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

6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (1)

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

6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (4)

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

6 Things You Should Know About Building a Barndominium (5)

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

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

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)


What do I need to know before building a barndominium? ›

Here are five key factors you'll want to know before breaking ground and turning your dream barndominium into a reality.
  1. Research your ZIP code. ...
  2. Look into financing. ...
  3. Interview builders. ...
  4. Plan for extra costs later. ...
  5. Consider insurance.
Jan 29, 2024

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.

What is the most expensive part of building a barndominium? ›

Steel framing, popular in barndominium construction for its durability and resistance to pests, can be more expensive than traditional wood framing. Framing costs can range from $20 to $50 per square foot, making it one of the most significant portions of the construction budget.

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.

Is it hard to get a mortgage for a barndominium? ›

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.

How thick is the slab for a barndominium? ›

For barndominiums up to 1,500 sq. ft., most recommendations fall between a 4” and 6″ thick slab. This accommodates moderate traffic and furnishings adequately without excessive concrete use. The steel perimeter beams of barndominium kits require less internal slab support than wood framing.

What is the problem with the barndominium? ›

Without adequate insulation, these structures can become uncomfortably hot in the summer and chilly in the winter, resulting in increased heating and cooling costs. 2. High Maintenance: Barndominiums often feature metal exteriors, which can require more maintenance than traditional siding materials.

What is the lifespan of a barndominium? ›

How Long Do Barndominiums Last? As long as you keep up with the occasional maintenance of the roof and siding, you can expect to enjoy your barndominium for 50 years or possibly even longer.

Are barndominiums prone to mold? ›

Barndominiums offer a blend of rustic aesthetics and modern living that appeals to many homeowners. However, like any other type of construction, they are susceptible to mold growth if not properly designed, constructed, and maintained.

How big of a barndominium can I build for 200K? ›

How big of a barndominium can I build for $200K? On the high end, barndominiums have an average cost of $150 per square foot. At that price, you can estimate a building of around 1,333 square feet for $200,000.

How much does it cost to build a 2000 square foot barndominium? ›

The cost to build a barndominium is $65 to $160 per square foot or $130,000 to $320,000 on average for a 2,000 SF home. Barndominium prices depend on the size, materials, and interior finishes chosen. Barndominium kit prices are $20 to $35 per square foot for materials only.

Is it possible to build a barndominium for 100K? ›

It is not an impossibility that you can build a barndominium for 100K. However, it is not too common. If you seek to go that route, you need to cut down on expenses and do most of the work yourself. You will need to find the right piece of land to erect your barndominium.

Are barndominiums bad investments? ›

In summary, barndominiums make wise value investments thanks to lower initial costs per square foot, flexible use cases, and rising property demands over upcoming years as inventories remain limited. Position your unique barndominium advantageously to reap financial returns for the decades ahead!

Are barndominiums worth the money? ›

Barndominiums can offer excellent value, providing the benefits of a traditional home at a fraction of the cost. This makes them particularly attractive for those seeking: A larger home at a lower price. A fully customizable living space.

Do barndominiums hold their value? ›

Barndominiums normally retain their resale value and may even increase in value gradually, although more slowly than a standard home. However, these homes are still rare in some parts of the country, and it may be challenging to get an accurate appraisal in an area where there are few.

Is it cheaper to build a barndominium or a house? ›

The most common estimate asserts that a new barndominium with basic amenities will cost about $30 to $40 per square foot to build, compared to the cost of building a traditional home is around $100 to $200 per square foot.

Is building a barndominium a good investment? ›

A barndominium is a wise investment if you plan on entering the Los Angeles real estate scene. Barndominiums are cheaper and easier to build than conventional houses, are low maintenance, and are more durable against earthquakes and fires. They are also unique and will set you apart from other real estate investors.

Is it hard to build a barndominium yourself? ›

Barndominiums can be built by a licensed contractor, a remodeler, or even a do-it-yourselfer. Since barndos are often erected by machinery, the process tends to be quick and efficient.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Last Updated:

Views: 5545

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Birthday: 2001-01-17

Address: Suite 769 2454 Marsha Coves, Debbieton, MS 95002

Phone: +813077629322

Job: Real-Estate Executive

Hobby: Archery, Metal detecting, Kitesurfing, Genealogy, Kitesurfing, Calligraphy, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Gov. Deandrea McKenzie, I am a spotless, clean, glamorous, sparkling, adventurous, nice, brainy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.