So, What is a Barndominium?
Barndominiums, also known as "barndos" have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their unique look and combination of affordability, open floor plans and flexibility.
These homes typically feature beautiful exposed beams, rustic charm, and low maintenance costs.
A barndominium is a type of home that is built using a steel frame and metal sliding, although sometimes they incorporate brick, stone, and/or wood, much like a traditional barn.
However, it is designed to function as a living space, with living quarters often built into one end or a different level of the structure. Barndominiums typically feature open floor plans and vaulted ceilings and can be easily customized to suit the needs and preferences of the homeowner.
Who Invented the "Barndominium"?
The term “barndominium,” a portmanteau of the words “barn” and “condominium,” first introduced in 1989, at a New York Times interview with real estate developer and equestrian, Karl Nilsen. Karl was a partner of Stonebrook Development, who at that time was building the Silhouette Farm, where lots and horse stalls were sold together. The project at the time didn’t gain the traction Karl expected.
It wasn’t until a 2016 episode of Fixer Upper that Barndominium gained sudden interest. Chip and Joanna Gaines, the hosts of Fixer Upper, turned a weary 1000 sq. ft horse barn into a 2000 sq. ft beautiful, modern living space for the Meeks - a space that became known as the barndominium.
The Rising Popularity of the Barndominium
The show helped mainstream the Barndominium but it especially skyrocketed in popularity in 2020 as seen in this Google Trends Report.
In another Google Trends report, statistics show that it is searched the most in the states of Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Mississippi. Besides a lower price per acre of land, what other thing do these states have in common? Tornadoes. Well-built metal buildings can offer superior protection against harsh elements, more on this later.
In states like Wyoming and Montana as well where they have large amounts of open land and have a high rate of horse ownership are driving the trend. The rustic appeal that barndos have over traditional homes is further driving the trend of this alternative housing.
Cost Breakdown of Building a Barndominium
The cost of building your dream barndominium home will depend on several factors, namely the cost of land, labor, and accessibility to the site. Other factors like permits, finishing materials, and size can also add up.
So, building a barndominium will cost around $120,000 - $540,000 depending on the factors mentioned above. Here's a full cost breakdown:
1. Land Cost
Land cost will vary depending on the location, size of the property as well as which state you’re buying land on. In USDA’s Land Values Summary 2022, the average price of an acre of land is $3,800.
Per Zippia, the average price per acre tends to be the most expensive in the state of New Jersey clocking in at $196,410 while Wyoming has the lowest average cost per acre at $1,558.
Here are some examples with the overall price per acre for the better priced states:
|State||Overall Acre Value|
2. Site Preparation
Site preparation depends on how ready your land is for building any structure. This may include soil testing, land clearing, land survey, and leveling. Additional costs are to be expected if the land does not have provisions for utilities.
2.1 Geotechnical Soil testing:
Geotechnical soil testing is done by engineers to check the bearing capacity of land before building a structure on it.
It will check the density, compaction, and composition of the soil. It will also determine what type of concrete foundation is best for the land, drainage location, and groundwater direction.
Testing for pre-construction costs will range between $1,000 to $5,000 depending on what tests you decide to run.
2.2 Land Clearing
Before any home building, the land must be cleared of any vegetation to make way for the new structure and landscaping.
The cost to clear land ranges from $1,359 - $5,597 . So, $3,347 on average.
Again, the price depends on a variety of factors. Land size is a huge contributing factor to cost, obviously the bigger the land, the higher the charge is for land clearing. Type of vegetation, slopeness and unevenness, and how heavily wooded the area are also counted factors.
If you think your land isn’t complicated and you can clear it on your own, equipment rentals are available at daily, weekly, and monthly prices.
Cost comparison from leading resources:
Angi - $1,359 - $5,597, average cost of $3,347
LawnStarter - $1,266 - $3,900, average cost of $2,581
Lawn Love - $1,565 - $4,520, average cost of $2,900
Homeguide - $1,500 - $3,000 for a lightly wooded area and $3800 - $6,700 for a heavily wooded area, average cost of $3,700
2.3 Land Survey
Land surveying is done to legally document the boundaries of your land, its topography, and other features. It is necessary for acquiring permits, loans, and insurance, or even settling land disputes with your neighbor.
Average cost comparison from leading resources:
Homeguide - $422
3. Barndominium Floor Plans
Floor plans are a crucial and necessary step when it comes to building any structure, specially when it comes to your your home. Selecting the ideal plan that fits your needs and likes can be time consuming and stressful, specially if you aren't too clear of what you'd like. All Barndominium Plans specializes in designing Barndominium floor plans, and they can help you choose the right plan for you and your lot.
