Save Time With Prefab Stalls

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They may look similar, but one prefabricated stall is not just like the next. We studied prefab basics — what to look for and where — and compared many models on the market today.

There’s no question that a handy do-it-yourselfer can probably build a stall for far less than it costs to buy a prefabricated stall. But, how many of us have the skills, tools and, more importantly, the time'That’s no doubt why prefab stalls are so popular — the parts are neatly packaged, with step-by-step instructions for assembly. Some even set up in minutes. But, before you buy a prefab, do your homework.

Before You Go Shopping
The barn itself has a lot to do with what style of prefab stall you’ll need. Does your barn have a clear-span roof, or does it have support posts along the aisle' The answer will tell you whether you can use a component system — where stall fronts and walls can be attached to existing support posts — or whether you’ll need a freestanding system that basically stands on its own. Are the support posts positioned every 10 feet or every 12 feet' In other words, how big will your stall fronts be'

To determine how heavy-duty your stalls need to be, consider how much time your horses spend inside. If your horses stay out on pasture most of the time, you may not need the super-duper models. Training stables, on the other hand, need long-lasting, low-maintenance stalls that are heavier in construction, with improved rust protection.

No matter what your needs, safety should be a top priority. Poor quality and/or poor installation can quickly become costly in terms of injuries and maintenance/repairs.

Stall “Styles”
Prefab stalls are sold in three basic categories — kits, components and panel systems. Your budget and construction skills, along with the design of your barn, all play a part in which style you select.

Kit systems are sold in lots of little pieces that you assemble yourself, including individual grill bars, U-channels to hold the bars and lumber in place, framing pieces for the door, and track/rollers for the overhead sliding-door trolley. For someone handy and/or on a tight budget, kits are a relatively inexpensive way to get the look of a pricier installation. However, assembly is often time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Most stall systems are sold as components, where some of the assembly is done. For instance, the grill work is typically prewelded together, as well as the door frames. One distributor estimates that installation time drops from about 16 man-hours for a kit stall to about two man-hours for a component system. Prewelded frames and grillwork add the benefit of less noise (from rattling parts) as well as greater strength.

Panel systems provide completely prefabricated full frames that can be attached to existing barn support columns or assembled to create a freestanding stall structure. Some panel systems arrive at your doorstep with woodwork already in place.

Construction Materials
The design of your stalls largely determines how much wood you’ll need. Bar-grill panels, either for the top half or the entire height of the stall fronts and walls, provide excellent ventilation and help reduce boredom by giving the horses a chance to see stable activity. For grill work and door/panel frames, you basically have a choice between steel or aluminum.

Aluminum, which doesn’t rust or corrode, is much easier to ding up, dent and bend than steel. Most stall makers use steel. When comparing the steel components of various makers, pay close attention to their gauges. The lower the number, the thicker and stronger the steel. For instance, 16-gauge steel, at .065” thick, is roughly 25 percent stronger than 18-gauge steel at .049” thick.

Without some sort of protective finish, however, bare steel will rust. Ironically, while paint provides the best-looking finish initially, it offers the least long-term protection. The cheapest way to paint steel is to spray it; hot-baked enamel finishes and powder-coated paint finishes (which also incorporate a heat process) are more durable, long-lasting and, of course, more expensive.

Another solution is pregalvanized steel, which has been coated with zinc at the steel plant to resist rust. Later, however, where the steel is cut and welded, the spray-painted joints leave a weak link for corrosion. So, the very best protection is hot-dip galvanizing, where fully fabricated, pre-welded components are dipped into a vat of molten zinc. Hot-dipped surfaces aren’t as smooth as pregalvanized or painted steel, but they are less likely to corrode.

Stall Doors
Doors must be sturdy and solid. With most prefab stalls, vertical door edges are “wrapped” in a steel-channel frame that holds the grillwork and wood in place. The more parts that are prewelded together, the better for durability. Also, since horses like to stand at the door, be sure inside wood edges are clad in chew guards to repel bored mouths.

