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Barndominiums Buyers Guide: What Is a Barndominium, Costs, And Building Process

Barndominiums, or barn houses, has been around for centuries, but recently this structure started gaining wild popularity among many US home owners.

A combination of unique aesthetics, balanced costs, and efficient building process led many people to seriously considering bardnos as their next house of choice.

In this guide we’ll cover what barndominiums are, different types of barndominiums, how to build a barndominium, and what are the costs of building a barndominium.

What Are Barndominiums? 

The term “barndominium” is a combination of “barn” and “condominium.” While they first gained popularity after being featured on a popular design show a few years ago, the concept has been around for centuries. 

The term wasn’t coined until the 1980s by Connecticut-based real estate developer Karl Nilsen. Nilsen wanted to create a planned community around the theme of raising horses. His barndominiums would have had living quarters on the top and a stable beneath. However, barn houses had been constructed for decades prior.

The convenience of having a barn and house in one structure, especially during the winter months, first brought these homes into popularity. Today, most barndo owners don’t have a barn full of animals, but they do have a shop or an oversized garage connected to their house. 

Barndominiums were first built out of wood. Today they are most often made out of steel and wood.

Custom metal house owners often incorporate stone or brick into the exterior of their build to give their home a unique feature. 

The ability to cost-effectively build a completely customized home is one of the biggest reasons barn homes are popular today. However, I must give Chip and Joanna some credit for reigniting the masses’ interest in metal structure homes. 

After they aired an episode of Fixer Upper where they renovated a metal shop house, many more people in Texas, Oklahoma, and surrounding states began to consider barndominiums as a viable option when building a house.

With so many style options, it’s mind-blowing it took a TV show for people to realize metal shop houses are the way to go. 

You can choose to frame your barndo with wood or metal. Wood framing will be cheaper and easier to renovate in the future if you so desire. Metal framing will be long-lasting, and you won’t have to worry about termites. 

You can add stone, brick, or wood to the exterior of your barndo to give it an authentic custom home look and feel. When you choose to use stone, brick, or wood on the exterior, you will increase the cost and build time, but the exterior will look incredible!

Lastly, one of the biggest draws to barndominiums is the floor plan options. Your metal house can be 100% living space, or you can add a garage. If you need a large workshop, then pencil that into the floor plan. Barndos can be a single-story house or a two-story house for owners who need to maximize space. 

Why You Should Build A Barndominium 

In most situations, the pros drastically outweigh the cons in favor of building a barndominium. If you’re unaware of the Pros vs. Cons, then you’ve come to the right place! Let’s take a look at the Pros first.

Metal Shop Houses Are Cost-Effective

You can build a fully customized barndo much cheaper than a fully customized traditional home. So if you have a small budget but still want a customized home, you need to consider building a barndominium seriously.

Barndominiums can be built less expensive because they are quicker to make and use less costly materials. This gives you the flexibility to spend more on the aspects that matter most to you.

The Customizability of Barndos

A pro that you would typically think doesn’t go along with being cost-effective is customizability. However, since a barndo is so cost-effective, you can customize it to meet your expectations for a dream home.

You can genuinely make a metal shop home to your exact standards. You choose the framing materials, exterior, floor plans, and interior. Your creativity and budget are the only limits to the customizability of a barn home.

The Quick Build Time of Shop Houses

Purchasing a shop house kit reduces the build time and the costs associated with it. However, even if you don’t go the kit route building, a barndominium is usually quicker than a traditional house. 

This is because the materials used are simpler to put together and often cover more surface area, speeding up the build process. 

Barndos Have Low Maintenance Costs

Since most of a metal shop house is, in fact, metal, you will have less maintenance than a traditional house. You won’t have to be as concerned with termites. As long as you purchase from a quality manufacturer, your roof and siding will last for years to come.

Metal Shop Houses Look Great

Barndominiums have excellent curb appeal when designed and built correctly. This style of house isn’t just another short-lived fad. Barndos have been around for decades and will continue to be around because people love the look and functionality of a metal shop house.

Keep In Mind When Building a Barndominium

You now know several of the Pros of building a barndo. While metal shophouses have several Pros, you must keep in mind the Cons. 

City Ordinances Against Barndos

Believe it or not, some cities have restrictions towards building a barndominium within city limits. This doesn’t affect most owners since they choose a barndo to build in the countryside out of city limits.

You need to check into the building restrictions before purchasing land within city limits if you plan to build your dream metal house on the property.

Getting Utilities to a Remote Property

Unless you plan to live entirely off the grid, you will need utilities run to your home. This is a sneaky cost many people fail to consider while building. Getting water and electricity to your property can cost several thousand dollars if you are any actual distance from the mainline.

Kits That Look Generic

When you purchase a kit, keep in mind that it is a kit anyone else can buy. If you want a customized home, you will need to consider not using a kit that everyone else is choosing or not using a kit at all.

Is Building a Barndominium Cheaper Than Building a House?  

Building a barndominium is, in fact, cheaper than building a traditional house. This is due to the differences in materials used, the build’s length, and the build’s location.

The average cost of a barndominium is $100 per square foot. In comparison, the price of a traditional home is $110 to $170 per square foot. 

These prices will change with your location, the materials you choose and using a contractor. Check out our other article for a deeper dive into barndominium costs vs. a traditional house.

How to Calculate Barndo Costs

Determining the price of your barndominium can seem tricky at first. However, as long as you keep a few things in mind, you will come up with your barndominium cost

If you hire a contractor, you will be paying more. However, it might save you many late nights and headaches.

