What do you get when you cross a barn and a condominium? A barndominium, of course! It’s a fun word, but what does it refer to exactly? In a broad sense, barndominiums are usually metal buildings with living quarters and some kind of workspace or shop with an agricultural purpose. Originally, the term referred to old existing buildings that were retrofitted to include said living space. However, definitions and construction methods are changing as this housing trend grows in the Texas Hill Country and in rural areas nationwide. Let’s take a closer look at the specifics and see why barndominiums can be a great alternative to traditional housing.
What Is A Barndominium?
What do you envision when you think of the word “barndominium?” Do you picture a sprawling metal building with 12-foot high ceilings and giant shop? Maybe you have your eye on an old barn nestled between a cluster of live oaks just waiting to be renovated. Or perhaps you have a perfect plot of land that’s perfect for a prefabricated kit. Barndominiums are all of these and more. The term originally referred to a workshop or pole barn that had been renovated to include a living space as well as a workspace. However, the definition has grown to include a variety of construction methods and design elements. Here are some of the features you might find in a barndominium:
- Corrugated sheet metal roof and siding
- Steel support beams
- Large “roll-up” garage doors
- High ceilings
- Large doors and windows
- Concrete floors
- A large integrated workspace or garage
Barndominiums are increasingly seen as more affordable than traditional houses in rural areas, especially because of their ease of maintenance and energy efficiency.
Why Build A Barndominium Anyway?
One of the primary factors that makes building a barndominium so attractive is its relatively low cost. Building a home is expensive, especially if it’s from scratch. Renovating an existing structure can save a lot, provided it isn’t in a state of severe disrepair.
If you’re not starting with an existing structure, prefabricated barndominium kits can significantly cut the cost of construction down. These kits are basically preengineered, manufactured materials that are ready to be assembled on site. You can find a number of manufacturers online that sell premade building kits and ship them to your door (or where your door is going to be)!
The cost of building a barndominium can vary as much as the design of the structure itself. In other words, it just depends. Some manufacturers quote bare-bones kits for as little as $20 per square foot, but that’s literally just four walls and a roof. No foundation, plumbing, insulation, or wiring. Once you account for the other essentials, you’re probably looking at $80 per square foot. The quality of materials you choose and the cost of labor will vary and so your final cost will be unique.
When you’re shopping for a house, sometimes you have to bend your preferences to match what is available on the market. Even if you have a house built by a home-building company, your options might be limited. With bardominiums, you basically have a blank slate (or slab). Barns typically have high ceilings which allow for a lot of room that you’ll have difficulty finding in a traditional house. With a large portion of your floorplan dedicated to a workspace, the potential customization options are endless. Even if you opt for a kit instead of renovating, the most basic rectangular floor plan offers ample space for your imagination to fill.
So what can you do with all of this extra space? These are just a few of the more popular options:
- Auto shop/garage
- Storage for recreational vehicles (boats/RVs/four-wheelers)
- Stables or animal pens
- Farm equipment storage space
- Airplane hanger
- Office spaces
- Art studios
- Gym/sports activity area
Whether you’re looking for a place to restore that ’67 Chevelle or simply need more storage for your farm equipment, barndominiums have you covered (literally). If you’re looking for more inspiration or ideas, there are a number of different sites online that sell floor plans that are ready to go.
Before you order that prefab kit or break ground, it’s important to remember that there may be building codes or zoning restrictions to consider. If your property is in an area that has a Home Owners Association, check with them before building as they may have regulations or rules regarding the appearance of your house.
Maintenance and Durability
If there is one lesson the story of The Three Little Pigs has taught us, it’s that wood isn’t the most durable building material for houses. Most houses in the U.S. are made of wood because it lowers construction costs for home-building companies. However, as the years go on, the inevitable cost of repairs are passed on to the homeowner.
While many barndominiums will have the interior frames made from wood, the exoskeleton and its supporting structure are often made from metal. Steel beams and galvanized sheet metal form a shell for your home that is impervious to rot and pests like termites. Steel buildings are far more resistant to the elements and hold up against years of sun exposure and rain. Not only does this save you money down the line in reduced costs for repairs, but it saves you time and headaches!
Steel buildings are still vulnerable to fires, especially if the interior frame is made from wood. However, having outer walls and roofing made from metal does offer a slight advantage in terms of resisting flames. At the very least, hot ashes and embers from nearby fires will have a much harder time setting your house ablaze should the situation arise.
Metal is a much better heat conductor than wood or bricks. That’s just science. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can mitigate this and even make your barndominium more energy efficient than a traditional house. In the early stages of construction, when the metal frame and outer metal walls are in place, spray-foam insulation is a fantastic option. The foam is sprayed across the inside, coating every nook and cranny with a shaving cream-like texture that eventually hardens. The foam is an excellent insulator and usually doesn’t have to be replaced like some insulation options.
The sun can be brutal in the summer, especially in Texas. Another way to reduce the energy needed to cool your barndominium is with a reflective paint job. These special paints coat your metal exterior and partially reflect the sun’s rays before they have a chance to heat the inside of your house.
Finally, to truly make your barndominium a beacon of energy efficiency, you’ll need special windows. Windows are one of the primary ways a home’s internal temperature is raised and can significantly increase your energy usage. Not only are there options that prevent heat transfer, some window panes can even block certain wavelengths, keeping the heat out but letting the light in.
Owning a Barndominium
So how are barndominiums viewed from a property tax standpoint? This part can get tricky. Some counties only tax the square feet of the livable portion while some tax the entire structure. Because property taxes vary from county to county, it is usually best to check with your local office before breaking ground on a barndominium.
Insuring a Barndominium
After investing in your new home, you’re going to need barndominium insurance (yes, that’s a thing). This is different than traditional house insurance because a large portion of the structure is dedicated to a purpose other than living.
At Germania Insurance (that’s us!), we draw a distinction between barndominiums and all-steel structures when insuring a home. While a barndominium is usually an all-steel structure, it needs to have a large workspace (usually agricultural) in addition to the living quarters. For a space to be considered living quarters, it must have a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
If you’ve taken some time to research barndominiums, a lot of blogs will tell you that insuring one is always cheaper than insuring a traditional house. Insuring a barndominium can certainly be cheaper than insuring a traditional house, but it can vary based on a variety of different factors. It’s usually cheaper because the materials and construction process is cheaper than, say, a brick house of the same size. There may also be a difference in the cost of insurance because only part of the structure is considered a living space.
As you can probably imagine, your insurance premium is going to be unique to your home and situation. For more information about how to insure your barndominium or home, contact one of our knowledgeable agents!