Barndominium vs. Shouse: Battle of Modern Homes (2024)


In modern home design, two unconventional yet increasingly popular options have emerged: barndominiums and shouses. While both offer spacious and customizable living spaces, their origins, architectural styles, and suitability for specific needs differ.

So, let’s delve into the world of barndominiums and shouses, uncovering their unique characteristics and determining which one might be the perfect fit for your dream home.

What Is A Barndominium?

A barndominium, a portmanteau of “barn” and “condominium,” is a metal-framed structure that seamlessly blends the functionality of a barn with the comfort and livability of a home.

Usually, these versatile dwellings typically feature open-concept layouts, high ceilings, and expansive windows, creating a sense of airiness and connection to the surrounding environment.

History of Barndominiums

The barndominium concept originated in the agricultural industry, where farmers converted existing barns into living spaces to accommodate their families and workers.

Over time, this practical approach evolved into a deliberate design choice, gaining popularity among homeowners seeking unique and affordable alternatives to traditional houses.

Key Features and Characteristics

Barndominiums are renowned for their distinctive features, including:

  • Steel Framing: Barndominiums use structural steel frames. Typically, erected using the post-frame construction method.
  • Metal Exterior: Barndominiums typically feature metal siding, offering durability, resilience to extreme weather, and a modern aesthetic.
  • Open-Concept Design: Barndominiums commonly embrace open-concept layouts. Therefore, they eliminate interior walls, thus creating a spacious, interconnected living environment.
  • High Ceilings: Soaring ceilings are a hallmark of barndominiums, enhancing the sense of spaciousness and grandeur.
  • Expansive Windows: Large windows are often incorporated into barndominiums. Typically, these maximize natural light and provide stunning views of the surroundings.
  • Customizable Interiors: Barndominiums offer immense flexibility in interior design, allowing homeowners to personalize their living spaces, reflecting their unique tastes.

Architectural Styles

We can adapt barndominiums to suit a variety of architectural styles, including:

  • Modern: Sleek lines, minimalist designs, and geometric shapes characterize modern barndominiums.
  • Rustic: Barndominiums can embrace a rustic aesthetic with natural materials like wood and stone, emphasizing a cozy and earthy ambiance.
  • Industrial: Exposed metal beams, concrete, and reclaimed materials lend an industrial edge to barndominiums.
  • Contemporary: Many contemporary barndominiums blend modern elements with traditional design principles, creating a timeless and elegant style.

Typical Floor Plans

Barndominium manufacturers and plan designers offer various floor-plan options to accommodate diverse living arrangements. Although many companies provide floor plans, you can see exciting and attractive designs on the Architectural Designs website.

Usually, popular layouts include:

  • Studio: Ideal for individuals or couples seeking a simplified and uncluttered living space.
  • One-Bedroom: Provides a comfortable and functional living arrangement for small families or individuals desiring a private workspace.
  • Two-Bedroom: Offers ample space for growing families, allowing for separate bedrooms and dedicated living areas.
  • Three-Bedroom or More: Accommodates larger families or those who require multiple bedrooms for guests or home offices.

Construction Materials

Typically, we construct barndominiums using a combination of materials, including:

  • Steel Frame: The primary structural element, providing strength and durability.
  • Steel or Aluminum Siding: Protects the exterior from weather elements and enhances the modern aesthetic.
  • Insulation: Ensures energy efficiency and thermal comfort throughout the year.
  • Interior Finishes: We can use drywall, wood paneling, or other materials to create the interior walls and ceilings.
  • Flooring Materials: Options include hardwood, tile, polished concrete, laminate, or carpet, catering to individual preferences and styles.

In Summary

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Barndominiums have become popular for modern homeowners seeking open living areas, functional workspaces, and a blend of rustic and contemporary aesthetics. Their adaptability, affordability, and versatility have attracted many individuals and families.

Furthermore, with their distinctive architectural styles, customizable floor plans, and varied construction materials, barndominiums offer endless possibilities for creating unique and personalized homes.

What Is A Shouse?

A shouse, a portmanteau of “shop” and “house,” is a versatile and functional structure that combines a residential living area with an expansive workshop or storage space.

