One of the latest real estate trends to take hold in the United States is the “barndominium” concept. You can find pictures of them across many social media platforms, especially Instagram, and these unique homes provide owners with access to country charm while sticking to the benefits of this form of property ownership.
These metal barns (and sometimes wood or stone) receive conversions so that they become usable living spaces. By creating options in places that are unexpected, there is a creative comfort that can apply while the cost of living remains affordable. Barndominiums tend to be easier to maintain than other properties as well.
You will discover that many of the pros and cons of a barndominium tend to follow the same pattern as the standard condominium. The one primary advantage is that you’re generally using the living space by yourself without the need to pay for an HOA or management community. That means you can save more, invest in your home, and enjoy living the country life.
List of the Pros of a Barndominium
1. Barndominiums offer a high level of durability.
One of the primary reasons why the barndominium trend is taking off in rural communities is the fact that many of these buildings are made from steel. Although most of the advantages also apply to wood structures, the standard home in this category can withstand almost any type of weather. Your property will have more resilience to impact damage, especially with steel, and there are fewer upkeep issues to worry about with this option. Your maintenance costs stay low so that you can think about future investments.
2. It takes less time to build new barndominiums.
If you use the metal frame style for a new barndominium, then the amount of time it takes to put up the structure is significantly reduced. You can have your new place ready in as little as two weeks in some areas. This advantage is possible because most of the structure is made off-site. Your contractor just needs to put all of the pieces together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The majority of the spent in construction is for the interior finishing work more than the actual shell for the exterior.
3. You have a dual-purpose home option with a barndominium.
Barndominiums give you an excellent dual-purpose solution if you are self-employed or work from home. The design of each one allows you to maximize the space that you have, allowing you to create a home office, a commercial outlet, and a place to live all at the same time. Although the rural nature of this real estate trend can make it challenging to reach customers at times, you can save a significant amount on your initial costs by choosing this option over the traditional route.
4. Barndominiums offer lots of extra space.
Because many of the barndominiums that are built today are metal structures, you’ll find that the interior is quite spacious. Instead of using walls in the home, there are partitions put in place to define specific rooms. That means it is easier to redecorate without reducing the levels of privacy that you receive. Some people might think that the exterior looks a little rough because it doesn’t offer the traditional siding, but it can allow you to spend more on the interior since the construction process is so affordable.
5. It is an eco-friendly living choice.
Most barndominium contractors use environmentally friendly products with their materials so that you can reduce your immediate and long-term carbon footprint. Insulating systems are exceptional with this trend because the metal frame requires some additional help to maintain the indoor environment. That means you can save on your heating and cooling costs because of the modern approach to building while still reducing the amount of money spent on your dream home.
6. You can renovate existing structures.
There are several farms in the United States that have multiple barns on their land. If the family is retiring from the business, then the barndominium trend gives investors an opportunity to create an instant community. You get the chance to create an inclusive property with an open floor plan that can still offer all of the possibilities of a traditional home. Builders can include options like energy-efficient windows, air conditioning, hot tubs, and stained concrete floors to minimize your daily chores.
7. There are some advantages to certain types of damage.
If you were to experience a fire in the typical wood-frame house, then an immediate intervention is necessary to save the structure. It is not unusual for homeowners to experience a complete loss if such a tragic event occurs. Barndominiums with a steel structure have an advantage here because the metal is less susceptible to the effects of heat. That advantage disappears at 400 degrees Celsius, especially if the fire is a prolonged event, because it can create large deflections and changes to the member transfer loads.
You can improve this advantage by having the builder include additional fireproofing within the home so that the heat from a portion of the building wouldn’t cause the problem to spread.
List of the Cons of a Barndominium
1. Barndominiums are not immune to corrosion.
If you have a home with the traditional wooden frame, then you will need to manage the issue of rot at some point in that structure’s life. When you opt for a metal-based barndominium, then there are corrosion issues that you’ll need to manage. These problems for either structure are especially prevalent in areas with a tropical climate. There are several ways that you can protect your property from this issue, including specific exterior treatments that you can add and maintain over time, but it is not an issue that you can just ignore.
2. There is still a cost element to consider with barndominiums.
Although you won’t spend as much on a barndominium as you would with a steel frame structure for your home, it will still be more expensive to do the initial build with this option. The cost savings arrive over time, especially since there are fewer finishing features and less labor involved with the process. If you are doing all of the work on your own, then you might find that a single-family home or an older barn conversion might be the cheaper option to consider if you want to jump on the bandwagon for this trend.
