If you plan to buy a home soon, but want something unique, converting a barn into your new residence is a popular option. Renovating these buildings into livable spaces takes careful renovation planning, a flexible budget, and determination. However, the end result will make this effort all the more rewarding.
This guide provides you with a brief overview of the steps it will take to convert a barn into a house successfully. We have you covered, from picking out a location to materials and possible pitfalls!
1. Choosing the Right Barn
The first challenge you will face when converting a barn to a home is finding the proper structure. Check with local real estate agents first about available pole barn homes in Grant County, IN. You may luck out and buy an already completed conversion, which could save you time and money. If there aren’t any on the market, your realtor should have a few listings for properties that include a barn.
2. Plan Your Budget
One reality of converting a barn into a house is the cost. It’s not unusual for these projects to cost more per square foot than a custom-built home. This is often due to structural and foundational repairs that need to happen before you begin the conversion process. You don’t want to live in a building that could collapse from the added weight of flooring, sheetrock, cabinets, furniture, etc.
In the long run, this investment more than pays for itself in resale value if done professionally. These homes are unique and attract higher-end buyers because of that fact. Some common costs that can drive up your budget include:
- Asbestos removal
- Timber treatment
Definitely find out from a realtor if the barn and attached property is worth the money you’ll spend on converting it. Your agent may have insight into other factors that could drive up a property’s value and connect you with a structural engineer to uncover any potential issues that aren’t apparent to the naked eye.
3. Get Your Necessary Permits
Once you’ve settled on a barn to convert, don’t forget to contact your local zoning department to find out what building permits you may need. Conversion projects can be a massive undertaking and must be handled as safely as possible. You can’t risk your structure collapsing, catching fire from an electrical short, or other hazards. Consult with your local inspectors from the start to ensure you meet all code requirements and avoid costly revisions or fines later.
4. Don’t Hide Your Barn’s Aesthetic
One of the reasons you’re converting a barn into a home is its characteristics and architecture. Plan what original aspects of your building will still be part of the overall style and design. Consider repurposing some of its original materials and using newer elements for repairs. Essentially, upgrade its current appearance to capture a modern feel while celebrating its past.
5. Maximize Natural Light
Barns can be pretty dark environments that only allow in minimal lighting. One way to change this is to install large skylights in areas that won’t be structurally compromised to add these new openings. You can also install windows with special glazing that maintains privacy while brightening rooms that need it.
6. Make Home Features Stand Out
What parts of your home should stand out the most and make a statement when guests visit? Stairways, entrance halls, and front and back patios are all essential features that help define the style of your new barn home. To make these areas pop out and grab attention, use contrasting materials from those of your barns.
Instead of a traditional wooden staircase, consider iron or steel. Or take the opposite approach and choose elements that complement the original wooden structure.
7. Don’t Skimp on Your Roofing
One of your new home’s most crucial features aesthetically and functionally is its roof. Because you’re converting a barn, this area will be the largest element on your project list. It’s imperative to have adequate drainage for the large amounts of rainwater that will roll off of it. This will prevent costly erosion damage and allow you to control where precipitation goes.
You also need to decide what type of material will make up your roof. While you could go with a more traditional shingled look that keeps with a barn’s character, you might favor metal roofing options for more extended durability and fewer maintenance requirements.
8. Barn Flooring
Many older barns don’t have a concrete foundation that meets code and only dirt, brick pavers, and/or boards. If there is a slab in place, you may need to replace it due to wear and stabilization issues. Be careful that existing walls aren’t compromised when taking this material out.
Any flooring you put in over concrete or brick will need to be protected from dampness and mildew, so ensure you insulate with a moisture-proof membrane before installation.
9. Insulating Your Barn Walls
Insulation is vital for any residential or commercial structure to enhance climate control and stave off deterioration of structural materials, like walls and flooring. Typically, one could insulate between the wall and the wood framing, leading to condensation problems within your new residence. This means planning for airflow and ventilation ahead of time to help prevent this issue, including installing a moisture-proof barrier.
You could address wall insulation externally, but this would mean completely covering your barn’s outer surface. If you want to maintain some of its originality, you will want to insulate between the wood frame and interior walls.
10. Climate Control
Barns are tall structures which makes them difficult to maintain a steady temperature. Because heat rises, the higher apex of your roof will hold onto this air, requiring your central air system to work even harder.
It’s possible to recover this lost heat by using a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system (MVHR). By extracting heat that has aggregated in the apex of your roof and forcing it down to a lower level to heat incoming air, you can maximize the efficiency of your heater.
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