What is a Barndominium?

A black barndominium with a metal structure and large front porch.

Written By: Larry Haggerty

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A barndominium, or “barndo”, is when a builder will convert a barn into a livable structure by adding in the necessary utilities, building defined rooms and more. Barndominiums have been built and used for decades but it wasn’t until recently that they started to pick up in popularity, especially in southern states.

The term “barndominium” was coined in 1989 by a real estate developer named Karl Nilsen, per the NY Times. Karl Nilsen used the term to describe the equestrian community he was building where there was a house attached to a horse stall.

Since then, barndominiums have slowly grown in popularity but really took off when the show “Fixer Upper” aired in 2016 highlighting a barndominium design & build in Waco, TX. They converted a barn into a 2,700 square-foot contemporary home.

Key Takeaways

  • Barndominiums are a unique type of building that combines living space with a workshop, garage, or barn area.
  • These structures are often made from metal or steel and can be customized to suit a variety of needs and preferences.
  • Barndominiums have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly in rural areas where traditional homes may be more expensive or harder to come by.

Understanding Barndominiums

If you’re looking for a unique and practical residential option, a barndominium may be the perfect solution for you. Essentially, a barndominium is a metal building that has been converted into a living space. They are becoming increasingly popular due to their durability, low cost, and eco-friendliness.

One of the most significant benefits of a barndominium is the cost. They are typically much cheaper to build than traditional homes. Additionally, they are often constructed using recycled materials, making them an eco-friendly option.

Barndominiums are also known for their durability. They are constructed using steel, which is much stronger than wood and can withstand harsh weather conditions. This makes them a great option for those living in areas that experience severe weather.

Another advantage of barndominiums is the flexibility in design. They can be customized to fit your specific needs and preferences. For example, you can choose the size of your living space, the number of windows, and the type of materials used.

Barndominiums often feature an open-concept design, with vaulted ceilings and loft spaces. This creates a light and airy feel, making them feel much larger than they actually are. Additionally, the simple design of a barndominium makes them easy to maintain and energy-efficient.

Overall, a barndominium is an excellent option for those looking for a unique and practical living space. They are durable, eco-friendly, and customizable, making them a great choice for anyone looking to build their dream home.

Types of Barndominiums

When it comes to barndominiums, there are various types to choose from. The type you choose will depend on your preferences, needs, and budget. Here are some of the most common types of barndominiums:

Traditional Home-Style Barndominiums

These barndominiums are designed to look like traditional homes. They have a more residential feel and look, with features such as porches, dormers, and pitched roofs. Traditional home-style barndominiums are ideal for those who want a homey feel with the added benefits of a metal barn or steel building.

Metal Barn-Style Barndominiums

These barndominiums are designed to look like metal barns. They have a more commercial feel and look, with features such as large sliding doors, metal siding, and open floor plans. Metal barn-style barndominiums are ideal for those who want a more rustic and industrial look.

Steel Building-Style Barndominiums

These barndominiums are designed to look like steel buildings. They have a more modern feel and look, with features such as large windows, clean lines, and minimalistic design. Steel building-style barndominiums are ideal for those who want a contemporary and sleek look.

Residential-Commercial Barndominiums

These barndominiums are designed to serve both residential and commercial purposes. They have a living area and a workspace, making them ideal for those who want to work from home or run a business from their property.

In conclusion, barndominiums come in various types and styles, each with its own unique features and benefits. Whether you want a traditional home-style, metal barn-style, steel building-style, or residential-commercial barndominium, there is a type that will suit your needs and preferences.

Barndominium Design and Plan

When it comes to designing and planning a barndominium, there are several factors to consider. First, you need to decide whether you want to go with a pre-designed kit or have an architect create a custom plan for you. A barndominium kit can be a great option if you’re looking for a more affordable and straightforward solution. However, if you want more flexibility and customization, then a custom-designed plan may be a better fit for you.

Regardless of whether you choose a kit or custom design, it’s essential to consider the function of your barndominium. Do you plan to use it as a primary residence, a vacation home, or a workshop? This will impact the layout and size of your barndominium. For example, if you plan to use it as a primary residence, you’ll need to include more bedrooms and bathrooms than if you plan to use it as a workshop.

Another essential aspect to consider is the flexibility of your barndominium design. You want to ensure that the layout can accommodate your changing needs over time. For example, if you plan to start a family, you’ll need to ensure that there’s enough room to add bedrooms and a playroom. Similarly, if you plan to use it as a workshop, you’ll need to ensure that there’s enough space to add more equipment and storage.

If you’re considering a DIY approach to building your barndominium, it’s essential to choose a floor plan that’s easy to construct. You want to avoid complex designs that require specialized skills or tools. A simple rectangular or square layout may be the best option for a DIY project.

