranty on the AZ55 Galvalume® panels. Only prime Galvalume® steel is used, made of a specialised patented alloy coating on the metal virtually invulnerable to corrosion and seven times more rust resistant than galvanised. It is the finest quality commercial steel. The buildings are virtually maintenance free as the Galvalume Steel® requires no regular painting or maintenance.

What is Galvalume®?

Galvalume® is a coating on the steel substrate that is applied at the steel mill. This coating is a mixture of some of the most durable metals including Aluminium (55%), Zinc (43%), and Silicon (2%). The advantage of Galvalume® is the aluminium’s ability to create a highly corrosion-resistant oxide film combined with the sacrificial action of zinc. The result is a coating which provides excellent corrosion resistance on the sheet (steel panel) while still providing cutting-edge corrosion protection. This unique coating forms an almost impervious (impenetrable) shield over the steel; in laboratory testing it has 7 times the resistance to rust as galvanised. It is extremely effective, especially in regions subjected to corrosive environments or acid rain. For this reason Quonset huts usually come with a lengthy non-prorated warranty against rust perforation, that is generally backed by the steel mill.

Virtually indestructible and fire resistant

indestructible quonset-buildings-for-sale

Quonset huts are made of high-grade heavy-gauge steel, unlike cheap alternatives that are easily damaged in harsh conditions. Buildings are almost indestructible as they are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions with wind and snow loadings suitable for any part of the world. This includes heavy snow, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, cyclones and even earthquakes. Buildings are also completely fire resistant, containing no combustible wood. As well as this, because Quonset huts are many times stronger than traditional steel buildings, including portal frame, they are completely vermin proof.

As already touched upon, the quality engineering of the Quonset hut features the impressive corrugation that performs like many reinforcing steel beams, giving huge strength. The simulation of a metal reinforcing plate, located where panels come together, results in no sagging or warping as well as there being no termites or wood rot.

Buildings are leak proof

Quonset huts are leak proof which makes them ideal for safe storage of sensitive and valuable items. The reason the buildings are waterproof is because the last section of the panels overlap and fit nicely together. Some companies have panels that are crimped at the end and therefore require caulking to ensure waterproofing. Other companies have this section of the panel smooth to allow the panels to fit together without requiring caulking. Naturally, this lack of caulking makes assembly considerably faster.

A typical arch and end wall panel specification

Below is a simple breakdown of a typical specification of a Quonset hut arch and end wall panel. The key takeaway is a demonstration of the strength of a Quonset building. 

ARCH MATERIAL
quonset arch
  • Limited rust-through perforation warranty on the AZ55 Galvalume® panels 
  • Minimum yield = 55 ksi
  • Manufactured in accordance with ASTM standards
  • Manufactured in accordance with ASCE building codes
  • 9" overlap of panels
  • Two rows of bolts
  • 16 gauge beam equivalent at overlap with two rows of bolts, 0.030 overlap over a 0.030 overlap = 0.060
END WALL PANEL 
quonset endwall
  • Limited rust-through perforation warranty on the AZ55 Galvalume® panels
  • AZ55 - 55% aluminium, 43.5% zinc, 1.5% silicone
  • 3 1/2" corrugation depth
  • FL testing approval for high wind velocity, up to 150mph. FL approval number FL-5898
  • High resistance against corrosion
  • From a minimum of 22 gauge to 20, 18, 16, and 14 gauge, depending on wind loads and snow loads

Some other benefits of the Quonset hut

Virtually maintenance free: Quonset hut kits are completely steel, therefore meaning they are virtually maintenance free due to the absence of gutters, downpipes and other troublesome exterior fittings. These aren’t required due to the arch-configuration channelling away the rain and snow. As well as this the Quonset hut requires no painting.

Unlimited lengths: Thanks to the arch configuration, buildings can be unlimited in length. This is because the length of the Quonset hut is increased (or decreased) by adding (or removing) a 0.6m deep arch section. This is as simple as bolting arches together to alter the length of the building.

Future size increases: Buildings can be easily expandable anytime in the future, as owners can increase the length of the Quonset hut by adding more arches. This is a highly simple and cost-effective process of expansion.

Permanent or temporary: As well as being permanent structures, buildings can also be suitable for temporary use, being engineered to be portable if they need to be moved for industrial or commercial purposes. They can be easily moved/transported.