You can buy a pre-designed plans for $1,000 - $2,000. Pre-designed plans will most likely meet most of homeowner’s requirements.
If you want to customize a your floor plan, you can always submit modification requests. Pricing for modification requests can vary depending on what exactly needs to be altered.
Check out these Bardominium Plans below, which range between $900 -$1400
You also have the option to hire an architect to make a custom plan for you. Although this is going to be more expensive with architects charging by the hour, ranging from $2,000 - $20,000.
3.1 Barndominium Kits
Barndominium kits are prefabricated buildings typically made of steel and/or wood. Kits contents and services may depend on each provider, but generally they either include 2 options. One includes the exterior framing, metal roofing, sliding and trim, this is nicknamed the "shell kit". The other option is the "Dry-in kit" which will have all items previously mentioned as well as windows and doors.
The price of a barndominium kit depends on several factors. The price range can cost from $20,000 - $90,000 and around $20 - $50 per square foot.
What is included in Barndominium kits?
It varies from company to company.
A more appropriate question would be, what is not included in the kit? Some necessities like interior partitions, built-ins, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical provisions won't be included in kits. It also does not have a concrete slab foundation. These are things that you would need to source separately, DIY or by hiring a general contractor to do the whole building process
4. Other Costs
4.1 Zoning & Permits
Zoning laws in your area of residence may require you to secure specific building permits.
Do note as well that you may be required to secure permits even for soil boring tests and land clearing. If your future home is in a neighborhood managed by the Home Owners’ Association (HOA), you will need to secure their approval before building a home.
Permit costs are based on square footage, the type of work done, flat rates, or a percentage charged by local authorities. On average, it costs around $1,568.
Construction permits could go up to $3,500 or higher if the project is on a larger scale. If you’re working with general contractors or other professionals to oversee the construction of your barndominium, they’ll often include the cost of obtaining permits in their quotations.
Foundations are a necessary component of any structure to support and support the weight of a house. It also ensures that the ground is level to provide even floors and proper closure and opening of doors and windows. It is one of the largest contributors to a cost estimate when building a house.
On average, foundations cost $9,260. According to Home Guide, a 1,200-sq. ft house foundation will set you back $6,900 - $16,200 for a concrete slab. This price already includes excavation, grading, and footings. And, if you want a basement that will also increase costs substantially.
General advice, don't try to save a few hundred bucks when it comes to your foundation. It can make or break your build. A good foundation right of the bat will keep your house safe and prevent any extremely costly repairs down the line.
If you’re building your barndominium in a rural area, you may need to build a private road to be able to access your home with a vehicle. The cost of building a road depends on the type of material whether you’ll be using gravel, asphalt, or concrete with the latter being the most expensive out of the three.
A gravel road is the least expensive option at $1.25 to $3 per square foot. Stabilized gravel is recommended if heavy vehicles will be passing through your roads. This costs $2 - $12 per square foot.
Asphalt roads are better for areas that have snow during winter. It’s $4 to $15 per square foot and is easy to maintain.
Concrete roads are the most durable out of the three and thus the most expensive option at $4 to $15 per square foot. The cost is due to the complex nature of pouring and installing concrete.
The exact prices of professionals vary per location but here are some estimates to give you an idea. The rates are based on labor for new houses that typically require new installations of utilities.
General Contractor: 10% to 20% of the total project cost. Up to 25% for large-scale projects.
Architect: $5,822 on average. They may also charge per hour or 8% to 15% of the total project cost.
Interior Designer: $5,406 on average. Like architects, they may charge per hour. They may also charge per square footage, per room, and cost-plus for furnishings.
Landscaper: $3,300 to $13,200
Electricians: $4,000 to $11,000 for large and complicated jobs such as installing panels and electrical wiring for the whole house.
Plumbers: $2,280 to $6,120
Home Guide estimates $125.07 per square foot for the total cost of materials.
Real Quote Example
There's no better way to estimate pricing than to actually have real quotes from builders for specific plans. Here is real quote to build one of our barndominium garages with living quarters:
General Info 🏡 :
⏍ 1833 Square Feet
1 Bedroom, 1 bath
|Framing (rough shell)||$31,719.00|
|Dry Wall, Stairs, Interior doors,
bathroom mirrors & accessories
|Dry out Shell (exterior doors, windows, sliders etc.)||$19,951.00|
|Cabinets & Vanities||$14,323.00|
The grand total, including a few other costs totals $144,315.00
The prices above accounts for both materials and labor costs. Please note the land prices, driveway, and the site work utilities are not included in these quotes.