Overall, designing and planning a barndominium requires careful consideration of your needs, function, and flexibility. Whether you choose a pre-designed kit or a custom plan, it’s essential to work with an architect or builder who has experience with barndominiums. With the right design and plan, you can create a beautiful and functional living space that meets your unique needs.

Building a Barndominium

Building a barndominium can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, it requires careful planning and attention to detail. Here are some important factors to consider when building your barndominium:

Foundation and Siding

The foundation is an essential component of any building, and a barndominium is no exception. You will need to decide on the type of foundation that is best suited for your needs and budget. Common options include slab, pier and beam, and crawl space foundations.

When it comes to siding, you have several options to choose from. Metal siding is a popular choice due to its durability and low maintenance requirements. Other options include wood, brick, and stucco.

Building Your Barndo

Building a barndominium requires a skilled contractor who is familiar with the unique challenges of constructing this type of building. You will need to hire a contractor who has experience in building barndominiums and can provide references.

Before hiring a contractor, it is important to obtain multiple bids and compare them carefully. You should also check the contractor’s credentials, including their license and insurance.

Utilities and Shop

When building your barndominium, you will need to consider the utilities that will be required, including water, electricity, and sewage. You will also need to plan for a shop area, which can be used for storage, workspace, or as a garage.

Permits and Insurance

Before starting construction on your barndominium, you will need to obtain the necessary permits from your local government. This may include building permits, zoning permits, and environmental permits.

You will also need to obtain insurance coverage for your barndominium. This may include liability insurance, property insurance, and construction insurance.

Labor and Contractors

Building a barndominium requires a significant amount of labor, including excavation, framing, roofing, and finishing work. You will need to hire skilled laborers who are experienced in these areas.

In addition to labor, you will also need to hire contractors for specific tasks, such as electrical and plumbing work. It is important to hire licensed and insured contractors who have experience in working on barndominiums.

Costs and Financing

When it comes to building a barndominium, one of the biggest advantages is its cost-effectiveness. According to HomeAdvisor, a 2,400-square-foot barndominium costs about $50 to $150 or more to construct with a builder. In comparison, the average cost of a traditional home is $110 to $170 per square foot. This means that building a barndominium can be significantly cheaper than building a traditional house but ultimately comes down to what finishings you choose.

However, it is important to note that the cost of a barndominium can vary depending on factors such as the quality of materials, finishes, and location. The national average for barndominium cost per square foot is $120 for the living area and $55 for the shop area. These figures can give you a good idea of how much a barndominium will cost to build in your area.

Financing a barndominium can be more challenging than financing a traditional home, but it is not impossible. More lenders are becoming open to financing barndominiums due to their increasing popularity. However, it is important to do your research and find a lender who specializes in barndominium financing.

There are several financing options available for barndominiums, including traditional mortgages, construction loans, and personal loans. You can also consider financing through a barndominium kit company, which can offer financing options for their pre-designed kits.

In conclusion, building a barndominium can be a cost-effective option compared to building a traditional home. While financing may be more challenging, there are several options available to help you finance your barndominium project.

Customization Options

When it comes to customizing your barndominium, the possibilities are endless. You can create a living space that is uniquely yours, with features that suit your lifestyle and preferences. Here are some customization options to consider:


Custom cabinetry is a great way to add both functionality and style to your barndominium. You can choose from a wide range of materials, finishes, and hardware to create the perfect look for your kitchen, bathroom, or any other area that needs storage.

Large Windows

Large windows are a popular choice for barndominiums, as they allow for plenty of natural light and provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape. You can choose from a variety of window styles and sizes to create the perfect look for your living areas.


A porch is a great way to add outdoor living space to your barndominium. You can choose from a variety of porch styles, such as wrap-around, screened-in, or covered, to create the perfect space for relaxing or entertaining.

Living Areas

Your barndominium living areas can be customized to suit your specific needs and preferences. For example, you can create an open-concept living and dining area, or you can create separate spaces for each activity. You can also choose from a variety of flooring options, such as hardwood, tile, or carpet, to create the perfect look for your living areas.

Overall, customizing your barndominium is a fun and exciting process that allows you to create a living space that is uniquely yours. With so many customization options available, you can create a space that is both functional and beautiful, and that perfectly suits your lifestyle and preferences.

Advantages and Disadvantages

When it comes to building a home, a barndominium can offer several advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the main ones to consider:


  • Cost-effective: Building a barndominium can be a cost-effective option compared to traditional home construction. Barndominiums can be built quickly and with fewer materials, which can save you money on construction costs.
  • Customizable: Barndominiums offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to the layout and design of your home. You have the freedom to customize the interiors to your liking and create a space that truly reflects your personality.
  • Durability: Barndominiums are known for their durability, thanks to their steel construction. They can withstand harsh weather conditions and are less likely to suffer damage from pests or fire.
  • Energy-efficient: Barndominiums are often designed with energy efficiency in mind. They can be built with insulation and energy-efficient windows, which can help reduce your energy bills.


