If, like me, you’re a fan of HGTV’s Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, I bet you remember the Barndominium episode. They restored an old barn into a beautiful family home. Although barndominiums have been around for decades, that episode of Fixer Upper, and the popularity of modern farmhouse and rustic chic decor have made many homeowners decide to build a barndominium for themselves.
So what exactly are barndominiums? Well, barndominiums are a type of barn, usually, but not always, made of metal. These metal barn structures are then upgraded, finished, and furnished to serve as a comfortable home, at least in part.
They are an alternative to traditional stick-built new homes for homeowners who love a barn aesthetic and who want to live in an unconventional house. And although this style house is not for everyone, there are a few homebuilding practices and features of barndominiums that most of us can incorporate into our homes and homebuilding experience, no matter what home style we choose.
Alright, let’s get into this week’s content. Vicki, this episode is for you!
Orginally, barndominiums were living quarters built inside of a barn. Like a condominium inside a barn. Most barndominiums have exteriors that look like a traditional or contemporary barn. And they have living quarters inside that can make up a small portion, or the majority of the square footage. More historical designs have a residential area that shares space with oversized garages for storing tools and farm equipment, or workshops, sheds and/or stables for livestock. And the living and work/storage areas are all under the same roof. Some newer barndominium designs look like barns on the outside, but they are entirely residential on the inside. Once a homeowner decides on the desired square footage, the options for designing the inside structure are virtually unlimited.
And what about cost?
When they were first being built, barndominiums were almost always less expensive to build than conventional homes with the same square footage. And building a fairly simple barndominium can still be more economical than building a conventional home. But the prices of many of today’s barndominiums can be on par with other new homes, depending on the complexity and size of the house.
The cost for a barndominium can range from $50 per sq. ft. up to more than $150 per sq. ft., depending on what is included in the home. Some barndominiums are outfitted with many of the luxury finishes and fixtures that you might see in a conventional custom home, including beautiful custom cabinetry, stone countertops, stylish lighting fixtures and stone and hardwood flooring. So, since you can spend as much for a barndominium as any other house, many folks are choosing to build them for purely aesthetic reasons. They just love the character and charm of a barn.
If you do decide to build a barndominium, choose a builder and subcontractors who are experienced with barndominium construction. Specifically look for a builder and contractors with experience in metal construction. Another option is to hire a metal building company and hire one or more contractors to help you finish the metal building out with insulation, windows and all the interior finishes
As with any type of “alternative” home, finding the best financing for a barndominium may require some extra research and time. Some traditional banks will finance this alternative type of project with more money down. Some small local banks or specialty lending firms, such as Farm Credit lenders, will finance barndos with no problem.
Now let’s talk about 6 design features and practices found in the construction of many barndos that can work well in more conventional homes too.
1. Open Concept Floor Plan
As barns are naturally very open, airy spaces, open concept living spaces are a staple in barndominiums. And, as you know, open floor plans are commonly sought after in conventional homes too. Although there are a few people out there who still like every room in the house to be separated by 4 walls, most of us prefer open sight lines. Open floor plans allow us to connect visually and conversationally with our family and friends, even if one person is in the kitchen and another is in the living room.
Great rooms that are expansive areas that include the kitchen, dining room and living room and they are typically found in barndominiums. Great rooms are a perfect way to incorporate open concept living in more conventional homes too. They allow us to be in the same space, without being on top of each other. Great rooms let the cook feel less isolated, and they let you watch the kids playing while you’re getting a few chores done.
2. Ceiling Beams and Trusses
You’ll often find ceiling beams and trusses in barndominiums, for structural or decorative purposes. And we should consider them for our conventional homes too. Trusses, which are those large triangle shaped ceiling structures, typically give homes more of a rustic or dramatic feel. Like trusses, linear beams add dimension and architectural interest, but beams are more understated than trusses. Either can be included in barndominiums or almost any style of conventional house. Choose stained and/or distressed trusses or beams for more casual, rustic or Mediterranean homes. Consider sleek, painted or sanded and stained beams for a more contemporary or transitional home.
3. Tongue and Groove Wood Ceilings, Feature Walls or Soffits
Remember the soffit is the portion of the roof edge, or eave, that faces downward. The soffit is the side-walk facing portion of the roof's eave. It’s not usual for barndominiums to have wood or wood-look soffits, but you can also see wood soffits on very contemporary homes, and style in between. And tongue and groove feature walls and ceilings can be included in conventional homes just as they can in barndominiums. They add texture and warmth to any style house, but can be especially helpful in warming up an otherwise cold, contemporary space.
4. Flexible Multifunctional Spaces
Barndominiums were traditionally built to be spaces that combine living and working or storage spaces. Both those living and working spaces could change over time to accommodate the needs of the homeowner and his business. Those of us building more conventional homes can take these concepts of multifunctionality and flexibility and incorporate them into our homes to help our homes grow with us as the needs of our family change. For example, consider Including a flexible bonus room in your home that can change from a playroom for toddlers into a homework room for school-aged kids and then transition into a game room and lounge for teenagers. Or take one room in your house and let it serve as a guest bedroom and office or craft room and yoga room.
5. Home Construction Kits
A home kit is an unassembled house “in a box” that you or a contractor can put together on your land, for a fraction of the cost of a traditional home. There are several home kit companies that specialize in barndominiums. But there are also home kits for conventional home. Kit houses come in a variety of sizes and styles, from tiny homes on wheels, to cabins and cottages, to luxurious 3000 square foot homes. And home kits come in wood or metal, depending on what type of construction you want.
In general, it takes less time and money to build a kit home from the ground up than it does to construct a traditional, site-built home. This is one of the big appeals of going with a kit home, whether you choose a barndominium or not. Prices of kit homes vary depending on the style you choose, the features you select, the square footage, materials, and finishes you include. Perhaps the most economical way to build a barndominium, or any home, is to purchase a kit. Some sources say you might save as much as 50% on total costs with a kit.
6. Build Your House The Way You Want
When building a barndominium or a conventional house, explore all your construction options. There are 4 main ways to build:
-Hire a contractor to build your entire home for you from the ground up, and let him finish every aspect of construction.
-Hire a contractor to build the exterior shell of the home, but you finish the interior on your own.
-Purchase a kit and have a contractor assist you with some or all of the construction
-Buy a kit (or don't) and handle all of the construction on your own, managing subcontractors and/or doing some labor yourself.
No matter what type of house we each choose to build, we can incorporate features and practices from other styles that will make our homes more interesting, practical and unique.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thanks for stopping by.