Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price
Are you familiar with ‘barndominiums? Learn more about the rising trend of sharing living space and your horses.
Imagine you waking up in the morning to feed your horses without even leaving home. How nice it would be to check on your horses before you go to bed without having to put on a jacket?
It’s never been easier to live in the same building as your horse friends. There are many options for budget-friendly and extravagant barndominiums or barn houses across the country.
A “barndo”, as they are commonly called, is a great option for people who want convenience and rustic charm. However, you should consider a few things before you decide to live with horses.
Be sure to consider building regulations and costs before you buy land. These can be very different from the requirements for a standard home or separate barn structure.
Prices. Barn homes are often thought to be less expensive than standard residences, but builders we spoke with cautioned that this is often not true, especially if you’re looking for a wooden structure. Prices can also vary depending on the interior finishes. As with a house, a barn home can be furnished with big-box-store-grade finishes, or with custom hardwood cabinets and fireplaces.
Convenient, cozy: Some barndos allow you to live upstairs while your animals are down below.
Prices for labor, shipping materials and ground preparation vary greatly depending on where you are located.
Rick Vranish (marketing director at DC Structures of Damascus in Oregon) warns that pricing differences can lead to a variance of up to 70% in the overall cost.
Barn Pros of Monroe, Washington project specialist Samantha Etsall says that it is safe to assume at least two- to three times the price of one of their barn kits. This will give you an idea of the total cost for the finished structure depending on the interior finishes and dirt work.
DC Structures and Barn Pros sell barn kits with or without residential components. They recommend specific kits based upon snow loads, fire danger and earthquake risk and the local building codes.
These Western decor will make your barndominium feel like home. Amazon offers everything you need, including cowboy throw pillows and aztec/southwest Sherpa throw blanket, longhorn canvas prints, wooden jewelry organizers, horse box signs, welcome mats, and many other Western decorations.
Barndo kits offer a variety of living arrangements and options. The kit you select should match your area’s snow loads and fire danger as well as building codes.
They can also help you find builders. However, their pricing does not include the cost of putting up the kit or site excavation or preparation, as well as some doors, heating/air, and interior finishes or fixtures. You can also hire typical residential subcontractors to handle electrical wiring, plumbing, drywall, flooring and so forth.
A kit is still a convenient option. It takes out the hassle of planning, so make sure to understand what additional items you will need.
Chris and Loren Chambers built their own wood-structure barn outside Nashville, Tennessee. They also did the general contracting. Chris and Loren Chambers built the house from scratch to save money. However, Chris warns against becoming your own general contractor, that is, managing your own building project, unless you have experience in construction like his family. Unexpected problems could quickly increase costs, which is why some construction loans don’t allow it.
Chris states, “Saving money can be great, but avoiding costly problems requires experience and knowledge.” It is not easy to find competent workers for different parts of construction and subcontracting, and keep everything on track.
Zoning. It all depends on where you live, whether it’s rural or suburban and even in what state you live. The zoning can affect your ability to build a barndo. Check with your local building and zoning departments to find out the relevant codes. Some areas prohibit “residential” constructions in the same area as animals. Others require expensive commercial fire suppression systems, which can add significantly to your build cost.
Many counties require that you submit plans to approve property lines or safety concerns. Some areas, like rural Texas where barndos are common, don’t require zoning. However, some others, such California, have very strict rules and can change drastically by mere miles.
Some areas will allow a barndo to be classified as agricultural or commercial, while others may consider it residential. Most homeowners’ associations (HOAs), won’t allow barndos, unless the development is specifically designed for this type.
Buying land. Building on land that has been cleared and is level and has the right soil for construction is easier and more affordable. It is also a good idea to have water and electrical sources readily accessible, just like when building a home. Your land choice can have a significant impact on your construction experience as well as the cost of your project.
Financing. All of the experts we spoke to said financing was the biggest obstacle to building a barn home. Vranish, DC Structures says that most of their customers pay cash for their barndo.
The Chambers family was able to finance the barndo that they built using their land as collateral.
Chris explained that FHA loans [conventional] won’t finance barndos and that farm credit/agricultural loan won’t fund a residential structure. He eventually found creative financing through a bank nearby.
He recommends that you find one that will perform manual underwriting instead of having it sent to a corporate bank headquarter.
What makes financing so difficult? It can be hard to find enough “comps”, which are comparable barndo properties that were sold in the same area recently, to base appraise prices. This means that national banks and government financing aren’t equipped to lend on non-conventional builds.
Contrary to local banks, they often have better knowledge of similar structures and a better understanding about land or asset values. This means that they might be willing to keep your note in their bank, rather than selling it on the national marketplace.
It is important to understand your financing options and how they might change after you have completed the build. Weather delays and other unexpected events can affect interest rates, timelines, and timing. It is crucial to ensure that payments to subcontractors and builders are made according to a schedule and that money is available at the right times.
