What on Earth is A Barndominium?

We bought a Barndominium! A barndominium in East Tennessee on seven acres with lovely mountain views and some peace and quiet. Ever wonder, “what on earth is a barndominium?” I’m here to give you all the facts about them as we’ve recently purchased and discovered what they are all about!

When I knew we were moving to a literal dream property in Tennessee my head began to spin. The property has land mountain views, a house, a barndominium, two story workshop and a woodshed. I have a serious thing for the country living and even though I am technically a city girl I’ve always wanted and dreamed of country life. Now is our time!

Our property has a house, which is pretty standard right? And it has this amazing barn house with two bedrooms, two baths, an amazing kitchen, laundry room and vaulted stone fireplace. It’s pretty spectacular! I wasn’t sure what to call the barn. It was a barn and a house so BARN + HOUSE = Barn House. Right?

I soon learned that these “barn houses” have a name. They are called Barndominiums or Barndos. Like a condominium but in the shape and style of a barn I guess. To me, calling it a barn house made more sense but Barndominium is the term around town so I’m now calling it that so I am in vogue! Ha!

What is a Barndominium?

I knew barn style homes were popping up around the country but I did not give them much thought since we lived in outside the Nation’s Capitol. When someone said we were buying a “barndominium” I was like…what? I have to admit I hadn’t really heard the term or if I had never paid attention to it. After touring our potential property I began to do some research on these “barn houses.”

A barndominium is a popular design for housing in the country. This design looks like a barn on the outside, usually, but has been converted into living quarters or built brand new for the purpose of being a home. They are usually located on farmland or other large plots of land as building a barndominium may not be an option in some urban areas. Rural areas also tend to have fewer restrictions for residential properties and thus you see more and more barndoniums popping up. A barndomonium is a great way to live in the country without giving up on modern conveniences!

Barndominiums, or barn-like condos as they are sometimes called, are a relatively new development in real estate that can be found primarily in rural communities across America. Most of the time these homes have all the modern amenities you would expect in a standard home with square footage between 1100-1600 square feet. Our barndominium is 2000 square feet and a barndo can be any size you like especially if you are building from scratch.

The exterior design is usually that of an old style barn while the interior decorating is similar to any other type of other home or luxury home. They’re perfect for anyone who wants to live on a farm or a rural setting, but still have the modern amenities of city life.

We have plans for our barn house which will include: changing the exterior color, changing doors to unfinished wood, changing the roof and gutters

What is the History of Barndominiums?

When did these Barndominiums come on the real estate scene? In the 1980’s a real estate developer named Karl Nilsen was the first to use the word “barndominium” of sorts. He was developing a community in Connecticut on farm land that consisted of homes that were built from metal barn shells for home owners to purchase land and a horse stable together. The first recorded use of the word “barndominium” was in 2002 and it only started to come into common usage in 2006.

Barndominiums were first introduced as a new housing type in the early 2000s and were originally primarily marketed to people living on farms. However, barndominiums gradually became popular across various types of communities and now they are primarily available throughout the United States.

Initially, most barndominiums were old barns that had been renovated for living, but as the trend grows, some people are building barndominiums as a brand new build. Our barndominium is a new construction built in 2011.

What are the Benefits of a Barndominium? 

The benefits of a barndominium are many. A big benefit of a Barndominium is its size and the ability to customize anything from floors to windows and walls. Anything is possible because of its large open floor plan.

Another benefit is quicker construction time because of its wide open floor plan there aren’t many corners to consider which raises building costs. Because of this you could have your home sooner than expected and usually for less than a standard home. A great benefit!

What Does It Cost to Build a Barndominium? 

We did not build or Barndominium; we bought ours already built, but I did a little research into the cost of building one. Many factors come into play with new construction just like with anything. Right now building materials (especially wood) are triple the cost and more. If you plan to build your barndominium out of metal the the cost would be less than if you built it as an all wood structure.

The average cost for building a Barndominium is about $100,000-$300,000 depending on how big it is and what materials you use.

The average will be around $95 to $125 a square foot; a 2,000 square foot barndominum would cost around $220,000 completely finished. This price also depends on location, materials used and how many high-end amenities you add to your final home.