Hinged doors create a traditional look but require more aisle space. Sliding doors are safer and have a sleeker look. Door options also often include yoked top halves or pull-down panels that let horses poke their heads out.

Stall-door hardware — the sliding-door track/rollers and the door latch — also deserve close consideration. While some makers tout their steel ball-bearings or rollers, the most annoying sliding-door foul-up is debris in the overhead track clogging the rollers. Standard sliding-door tracks have a squared-tube design, which traps dust, dirt and spider webs; the rounded tracks, on the other hand, allow debris to fall out, hence their “self-cleaning” description.

The door latch can pose serious safety concerns. Unfortunately, the most common latch — and least expensive — is the slide bolt, which tends to stick out when the door is open, and can gouge horse or handler. Look for latches that are out-of-the-way (like a flip-style “gravity latch” attached on the front) and easily accessible from both inside and outside the stall (like the plunger-style latch, where the latch is one of the grill bars).

Grillwork
Although most stall makers offer both grilled and all-wood wall options, solid walls can create poor ventilation and confinement boredom. Many buyers prefer to install grills along the top halves of stall fronts and side walls. On any prefab stall, look for grillwork with bite guards (metal “caps” that cover exposed wood edges) that discourage chewing.

Bar diameters range from 1/2” to 1”, with 7/8” pretty standard. Hollow tubes of 16-gauge steel are the most common; solid rods, while sturdy, are heavy and add to freight costs. Most people prefer the look of round bars for their grillwork; however, square tubes of similar gauge and diameter are stronger.

Bar spacing is critical in grillwork. The industry norm is 3” or 3 1/2” spacing between bars, which is considered safe — usually not roomy enough to trap an adult hoof. When comparing specifications, you’ll often see spacing referred to as 4” o.c. (on center) or 2 1/2” o.c. That means the center of one bar is 4”, or 2 1/2”, from the center of the other bar — for the spacing between bars, subtract the bar diameter from the o.c.

One sign of quality grillwork is in the welding. Many makers “butt weld” their bars onto the top of the grillwork channels, where welds are visible. A stronger — and prettier — alternative is concealed welding, where the bars are punched through the channels and welded, out of sight, on the underside of the channels.

U-Channels
U-channels are the vertical steel channels that hold the stall lumber and key parts. A handy way to construct side partitions, U-channels let you remove planks between stalls to create a temporary double-size stall.

Most stall systems are made to accommodate “dressed” lu mber, as opposed to rough-sawn planks. Standard dressed two-inch-thick boards are actually only about 1 1/2” thick, so most U-channel openings are about 1 5/8”. If you prefer rough-sawn lumber, ask about that option.

In terms of strength, remember the gauge of steel. High-end stalls often feature U-channels made of rolled steel, with no sharp edges.

Lumber
Along with your packaged prefab components or kits, you’ll receive a list of suggested lumber lengths for wall panels. Though most stall designs incorporate horizontally positioned lumber, vertical-plank walls are stronger, more rigid and more kick-through resistant. If the system is built for horizontal-plank walls, be sure to install vertical wall braces (what some makers call “wall stiffeners”) down the middle of each wall to provide extra stability and support. Also, tongue-in-groove lumber, readily available at most large home-improvement stores, is stronger than planks that simply butt up against each other.

Lumber prices vary by region and store, so price that beforehand in your region. Keep in mind that, even with stalls with pre-assembled wood components, you may need to apply some sort of finish — at least on the planks in contact with stall bedding — to resist water damage and decay.

Stall Makers
We collected information from prefabricated stall makers to compare what’s available.

Armour Gates
The sole aluminum-only maker in our survey, Armour’s component stalls are surprisingly affordable. Doors are shipped ready to hang, with round-tube grillwork and water-sealed lumber. Concealed welds on all grillwork enhance the aluminum’s sleek look. Armour “custom” manufactures every order, to each customer’s exact measurements, so no cutting and splicing of grillwork is needed. Armour also predrills the holes for the doors’ slide-bolt latches. Feeder access doors can be built into stall-front grillwork ($27). The company also offers hinged “gossip gates” (wood bottom half, with yoked grillwork standing a few inches above the wood), as an alternative to sliding doors.

