Barndominiums are becoming quite popular due to their simple, cost-effective design and remodeling capability. While they are just as solid and reliable, building a barndominium can save you time and money as opposed to building a traditional brick-and-mortar home. However, you should consider a few things before going for this option.
Before building a barndominium, choose a plan, structure layout, and base materials for construction. Consider the overall building costs and install a reliable electrical and plumbing system. Also, plan for the type of finishing you want for your barndominium’s interior.
This guide will cover everything you need to consider before building a barndominium in detail. I’ll also discuss the cons of barndominiums and how to overcome these in your barndominium’s design.
Check the Legal Requirements for Building Barndominiums
Despite their simple structure, you’ll still need a permit to build a barndominium. Depending on the local laws, you’ll have to submit your building plan for your permit to be approved. Permits for barndominiums can cost several thousand dollars, but these permits are still much cheaper than those for traditional buildings.
Different jurisdictions will have different specific requirements for building a barndominium, so it’s important to consider these in your plans for permit approval. You can consult a lawyer or structural engineer if you aren’t sure about the specific local building laws.
If you have an existing barn that you want to convert to a barndominium, you may need to attach an inspection report from a qualified property inspector to check whether the barn was built according to the local building codes.
If your permit application gets rejected, you’ll usually get a reason for why this happened. You can then adjust your building plans and reapply. However, if everything is legal, your barndominium should get approved the first time.
I’ve written a complete guide that covers the specific requirements of building a barndo in Washington. Don’t miss it.
Create a Building Plan
Regardless of how simple barndominiums are to build, you’ll need a complete building plan to get it done right. The ideal building plan will cover everything from foundations to structural integrity and other factors.
Unless you’re an architect, you’ll have to get your plans from a company that sells pre-designed barndominium plans and building kits or have an architect draw up a unique plan for your barndominium.
Buying a standard building plan will usually cost at most $2000, and many companies will sell plans for less than $1000. This option will also save a lot of time, and you’ll know that you’re getting a tried and tested building design. However, these plans are often simple and have little room for innovation.
Getting an architect to design a unique plan for your barndominium is often a better option, and you’ll get a more personalized option. This is ideal if you want to design your barndominium according to your taste.
However, architects will often cost upwards of $2000, so you’ll have to decide whether the tradeoff is worth it.
If you’re an expert DIY, you’ll probably wonder whether you can build your own barndominium.
You can, but not without an approved permit and building plan!
Consider the Costs of Building a Barndominium
You may have heard that barndominiums are cheaper to build than regular houses. But how much does the average barndominium cost to build? And how do you divide this cost across different construction phases?
The average barndominium costs $30-$40 per square foot to construct. This is at least one-third less than the cost of building an average brick-and-mortar home. Barndominiums are cheaper because of their simple designs and the cheaper materials used to build them.
Let’s do a short breakdown of the cost of building a barndominium:
Pre-construction costs include permit costs, design costs, land costs, and costs to build roads and other supporting infrastructure. These costs are often high, but they’re a one-time investment.
Many people choose to build barndominiums on cheaper land since it’s often not worth building one in the inner city or suburbs. While you can save on land costs by buying land further away from the city, you’ll have to consider the cost of building a connecting road and the difficulty of commuting further daily.
However, if you love living in an open space or can’t afford the expensive land closer to the city, building a barndominium in a remote area is a great idea.
Building Shell and Foundation Costs
The building shell and foundation are the most significant barndominium building costs. Both cost roughly $35000, but this may depend more on the area and specific building requirements.
The building shell consists of the poles and outer structure that gives the building its shape. This is often cheaper in barndominiums since the shell comes in a simple design and can be constructed quickly.
Costs involved in building the foundation include concrete pouring costs, labor costs, and leveling costs. This will be higher if your barndominium requires a deeper foundation.
Roofing, Flooring, and Other Basic Building Costs
Once you have a basic structure, you’ll have to consider the roofing and flooring costs. This is often much cheaper in barndominiums since they have metal roofing. You’ll also have to consider paint costs, insulation installation, and other essential building costs.
Interior Design and Finishing Costs
Interior design is usually cheaper in barndominiums, and the cost will vary depending on what you want to include. I would advise you to spend more on good interior design, HVAC systems, and finishing touches since they directly impact the building’s livability.
And if you save enough on building the structure, why not make your barndominium interior better than a regular home’s?
While these are some of the basic costs you’ll have to consider, always be prepared for unexpected costs.
Choose Solid Construction Materials
Despite having a simple design, barndominiums are durable and can withstand rough weather conditions. How long your barndominium lasts will depend on the type and quality of materials used to build it. If built properly, your barndominium can last several decades with little need for renovations.
The first thing that you’ll have to consider is the base material for the barndominium’s structure. Most cheaper barndominiums are made from metal bases and pillars with some use of wood. You can choose to build most of the base structure with wood, but this will increase the construction cost.
