6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (2024)

If you revel in the rustic and go ballistic over barn-style anything, then barndominium living may be for you.

So what is a barndominium? It’s an oversized building that’s either a retrofitted barn-to-home conversion or an open-concept steel building constructed from the ground up. It is usually built on a plot of land in rural areas where land is abundant, but this type of structure has also started popping up in exurban locations.

“Barndominiums as a design concept are booming,” says OliverJ. Bell, CEO of Our Barndominium Life.

Compared with traditional wood-framed houses, barndominiums are faster and more affordable to build, are more durable, and require less maintenance.

But before you jump on the bandwagon and begin construction—whether it’s on an existing barn or a brand-new kit—you want to do your research. Here are the most important things to know about building a barndominium.

1. Obtain a permit for your project

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Anyone taking on a building project or remodel is required to obtain the proper permits to make sure everything is up to code. When building a barndominium, it’s important to budget for permits, which can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000 depending on where you reside.

Your local department of building and safety will often have size and style requirements for your build, as well as requirements for septic tank installation, electrical wiring, and plumbing.

And if you’re buying a property that has a preexisting barn, never assume that it was built to code or with the necessary permits. Get in touch with the local planning office to find out what you can and cannot do to retrofit your barn.

2. Test the paint

6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (2)

When refurbishing an older barn, it’s important to determine what type of coatings were originally used.

Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, says older barns that predate 1978 may have lead paint on the exterior and interior spaces, windows, walls, trim, and siding.

These areas may be disturbed during refurbishment and need to be tested prior to the work beginning. If the test is positive, Kunz says the cost to fix the issue can be considerable and depends on the barn’s size.

3. Prepare for surprise costs

6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (3)

Building or retrofitting a barn to live in costs considerably less than a traditional house, but that doesn’t mean unexpected costs won’t pop up during the construction.

Don’t underestimate the cost to clear the terrain and prepare the site for construction. You also might need to lay a new foundation, which can cost from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on your location and the type of foundation.

You’re turning a typically uninhabited structure into a livable space, so you’ll need to budget for modern conveniences that’ll make it feel like home. This can include HVAC, tile or hardwood flooring, and washer and dryer hookups.

4. Plan for electrical work

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For a basic barn, electricity is not something that needs to be considered. But a barndominium can’t go without electricity, so it’s important to consider the electrical requirements—and to consider them early.

Hire a licensed and skilled electrical company and have it review the power specifications for all the appliances and lighting that will be installed throughout the home. The company should also make sure all the wires are in the precise location you need them to be.

“Once the Sheetrock or walls are in place, it takes much more labor to rework things,” says Sean Dion, owner of Mr. Electric of Queensbury, NY.

Choosing your lighting (both the type of lighting and the fixtures) can be overwhelming, but make your selections early to assure they’ll be available when it’s time for installation. You may also want to include smart thermostats, doorbells, security lighting or devices, and smart switches in your renovation.

Any changes to a project after the contract is signed can be costly.

5. Choose your windows and doors wisely

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High energy costs are often attributed to drafty windows and doors. So, to make sure your energy bill won’t spike in your barndominium, choose double- or triple-pane windows and a fiberglass or insulated steel front door.

To bring more natural light into the home and embrace indoor-outdoor living, Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor, suggests incorporating a sliding glass door into your design.

When shopping for a sliding glass door, “look for composite gaskets, double-pane glass, and other features designed for energy efficiency,” says Roberson.

6. Add insulation—it’s important

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Since barndominiums are constructed with steel frames and metal walls, they are not good at holding a steady temperature and can accumulate heat during warm weather and lose heat in the winter.

To remedy this issue, experts recommend using batting for insulation, or using foam boards, insulated panels, and spray foam insulation to give more heat resistance.

6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (2024)


6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium? ›

Pros of barndominiums include a cheaper cost, fully customizable space, and lower maintenance. They're also highly durable with lots of extra room and are a more eco-friendly housing option. Meanwhile, cons include higher upfront costs, difficulties finding financing, and not all cities allow them.

