VARNA – A construction contractor for decades, Steve Beach saw the same problem over and over.
With pole barns and post-frame buildings, posts inevitably would rot, prompting frequent, time-consuming repairs. He came up with an idea, the column repair sleeve. Rather than replace a post, he’d shroud it in galvanized metal.
“It solves a huge problem,” said Beach, 52, owner of Savage Building Systems.
He and wife Janette raised three children outside Varna, an old farm town with fewer than 400 residents. As a contractor, Beach kept encountering rotted and damaged poles, so he did some research. He found that the Midwest alone is home to an untold number of wooden farm buildings, held up by all these posts.
“Eventually, they’ll all need repair,” said Beach.
Previously, that meant digging out a post, then setting a new one in concrete. By that process, a small crew can replace six posts a day, he says.
Enter the metal sleeve, which allows the damaged post to stay in place, and is about half the price of a wooden replacement. And whereas a post will rot in 25 to 30 years, his sleeves are guaranteed to last 1,000 years. Meanwhile, a crew can do about 30 sleeves a day, making workers five times more productive.
About six years ago, after getting a patent on the sleeve, Beach and a partner opened Strong Way Systems in a weathered manufacturing building at 305 Pine St. in Varna. Two years ago, Beach bought out the partner and redubbed the business Savage Building Systems, after the nickname – “savage” – his kids jokingly call him.
He employs two three-man crews, one including son Jake, 20. The jobs are important to Varna, which has little commerce.
One crew does post replacements. The other focuses on “building height expansion.” Whereas many ag buildings were built with a ceiling of 11 or 12 feet, modern equipment often calls for an extra four or five feet. Compared to building a new structure, especially when permits come into play, the sleeves represent a significant savings. In addition, they inject new life into existing structures, thereby maintaining farm heritage.
Beach has the sleeves manufactured in Minonk and soon plans to sell them through dealerships. Meantime, he has as many as 30 other products in various stages of design.
“We’ve developing new stuff all the time,” he said. More information can be found at www.savagebuildingsystems.com
Phil Luciano is a senior writer/ columnist for Peoria Magazine and content contributor to public television station WTVP