Typically, this unique design caters to homeowners requiring comfortable living quarters and dedicated space for hobbies, businesses, or recreational activities.

Primary Features and Attributes

Shouses are renowned for their adaptability and offer several distinct features:

  • Integrated Living and Workspace: Shouses seamlessly integrate residential living quarters with a dedicated workshop or storage area, making them ideal for individuals or families who require both living space and functional workspace.
  • Open-Concept Design: Like barndominiums, shouses commonly embrace open-concept layouts, eliminating unnecessary interior walls to create a spacious, interconnected living environment.
  • Customizable Interiors: Shouses offer immense flexibility in interior design, allowing homeowners to personalize their living spaces, thus reflecting their unique tastes and preferences.
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Design Flexibility

Shouses can be adapted to suit various architectural styles, including modern, rustic, and contemporary designs.

Exterior finishes like metal siding, wood paneling, or stonework can further enhance the desired aesthetic.

Space Utilization (Living vs. Storage/Work Space)

We can customize the ratio of living space to workshop or storage space in a shouse to suit the homeowner’s specific needs.

Some shouses prioritize living space, while others allocate more to the workshop or storage area.

Common Construction Techniques

Shouses are constructed using materials and techniques that ensure durability, energy efficiency, and aesthetic appeal.

Structural Backbone: Steel Frame

The steel frame serves as the backbone of the shouse, providing strength and stability to support the entire structure.

This metal frame is resistant to pests, moisture, and extreme weather conditions, ensuring long-lasting performance.

Protecting the Exterior: Metal Siding

Metal siding, often corrugated steel or aluminum, encases the exterior of the shouse, safeguarding it from the elements.

This durable material withstands harsh weather and enhances the structure’s modern aesthetic.

Thermal Comfort: Insulation

Insulation is essential to any shouse, ensuring energy efficiency and thermal comfort throughout the year.

Proper insulation helps regulate indoor temperatures, reducing energy consumption and creating a comfortable living environment, whether in hot climates or cold.

Interior Finishes: A Canvas for Personalization

The interior of a shouse changes into a personalized living space through various interior finishes.

Wood paneling, drywall, or other materials create the interior walls and ceilings, providing a blank canvas for homeowners to express their style and preferences.

Flooring Options: A Touch of Personality

Flooring materials play a significant role in the overall aesthetic and functionality of a shouse. Hardwood, tile, polished concrete, laminate, or carpet are popular choices, offering unique characteristics and design possibilities.

Homeowners can select the flooring that best suits their lifestyle, preferences, and budget.

To Summarize

Shouses offer a unique and practical solution for homeowners seeking a comfortable living area and functional workspace. With their versatility, customizable designs, and potential for cost-effectiveness, shouses are gaining popularity as an alternative home-building option.

You can find many functional shouse floor plans on the BuildMax website

Key Differences Between Barndominiums & Shouses

Barndominiums and shouses, both unconventional yet increasingly popular home options, offer spacious and customizable living spaces.

However, their origins, architectural styles, and suitability for specific needs differ.

Purpose and Functionality

Barndominiums typically prioritize residential living space with open-concept layouts, high ceilings, and expansive windows.

Shouses, on the other hand, emphasize the integration of a dedicated workshop or storage area, making them ideal for individuals with hobbies, businesses, or recreational activities that require dedicated space.

Cost Considerations

Initial construction costs for barndominiums and shouses can vary depending on size, materials, and location.

However, most people consider barndominiums generally more cost-effective due to their straightforward construction methods.

Initial Construction

Barndominiums typically follow a straightforward construction process, often using prefabricated metal frames and panel systems.

Shouses, with their integrated workshop or storage area, may require more complex construction techniques, potentially increasing initial costs.

Barndominium Initial Construction Costs
Shell$40/sq. ft.$80/sq. ft.
Interior Finish$20/sq. ft.$40/sq. ft.
Site Preparation$5,000$10,000
Fees & Permits$2,000$5,000
Shouse Initial Construction Costs
Shell$50/sq. ft.$90/sq. ft.
Interior Finishes$20/sq. ft.$40/sq. ft.
Workshop Area$10/sq. ft.$20/sq. ft.
Site Preparation$5,000$10,000
Fees & Permits$2,000$5,000

Note: These are approximate costs; you should use them only for initial research. The actual cost of building a barndominium or shouse will vary depending on several factors, including the size, location, and materials.