What do I wish I knew before building a barndominium? ›

Here are the most important things to know about building a barndominium.
  • Obtain a permit for your project. Photo by Bridger Steel, Inc. ...
  • Test the paint. Photo by Justin Doyle Homes. ...
  • Prepare for surprise costs. ...
  • Plan for electrical work. ...
  • Choose your windows and doors wisely. ...
  • Add insulation—it's important.
Mar 14, 2022

What is the downside to a barndominium? ›

Pros of barndominiums include a cheaper cost, fully customizable space, and lower maintenance. They're also highly durable with lots of extra room and are a more eco-friendly housing option. Meanwhile, cons include higher upfront costs, difficulties finding financing, and not all cities allow them.

Why are barndominiums hard to insure? ›

While a barndominium is very similar to a traditionally built home, insuring them can be much more difficult. There can be several reasons why insurance companies are hesitant to insure these structures. The primary reason is that these homes are non-standard construction, which means they lack historical data.

Why are barndominiums hard to finance? ›

Getting a home loan for a barndominium can be tricky since many lenders are unfamiliar with these types of structures. However, it is far from impossible. You just need to be able to fulfill your lender's requirements as well as the stipulations set out by your particular loan program.

Are barndominiums worth the money? ›

Barndominiums offer exceptional value on a per square foot basis, and are exceptionally beneficial for large families or when a business requires a large workspace. They also have lower insurance rates and taxes.

Are barndominiums bad investments? ›

As such, it is more difficult to assess the resale value of a Barndominium. Unlike modular homes and trailers, Barndominiums maintain their value and are likely to increase over time. If you are purely looking for a quick resale investment, a Barndominium may not be your best option.

What is the life expectancy of a barndominium? ›

Longevity: Although they may not last as long as traditional homes, a well-maintained barndominium can provide comfortable living for around 50 years. 5. Durability: Barndominiums are built to withstand the elements, ensuring they remain sturdy and reliable over the years.

Do barndominiums rust easily? ›

Corrosion. In the same way that traditional homes with wooden frames are prone to rotting, metal-based barndominiums are prone to corrosion over time, especially if you live in a tropical or humid climate.

How to save money while building a barndominium? ›

5 Ways to Save Money on Your Barndominium Build.
  1. Be strategic about where you put your framed openings: ...
  2. Use concrete floors. ...
  3. DIY finish work (Stairs, Barn Doors, Light Fixture Installation) ...
  4. Ask for “builder grade”/“build program” or scour the remnant yard for countertops.

Do barndominiums leak? ›

Barndominiums, especially those constructed with high-quality steel frames and metal roofs, are unlikely to develop leaks when properly designed and installed. These materials not only provide structural benefits but also contribute significantly to the longevity and maintenance ease of the home.

What makes a barndominium cheaper to build? ›

Barndominiums have a quality that often makes them very customizable, which is that typical barndominiums are often constructed from a metal building. Metal structures are usually less expensive to construct than traditional buildings, which is one reason why they are used so much in commercial construction.

Why don't banks like barndominiums? ›

That's because the most significant hurdle when applying for a conventional loan on a barndominium is the appraisal. Lenders want assurance that a home is sellable on the open market if the home must go into foreclosure. And, it has to be worth the amount on which the loan is based.

Why do lenders not like barndominiums? ›

Most financial institutions will not provide mortgage loans for barndominiums, largely due to a lack of comparable sales during the appraisal process.

What credit score do you need for a barndominium? ›

While criteria varies between institutions, ideal credit scores for the best barndominium loan rates start around 720+ or higher. This provides more assurance to lenders given barndos don't yet have comprehensive comparable sales data that appraisers prefer.

Why not build a barndominium? ›

Limited resale value: Due to their unique design, it can be difficult to find buyers for a barndominium, leading to lower resale value. Zoning restrictions: In some areas, there may be zoning restrictions that limit or prohibit the building of a barndominium.

What is the first step in building a barndominium? ›

How to Build a Barndominium in 10 Steps: the Ultimate Guide to a Metal Building
  1. Planning and Budgeting. ...
  2. Land Acquisition. ...
  3. Interior Design Elements & Exterior Too. ...
  4. Obtain Permits. ...
  5. Foundation and Framing. ...
  6. Building Installation. ...
  7. Interior Finishing. ...
  8. Install Utilities.
Aug 3, 2023

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