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PHOTO: Yankee Barn Homes/Facebook
You don’t have to live on a farm to appreciate the beauty of barn homes. As barn home architecture gains popularity, there are more options than ever for affordable barn home designs. You can build a barn home from scratch or order a kit to assemble on site. Even if you’re not into DIY, that’s OK. There are several companies that manage all aspects of barn home design and construction.
If building a barn home on your land is part of your farm dream, here are five things to consider.
1. Types of Barn Homes
Just as there are numerous barn designs, barn homes come in all shapes and sizes. You could choose:
- a pole barn: named for the posts/poles that are embedded into the ground for support
- a bank barn: built into the side of a hill, taking advantage of the slope of the land to provide two stories of living space that are both accessible at ground level
- a round barn: named for its shape
- a timber frame or post-and-beam barn: in both techniques, timbers are exposed
- a barn-inspired home that defies definition
Most barn homes honor traditional architectural features of a barn, including:
- open floor plans
vertical shiplap siding
- gambrel or gable rooflines
- cupolas and oversized sliding doors
Whichever design you choose should reflect your style and personality, and perhaps even reflect the traditional barn styles of your area.
2. Planning Your Barn Home Design
Most barn homes have an open floor plan with a loft, but there are countless options within that design. Before you begin planning, check your local building codes and pulling the necessary permits, and then work within those regulations to determine the various aspects of your design.
Your lender, insurance company and building inspector might not consider a barn home a permanent structure, making it impossible to secure financing, insurance or an occupancy permit. The problem: Pole barns often lack traditional (permanent) foundations. Do your research to see if a concrete foundation is necessary.
Hardwood, laminate, bamboo, tile, polished concrete—the options are endless when it comes to flooring. Choose the material that fits best with your desired aesthetic and lifestyle.
In traditional post-and-beam construction, the open floor plan means there are no interior weight-bearing walls. The open space, while beautiful, makes it challenging to install outlets and plumbing because no interior walls means no place to hide outlets and pipes.
Climate will dictate the most appropriate heating choices. Remember, a fireplace or woodstove will add cozy charm as well as heat.
3. Constructing Your Barn Home
In determining whether to tackle the build yourself or call in contractors, consider questions like: How complex is the design? Do I have the right tools (preparing the site, for example, could require special equipment)? Am I comfortable choosing and installing materials and finishes? Overall, you have three options when it comes to construction:
Do It Yourself from Scratch
It’s possible to “stick build” a barn home, cutting each piece of wood and assembling the home from the ground up, but there are also barn kits available through builders, like Sand Creek Post and Beam, that are shipped and assembled onsite.
Renovate an Old Barn
To turn a barn into a home, it’s possible to purchase an old barn frame that was dismantled and have it shipped to the site. Architects and builders that offer this non-traditional approach include all of the framing pieces, photos of the barn and instructions for re-assembling the barn.
Call in a Contractor
If DIY sounds daunting, companies like Yankee Barn Homes have teams that manage the entire process from design through construction.
4. Barn Home Costs Vary
Building a barn home is no different than building (or buying) a traditional home: There are huge variations in price. A DIY build that incorporates recycled materials and basic finishes into a small footprint will be less expensive than hiring a contractor to construct a grand home with top-of-the-line finishes.
- Yankee Barn Homes cites costs around $250 per square foot (excluding land and site work)
- Sand Creek Post & Beam offers eight barn home “shells” with frames, vertical walls and roof insulation at prices starting at $56,795.
- Small Barn Homes, based in New York, purchases barns, dismantles them and resells the frames for barn homes. Their prices range from $25 to $40 per square foot for the frame plus shipping, which can cost up to $7,000 depending on distance.
To keep costs down, look for used materials on Craigslist, at yard sales and in the classified section of the local newspaper, or shop at Habitat for Humanity or building-surplus stores.
5. Consult Other Barn Home Resources Before You Build
Although there is a dearth of how-to guides for barn homes, these general barn building books offer basics on building barn structures:
- Practical Pole Building Construction, by Leigh W. Seddon (Williamson Publishing Company, 1985)
- Low-Cost Pole Building Construction, by Ralphe Wolfe (Storey Publishing, LLC, 1980)
- The Complete Guide to Building Classic Barns, Fences, Storage Sheds, Outbuildings, Greenhouses, Farm Equipment and Tools, by Tim Bodamer (Atlantic Publishing Group Inc., 2012)
There are also countless websites and blog posts devoted to the topic.
As barn homes gain popularity, architects and contractors are becoming more familiar with the process, and many offer consulting services to guide you through a DIY build. Whether you recycle an antique barn, construct a simple pole barn or commission a contractor to build a luxury barn home with an agrarian aesthetic, a barn home is a unique statement about your love of farm-inspired living.