Other Costs

Here are some additional factors to consider when estimating the cost of building a barndominium or shouse:

  • Labor Costs: The labor cost will vary depending on your location and the contractor’s experience.
  • Customizations: Any customizations you make to your barndominium or shouse will increase costs.
  • Permits and Fees: The cost of permits and fees will vary depending on your location.
  • Site Preparation: The cost of site preparation will vary depending on the condition of your property.

Maintenance and Longevity

Both barndominiums and shouses offer durable and low-maintenance exteriors, primarily composed of metal siding. However, the workshop or storage area in a shouse may demand additional maintenance depending on its intended use.

Typically, the following costs apply:

Maintenance ItemBarndominiumShouse
Workshop AreaN/A$200

These figures are approximate and estimated. But, as you can see, the maintenance costs for a barndominium and a shouse are comparable.

Generally, both structures primarily consist of durable materials like metal siding, which requires minimal upkeep. Therefore, the main difference is the additional cost of maintaining the workshop area in a shouse.

This cost will vary depending on the workshop’s size, and if you use it for activities that generate dust or debris, it will need more frequent cleaning and maintenance.

Additional Maintenance Factors

Here are some additional factors to consider when estimating the maintenance costs for a barndominium or shouse:

  • The age and condition of the house.
  • The quality of the materials used.
  • The climate in which you live.
  • The frequency with which you perform maintenance tasks.

By performing regular maintenance, you can help extend the life of your barndominium or shouse and save money in the long run.

Resale Value and Market Perception

Barndominiums are gaining popularity and acceptance in the real estate market, with increasing resale value in some areas. Shouses, being less common, may face some resistance from potential buyers, potentially affecting resale value.

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It’s important to note that the resale value of a barndominium or a shouse will depend on several factors, including the property’s location, condition, and amenities.

Barndominium Advantages and Disadvantages

It’s a good idea to compile the pros and cons of barndominiums and shouses so you can see at a glance their benefits and compare these with your requirements.


  • Open-concept living spaces.
  • Customizable interiors.
  • Cost-effectiveness.
  • Straightforward construction process.
  • Low-maintenance exterior.


  • It may not be suitable for all neighborhoods.
  • Limited storage space.
  • It may not be ideal for those who prioritize privacy.

Shouse Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Integrated living and workspace.
  • Ideal for hobbies or businesses.
  • Ample storage space.
  • Functional design for specific needs.


  • Potential for higher initial costs.
  • It may require more complex construction.
  • Higher maintenance for the workshop area.
  • Less common in the real estate market.

To Summarize

Choosing between a barndominium and a shouse depends on individual needs and preferences.

Barndominiums balance residential comfort and versatility, while shouses cater to those requiring a dedicated workspace.

Location & Zoning Considerations

When embarking on the journey of building a barndominium or shouse, it’s crucial to carefully consider the location and zoning regulations that may impact your project.

These factors can significantly influence your dream home’s feasibility and overall success.

Geographic Popularity of Barndominiums and Shouses

The popularity of barndominiums and shouses varies across geographic regions.

Recently, barndominiums have gained widespread popularity in rural and suburban areas, particularly in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Montana. This popularity stems from their adaptability to rural lifestyles, offering spacious living quarters and potential for agricultural workspace.

On the other hand, shouses are becoming increasingly popular in areas with a strong presence of home-based businesses or hobbies that require a dedicated workspace. Often, these areas have a more relaxed approach to zoning regulations, making them more amenable to shouse construction.

Zoning Restrictions and Challenges

Zoning restrictions can pose challenges for building barndominiums and shouses, especially in urban areas with more stringent regulations.

Often, some municipalities classify these structures as agricultural buildings, potentially limiting their construction in residential zones. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean building a barndominium or shouse in an urban area is impossible.

Usually, many municipalities have provisions for special use permits or variances that can allow for the construction of these structures. St. Lucie County, Florida, for example, publishes its land development code for residents to view.