Note: The Quonset hut is sometimes referred to as a Nissen hut and sometimes misspelled as a quanset hut, kwanza hut, quansit hut and even kwanzaa hut!

CHAPTER 2:
Define Your Concept

At this stage you might know that you want or need a Quonset hut, but you've not quite arranged the finer details within your mind. This chapter should help you get a clearer picture and understanding of your specific needs and requirements. This part of the process could be described as the 'brainstorming' phase.

Define Your Concept

The fact that you're reading this suggests that you're interested in a steel building and perhaps considering a Quonset hut as the building of choice. If you are a business owner, a custom structure for agriculture, retail, or industrial operations maybe you're looking to improve your productivity. If residential, maybe you need more space for storage or a new garage for extra vehicles. Or perhaps you think it would be nice to have a workshop or even just a carport. Fortunately, steel buildings are durable, low-priced and meet a huge amount of these needs.

steel building

These structures are quick to construct and less expensive than traditional construction techniques. They quickly expand your useable space and can be adapted to a variety of applications. They keep your assets secure and give you an area where you can work out of the elements. They also resist wear and require virtually no maintenance.

Steel buildings are often thought of as being used for industrial and commercial needs, and serve such uses well, but can be used for many other applications. Although Quonset huts for sale aren't traditionally used for homes, they can indeed fill such a purpose and are becoming increasingly popular as technology grows and people recognise the advantages metal buildings can offer over traditional stick built designs. This is especially true of arch homes. There are some more common uses for steel buildings which are widely recognised typically as commercial, industrial, agricultural, and residential outbuildings.

quonset hut homes

With all this in mind, it's time to begin the process of making your building a reality.

Idle thoughts pass, but great ideas stick in the mind. Perhaps the thought of a steel building started as a simple daydream or a wish for more space. Now it’s all you can think about. Daydreaming passes the time, but it doesn’t get your structure built. You need to organise your thoughts and define a concept.

Begin with a little brainstorming session. Jot down notes and ideas as they occur to you. Your objective at this point is to clarify your goals. You’ll work on putting those ideas in order later. Try to answer as many of the following questions as you can:

  • What will you use the new building for?
  • How much existing storage space do you already have?
  • How much extra space do you think you will need?
  • Where will you erect your Quonset hut?
  • Who will be erecting the Quonset hut?
  • Do you have the tools to do the work yourself?
  • Will you need help during the building phase?
  • What kind of structure do you want?
  • Are cosmetic appearances important?
  • What overhead/sliding door size is required, in what quantity and where will they be located?
  • Do you want any windows, additional walk doors or other accessories?
  • What kind of budget are you willing to spend?
  • What sort of foundation will you need?
  • Do you intend to insulate the Quonset hut?
  • Will you install additional utilities like water and electricity?
  • Do you have permission to build?

Answers to these questions clarify your objective and create a framework before proceeding. Your goal at this stage is to start developing a plan that will help you complete your project. A good plan focuses on your budget, schedule, and desired outcomes.

CHAPTER 3:
Gather Your Project Data

In this chapter your Quonset hut will become more of a reality. You will take steps to ensure you have every you need in order before purchasing a Quonset building.

Gather Your Project Data
metal building

Start by dealing with planning issues. Enquire about the requirements for your property. This is often the most frustrating part of the entire project. Fees cost money, and building regulations can restrict your options.

Fortunately, there are some advantages too. Advice and information helps you to clarify some of your ideas. For example: In some areas, it is illegal to place a structure too close to another building for fire and safety reasons. Knowing this information ahead of time saves you unnecessary expense and aggravation later.

Once you have an idea of what is permissible, estimate the footprint of your new metal building by creating a perimeter.

  • Stake the corners where you think your building will go
  • Use string or twine between the stakes to clearly mark out the lines
  • Square the angles as much as possible
  • Use a tape measure or measuring wheel to establish the length and width of the area
  • Multiply the length and width to find the square footage

If you intend not to use a contractor, perform an inventory of your tools and consider your skill level. Many metal buildings can be erected using simple hand tools and a ladder (or small scaffolding on slightly larger buildings). A crane or lift is unnecessary, but an extra pair of hands is essential. Calculate expenses for acquiring necessary tools and hiring a helper.

metal quonset huts

While Quonset huts are easy to create, there are some tasks you may not be skilled enough to handle on your own. For these, you should rely on the expertise of a contractor. If you plan to install electricity or plumbing in your building, hire an expert to perform the work.

