What is a Barndominium?

A barndominium represents an innovative blend of barn-like aesthetics and modern living requirements. These structures take design cues from barns only to fuse them with the amenities and comfort found in a condo, providing a unique yet efficient housing solution.

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

Written By: Larry Haggerty

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A barndominium, or barndo, is a combination of a barn and a condominium. The concept is designed to not only provide living space, but also a larger open area where hobbies requiring additional square footage can be pursued. This might include workshops, sheds, or barn activities. Barndominiums consist of a living area, usually built above or around the larger open space.

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.

Pros and Cons

Your barndominium will come with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Many of these are influenced heavily by your living preferences and where you choose to build.

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

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.

Designing a Barndominium

Building a barndominium involves deliberate planning and design considerations – both aesthetically and functionally. Many features make these structures stand out, but their inherently adaptable design allows for maximum customization.

What Do Barndominium’s Look Like?

They’re generally large metal structures, often with one part earmarked for living space, encapsulating a residential area and wide-open spaces like a workshop or storage area. Despite their barn-like exteriors, their interiors can be as luxurious and cozy as any modern home. This blend of rustic and modern is becoming a massive hit for those desiring quirk and utility alike.

Factors to Consider

When planning for a barndominium, various factors may affect the design process:

  • Cost: While barndominiums are cost-effective, varying factors determine their final price tag – size, location, and materials, to name a few.
  • Building Regulations: An understanding of local building codes and regulations is crucial. Some areas have restrictions on building barndominiums, so it’s important to verify beforehand.
  • Materials: Metal is the preferred material for barndominiums, lending to their sturdy build and durability. Fortunately, the market offers a wide variety of colors and styles to choose from.

Layout and Floor Plans

As you’re thinking about the design of your barndominium you will want to put a ton of time into finding the perfect floor plan. You can work with an architect or opt to purchase a barndominium kit. Your floor plan should cater to the needs of your home and family. Keep in mind that the custom nature of a barndo may limit the resale value you can get if you need to move later on.

Traditional homes generally command a better resale value, influenced by factors like neighborhood developments and market trends. As barndominiums are a newer concept, their resale value largely depends on consumer interest and demand fluctuations.

Interior Design Tips

Our last focus is arguably the most significant – barndominium interiors. They can be as rustic or contemporary as desired. There’s vast potential for creativity:

  • Echoing Exteriors: One can continue the rustic trend inside, using similar materials and style cues for creating perfect harmony.
  • Modern Touches: While the exteriors may shout ‘barn,’ the interiors can whisper ‘modern.’ It’s an opportunity to mesh together a plush, modern living room with the quaint, old-world charm of a barn.
  • Splashes of Color: Typically, barndominiums implement monochrome or dual-tone color schemes. To break the monotony, consider elements of color contrast for a popping interior.

Costs of Building a Barndominium

Understanding the cost components involved in building a barndominium is critical for planning. We will go into details about the average cost breakdown, ways to cut down on construction costs and financing options available.

Average Cost Breakdown

The average cost to build a barndominium is around $300,000, including the price of the land. However, this can vary based on several factors, including materials, customization, location, and even the cost of labor.

A barndominium kit will typically cost you around $25-$100 per square foot. When you take into account customization, land costs, and other miscellaneous expenses, the price per square foot tends to inch closer to $100 – $150. These prices may seem high compared to pre-pandemic but they are influenced by the rising cost of building materials seen in 2022 and continuing in 2023, driving up prices by around 5% – 10%.

Ways to Save on Construction

Saving on the construction costs of a barndominium largely relies on how much of the work you’re willing and able to take on. As these structures are “DIY-friendly,” owners can act as their own general contractors, managing some of the construction and thereby reducing labor costs. Opting to roll up your sleeves and get involved can position you to keep a hefty sum in your pocket. Many owners who are DIY-friendly have the option to act as their own general contractor and thereby save up to 15-20% off of expenses. Depending on the home builder used, these costs could equal to that of building a traditional home.

Another method of cutting costs is settling for a fixed floor plan and limiting customizations. Purchasing a ready-to-systematize barndominium kit eliminates a lot of guesswork and can cost less than $50,000 for a 1000 to 2000 square-foot structure.

Financing Options

It’s not as easy getting financing for a barndo like it is a traditional home. However, many mortgage lenders have come around to the idea and most will now offer traditional mortgages for a barndominium as long as you maintain records of how it was built and it follows all local codes and ordinances.

It’s important to note that finance and insurance options may vary depending on factors like location, construction, and home-work housing situation. So doing your due diligence before taking the plunge can save you a lot in future headaches.

Are Barndominiums Safe?

The safety of barndominiums is a valid concern for many potential homeowners. Luckily, barndominiums are very safe, often matching or surpassing the safety standards of traditional homes.

Most barndominium developers utilize materials such as steel and metal in their construction which has superior resilience and longevity. These metal components protect the structure against water damage, severe weather conditions, and general wear and tear over the years.

Importantly, metal barndominiums showcase resistance to a multitude of threats that are often concerns with traditional wood structures.

Barndominiums that are made out of steel are less susceptible to:

In the eventuality of extreme weather or fire, homeowners can rest assured knowing their home will remain standing. The durability and adaptability of the materials used make it a strong choice for regions with large open land areas like Texas, Wyoming and Montana.

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