Barndominiums are an increasingly common home building option, with popularity soaring across the globe. These barn homes, barn style homes, shed kit homes, or Scandi homes (Scandinavian barn homes) offer everything from fast build times to lowered build costs – without sacrificing the style, look, and feel of your home. In fact, barn homes can be built for as much as 30% cheaper than a traditional home – without sacrificing the durability and longevity of your home.
Often, barndominiums are also extremely well-suited to Australia, because they are most efficient to build on relatively flat and dry ground. This ensures you can build a slab foundation and quickly put a house on it. However, barndos are versatile and you can also build them into the ground to capitalize on thermoregulation and insulation from the surrounding interview.
What is a Barndominium?
Barndominiums or barn homes, which are very often called Scandi homes, are metal building kits that you can convert into a home. Often, these kits are custom designed to ensure you get the look and feel of the home you want. However, they are prefabricated and often simply have to be bolted together on site.
Normally that means a concrete slab foundation or dug-in foundation, a mix of insulated cladding and metal cladding on the roof, large windows, and typically one floor. The design or style of the home is typically designed to look and feel like a barn, usually a Scandinavian barn, with residential modifications. The cheapest options are relatively plain on the outside with a simple metal building with residential doors and windows. Custom designed options can be asymmetrical or even look like a traditional barn – although you will pay more for the design options.
How Barndominiums Emerged in Australia
Metal cladded buildings have been popular in Australia since the 1850s, with first corrugated iron and then galvanized aluminum cladding. Originally, these buildings were entirely for agricultural use. However, like in other countries, pastoral buildings like barns and storage areas were often converted into mixed-use spaces. It’s not uncommon to see large metal buildings with a living space in part of the home and an agricultural area in the rest. These homes are cost-effective, stand up well to the elements, and provide the functionality for a simple and functional living space.
These barn homes developed from the tradition of homesteading, where anyone “of good conduct” was entitled to 30 acres of land or more if they were married. The style was typified by a tin roof with a wide verandah. Inside, it featured a single open floor plan with a connected main room and kitchen and a few separated rooms. The Elizabeth Farm, a historical building converted into a museum, is widely regarded as the oldest remaining example of the style – and it was built in 1793.
Today, the barn home is more likely to be more custom than a building originally built as a barn. However, they often follow the same design principles with metal framing and roofing, and then metal or wood cladding. In addition, in many areas, you can opt for additional cladding options such as using stone or clay exterior cladding to improve insulation.
Benefits of Owning a Barndominium in Australia
Barndominiums are a great choice for prospective homeowners in Australia. The home style offers a lot of advantages, including style, space, and sustainability. In addition, these buildings are versatile and easy to adjust to almost anything you want.
Cost-Efficiency of Barndo Living
Barndominiums can be extremely cost-effective to build. That is normally related to the foundation and the construction time. Here, most barndos are erected on a simple slab foundation. These can cost as little as $9 per square foot. In addition, you get fast erection times, because a prefabricated metal building kit can sometimes go up in as little as two days. Depending on the cladding, that will also take several days plus another few days for the roofing material.
But, barn homes aren’t just affordable during erection. Instead, you can save money throughout the lifespan of the building. For example, you’ll typically have much lower maintenance costs than with a traditional home. You won’t have to worry about repairing plaster. On the other hand, you also won’t have to worry about rot, mold, mildew, or termites. You will have to consider some maintenance like rust. However, aluminum panels tend to last about 50-75 years versus shingle roofing which lasts only about 15. This means you’ll save considerably on replacing exterior materials on your home.
Reduced maintenance costs mean you’ll spend less over the total lifespan of your home, which will reduce total costs.
Sustainable Features of Modern Barndos
Barndominiums are typically made with a steel frame and a concrete floor. Steel is largely considered one of the most sustainable building materials you can choose. That’s also true of galvanized aluminum. Both materials are extremely recyclable, which means that even if you opt to tear your home down, the materials can simply be recycled and reused. That reduces waste.
However, barndos can be sustainable while you live in them as well. Here, you will need good insulation and integrated ventilation. Modern barndos typically feature a significant amount of foam insulation, allowing you to maintain indoor temperature with minimal heating and cooling. In addition, because barndos are versatile, many people choose to build them into the ground to further improve insulation.
Barndominiums and the Australian Lifestyle
Barndominiums fit perfectly into the rural and pastoral landscape of much of Australia. They’re also relatively easy to quickly and cheaply build without a great deal of expense. Why? Normally they’re prefabricated and can be shipped in a single truck. While you will have to lay the foundation separately, everything else will arrive in one truck – limiting your infrastructure and logistics to a minimum.