Decide on a foundation next. You may have an existing area that is already perfect for the building to be located on top of or maybe you require a new permanent concrete slab. A contractor experienced with foundation work can help you create a foundation that will last. The slab must be poured correctly and fit the plans of the structure.

Shop for quotes on parts of the project that you are uncomfortable performing yourself. Remember to ask about scheduling and project completion dates.

CHAPTER 4:
Quonset Models 

There are various available models of Quonset hut to choose from. These differ in profiles, widths, heights and also suitability for the intended type of use. Widths start from 3 metres and all with unlimited lengths. 

Quonset Models

There are various Quonset buildings for sale and they are organised by model type. Below are the different models with a brief explanation of the characteristics, specifications and popular uses.

P-MODEL

quonset hut p-model

A conventional pitched roof house-shaped and high sidewalls.

Popular uses:

Garages, Workshops, Homes, Industrial Storage, Warehouses, Storage Sheds

Available sizes:

  • Widths from 5 metres
  • Unlimited lengths

Q-MODEL

quonset hut q-model

A rounded design popular for agricultural, military or industrial uses.

Popular uses:

Barns, Haulage, Commodity, Military, Aircraft Hangars, Storage, Riding Arenas

Available sizes:

  • Widths from 6 metres
  • Unlimited lengths

S-MODEL

quonset hut s-model

A rounded roof with more sidewall height for greater vertical space.

Popular uses:

Storage Sheds, Shop Buildings, Vehicle Garages, Workshops, Warehouses

Available sizes:

  • Widths from 3 metres
  • Unlimited lengths

CHAPTER 5:
Purchasing Your Quonset Hut

At this point you pretty much know what you're wanting from your Quonset hut. It's now time to make sure the building you order is exactly what you need it to be and meet your specific needs. Then it's simply a case of ordering it!

Purchasing Your Quonset Hut

You're at the point where you are ready to order your Quonset hut. Whilst there are several Quonset buildings for sale to choose from, you've finally made your choice! It's important to make sure your quote includes everything you need and that the building you order is right. Here are some of the main things to be aware of: 

quonset hut hay barn
  • The supplier should talk you through all the different options available to you, with the outcome being that you are offered the best building for your requirements
  • Ensure the building will meet local building regs. These Quonset hut kits are engineered to meet building regs which includes wind, snow and seismic loading requirements. Your Quonset hut should include professional engineer's plans that form part of your evidence for gaining permission
  • Make sure you are getting the complete kit and that no other costs will be added on later. You should receive the entire kit for the whole building
  • Ensure the delivery costs are included in the price
  • Don’t overlook the parts required to connect your Quonset hut to the foundation. Your supplier should explain this to you and include it within the price
  • Find out what warranties are included with the Quonset hut.
  • Ensure you receive a written quotation. It is important that you have a written record of what it is you will be ordering. As well as this, you also want to be able to sit down and, in your own time, go over the document to ensure you are happy with the package you are receiving. If there are indeed any issues or items you don’t understand, you should make some notes and get in touch with your supplier so they can explain it to you. If you feel it is necessary, ask them to send written confirmation of any clarification or changes.
carport
  • Get a written contract. It is important that all the details are written down and agreed upon so that there is no room for confusion later. This way, both you and the supplier know exactly what is being provided.
  • Be sure that you will receive confirmation that the building meets your local building regs. This means the location where the building is being erected. 
  • Whilst price is important, you shouldn’t automatically go with the cheapest quote. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go with the cheaper quote as it is absolutely possible that the cheapest quote is actually the best overall deal for you. However, you should be aware that this is rarely the case and that as the saying goes “you get what you pay for”. The key thing is to do your research and make sure the building and the supplier are of high quality.

CHAPTER 6:
Preparing For Your Building

This is where the exciting part begins. You've already ordered your building and you're waiting for it to be shipped to you. Whilst you wait for it to arrive, there are a few things to take care of to ensure things run smoothly.