The price is just for the finished home; not land, driveways, landscaping and other requirements for a new build. If you already own the land then building a barndominium would not be that costly at all.

Barndominium Exterior Features

The exterior of a Barndominium can be any building material you chose and can be sleek and modern or classic and traditional. The exterior is about personal preference and for some the cost as well. Most barndominiums aren’t built out of brick or vinyl siding as this would inhibit the benefits and appearance of a barndominium. The point is to build a barndominium that looks different from a standard home.

Steel Exterior

Most barndominiums are built with metal exteriors. The point of a barndominium is keeping costs down and using steel for the exterior will do just that. Steel also requires less up-keep continuing to keep costs down over the long term.

You can use just regular painted coat steel or try a woodgrain steel. Woodgrain steel will help with affordability and durability while still achieving your desired aesthetic. Woodgrain steel provides the warmth of wood with the durability of metal. Metal can withstand fire, rot, termite, and abrasions. A metal structure is also easier to build than a wooden one and less expensive with labor as well.

Wood Exterior

Not everyone loves the modern, sleek look of metal. Some people prefer a more rustic or classic look and will pay a little more to get it. 

Our barndominium and adjacent shop is rough-hewn board and batten wood and I love it! I wouldn’t mind a steel barn and if I were building one from scratch I would likely go with metal for costs benefits. Since our barn was built in 2011 it was built with wood when wood costs were at a normal price point. We just happen to be recipients of this wonderful pre-built barndominium. Our walls are all wood both inside and out.

A wooden exterior will require cleaning and staining, treating for termites and possible woodpeckers. Initially and long term a wooden exterior will cost more than steel.

Barndominium Interior Features

The interior of a barndominium can be anything you want. Newer barndominiums are typically built with open floor designs which allow the owner to customize their space however they want. You can put in carpet or hardwood, new kitchen cabinets or an entirely new kitchen, and all the other features that would be expected in a standard home.

Barndominiums are usually large and rectangle on the inside with tall ceilings and open living spaces. Our barndo has two bedrooms and two baths, laundry room, gorgeous kitchen, vaulted stone fireplace and finished concrete floors. You can design the interior anyway you like and make it yours.

We have all hand cut wooden pine panels for our walls. Some barns have drywall or board and batten walls. The least expensive interior walls are drywall or metal. Ensure your space is insulated between the outside walls and interior walls.

Barndominium Living Room

Depending on the size of your barndo most have one large living area that is open to the rest of the space. Our living room has large high ceilings and a gorgeous stone fireplace.

My plans for the entire interior is to simplify decor and furniture and anchor the entire space with less, but larger pieces of furniture.

Plans for this Space

Above the fireplace will be a large framed television. I would like to add a large U-Shaped sectional or maybe a U-Shaped slipcovered sectional for easy cleaning in front of the fireplace so there is plenty of seating and a way to get cozy as well as a square coffee table

Slipcovered U-Shape Sectional | U-Shape Sectional

Coffee Tables

Dining Area

Adjacent to our living room is the dining area. Once again; most interiors of barndominiums are a large open space with distinct spaces designated by furniture and rugs.

Plans for this Space

Either go big or go home! The larger the table the better and I plan to put a 12 seater wooden dining table in this space for family dinners and events! I would love to make our own table, just a basic one. Likely would add black chairs since there is already so much wood in the space.

Dining Tables

Dining Chairs

Kitchen

Just like the rest of your barndominium your kitchen can be elaborate, simple or somewhere in between. The kitchen here boasts of lovely cabinets, granite countertops and a high end commercial stainless steel range and a cast iron farmhouse sink.

Plans for this Space

The owners will be taking the island and I will need to add another one. Haven’t decided if I will add a permanent island or one that could be moveable. I’m torn 50/50 as the moveable one could give me flexibility for events.

All the decor will also be going with the current owners and I will also simplify this space as well. With all the wood I am thinking about adding black floating shelves on the walls on either side of the range for dishes and some decor or maybe a a black plate rack on one side and two floating shelves on the other side of the range.

Kitchen Islands

Shelves

Bedrooms

Barndominiums can have as many bedrooms as you like. Your budget might have to come into consideration. We have two bedrooms in our barndo; one up and one downstairs.