Once they’re completed, barndominiums continue to offer a lot of advantages. For example, you can easily fit your barn, agricultural areas, or workshop into a single building with your home. That reduces the need to put up multiple structures. It also accommodates your need for agricultural, work, or workshop needs. That’s why barn homes have been popular in the country since the 1800s.
Key Design Trends for Barndominiums
Barn homes have always been popular in Australia. That’s often because many people rely on pastoral living. If you have a barn, a simple home with space for everything you need just makes sense. However, there are plenty of trends you can look into that will
Australian Barndo Architecture & Aesthetics
Most Australian barn homes follow the scandi or Scandinavian style. This typically means asymmetrical roofing, large windows, and simple design elements. The asymmetrical roofing option is ideal for hot climates, because it directs heat up and away from the large part of the home. You still get space for multiple stories, but one side of the roof is typically left open, with ventilation, to ensure heat can escape.
Large windows are also on trend. Here, you typically put windows on one side of the home such as the north or east side. You get a bright and well-lit home, without having to worry about closing shutters and blinds to keep out some of the heat during the day. Of course, some homeowners still opt to have wraparound windows around the home – but you will want to take covering those windows into account.
Finally, while aluminum roofing is still the most common, many homeowners are choosing for clay and pressed earth or concrete cladding – as it can offer very good insulative properties. However, if you’re looking for cost-effective solutions, the aluminum cladding is still the cheapest option.
Interior Design Elements for Barndos
Most modern barndos feature an open floor plan with a kitchen, dining area, and living space in one large room. That typically leads to a large verandah, typically a wraparound. From there, you’ll get a hallway, 2-6 bedrooms depending on the size of the home, about one bathroom per 2-3 bedrooms, and an attached shop or garage, although the latter is not a guarantee.
Here, the most noticeable design elements in the modern barndo are the open floor plan and the high ceilings. For example, it’s extremely common to opt for asymmetrical roofs or roofs with a high peak. This is typically situated over the living area, where heat from the kitchen and from the windows can escape easily. The result is a large living space with high ceilings, that can easily look as contemporary as you want it to.
Landscape and Surroundings: Blending with Nature
Most barndos are built into pastoral landscapes. Normally this means you’ll want to take the landscape into account when building and designing. It’s not uncommon to excavate and build your home into the ground to improve thermal insulation. It’s extremely common to design your home and layout to take advantage of views, to situate your home to reflect heat and to stay cool, and to otherwise utilize the natural landscape that you have.
Navigating Barndominium Construction in Australia
Building a barndo in Australia is a relatively simple process providing that you’re outside of city limits. If you’re inside city limits, you’ll have a harder time getting a building permit. However, providing you meet local regulations for cladding choices and building size, you should be able to do that as well.
Finding the Right Barndo Builder
The first step to putting up a barn home is to find a builder. Often, that means finding a metal building kit supplier (shed kit home supplier) and checking if they offer erection services and foundations. If so, it’s generally more convenient to go with that supplier. However, you may find that you need your own general contract crew to handle everything. And, you’ll almost always need a general contractor.
Your contractor should be:
- Registered. This is required by law for any building project over $3,000
- Have Good Reviews. Check their social media and website
- Specialized in metal building kit homes. Budget options tend to be “Shed homes” and high-end options tend to be “Scandi homes”. They’re both the same thing with different design elements and scandi homes tend to use more stone and concrete facing. Shed kit homes are more likely to use simple aluminum cladding.
In either case, you need a contractor that’s registered, able to do the work, and able to do the work at the time you want. Keep in mind that you’ll want to look at excavation and foundation services as well.
Material Selection for Aussie Conditions
In most cases, you can use any exterior building material you want providing you insulate well enough. However, you’ll want to opt for cladding and window materials that don’t damage in sunlight. That means no vinyl or uPVC options – despite the fact that they are cheaper than more durable options. Instead, you’ll typically want to opt for aluminum or wood door and window frames. You should also look into concrete, compressed earth, or galvanized aluminum cladding. However, some residential areas will specify which cladding options you can use, which will further set your options.
Local Building Codes
In every case, you’re required to apply for a building permit via your registered surveyor. You’ll then pay a levy based on your home size and prospective value. The permit is issued based on whether your home design and plans follow the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and Australian Standards. These codes are used across the country although some municipalities have further technical specifications for flood and wildfire damage prevention. It’s required that you apply for a building permit in every part of the country – although some very rural homeowners tend to just build and
Building codes specify details you need to ensure your home is safe, resistant to the elements, and heatproof. For example, codes specify load bearing capacity, wind resistance, external waterproofing, roof cavity venting requirements, and other similar details. In most cases, it’s the responsibility of your builder to ensure that codes are being met.
Cost and Financing of Barndominiums Down Under
Building a barndo is typically cheaper than building a traditional home. However, you’ll still need considerable capital upfront. That will mean estimated costs, getting planning permission, and going to the bank.