Preparing For Your Building
metal buildings

While you wait for your Quonset hut to arrive, there is time to complete your preliminary work. Get these chores out of the way so you are ready to assemble your structure:

  • Obtain and verify your permits
  • Level the ground where your building will be installed
  • Create your foundation
  • Obtain necessary tools and/or assistance
  • Run electrical lines and plumbing to the site (as required)

Ideally, your groundwork will be finished before you start working on assembling your building. It is true that metal buildings are easier to relocate than traditional structures, but they still take up space in the yard. Minimise the hassle of sliding your structure around during assembly. Level the terrain ahead of time, and put your foundation in place.

If you have decided on a new concrete foundation, make certain you have the plans for your building before you pour. The mounting points on the slab must line up with your structure. Making an error with the foundation costs money to correct and wastes time.

When your kit is finally delivered, inventory your shipment to verify that the entire assembly has arrived. If parts appear to be missing, contact your supplier right away. When everything appears to be in order, you can begin bolting your structure together.

CHAPTER 7:
How to Build a Quonset Hut

A Quonset hut can be erected in a matter of days with a few workers and therefore requires no skilled labour. There is also no need for heavy lifting gear (such as a crane) or specialist tools required due to the simple pre-drilled bolt-together construction. 

How to Build a Quonset Hut
arch building assembly

As already mentioned, there is no skilled labour required for assembly or any heavy lifting gear (such as a crane). Also Quonset hut kits can be rapidly bolted together and erected in a matter of days with a few workers, therefore resulting in construction costs being significantly less than conventional building construction (potentially saving thousands of pounds). These advantage are thanks to the arch-style and prefabricated design. 

Some other things to note are:

  • Holes are pre-drilled: This lowers construction costs significantly as pilot spot holes require high labour field drilling to ream out
  • No field welding: The lip and the last section at the end of each arch panel is flat (or crimped in some instances) so that the arch sections bolt together super-tight
  • One size nut and bolt: One size makes the construction process even simpler and faster
  • Comes with easy-to-follow assembly manual: Simple, fast assembly instructions are included as well as Computer Aided Designs
  • Use of floating foundations: Buildings can be built on a floating trough foundation (concrete slab is optional) or, in many cases (where the walls are not to be load bearing), can be fixed or bolted to an existing concrete pad

Assembly in 4 easy steps:

step 1 floating foundation

POUR A SIMPLE FLOATING FOUNDATION

step 2 bolt arches

BOLT THE ARCHES TOGETHER ON THE GROUND*

step 3 raise arches

RAISE THE ARCHES INTO PLACE

step 4 install end walls

INSTALL THE END WALLS AND DOORS

*The arches are precision made to fit perfectly. They easily overlap to allow for fast, accurate assembly without the need for special tools or equipment.

CHAPTER 8:
Looking to The Future

Your building is up and now it's time to actually start using it. The good news is that there's not really much else to concern yourself with at this point, especially as there is virtually no maintenance required. However, here are a few final tips and recommendations.

Looking to the Future

So, you've erected your Quonset hut and it looks amazing! Now it's time to make it work for you. However, there are still a few items worth noting.

Maintaining your building

quonset hut arches

The good news is that once a Quonset hut is up, the hard work has already been completed. One of the great features of a Quonset hut is that it is effectively maintenance free. One reason for this is that the special coating doesn’t require regular painting or maintenance, as is the case with traditional buildings.

As well as this, because your Quonset hut is 100% made of steel there’s not really anything to maintain! There are no downpipes, gutters or other exterior fittings (which are usually the weak points that get damaged and weather-worn over the years). The Quonset’s clever arch design channels away the rain and snow, so these items simply aren’t required.

Permanent or temporary structure

Quonset huts are designed to be both permanent or temporary structures. If you intend for your building to remain in place permanently, the good news is that Quonset huts are designed to be almost indestructible and deal with various severe conditions. Whether that be a snow storm in Scotland or severe wind in the south of England. If a building remaing in place for many years to come is your goal; you've definitely made the right decision with a Quonset hut. 

On the other hand, if you intend to relocate, Quonset huts can be easily taken down, transported and erected again at a new location. Another benefit of this type of building is that it is manufactured in relatively small parts and therefore is much easier and cheaper to transport. 

Your building's warranty

Your building should give you many years of reliable service. However, in the unlikely situation where there is an issue with your building, it should be covered by a warranty. Choosing a company that offers a good warranty will give you the comfort of knowing you're covered. 

Enjoy your building

Finally, be sure to enjoy your Quonset hut. This form of building is indeed a wise choice and will give you functionality and enjoyment for many years to come.

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