  • Limited financing options: Barndominiums can be difficult to finance because they are not considered traditional homes. You may need to look for alternative financing options, such as a personal loan or a construction loan.
  • Zoning restrictions: Depending on where you live, there may be zoning restrictions that prevent you from building a barndominium. You will need to check with your local zoning board before starting construction.
  • Limited resale value: Barndominiums may not have the same resale value as traditional homes. Some homebuyers may not be interested in a steel-frame home, which can limit your potential pool of buyers.
  • Maintenance: While barndominiums are durable, they still require maintenance. You will need to keep an eye out for rust and other signs of wear and tear on the steel frame. Additionally, you may need to repaint the exterior periodically to keep it looking its best.

Overall, a barndominium can be a great option for those looking for a cost-effective, customizable, and durable home. However, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making a decision.

Barndominiums in Severe Weather

Barndominiums are known for their durability and strength, making them a popular choice for those living in areas prone to severe weather conditions. Constructed with metal, a barndominium offers superior protection from severe weather. The steel structure of a steel barndominium has a higher wind resistance than a conventional wood frame home.

Tornadoes are rated using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, which measures wind speed and damage potential. A barndominium can withstand winds of up to 135 mph, which is equivalent to an EF2 tornado. This means that your barndominium can provide a safe shelter for you and your family during a severe storm.

However, the stability of the structure depends on a variety of factors. For instance, the foundation of the barndominium must be strong enough to withstand the force of the winds. A poorly constructed foundation can cause the building to collapse during a severe storm.

In addition to a strong foundation, barndominiums should also be properly anchored to the ground to prevent them from being lifted by strong winds. The roof of the barndominium should also be properly secured to prevent it from being torn off by strong winds.

Overall, barndominiums are a safe and durable option for those living in areas prone to severe weather conditions. However, it is important to ensure that the barndominium is properly constructed and anchored to the ground to withstand the forces of nature.

Real Estate Perspective

If you’re a real estate developer, you might be wondering if building a barndominium is a smart investment. According to HomeAdvisor, the cost to build a barndominium ranges from $94 to $120 per square foot, depending on the finishes you choose and the cost of labor in your area. This is comparable to building a traditional house, which can cost between $100 and $200 per square foot.

For buyers, barndominiums can be an attractive option for several reasons. First, they offer a unique living space that combines the rustic charm of a barn with the modern amenities of a home. Second, they are often more affordable than traditional homes, which can be especially appealing to first-time homebuyers or those looking to downsize. Finally, barndominiums are typically located on larger plots of land, providing more space and privacy than a typical suburban home.

Selling a barndominium can be a bit trickier than selling a traditional home, as they are a relatively new concept and may not appeal to all buyers. However, with the growing popularity of barndominiums, more and more buyers are becoming interested in this unique housing option. As a seller, it’s important to highlight the unique features and benefits of your barndominium, such as the spacious living areas, natural light, and energy efficiency.

Overall, if you’re looking for a unique and affordable housing option, a barndominium might be the perfect choice for you. With the help of a trusted real estate agent, you can find a barndominium that meets your needs and budget, or build your own from scratch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a barndominium and a traditional house?

A barndominium is a unique type of home that combines a metal or wood barn with living space. Compared to a traditional house, a barndominium typically has a more open floor plan and a rustic aesthetic. Additionally, barndominiums are often more affordable to build than traditional homes.

What are some popular barndominium kits available?

There are many barndominium kits available on the market today. Some of the most popular options include Mueller, Morton Buildings, and Worldwide Steel Buildings. These kits typically include all of the materials needed to construct the shell of the house, including the exterior walls, roof, and framing.

Where can I find barndominiums for sale?

Barndominiums can be found for sale in many rural areas throughout the United States. Some popular websites to search for barndominiums include Zillow, Realtor.com, and Land and Farm. Additionally, you can work with a real estate agent who specializes in rural properties to help you find the perfect barndominium for your needs.

What are some common features of barndominium plans?

Barndominium plans can vary widely depending on the specific design and layout of the home. However, some common features of barndominium plans include high ceilings, large open living spaces, and plenty of natural light. Many barndominiums also feature barn doors, exposed beams, and other rustic design elements.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of building a barndominium?

One of the biggest advantages of building a barndominium is that it can be more affordable than building a traditional home. Additionally, barndominiums are often quicker to build and require less maintenance than traditional homes. However, some potential disadvantages of building a barndominium include limited financing options and difficulty finding contractors who are experienced in building this type of home.

Are barndominiums safe in tornado-prone areas?

Barndominiums can be designed to be safe in tornado-prone areas. Many barndominiums are constructed using steel frames and metal siding, which can be more resistant to high winds than traditional wood-framed homes. Additionally, barndominiums can be designed with reinforced concrete foundations and safe rooms to provide additional protection during severe weather events.

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