Local financing is ultimately the best option. To avoid delays, do your research well in advance. Also, be prepared to shop around and get creative.
Insurance. Some homeowners’ insurance companies might not be able cover the barn section of the structure, or to insure during construction.
Bob Travis, a broker at Sonora Insurance Brokers, Boerne, Texas, advises that you check with your homeowners insurance before you commit to a barn house. This will avoid any surprises regarding pricing or ending up with uninsured assets.
Brokers that offer multiple brands of insurance might be better equipped to locate policies that will insure your barndo by build price or square footage, rather than insuring the entire structure as residential. Be sure to ask enough questions before you start your building project.
It’s both challenging and fun to design your barndo. The Chambers family spent nine months designing their barn, with the assistance of an engineer. It then took seven months to construct the barn using local Mennonite labor teams–conveniently located outside of Nashville.
These are some factors to be aware of when designing.
Style of the structural structure. The main distinction between barndos and barndos lies in the style of their underlying structures. Pole-barn construction is preferred in some areas. This means that wood poles are placed in the ground to support the rest. Another option is wood beams.
DC Structures and Barn Pros both provide posts for every 12-14 feet in an open structure. DC’s posts attach with metal plates that are attached to the concrete slab. Barn Pros uses pressure-treated lumber to make beams. These beams are then encased with cement and placed in the ground.
Due to insect and weather threats, barn homes in the south are constructed with welded steel beams that are set in concrete. One type of structure might work better in your particular area, and be more cost-effective depending on the soil. Soil testing can be used to determine which structure is best suited for your location.
Interior tips. Knowing the location of your interior features allows you to plan how to conceal your wiring and utilities. Barndos are not like a traditional home that has stud walls. Instead, they have only those beams or posts every 12 to 14ft. The grid layout allows for nearly any floor plan, but there is less space to conceal wiring and ductwork.
You can hide wiring and ductwork in concrete slabs if your barn home is only one-level. However, some prefer the industrial look of exposed wiring. Many barn-home designs have one-levels. In-floor radiant heating is a popular option.
Loren Chambers, a reverse architect, designed her 3,200-square foot home on top her stalls. She added a false ceiling to the horse barn to conceal all wiring, heating/air conditioning and plumbing. This will allow for additional insulation and soundproofing. This approach has the added benefit of a clean, sleek look in the horsestall area.
To save energy and prevent plumbing problems in colder climates, it is important to keep heating and plumbing units in the heated part of your home. As with traditional homes, alternative energy options and solar can be integrated into the design of the home. However, it is important to plan ahead for the layout of interior components. It is much harder to hide them in walls in a barn home.
Horse lovers don’t usually think about it, but a common question from non-horse owners is the smell factor. Rick Vranish from DC says that customers aren’t likely to experience barn smells when their homes are properly built and sealed.
Chris Chambers, horse-husband, conceived of a mud room buffer zone between the barn’s and house’s entrances. Each area would have its own air exhaust fan. He found that he was more disturbed by horse noises at night after building. So he added soundproofing and insulation between the stalls above and the floor of his home.
He recommends that flies be kept away from living areas by installing a fly-spray system in the barn.
Horse housing. It’s at least as fun as designing your house.
It is common to have beams or poles at every 12-14 feet. Stalls made from scratch or kits can be easily built in the grid. There are also tack rooms and wash racks. Barn owners often add overhangs to the sides to shade their horses or allow for parking of equipment.
Your barndominium has purchased items. Make sure you have the items for your horse. You will need a fan, wheelbarrow and manure fork.
The barn-portion interior looks just like a normal stand-alone barn. However, there is more concrete around the beams than traditional pole barns. For dirt stall floors, these structures will need cement berms to support their homes on top.
Barndo manufacturers often work with different stall companies to offer desired options, from sliding doors and standard kick boards to more luxurious finishes with wrought-iron and decorative hardware.
Although a barndo can be a difficult project, the final result can be incredibly satisfying for horse lovers. Loren Chambers particularly enjoys the view from her upstairs deck.
She says that it is a favorite spot in her house and that her family enjoys using the barn for parties and outdoor games. You can also visit the “Horse Barn Living” Facebook group.
We love our horses. With the increasing popularity of barndominiums all across the country, more developers, zoning boards and financing entities will be able to gain the knowledge necessary to allow more people to live near their favorite animals. We can all make our dreams of living with horses a reality by planning well.
These structures’ nomenclature can be confusing, and it varies from one region to the next. Barndominium, barn house, or home can be used to refer to a steel-metal structure with living quarters for horses or humans. A barn home can also be used to refer to a house built in the same style as a barn or converted into a home. These structures are usually for humans only.
This means that it is important to be cautious when researching your barndo project. When speaking to bankers, builders, bankers, zoning officials, insurance agents, or other professionals, be clear about what you plan to build and/or acquire.