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What is a Barndominium? Pros, Cons, Cost & Building Process

What is a Barndominium? Pros, Cons, Cost & Building Process

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If living next door to your horse is something you find appealing, barndominiums might be for you. These fabulous buildings have been growing in popularity ever since their first mention in a 1989 article in the New York Times.

Barndominiums are very versatile structures that are suitable for large families and those who like to combine their living and work spaces. Besides being cheap to build, barndominiums are also efficient to run and low maintenance.

What’s more, their open-concept floor plans mean that imagination is the limit when it comes to these unique buildings!

What is a Barndominium?

A barndominium is a building that combines the concept of a barn and a home. They can either be newly built or created from existing barns by adding living quarters to the structure.

While many people keep animals in their barndominium, this isn’t always the case. Barndominiums can also combine a shop or garage with living space or simply be a very spacious home.

One of the best things about these buildings is that they are extremely customizable. Because of their simple steel frames, it’s very easy to add extra rooms to a barndominium. You just have to dream up what you want to fill all that space with!

Barndominiums were even featured in the hit series Fixer Upper (2013-2018), which created some hype around these buildings in recent years. It also explains why they are most popular first and foremost in Texas, where the series is set.

Why Choose a Barndominium?

Barndominiums offer many advantages to those willing to venture into the unknown. They not only bring your family and passion under one roof, but even save you money in the process.

A Horse Owner’s Dream

As someone who has slept in a loft above horses, I can confirm that stepping out of your bedroom straight into a stable is like nothing else. Being greeted by curious noses and friendly nickers is hands down the best way to start the day.

Living quarters and menage in a Barndominium
Living quarters of barndominium overlooking the indoor ménage

However, there are other benefits to living so close to our four-legged friends. For once, you can get the barn chores out of the way first thing before you start work. It will make your days much more productive not having to drive to the stables and back all the time.

Not to mention you can keep a close eye on your furry troublemakers throughout most of the day. Should there be an accident or an emergency, you’ll be able to act much quicker than if you lived in a separate building.

Low Cost

A huge advantage of barndominiums is their cheap building and maintenance costs.

Constructing a barndominium instead of a separate barn and house means half the effort for your general contractor. Since there is only one building site, all the equipment and materials will only need to be delivered once. You’ll also cut costs having one crew working on your building instead of two.

Moreover, barndominiums are quicker to build and have lower insurance and tax charges than conventional homes. They are also surprisingly energy-efficient and low maintenance due to their prefabricated steel frame.

Once up and running, you’ll find that your barndominium is much easier on your wallet than you might’ve expected. Since they are very spacious buildings, barndominiums also have better air circulation and moisture levels than regular houses.

Customization

Due to the customizable nature of barndominiums, they can be easily adapted to a variety of situations. Depending on your wants and needs, you could easily create a three-bedroom living area with a ten-stall barn, or a studio apartment with a two-stall barn.

With barndominiums, the options are truly limitless! Interior styles can also vary from ultra-modern luxurious designs to a classic farmhouse with rustic vibes. 

Durability

Most barndominiums have a metal frame that makes them more resistant to the elements. According to Barndominium Life, they are sturdy enough to withstand an F-4 tornado, which is something you’ll want to consider if living in the central United States.

Barndominiums are also naturally resistant to mold, rust, and fire, further extending their life expectancy. Due to their unique design, they are one of the safest buildings you could choose as your home.

In addition, the metal shell makes it easier and cheaper for barndominium owners to conduct renovations and repairs.

Whether you want to add in partitions, rebuild a wall, or redesign the whole interior, you can easily do so within a reasonable budget.

Style

Barndominium interior design style

Many people who choose to live in barndominiums do so partly because of their rustic looks and unique style. Farmhouse exteriors are trending at the moment, making barndominiums all the more appealing.

The high ceilings and open-concept floor plans also factor into the growing popularity of these buildings. Unlike urban homes that have been built with space efficiency in mind, barndominiums offer endless possibilities when it comes to interior design.

Cons of a Barndominium

While barndominiums suit a variety of people and situations, they are not for everyone. Since a building of this size demands a rather large plot of land, you’ll most likely be living in the countryside. This might be a dealbreaker for those used to the convenience and buzz of towns and cities.

Insulation

One of the perks of owning a barndominium is having ample space for your family and animals. However, this comes at a cost.

Barndominiums that function solely as living quarters will need to have good insulation to keep the rooms warm in colder months. While this might not be a concern for people living in warm climates, it’s certainly something to think about.

Whereas, barndominiums that also house animals can use some of the generated heat to keep electric bills down. It’s another reason why moving in with your horse is such a great idea!

Separation of Work and Home

If your barndominium is also where you deal with clients and conduct business, you’ll need to keep your work/life balance in mind.

It’s easy to get carried away with work when your home is just a few steps away. Don’t forget to spend enough time with family and friends and keep your professional and personal lives separate!

Barndominium house in the United States
Credit: DC Builders

Selling

Although barndominiums hold their resale value remarkably well, you might have a hard time finding buyers for your property.

Barndominiums are typically built around the specific needs of their owners, which will present difficulties should you decide to move on.

At the same time, they do offer some great perks even as second-hand homes. Spaciousness, energy efficiency, low maintenance, and cheap tax bills all make great selling points to prospective buyers.