Expected Costs for Building a Barndo in Australia
In most cases, you can expect to spend about $4,300 per square meter of your home for a new build house. However, actual costs will vary depending on your location (e.g., Queensland is a lot cheaper than New South Wales), size of the home, and amenities. If you choose high end fittings and materials, you’ll pay more. If you go for the most basic build option of a shed kit home on a simple concrete foundation and minimal interior customizations, you can minimize costs a great deal. For example:
5×9.5 meter shed home (47.5 m2)
- Kit Cost: $17,900-$21,000
- Slab – $9,000-$13,500
- Labour – $10,000-$16,000
That’s not including the costs of interior finishing like plumbing, electric works, flooring, cabinetry, etc. And, of course, most people will prefer a much larger home, as the average new build home in Australia is about 210 m2. Still, just for the kit, you can expect costs to start at about $375 per square meter and go up to about $500 per square meter. Slabs typically cost roughly $200 per square meter. And, labor costs normally average out to about $200-$350 per square meter before the cost of the interior finishing.
That doesn’t include land, interior finishing, permits, etc.
Financing and Loan Options for Barndominiums
In most cases, you’ll want a building loan, sometimes called a construction loan, to cover the cost of your property. This normally covers about 90% of the cost of construction and may or may not include the land purchase. In addition, first time homeowners are sometimes asked to have a guarantor (mostly parents) for the loan.
If it’s your first home, you may also be eligible for a First Home Owner Grant, which essentially offers you the average deposit on a loan ($10,000-$20,000) as a grant. However, if you already own a home, you won’t qualify for this grant.
Otherwise, you can take out a mortgage on your existing home, which should give you the capital you need to get started.
Investment Potential of Barndos
Barndos are a relatively cost-effective new build option in a country with soaring building costs and soaring home costs. In some parts of the country, homes sell for an average of $790,000+, which means that the $400,000+ to build a shed home can be relatively small compared to the investment potential.
On the other hand, profitability depends on demand in your area, local cost of real estate, and local availability of building materials. It’s always a good idea to work with an assayer to determine the prospective return on investment. Here, multi-family shed homes and multi-level homes can reduce total costs to build, which can also improve on your investment return.
Top Australian Locations for Barndominiums
Barndos are popular in every part of the country, from Perth to Victoria. The following include some of the most popular places to build a barndominium in the country.
Barndos in Queensland: Beach and Tropics
Shed houses and granny flats are extremely popular across the Sunshine Coast. These affordable homes allow bungalow and villa living at a fraction of the cost of a concrete or brick home. That makes them a great choice for personal homes as well as for investment and vacation homes. Shed homes can also look every bit as stylish and contemporary as the classic bungalow. However, with build times usually within about 6 months of permits, low maintenance, and high resistance to wind, rain, and other elements, these are a great choice for Queensland’s beach and tropics.
Shed homes are also relatively easy to waterproof. Here, the simplest option is to build a multi level home with a garage or workshop space on the lower level. Metal panels, a concrete floor, and a steel frame offer high flood resistance, so all you’ll have to do is ensure you’re not keeping furniture and wood in the bottom floor and you’ll be protected from flooding.
Of course, you can opt for a traditional shed home as well. It’s all about where you’re building and what local risks are.
Victorian Countryside Barndominiums
Barndominiums are a perfect fit for the pastoral landscape of the Victorian countryside. In addition, with plenty of design options, these shed homes make it easy to build any style you want without greatly increasing costs. That’s true whether you want a contemporary home, a rustic look that fits into the look and feel of older buildings, or a barn home with a large workshop or an agricultural area built in.
Granny flats and steel sheds with large verandahs are also very popular in Victoria, because they give you space to enjoy your beautiful view – without the expense of the traditional build.
Western Australia’s Expanding Barndo Communities
Shed homes are an ideal solution to Western Australia’s growing need for affordable living. Here, most shed homes are single-level, allowing you to minimize heat collection in upper stories. However, you can build almost any style of shed home you want, including multi-level options.
Western Australia mostly makes use of steel frames, steel cladding, and steel cladding with weatherboard to maximize durability and UV resistance. However, you can also opt for aluminum paneling if you prefer to cut costs.
Adapting Barndominiums for Australian Climate
Australia is a great fit for barndominiums and shed homes. That’s often because they’re easy to insulate and easy to build in weather proofing such as flood zones, water proofing, and
Weatherproofing and Insulation Techniques
In most cases, barndominiums or shed homes are well-suited for the Australian climate. However, you will want to pay special attention to:
- Insulating to or over the requirements set by the BCAs
- Using weatherboard or similar cladding
- Ensuring roof ventilation meets BACs requirements
- Taking flood prevention methods where necessary
- Adding fire breaks around the property
- Waterproofing or building in flood zones
If you ensure these steps are taken, your barndo will be ideal for your climate. Many people also prefer to plan windows and home layout to face north to avoid heating the home during the high point of the day.