Behlen Livestock Equipment
Behlen’s Horseman’s Choice portable, freestanding stall systems feature heavy-gauge 2” round-tube framing, solid-rod bar grills spaced 3” apart, and a standard “child-friendly” swing-out feed door with a low-cut door sill. All metalwork is finished with Behlen’s new Diamond Kote high-solid, baked-on polyester enamel paint. Wall brackets are available to attach to existing walls.

The seven-foot-high stalls are designed to hold 2” x 8” boards positioned vertically. As an alternative to standard lumber, Behlen offers pre-cut 2” x 6” white PVC board packages (PVC offers easy-to-clean surfaces, strength and flexibility). Optional feeders/waterers are available.

Classic Equine Equipment
Classic offers two lines of horse stalls — the Series KS5000, a component system designed for post-frame construction, and the Custom Series C3000, a panel system for post-frame or clear-span construction. Both lines feature solid-welded grills and doors, a standard feed hole, round-track sliding door hardware, and a non-bolt gravity door latch. Both are available in either pregalvanized steel or with a more expensive powder-coat paint finish, with 18 door options, including sliding and hinged versions, full grill, full wood, yoked half-grills, fold-down openings or full-mesh with yoke opening. U-channels are 12-gauge steel. Stall-front options include a swing-out bucket holder, hay feeder, and a swivel hay and grain feeder.

Country Manufacturing, Inc.
Country offers two kit systems — one of galvanized steel and one of aluminum — as well as a component system of painted steel. All are among the most affordable on the market. Both kit systems provide 1” grillwork tubes spaced on four-inch centers. Standard grill sections come in four-foot lengths only. Feed holes are available in stall fronts at no additional cost, and prices include shipping fees.

Country’s painted-steel component system is the least expensive component system we found. Grill sections again come in four-foot lengths. This system relies on a water-based enamel spray paint, which we find less-than-ideal for rust protection. One thing we really like is the optional Gravity-Latch. It’s a safety feature we think is worth the extra $15.

Farnam Companies
Farnam’s economy component system features a fully constructed 58”-wide sliding door (complete with crossbuck, inset and interlocking wood), full-width grills set in fir frames with L-molding to prevent wood chewing, and a pair of post anchors. Galvanized steel grills can be custom-ordered in any length up to 12 feet ($27/ft.). An optional hinged feed door is available for $47.

The company’s Deluxe component system, made by Woodstar Products, features the same basic construction as the economy line, plus fully assembled front panels of 2” x 6” lumber with crossbuck construction. Also, a hinged feed door is standard. The 10’ front comes with a 58”-wide door; the 12’ stall front ships with a 70”-wide door. Although we don’t like the door’s slide-bolt latch, the stall fronts are ruggedly handsome. Discounts on two or more. Price includes shipping.

J.W. Hall Enterprises
The J.W. Hall component system creates one of the most solidly constructed prefab stalls we found. All metal frames are 14-gauge, and U-channels are crafted of 12-gauge steel, with prewelded grills featuring 1/2” solid steel rods. Standard rod spacing is 4” o.c.; 2 1/2” o.c. available. All prefabricated components are hot-dipped galvanized. Hall also offers freestanding panel units of various configurations. An attractive door option is a fold-down diamond window on door grillwork.

Handi-Klasp
Handi-Klasp’s “Economy Kit Stalls” are the least expensive stalls we found in any category, period. All grillwork, bars and horizontal U-channels are 16-gauge, powder-coat-painted steel. The vertical U-channels are 12-gauge steel. Grill sections are sold in six-foot sections (at $40 per section). The kits are UPS shippable. Handi-Klasp also offers a freestanding panel-stall system, mid-range in price, with seven door options. Heavy-mesh grills ($11/ft.) can replace any stall board for increased ventilation in the lower half of the stall.