So, if you live elsewhere, browse the internet for something similar regarding your city or county. Alternatively, visit your local authority’s offices for more information. 

To determine the feasibility of building a barndominium or shouse in your chosen location, thoroughly research your area’s zoning regulations.

First, consult your local zoning ordinance or contact your local planning department. Then, when you understand the zoning regulations, you can assess whether your chosen location is compatible with your desired home design and whether you may need to apply for any special permits.

Furthermore, consulting with a local building inspector or engineer can help you effectively navigate these additional requirements. These professionals can guide you with specific building code requirements, assess your plans for compliance, and suggest modifications or solutions if necessary.

Navigating Building Codes

Building codes establish minimum standards for construction, ensuring buildings’ safety and structural integrity.

Generally, barndominiums and shouses face specific considerations regarding building codes, such as fire safety measures, wind resistance, and energy efficiency.

Fire Safety Measures

Barndominiums and shouses, often constructed with metal frames and siding, may require additional fire safety measures to meet building code requirements.

Usually, these requirements include installing fire sprinklers, using fire-resistant materials, and ensuring adequate exit routes.

Wind Resistance

In areas prone to high winds, barndominiums and shouses may need to withstand higher wind loads.

Typically, modifications may involve reinforcing the structural frame, using impact-resistant windows and doors, and securely anchoring the building to the foundation.

Energy Efficiency

Building codes increasingly emphasize energy efficiency and barndominiums and shouses may need to meet specific insulation requirements to comply.

Each region has a climate zone, and insulation requirements will vary depending on where you live. Therefore, you may need high-quality insulation materials, install energy-efficient windows and doors, and employ air-sealing techniques.

Fortunately, the local building codes specify which energy efficiency measures you need to use.

Seeking Necessary Permits

Obtaining the necessary permits is essential for legal and compliant construction. Typically, the licenses required for a barndominium or shouse may vary depending on your location and the project’s scope.

Generally, permits may include:

Building Permit

The building permit is the primary permit required for any new construction project.

Consequently, it ensures that your plans comply with local building codes and zoning regulations.

Foundation Permit

The foundation permit is specifically for constructing the foundation.

Generally, it ensures the design complies with professional load calculations and uses suitable anchors between the structure and the ground.

Mechanical and Electrical Permits

These permits cover the installation of mechanical and electrical systems.

Typically, they include plumbing, HVAC, and electrical wiring.

Grading and Excavation Permits

These permits are required if any grading or excavation is necessary to prepare the building site.

To Summarize

Consult with your local building department to determine the required permits and the application process. They can provide detailed information on the requirements, fees, and timelines for obtaining the necessary licenses.

For your reference, here is the list of International Code Council (Colorado Chapter) building guides required for construction projects in Colorado. You can find something similar and applicable to your area online.

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Location and zoning considerations are pivotal in successfully constructing a barndominium or shouse.

By understanding the geographic popularity, zoning restrictions, building codes, and permit requirements in your area, you can make informed decisions. Therefore, you ensure your dream home meets your needs and local laws.

Making The Right Choice: Barndominium Or Shouse?

When deciding between a barndominium and a shouse, it’s crucial to carefully consider your lifestyle needs, aesthetic preferences, and financial commitments.

Each option offers unique advantages and may better suit specific individuals or families.

Assessing Your Lifestyle Needs

Begin by evaluating your current and future lifestyle needs. Then, if you prioritize spacious living quarters and open-concept spaces, a barndominium might be the ideal choice.

Typically, its adaptable design seamlessly integrates living, dining, and kitchen areas, creating a sense of flow and openness.

On the other hand, if you require a dedicated workspace for hobbies, home-based businesses, or equipment storage, a shouse could be a better fit.

Generally, the integrated workshop area provides ample space for tools, machinery, or creative projects while offering comfortable living quarters under the same roof.

Evaluating Aesthetics and Design Preferences

Consider your aesthetic preferences and the architectural style that resonates with you.

Typically, barndominiums embrace a rustic or modern farmhouse aesthetic, with metal siding, high ceilings, and expansive windows. Thus, they offer versatility in design, allowing for customization to suit various tastes.