The Appeal of Barndominiums
What makes a barndo appealing over traditional homes? Its rustic charm is one thing but the interior design and architectural details of a barndo make it impossible to believe that they were previously horse stables or barns for animals.
Large, Open Floor Plans
While partitioning and creating separate spaces are possible for barndos, one of its appeal is their large space that offers many possibilities. Open floor plans are in high demand even in traditional houses because of the airiness and the huge opportunity to let natural light in. Kitchens, dining rooms, and living areas that are separated by countertops without drywall are very much possible in a barndominium.
There’s always something so impressive about walking into a room with a high ceiling. It feels more open, luxurious, and spacious. In addition to their open space, barndos have the advantage of having high ceilings that make it possible to have second floors or lofts.
Because barndomoniums were previously barns that are repurposed into a home, many barndo owners opt to retain the features that it comes with. Exposed beams and trusses, tongue and groove ceilings, barn doors, wood soffits, and more all add to the rustic charm of living in a barndo.
Pros and Cons of Barndominiums
Easy to Put Up
Traditional homes take up twice the amount of time it takes to put up a barndominium. Shorter construction time translates to lesser costs in terms of labor making the barndominium cost less than a traditional home.
It Holds Up to Mother Nature’s Wear and Tear
Most barndominiums use spray foam insulation to keep the heat. Spray foam insulation is more effective insulators than fiberglass because of its higher R-value or the ability to resist heat flow.
It is watertight and best used for humid climates.
The high ceilings of a barndominium allow fir multiple, tall windows ti be installed allowing plenty of natural light and heat to pass through.
The sheet metal siding and steel framing of a barndominium completely envelopes and seals the structure, a huge factor in making a space airtight and passive.
It is Dual Purpose
Barndominium can house more than just living quarters and are built to accommodate various activities. For retirees, their barndominium can house rooms for different hobbies.
It is watertight and best used for humid climates.
Unlike awkward columns ad load-bearing walls that need to be considered in a traditional home, it's easier to create layouts and spaces inside a barndominium.
More manageable to tear and rebuild a drywall partition in a barndo.
Getting a Loan can Be Difficult
While barndominiums are popular in concept, it has to meet appraisal standards. There needs to be comparable properties that have recently sold nearby to be able to determine loan value. This matters because lending companies can’t approve you to borrow more than the home’s value.
If there aren’t any similar properties in the area, they won’t be able to compare your home. If it helps, it does not have to be another barndominium, there just have to be other unique homes in the area to compare it with. Lenders will want to know the resale value of the barndominium if a borrower defaults on the loan.
The good news is that it’s not at all impossible to get financed to cover your barndominium costs. You may want to look at areas where barndominiums are popular. Lenders in those areas may be more familiar with the property type and give you higher chances of getting approved for a loan.
Bottomline - Barndominiums are unique and are therefore difficult to finance.
A Smaller Pool of Buyers
How long does it take to build a barndominium?
It takes just a few weeks to put the shell kit up. But if you count the time of the whole process, it may take 4 to 6 months or longer depending on the size and complexity of the property. This includes the time required for all the variables mentioned like land survey, soil testing, securing permits, sourcing general contractors and professionals, delivery of materials, and the construction itself. As with all construction, delays are inevitable due to a number of uncontrollable factors and it’s wise to secure an alternative lodging while waiting for your barndominium to be completed.
What sizes do barndominium kits come in?
Barndominium kits are available in:
30 x 40 - 1200 sq. ft equivalent to a 2-3 bedroom ranch-style home
40 x 60 - 2400 sq. ft allowing space for 3-4 bedrooms
40 x 75 - 3000 sq. ft that allows for space for a garage or patio in addition to a living area
60 x 60 - 3600 sq. ft can house 4-5 bedrooms
60 x 70 - 4200 sq. ft provides space for a 3 car garage and plenty of living space for a large family
Source: Carport Central
Do metal barndominiums rust?
Yes, metal barndominiums are unfortunately prone to rusting. Humid environments and living near bodies of water expose the barndos to higher chances of corrosion. The prefab steel and metal sheets used are typically coated with anti-corrosion coatings but are subject to wear and tear over time. Checking for leaks, roof, and gutter damage and using corrosion-inhibitor paints and coatings can help prevent rust from eating through the metal.
Can barndomoniums be multi-level?
How long do barndominiums last?
Like any traditional home, the durability of a barndominium depends on the materials used, the maintenance of the property, and the environment it’s exposed to. Metal has its own drawbacks (rust) but is undeniably stronger than wood. A well-kept barndominium can last for generations.