Lodden Livestock Equipment
Manufactured in England, Lodden stalls offer five freestanding models with heavy-gauge grills welded underneath the channels, as well as beautifully milled, tongue-in-groove imported exotic hardwoods. Steelwork is hot-dip galvanized after fabrication, and hot-baked enamel-paint finishes are options. Doors incorporate a pull-down latch component in the door grillwork, allowing easy access from outside or inside the stall. Panels can be attached to existing wood posts, or you can order them with steel posts. Lodden stalls are the most expensive in this suvey and shipped FOB from England, with a turn-around time of about 10 weeks.

National Horse Stalls
National Horse Stalls distributes various brands of stalls and sells its own Pioneer line of stalls, in both component and panel systems, each of which offers superb quality at an affordable cost. The Pioneer fully welded door frames and grill panels are 14-gauge, hot-dip galvanized steel. U-channels are 12-gauge. The rounded sliding door tract keeps debris from building up inside, which ensures smoother operation long-term. The plunger-style door latch is built into the door bar, which means nothing protrudes, and it’s easily operated from inside and outside the stall. Two nice standards in the Pioneer are a feed hole in the front grill and yoke-front door (a yoke “fill piece” is available for $61.75). The Pioneer also features concealed welding on the bar grillwork.

National is also the American distributor of the Monarch panel stalls (imported from England), which feature hot-dip galvanized finishes, with optional powder-coat paint on top.

Northern Light Stalls
Northern Light component stalls are good looking. With the exception of the sliding-door track, door latch and grills, stall fronts are all tongue-in-groove pine (included). Even the grills are framed in pine, with inconspicuous metal chew guards on inside edges. Custom-made, the components come in three styles, with options such as swing-out door grills, solid doors, swing-out feeders and corner feeder gates. Doors and wall panels are pre-assembled. U-channels are also available for rough-cut lumber.

Plyco Corporation
Plyco makes Equus freestanding kit stalls and stall components for post-frame construction. Inexpensive and simply styled, the kit stalls feature galvanized steel parts, with grillwork in your choice of 4” o.c. or 3” o.c. spacing. Rubber grommets deaden the sound of bar-rattling. Wall packages include reinforcing braces. Options include an adjustable feed opening and an 18-gauge feed door. The 18-gauge grill tubes, 16-gauge end channels and 16-gauge wall braces, however, were among the thinnest in our survey.

The component system features good-looking galvanized steel components finished in powder-coat paint. Optional feed-opening grills or swing feeders are available for stall fronts. Doors latch with slide bolts, end channels and wall braces are 16-gauge (grillwork U-channels are 18-gauge).

Priefert Mfg. Co.
One of the least expensive panel systems, Priefert’s Premier horse stalls are designed for freestanding construction in clear-span barns. For safety and strength, the systems feature round-tube framework, 2” grill spacing, and vertical lumber installation. Metalwork is finished with powder-coated paint. Doors feature a lockable gravity door latch. One specification that raised our eyebrows, however, was the lightweight 20-gauge tubing used for grillwork bars.

Ramm Fence Systems
In 1999, Ramm replaced its catalog kit system with a new version of heavier-gauge steel for less money. All U-channels and grillwork in the Pro-Tek kit stall feature 14-gauge galvanized steel. The door handle incorporates a squeeze-open, easy-release latch lever, and several custom door features are available, including V-yoke and flip-down door tops. The optional swing-out feed door ($69) can be installed into the front grill work.

ROHN Agri Products
ROHN Agri Products makes a medium-priced panel system with 16-gauge 1 1/2” square-tube framing. Grillwork features 1” square tubes spaced 2 1/2” apart. A blanket bar/door-latch combination is standard on the sliding door. Steel components are hot-dip galvanized. Options include a pivot-out feed door and a Lazy-Susan-type feeder.