Plans for this Space

The bedroom upstairs is large and has it’s own full bathroom and closet. The space could house two queen beds and a dresser and if I plan to use this as an Air B&B then the more beds the better. I might add two metal frame queen beds in this room and a small dresser.

I do not have a photo of the first floor bedroom, but will likely add a queen bed and an armoire as there is no closet.

Bed

Bathrooms

At least one full bathroom should be included in your build. We have two; one on the first floor and another on the second adjacent to the upstairs bedroom.

Plans for this Space

Changing shower curtains, adding a rug, changing decor. We don’t plan on doing any serious remodels to the baths just decor and functionality updates.

Laundry Room

You may be thinking, “a laundry room in a barn?” Umm…yeah. It’s a house not a place to house livestock. You will need to ensure you have a laundry room if you plan to live in your barndominium or house guests. It doesn’t have to be large; it will all depend on your floor plan and what your needs are.

Enclosed Porch

This barndominium has living spaces on both sides of the actual house portion of the barn. In the front you enter the living section through an enclosed porch. It’s lovely! On the back of the house is a fully covered patio with another stone wood burning fireplace.

Plans for this Space

I plan to build a swing bed which can be used for lounging or in warmer months could also be another sleeping space since the swing will house a twin size mattress. This enclosed porch is not heated, but a pellet stove or heater would easily heat this space if necessary.

Porch Bed Swings

What is the Best Roof Material for a Barndominium?

Any type roofing material can be use on a barndominium that you would use on a regular home build. Once again, it comes down to cost and aesthetic that you are going for.

Metal

MOST barndos have metal roofs as it is the least expensive and easiest to install overall. There are different types of metal roofs that cover a variety of pricing and design. A metal roof, unless damaged by hail, can last your lifetime. Metal roofs can last 40-70 years, depending on the material.

Our barn has a metal roof and and it looks fantastic and unless damaged we shouldn’t need to change it. We chose a 5V metal roof because of the look we were going for. It’s best to put a metal roof on a metal framed barn.

Tuff Ribbed Metal Roof

Before we changed our barndo roof to 5V it was a Tuff-Rib metal roof. Tuff rib is the most affordable metal roofing system you can install. It comes in large panels and high production volumes make this the most affordable metal roofing on the market. A lot of barns and barndominiumns use tuff rib style metal roof.

Our shop above shows the original red tuff rib metal roof.

5V Metal Roof

The 5V metal roof has a little bit of a different look but costs a little bit more than tuff rib because the 5V panels aren’t as wide as tuff rib. More panels must be used. More panels causes the price point to be higher. The material and gauge of the metal is the same as tuff rib.

You can see the red roof that is being removed is tuff rib and the gray roof replacing it is 5V.

Standing Seam

This is the most expensive metal roof there is! It’s the Mercedes of metal roofs and if our budget would have allowed I would have put on a standing seam metal roof. This type of metal roofing is 3x’s the cost of tuff rib, but it looks fantastic!

The gauge is usually thicker, takes more panels to install and the labor for installation is much more difficult and therefore more costly! The barn below I took a picture of while in Clifton, VA and it has a standing seam metal roof.

Shingles

You can put shingles on a barndominium if you prefer that look and feel for your home. Shingles don’t last as long as metal however. Traditional asphalt roofing materials have an estimated life expectancy of roughly 12-20 years. Shingles are less costly initially but have to be changed more often than metal and in the end shingles will cost more than metal.

Putting shingles on a metal barn would not be ideal, but if you have a wood barndominium you could do shingles.

Final Thoughts on Barndominiums

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if a barndominium is right for you. We think ours is pretty awesome and even though we plan to live in the main house on our property we plan to use the barn for events, family dinners, friends, the holidays and as an Air B&B. Maybe some day we would live there full time, but for now it is going to serve a myriad of purposes. If we lived in the barndo I feel we would be more limited on all the things we would like to use it for.

Would I live in a barndominium full time? Yes, for sure! I think they are super amazing and a unique living space if you are interested in a distinct style of living.

Follow along as we transform the space both inside and out to make it ours!

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What on Earth is A Barndominium?

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