Pest Control

A less romantic side of living under the same roof with horses is pest control. As in any barn, unwanted guests such as rats, squirrels, and insects can easily sneak into the stables and storage areas. If you’re not careful, these pesky little creatures could end up in your living quarters!

Because it is a part of the barn, it is more likely for unwanted house guests in the living quarters. Rats, mice, snakes, and spiders are all common pests in a horse barn.

Building a Barndominium

Once you decided on building a barndominium, it’s time to start planning out the next steps. First of all, you’ll need to calculate the approximate costs of the project. Many people choose to build their barndominiums from a kit, which is typically the least expensive option.

In this section, we will discuss some key aspects of building a barndominium:

Cost

The average cost of a barndominium is $95 to $125 per square foot. This is comparatively cheaper than a standard house which starts from $145 per square foot.

Of course, the final cost will depend on a variety of factors, such as location, material, design, features, and whether you’re hiring a general contractor or doing it yourself. If you’re going for the DIY option, your building costs might be as low as $30/square foot!

Metal frame barndominium

With barndominiums, you can skip many of the costs you’d incur building a traditional home. For example, you don’t have to pay for expensive materials to make up the walls and roof. Instead, your main costs would include:

  • Land
  • Concrete foundation
  • Exterior metal framing
  • Interior build-up and finish
  • Plumbing
  • Utilities

Barndominium Kits

If you’re looking to save on building costs, you should consider barndominium kits offered by companies in your area. These can be assembled once you’ve laid a concrete foundation and include the building plans, metal frame, exterior sheets, roof materials, windows, and all essential accessories.

Some manufacturers will even sort you out with a construction crew to help with the assembly. Otherwise, you can follow the step-by-step instructions that come with the kit.

Companies in nearly every region in the United States offer barndominium kits. These can be customized to some extent depending on the buyer’s individual needs and range from $20,000 to $90,000 in price.

Choosing the Land

To get the planning permission for your barndominium and avoid unnecessary costs, it’s important to choose the right piece of land for your building.

When buying land for construction, the main things to consider are zoning regulations, tax rates, and access to utilities.

Zoning Regulations

Zoning regulations essentially state what a piece of land is classified as, which gives us an idea about its intended use. For example, land can be classified as commercial, residential, industrial, agricultural, or a combination of these.

You can easily find out the classification of your chosen land by calling your local zoning department.

It’s also important to note that some areas have stricter zoning laws than others. Depending on where your plot of land is, you may only be allowed to build homes of a certain size or may have to follow a predefined layout. Some areas even require commercial and residential buildings to be separated.

Barndominium Floor Plans

Barndominium floor plan design
Credit to HousePlans.com

Once you have a general idea of what you want your barndominium to look like, it’s time to draw the floor plans. These must include specifications for the size, layout, and features of your barndominium. Depending on your state’s regulations, the floor plans might have to be drawn by an architect.

Unless you want to customize your building to your specific needs, you can cut costs by using ready-made floor plans. You can find these for every type of barndominiums on various websites, including Etsy!

Building Process

Once the design of the barndominium has been finalized and the zoning laws checked, it’s time to start construction!

Since barndominiums are easier and quicker to build than conventional homes, many people chose to go down the DIY route.

The main advantage to this is saving money on labor expenses, which can significantly reduce the final cost of your barndominium. You’ll also have more flexibility and control during the building process.

On the flip side, you might experience difficulties sourcing materials for your barndominium and will have a load of extra responsibilities. Building such a complex structure can be a daunting task, which is why people might want to hire a general contractor.

Having an experienced crew set up your barndominium is certainly more convenient and will produce results much quicker. You’ll also have fewer setbacks along the way, although the overall costs will be higher.

Having set your mind on a route, the main steps of building a barndominium are as follows:

  • Foundation
  • Framing
  • Roof and Interior Walls
  • Interior Finish Work

It can take anywhere from just a few weeks to 6 months until your barndominium is fully built. However, this depends greatly on the complexity of your building and whether you’re doing it yourself or leaving it to the professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cheaper to build a Barndominium than a house?

Due to the low cost of building materials and quick installation process, it generally is cheaper to build a barndominium than a house. The cost of running and maintaining the building is also lower than that of traditional homes.

Barndominiums are all about value for money. You’ll not only get a more spacious home for a fraction of the usual price, but also save money once the building is standing.

What is the life expectancy of a Barndominium?

Because of its durable structure, the average life expectancy of a barndominium is well over 100 years. However, this depends on the building materials and how the building is maintained.

Barndominiums with metal walls and roofs will last much longer than those made out of wood. With that being said, the lifespan of lumber building can also be extended by treating the wood against insects and rot.

What are barndominiums made of?

Most barndominiums are made out of a steel frame with a metal roof and walls. However, the walls are often a combination of metal, wood, and stone.

Meanwhile, the interior of barndominiums is divided by metal partitions that create the barn and living quarters. Like regular houses, barndominiums must also have a concrete foundation.

Are barndominiums safe?

Due to their metal construction, barndominiums are very safe homes. Not only are they fire resistant, but can also withstand extreme weather conditions and up to an F-4 tornado.

According to the World Steel Organization, buildings made of steel like barndominiums are better able to dissipate energy from an earthquake than brick buildings. What’s more, due to the higher conductivity of metals, they can also spread out the heat from a potential lightning strike.

Rest assured that both your family and horses would be safe to live under the roof of your new barndominum!