A large red barn is visible atop a small rise on a wide grassy plain. Branches from two trees are visible on the left and right edges of the photograph. The sky is blue with a few small clouds.

A Beginner’s Guide to Barndominiums

Much like tiny homes, barndominiums have quickly become the latest and greatest alternative living arrangement. Thanks to an infamous 2016 episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, these once obscure structures have become a mainstream trend, appealing to anyone who wants to combine the old-fashioned charm of a barn with the luxuries of a modern home.

What Is a Barndominium?

As the name implies, barndominium refers to a barn that has been remodeled and renovated so people can live in it. They may also have room for a shop, workspace, storage, or even stables, though many modern iterations of barndos only contain a living space.

Barndominium is a portmanteau of the words “barn” and “condominium.” The word is commonly shortened to barndo, just as condominium is shortened to condo. Though barndos have gained significant traction in recent years, they are far from a new development. The term “barndominium” was first coined in 1989

Barndominium Sizes

Barndos tend to be the size of a barn — that is, they’re large and tall, with high, vaulted ceilings and open floor plans. There is great variety in the actual dimensions of different barns, depending on the type and purpose, but they are typically bigger than the average single-family home. As such, they require a lot of outdoor space and can primarily be found in rural areas. 

Barndominium Interior Designs and Floor Plans 

Like a traditional house, there are almost endless possibilities when it comes to planning and designing a barndo. While you can style a barndo in any way you like, they are often designed to pay homage to their rustic roots. 

They’re usually built on slabs of concrete, so you can select almost any size or floor plan you like. Barndos tend to feature open floor plans in the living space. You can still section off different rooms, including bedrooms and bathrooms, as needed. Many barndos also include some kind of loft area above the living space. 

The layout of your barndo will also depend on what you plan to use it for. For instance, you can include additional storage for your vehicles, build a workshop or garage, or create some kind of craft room or studio. Some of these functions can be integrated into the living space, while others will require a separate area.

Barndominium Materials

Barndominiums are either made of metal — usually steel — or wood. There are advantages and disadvantages to both materials. Which material you choose will depend on your short-term budget, desire for long-term savings, your carpentry and building abilities, how quickly you want the structure erected, and your personal preference.

Either way, you can build a barndo from scratch, purchase a barn and convert it, or look for a DIY barndo kit. You can also hire a contractor to help with constructing or renovating a barndo.

What Is the Average Cost of a Barndominium? 

According to barndominium experts Don and Gail Howe, the average cost of a barndominium ranges from $95 to $125 per square foot. They claim the average cost of a completed 2,000 square foot barndo is about $220,000. 

The price of a barn can vary greatly, as can the price of a barndominium. Some of the factors that impact price include:

  • Size;
  • Location;
  • Cost of materials;
  • Cost of labor;
  • Cost of installation;
  • Appliances;
  • Additions and amenities.

Just like a house, the larger and more luxurious a barndo is, the more it will cost. You may be able to reduce your expenses by building it yourself or constructing it in an area where land is less costly. 

Barndominium Pros and Cons 

There are advantages and disadvantages to every kind of living structure and housing situation, and barndos are no exception.

Some of the main benefits of living in a barndo include:

  • Affordable: Even luxurious barndominiums are more affordable than many traditional homes. A barndo may be a more accessible route to property ownership, and you can get more bang for your buck, too. 
  • Quick to Construct: Barndos are easier to build, so construction takes significantly less time than a traditional house. This also makes future add-ons a breeze.
  • Durable: Barndos are durable and able to withstand exposure to harsh elements and intense weather — especially those made of metal. Their durability also makes them easy to maintain. 
  • Customizable: Customization is the name of the game when it comes to barndos. Not only can you get a floor plan tailor-made to suit your needs, but you can also set up and decorate the interior however you like.
  • Space: Barndos offer more indoor and outdoor space than many other housing options. They also allow you to make the most of the space you do have available. 

Of course, there are drawbacks of constructing and living in barndos, too:

  • Wear and Tear: They may be durable and low maintenance, but not even barndos are immune to wear and tear. With a metal barndo, you have to keep an eye out for corrosion, while wooden barndos will require similar maintenance to a typical home.
  • Laws and Regulations: Some areas may not let you build or live in a barndo. Laws and regulations governing living structures are different in each state, and even county or town. You’ll need to make sure barndos are legal in your area before beginning construction. 
  • Rural Living: Barndos almost always necessitate rural living. This is a draw for many, but if you want to live close to a city or have neighbors nearby, it may not be the best choice for you.
  • Small Buyer Pool: Because they require a certain lifestyle and are often highly customized, it can be difficult to sell your barndo if you ever choose to move.
  • Noisy: Metal barndos can be quite noisy. Though many are insulated to protect against sound, you will still likely hear some more noise than you would in other structures.

Think of these pros and cons as points of consideration, rather than deal makers or breakers, when assessing whether a barndo is the right option for you.

How to Build a Barndominium 

There are three main parts of the barndominium construction process:

  • Laying the Foundation: First, you have to lay the concrete foundation for your barndo. 
  • Constructing the Shell: With the foundation laid, you can put up the metal shell or begin framing the wooden walls of your barndo.  
  • Building the Living Area: Finally, you can work to make your barndo functional and livable. This step in the process is the longest and most difficult, as it involves many different tasks that range from adding insulation and hooking up electricity to finishing touches like painting and adding interior decor. Depending on your skills, you may be able to tackle many of these tasks on your own, but you’ll likely need to hire professionals to handle the more complex work. 

You can also renovate an existing structure and convert it into a barndominium. Depending on its current state, this process may be significantly more involved and take more time (but also costs less) than building a new barndo. 

You can then put the finishing touches on your barndo to make it your own. With all that taken care of, the only thing you have to do is enjoy your new home.