3. Some cities may not allow you to build a barndominium.
Barndominiums tend to appear in rural communities because the building codes tend to be more relaxed in townships and loosely structured governing areas compared to the average municipality. You’ll have more design options available to you because of the rural nature of these homes, but you will also have more travel expenses to consider. You might also be miles away from your nearest neighbor in some situations, which could be an advantage or a problem depending on your point of view.
If you like to have access to the amenities of a city, then a barndominium may not be the best option to consider at this stage in your life.
4. Most barndominiums are single-story homes.
The metal structures that are sometimes used to create a barndominium do not work well if you want to have a multi-story home. Some barns have extended lofts where you could put an open second floor as part of your interior design, but most offer an open space that you’ll need to divide in some way after the construction is complete. Because most of the steel companies put together the pieces for your property off-site, there are fewer ways to customize your structure as well.
Most of the frames that turn into barndominiums tend to be a one-story, warehouse-style type of home.
5. You don’t receive the same perks as you would with the typical condo community.
Most barndominiums are stand-alone units that are on a rural property outside of town. Instead of living with a community of like-minded individuals who all pay a little to help pay someone to do the upkeep and maintenance of the grounds, you will be responsible for this work when you choose this real estate trend. Owning a barndominium is similar to having any other property. If you want to live a maintenance-free lifestyle, then this is not usually the best option to choose.
6. Barndominiums can transfer a lot of sound from the outside.
Even when a builder uses high-quality insulation to give you a comfortable interior with a barndominium, any sounds that come from the outside tend to be louder since most buildings are made with steel – including the roof. That means there will be more noise when it rains outside. If it snows, then you’ll need to be careful to avoid potential avalanches that can come off of the structure. You do get to avoid many of the foundation and roofing problems that develop over time compared to the single-family wood-frame home, but this disadvantage could be problematic for those who are sensitive to loud sounds.
7. There is low availability in the real estate market right now.
For most real estate investors, the cost-effectiveness of a new barndominium made from steel is not in the initial purchase price. Unless there are shortages of wood, stone, concrete, or brick, you’ll pay more for the items needed to build the home. You’ll also discover that there may not be enough local steel volume to manage your construction needs with this option. If you need to transport the ready-made materials from manufacturer that is some distance away, then the cost of delivery may outweigh all of the other potential benefits.
Steel can also experience price disruptions because of international civil unrest, wars that interrupt export routes, and natural shortages due to changes in manufacturing processes. You might even struggle to find a contractor who is familiar enough with this real estate trend so that the build can happen in the first place.
8. You will need to have a sprinkler installed in most barndominiums.
Unless you are converting an old wooden barn into a barndominium or there are different building codes in place for your jurisdiction, it is necessary to have a sprinkler system installed as a fire protection mechanism. When you add in the installation cost for this required item, along with the coatings for your steel and exterior metals that reduce the risk of corrosion and heat damage, then the potential for long-term savings can be significantly reduced. Even if you’re using masonry block or clay tiles to protect the structure from heat, these items all require their own form of maintenance that will take time and money.
9. There can be issues with fatigue and fracture with barndominiums.
Steel members used in the construction of barndominiums can be susceptible to fatigue over time. There can sometimes be variations in the tensile strength of each product, causing an additional level of tension in the structure while reducing the overall strength of the design. When steel loses its ductility, then it develops brittleness that can cause it to fracture as well. This disadvantage may eventually result in a buckling of the frame. That’s why you will see some building plans incorporating additional steel columns – at an added cost.
10. You will run the risk of a fabrication error.
Any home can encounter this disadvantage with any form of material. The issue with barndominiums involves the fact that most of them are metal. You cannot make the same field corrections with steel that are possible with wood, brick, or stone. If there is a problem with the fabrication of the materials, then you must wait on a replacement from the manufacturer. If this issue isn’t caught before the frame goes up, then it can impact the benefits that are possible with this real estate trend.
Verdict of the Pros and Cons of Barndominiums
If you want to live in a unique home that can put you closer to nature than what you would find in the city, then a barndominium seems like a reasonable investment. You can have plenty of open space, access to lots of land, and keep to yourself if that is what you want to do.
There are several ways that you can customize this real estate option, although most of them involve the creation of interior spaces. You can even purchase kits that will help you to build this structure in a DIY manner if you secure all of the necessary permits.
The pros and cons of barndominiums show us that it is possible to create a dream home without a lot of labor or energy. There will still be challenges to manage along the way, but it can also be a rewarding experience.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.