60 ft x 40 ft Banrdominium Floor Plan, All Right Reserved by Innovative Building Materials LLC.

Using a kit will save you money and make the build process smoother.

Choosing to use alternative materials might save you some upfront costs.

How to Build a Barndominium: What Are Your Main Options?

The building process of a barndominium is similar to any other house. You must begin with a foundation. Then build your frame, followed by the exterior walls. You can now start running the plumbing, electricity, and HVAC. 

Once those are finished, add insulation, then your sheetrock, trim, and paint to the interior. Finally, install your appliances and furniture. Now you’re ready to move into your new home!

Kits 

Barndominium kits are like a 3D puzzle, hopefully with instructions. If you are looking to build quickly, are handy with many tools, and are not primarily concerned with customizability, then kits are a great route to consider. 

Depending on the kit you buy, it might come with just the frame and exterior minus the windows and doors; or it might come with everything you need. For more information on kits, check out the Kit section of our How to build a barndominium article.

Professional Builders

Hiring a professional builder means you don’t have to deal with the day-to-day headaches and minute details of the building process as long as you don’t hire the wrong builder. Here are a few tips on hiring a great builder.

  • Ask others who have worked with them what it was like to work with the builder.
  • The highest bid isn’t always the most reliable or best builder.
  • Communicate your expectations.
  • Don’t get stuck on one company. Make a list of several different companies.
  • Choose a builder who has done multiple barndominium builds.

DIY

DIYing your barndominium will save you a tremendous amount of money. However, it will add a ton of additional work. If you plan to DIY your barndo, purchasing a kit will help you cut a few person-hours from the gigantic project. 

A Barndominium DIY has several pros and cons to consider.

Pros

  • Cheaper
  • More control
  • You have the satisfaction of knowing you built your house.

Cons

  • Labor intensive
  • You need construction experience and skills.
  • Extends the building timeline.

Tips

  • Talk with someone experienced in building barndominiums.
  • Do not attempt it if this is your first DIY project. Start small and work your way up.
  • Hire contractors for certain aspects you are not comfortable with or licensed to do.

These tips and our how-to build a barndominium article will help you get started building your barndominium.

Barndominium Materials: What Barndominiums Are Built Of?

Metal shop houses are constructed of more than just metal. You can use a number of materials to build your dream home. 

The framing can be an all-steel frame, or you can mix wood and steel framing. Using an all-steel frame will mean you don’t have to rely on a load-bearing wooden structure. You will still likely want to use wood to frame the house’s interior because it will make installing insulation and drywall much more manageable.

The traditional barn is a simple structure; it doesn’t require much insulation or energy efficiency. Small barndominiums, on the other hand, do require these things to make them comfortable living spaces. By adding insulation, installing the right siding, and creating a more secure structure, you will ensure there is no heat loss or risk of mold growth, structural damage, or pests getting inside.

Most barndos use metal siding. However, wood, brick, and rock are all popular options. The build cost drastically increases when using these other siding options because they take much longer to install and are more expensive to purchase initially.

You must have insulation in your home to keep the outside elements outside. Insulation comes in several forms, including cellulose, loose fiberglass, sheet foam, and spray foam. If you’re wondering what insulation is best for you, read our barndo insulation article.

A metal roof is the most common on barndominiums because it’s quick to install and durable.

Shiplap has come back into popularity for interior walls, but drywall is still the preferred choice to keep costs low and have a clean, high-quality interior. 

Features of Barndominiums

As a whole, barndominium designs can range from rustic to contemporary or modern, depending on the owner’s style. The shape of these structures is generally the same, however, appearing like a large barn or storage structure.

In many cases, they are divided between work and living. The living quarters go on the second floor, while the first is dedicated to a workspace. For homeowners that do not need a workshop or something similar, the bottom level can also serve as a garage. Alternatively, the entire structure can serve as one large living space, with various rooms.

Barndominium Exterior Siding Materials

The exterior of a barndominium needs to offer the most protection possible while looking aesthetically pleasing. The two common materials include: 

Wood

For those who want to keep with the traditional barn appearance, wood siding is a popular choice. It is a more traditional siding option that is easy to work with and install. Wood siding, however, requires a great deal of maintenance, including repainting and repairing damaged pieces. 

Without proper maintenance, wood siding can develop water damage, rotting, warping, buckling, and even mold growth. It is also susceptible to damage by insects and other pests. Another concern to keep in mind is fire safety, as wood doesn’t offer the same protection from fires as other materials.

Steel

Another common barndominium exterior siding option is metal siding, such as steel. Metal lap siding offers many benefits: it is a more durable material that offers fire resistance. Metal, and especially steel siding is also weather-resistant, eliminating concerns of rot and mold. Insects and rodents are also of little concern, as long as the barndominium is sealed correctly.

Steel siding, unlike wood siding, requires very little maintenance. Where you would have to treat and repair wood siding, steel will not have that issue. Instead, all that steel siding requires is seasonal cleaning to keep it free from dirt and grime.

Barndominium Interior Options

The interior of a barndominium is just as, if not more, customizable than the exterior. The most common options are to stick with a “country” or lodge design. The farmhouse feel has been in popularity for many years now. 

To get these designs, designers recycle wood from fences or old barns, whitewash paint, and use modern appliances made to look old or like it was intended for use on the farm. 

However, this is your house; design it how you want. A modern interior design can be pulled off in a barndominium along with other interior styles. 

Barndominiums were created to be functional and stylish. Keep this in mind as you are designing the interior of your barndo.

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