However, wood is more durable than metal in the long run and retains its value for longer. Wooden barndominiums also have better aesthetics and closely resemble regular homes. However, it’s up to you to decide whether the benefits of using better-quality materials are worth it.
Regardless, never use second-grade materials, even if you’re building a DIY barndominium or plan to use it as a temporary residence.
You’ll Have To Invest in Proper Insulation
The metal roofing and structure of a barndominium make it solid and cheap to construct, but this doesn’t help with temperature control. Most barndominiums will retain heat in the summer and be extremely cold in the winter. Fortunately, you can overcome this problem by installing proper insulation in the walls and roofing.
You’ll have several options for installing insulation in a barndominium. However, the insulation options used in regular homes won’t be as effective in barndominiums since the structure is quite different. Converted barndominiums may not even have attic space, which makes it impossible to use spray foam and other common attic insulation options.
Batting insulation is ideal for barndominiums since the simulation is installed between the frame posts of the building. While it can be difficult to install as compared to spray foam insulation and other options, it’s more effective and cheaper.
You can also install spray foam insulation when you’re building drywall. This will give you better coverage, and spray foam insulation has a great insulation rating.
Always install insulation when you’re building the barndominium since it becomes difficult and costly to add the insulation afterward.
On a related note, I also recommend reading my guide on running ductwork in your barndo. I’ll give you a step-by-step process to follow.
Thoroughly Plan for Electrical and Plumbing Systems
Like with regular home construction, you’ll have to create a proper plan for electric and plumbing systems before building a barndominium. When you create a proper electric system plan, most of the wiring will be hidden, which is ideal for a pleasant interior.
However, if you add electric installations after building the drywalls, they will negatively affect the interior design of your barndominium home.
The same goes for planning proper plumbing systems. You’ll have to decide where to install wastewater pipes, input pipes, a septic tank, and other essential plumbing fixtures. However, there’s less margin for error in plumbing systems since you’ll have to break flooring or walls to add additional pipes afterward.
Always use a certified plumbing and electrical contractor when building a barndominium, regardless of how simple the plans may seem. In many areas, installing high-voltage electric systems without a license is illegal, and doing so may even result in your building getting a demolition order!
So, while you can save on construction costs by building a barndominium instead of a house, never compromise on the quality of structural, electric, gas, or plumbing fixtures.
Choose the Right Flooring Material
While you’ll have restrictions on what material can be used in the barndominium’s structure or roofing, you’ll have more freedom when choosing the flooring material. You can choose from a wide range of flooring materials, including marble, tiling, wooden flooring, concrete floors, and more.
Always choose the flooring that suits your vision for the barndominium’s interior design. You can opt for wooden flooring if you want a more traditional or rustic look. Use tiling or marble for a modern interior design and concrete if you plan on installing carpeted floors.
However, looks aren’t everything when you’re choosing a flooring material for a barndominium. Also, consider the installation cost, ease of maintenance, future replacement costs, and durability.
The Right Finishing Can Improve the Livability of Your Barndominium
The main difference between regular and high-end houses is usually in the finishing used in exterior and interior design, and the same applies to barndominiums. There’s no harm in being picky when adding specific finishing touches to your building. After all, the barndominium is yours to live in!
When selecting finishing items like woodwork, shelves, cupboards, and even doors and windows, always choose quality designs. Also, try to add items that contribute to a certain design vision.
You can get some inspiration for barndominium interior design and base your building on an existing design.
Create a Checklist When Converting an Existing Building
Building a barndominium from scratch is in some ways easier than building one from an existing barn, especially if you’re converting an older building. In some cases, it’s best to demolish the old barn and start anew.
However, if you find an existing building that still has good structural integrity, you can save a lot by converting it to a barndominium. However, it will have to pass a building inspection before you can do so.
Here are some things to consider when converting an existing building to a barndominium:
- Is the building solid structurally?
- Are the foundations still reliable?
- Test the paint for toxins and repaint the building if the older paint is toxic.
- How much will you save by converting the building instead of building a new one? Building a new barndominium from scratch may be better if you aren’t saving much.
- Make a list of areas that need renovating and their expected costs before starting out.
Weigh the Pros and Cons Before Making a Final Decision
If you’re still undecided on whether to build a barndominium or a regular house, consider these pros and cons before making up your mind:
Pros and Cons of a House
- It’s extremely expensive to construct compared to a barndominium.
- Getting a permit is more complicated and takes time.
- Construction problems can be costly.
- Houses are less flexible when it comes to interior design.
- Houses are more durable and aesthetically pleasant.
Pros and Cons of a Barndominium
- It’s much cheaper to build.
- Renovations are much easier, and there’s more flexibility in the type of renovations that you can do.
- Barndominiums may have more interior space, but temperature control is difficult.
- It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as a regular house.
If you’re looking at budget and ease of construction, a barndominium is a great option. You’ll also have the option of converting an existing barn at a minimal cost. However, if aesthetics are most important, a house would be better.