Shouses, on the other hand, often exhibit a more utilitarian appearance, emphasizing functionality over elaborate design elements. Typically, they may feature metal siding, exposed beams, and concrete floors, thus creating a workshop-inspired aesthetic.

Budget and Return on Investment

Budget considerations play a significant role in the decision-making process.

Barndominiums are generally considered more cost-effective due to their straightforward construction methods. However, the specific costs can vary depending on size, materials, and location.

Shouses may have slightly higher initial construction costs with their integrated workshop area. However, they offer the potential for a higher return on investment, primarily if the workspace is used for income-generating activities or enhances the property’s value for future resale.

Ultimately, the choice between a barndominium and a shouse depends on a careful assessment of your individual needs, preferences, and financial circumstances. Therefore, consider consulting with a professional builder or architect to understand each option’s specific requirements and costs.

Return on Investment

The return on investment (ROI) for a barndominium or shouse can vary depending on several factors, including the location, property size, and amenities.

Barndominiums generally tend to have a slightly lower ROI than shouses. This is because barndominiums are often considered more niche and may not appeal to a broader range of potential buyers.

Shouses, on the other hand, can offer a higher ROI, particularly if the workshop area is used for income-generating activities or enhances the property’s value for future resale. For instance, if you use the workshop for home-based businesses, crafts, or hobbies generating revenue, the shouse could pay for itself over time.

Additionally, shouses may be more desirable to buyers on the resale market, as they offer a unique combination of living and workspace.

Financing options for barndominiums and shouses are becoming increasingly available as these structures gain popularity. Many traditional lenders and mortgage companies now offer finance for barndominiums and shouses, especially if professionally constructed to meet specific building codes and zoning regulations.

To Summarize

The financial decision between a barndominium and a shouse depends on your circumstances and priorities.

Therefore, if you prioritize lower initial costs and a more streamlined construction process, a barndominium may be a more suitable choice. However, if you require a dedicated workspace, value potential ROI, and plan to use the workshop for income-generating activities, a shouse could offer a more lucrative investment.

Ultimately, it’s essential to carefully consider your financial situation, lifestyle needs, and long-term goals before deciding. Also, consult with a financial advisor or experienced builder to gain insights into the specific costs, financing options, and potential ROI associated with each option.

The best choice for you will depend on your individual needs and circumstances.

A barndominium may be more affordable if you are on a tight budget. However, if you need a dedicated workspace or are looking for a home with the potential for a higher ROI, a shouse may be a better choice.

Here, we summarize the key financial considerations for each type of home:

Upfront costsLowerHigher
Long-term costsLowerSlightly higher
ROILowerPotentially higher


Barndominiums and shouses offer unique advantages and cater to specific lifestyles and needs. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your circumstances, preferences, and financial considerations.

Barndominiums are well-suited for those seeking spacious, open-concept living spaces with a rustic or modern farmhouse vibe. Their adaptability allows for customization to suit various tastes and preferences.

Additionally, barndominiums are generally more cost-effective due to their straightforward construction methods.

Watch this video for further information on barndominiums:

Shouses, on the other hand, are ideal for those who require dedicated workspace for hobbies, home-based businesses, or equipment storage. The integrated workshop area provides ample space for various activities while also offering comfortable living quarters.

While shouses may have slightly higher upfront costs, they offer the potential for a higher return on investment, especially if the workspace is used for income-generating activities or enhances the property’s value for future resale.

Watch this video for details on shouses:

The considerations for your decision-making process are as follows:

  • Lifestyle Needs: Assess your current and future lifestyle needs to determine whether to prioritize spacious living quarters or dedicated workspace.
  • Style Preferences: Evaluate and choose the style that resonates with you, whether it’s the rustic charm of a barndominium or the practical appeal of a shouse.
  • Budget and ROI: Consider your financial circumstances and the potential return on investment. Barndominiums are generally more affordable, while shouses offer the potential for higher ROI if you use the workshop area for income-generating purposes.

Consult a professional builder, architect, or designer to understand each option’s requirements and costs. Experts can provide helpful guidance, assisting in making an informed decision that aligns with your needs and preferences.

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