Harnessing Solar Energy in Barndos
Shed homes are a great fit for adding solar panels and even small home wind mills. This allows you to harvest natural energy, reducing your total costs. In addition, shed homes are increasingly built with geopump heating solutions, so you can save on total energy bills over time. Of course, you’ll typically have to include these in your building permit application.
Ensuring Water Efficiency in Barndominium Design
Barndominiums are a great fit for water efficient building design. That often means utilizing geo pumping rather than traditional heating. It also typically means using geothermal or solar heating for bathing and hot water for most of the day. And, of course, ensuring that you choose water-efficient showers and toilets will reduce total costs and usage.
Best Barndominium Builders in Australia
There are dozens of barndominium and shed home builders across Australia. However, many of them are situated in a particular region so you’ll always have to check the service area. The following include some of the best builders in the country.
Prestige Kit Homes
Prestige Kit Homes is a barndo or shed home builder offering a large number of building kits in either treated wood or structural steel. The home kit builder is also one of the few options to deliver across most of Australia, with nearly every region served. Prestige Kit Homes also offers Granny Flats and other cost-effective solutions. Here, you can opt to have Prestige Kit Homes deliver your home as a kit which you can build yourself or have a local contractor erect for you. In addition, Prestige offers custom designs, although it has a maximum build size of five bedrooms. Prestige Kit Homes also offers over 100 preexisting designs for their kits – but you can always customize them or design your own. You’ll also get a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty on all home kits.
Green Homes Australia
Green Homes Australia is a contemporary home builder specializing in sustainable design. It also offers kit homes and designs, which you can customize to up to 400 square meters of space. The company also does full interiors, with design assistance to help you make decisions. Its barn homes are not pastoral in any way and are instead contemporary, designed around your environment, and intended to offer spacious and modern living standards. That also means they aren’t a budget option. However, Green Homes Australia is an award-winning barn home builder and a great option for anyone who cares more about design and living standards than low costs.
Bribuild is a shed and kit home supplier offering lockup kit homes. Its kits come with everything you need to erect a home quickly and affordably, including a building permit guarantee and home designs. You can also opt for one of the existing building kit designs or have Bribuild bring your own design to life. In addition, all kits come with a full 7 year warranty. Bribuild mostly uses steel structures with aluminum doors and windows. You also get weather tight flashing, insulation, insulation wrapping, and the designs for a slab included. However, you will have to actually install the kit yourself. Otherwise, Bribuild delivers to most of the country so you can reliably have them deliver a kit for your contractor to erect for you.
Wide Span Homes
Wide Span Homes is a subsidiary of Wide Span Sheds, one of the largest metal building companies in the country. It’s also able to deliver a wide range of structural steel kit and shed homes to anywhere in the country – with free delivery included. The brand offers 6 shed home designs in your choice of 1-6 bedrooms. And, kits cost $26,000-$240,000 depending on size, materials chosen, and kit option. You also get a 20-year warranty, making it a great investment if you want to ensure your home is protected. However, you will need your own builder as Wide Span Homes does not offer building erection.
Modern Steel Buildings
Modern Steel Buildings is a family-owned steel building kit supplier serving the Gold Coast and East Coast. You’ll get your choice of kit homes with simple floor plans, so you can customize and finish the interior to your preferences. Modern Steel Buildings offers wall cladding, foil, wraps, and insulation with all of its kits. You will have to find your own construction company – although Modern Steel Buildings will help you with building permits and engineering specifications so everything else is covered. Plus with delivery across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, it’s highly likely they deliver to your location.
Steel Buildings Australia
Steel buildings Australia is a national supplier of steel building kits intended for garages, sheds, workshops, and barns. This means that the supplier does not offer residential housing and you’ll have to do any conversion into a home yourself. However, that also typically means you can get the lowest rates on your building kit, add your own residential doors and windows, and add your own residential insulation. That will mean the end result isn’t as aesthetic as other options on this list but you will get a solid and simple metal building for the lowest price possible.
Shed homes, barn homes, barndominiums, and scandi homes are increasingly popular in Australia. Not only do they build quickly, you can cut costs and sometimes by 30% or more over traditional homes. Plus, barn homes are sustainable, easy to insulate, and can be one of the most cost-effective building options to maintain – even in the face of natural disaster. That makes metal building kit homes a great choice for reducing costs, improving the longevity of your home, and ensuring your home will last no matter what the environment throws at you. And, with most barn homes coming with a warranty, it’s a safe investment.
Still, barn homes require thought, planning, and ensuring that they meet your needs. For that reason, most people work with builders to custom design their shed home to meet the needs of their property, specific region, and personal preferences.
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