Rockin J Horse Stalls
Solidly constructed and reasonably priced, Rockin J stall panels can be custom-made to your specifications or are ready-made. The square framing is 14-gauge steel, with super-sturdy 10-gauge U-channels. The on-the-door gravity latch is easy to operate. We were less impressed, though, by the square-track sliding door hardware and the standard spray-enamel paint (powder-coat paint is available for an additional 10%; hot-dip galvanizing after fabrication costs 15% more). Options include a drop-panel sliding door, feed door, swing feeder and water door.

Woodstar Products
Woodstar’s half-grilled doors are shipped ready to hang, complete with crossbuck construction of 2” x 6” yellow Southern pine, with a slide-bolt door latch. Standard doors are 48” wide but can be custom-ordered up to 70” wide or as Dutch doors. Grills are set in wood frames, lined with metal bite guards on interior edges. All grillwork, U-channels and metal hardware are made of galvanized steel. Grill bars are protected with triple-coated zinc Flo-Coat for corrosion protection. Stall-front options include a swing-out feeder ($125) and swing-out insulated water bucket ($110).

For clear-span barns, the system includes one pair of post anchors per stall, which makes setting stall-front wood posts easy and accurate. Woodwork is shipped in natural wood color, ready to be stained, painted or left natural. All Woodstar products are guaranteed against defective workmanship and material for five years.

Bottom Line
After evaluating the information, we selected the systems that we felt offered the most horse-safe and durable materials, factoring in price, appearance and efficiency.

In kit systems, we’d go with Ramm’s new Pro-Tek stalls. We like the solid quality of the 14-gauge grillwork and U-channels — and we really like the 2 3/8” bar spacing — as well as the mid-range price.

Among component systems, we like National Horse Stall’s Pioneer system, which we feel is one of the best in safety, strength and quality with a mid-price range. The heavy-duty hot-dip galvanized steel parts and concealed welding on the grillwork also impressed us. We also love the standard feed hole, plunger latch, rounded sliding-door track and yoke-front door, which cost extra in most component stall systems.

Those same qualities are why we’d lean toward the Pioneer system in freestanding panels, although the less expensive Rockin J are also good quality. However, we’d pay extra for the hot-dip galvanized version.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Prefabricated Stalls Facts And Figures.”
Click here to view ”Money Matters.”
Click here to view ”Shipping And Delivery.”

CONTACTS:
Armour Gates
1001 E. 25th St.
Sanford, FL 32771
800/876-7706
www.armourgates.com

Behlen Livestock Equipment
PO Box 569
Columbus, NE 68602
800/447-2751

Classic Equine Equip., Inc.
RR 2 Box 681
Ironton, MO 63650
800/444-7430

Country Manufacturing, Inc.
PO Box 104
Fredericktown, OH 43019
740/694-9926

Farnam Companies
301 West Osborn Road
PO Box 34820
Phoenix, AZ 85013
800/234-2269
www.farnam.com

J.W. Hall Enterprises, Inc.
PO Box 68
Santa Fe, TX 77517
800/475-8158
www.jwhall.com

Handi-Klasp
1519 James Street
Webster City, IA 50595
800/332-7990
www.handi-klasp.com

Lodden Livestock Equipment
PO Box 3164
Port Jervis, NY 12771
800/779-0285

National Horse Stalls
PO Box 153
Raphine, VA 24472
800/903-8908
www.nationalhorsestalls.com

Northern Light Stalls
1438 County Road G
New Richmond, WI 54017
800/246-3190
www.nlstalls.com

Plyco Corporation
PO Box Q
Elkhart Lake, WI 53020-9906
800/558-5895

Priefert Mfg. Co., Inc.
PO Box 1540
Mt. Pleasant, TX 75456
800/527-8616
www.priefert.com

Ramm Fence Systems, Inc.
PO Box 268
Swanton, OH 43558
800/878-5644

Rockin J Horse Stalls
PO Box 869
Mannford, OK 74044
800/765-7229
www.rockinjhorsestalls.com

ROHN Agri Products
PO Box 609
Frankfort, IN 46041
800/447-2264

Woodstar Products, Inc.
PO Box 444
Delavan, WI 53115
800/648-3415
www.wdstar.com