Can Barndominiums Have Basements? (3 Considerations)


Barndominium structures, in one shape or form, have been around for many years. 

Today, barndominiums, or “barndos” as enthusiasts often refer to them, continue to grow in popularity as an option for homes. And, just as in any home, barndominiums can be constructed with a basement. 

There are a few special considerations for building a barndominium with a basement.  Read on to learn more.

What Is A Barndominium?

Defining a barndominium is not a simple thing. There are a lot of definitions out there. Here are a few examples:

  • A barn that has been converted into a living space.
  • A metal building that includes living quarters that often has a shop or garage attached.
  • A structure that combines the simple design of a barn with the comfort and convenience of a condominium-style dwelling.

All the above definitions are correct. However, for purposes of this discussion, a barndo is defined as new construction built in the simple style of a barn that includes residential living space.

Barndominium Basics: Understanding Their Structure

Barndominiums can be constructed in a variety of styles.  The three main options are:

  • Pole barn frames
  • Traditional wood framing
  • Pre-engineered metal buildings (PEMB)

Pole Barn Frames

Also known as post-frame buildings, pole barn framing involves sinking large poles into the ground and utilizing horizontal girts and purlins to complete the exterior frame of the structure. 

Purlins and girts are horizontal beans utilized to provide structural support. Purlins provide roof support and girts support wall cladding.

Traditional Wood Framing

These barndos are constructed in the standard home building style. 

This style involves constructing a wooden frame and then adding the exterior and interior finishes.

Pre-engineered Metal Buildings (PEMB)

Due to the rising popularity of barndominiums as a home option, many are utilizing barndo kits. These are structures that are manufactured off-site, according to the customer’s design choice. They are then assembled at the buyer’s location. 

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These utilize a steel frame, and the exterior and interior finishes are added to complete the structure.

Typical Foundations Used in Barndominiums

Traditional barndominiums utilized frames built on concrete slab foundations. 

Pier and beam foundations have also been historically utilized but not as often as slab foundations.

The Possibility Of Barndominium Basements

Although basement foundations have not traditionally been used in barndo construction, barndominiums can be safely and securely built utilizing a basement foundation.

Basements offer additional space that can be used for a variety of purposes.

There are four alternatives to include additional space in the foundation of your barndo:

  • Crawl space – This is a short basement foundation offering only enough space for the average person to crawl through. These are typically utilized to allow access to electrical and plumbing lines that are run under the foundation.
  • Partial basement – This is a smaller basement space built well inside the perimeter of the barndominium exterior framing.
  • Full basement – These basements match the exact size of your barndominium. As an example, a 1,000 square foot (sq. ft.) barndo with a full basement will have a 1,000 sq. ft. basement.
  • Walk-out basement – This type of basement is often used on uneven terrain with one side of the basement sitting at the bottom of the hill, which allows you to walk outside from the basement.
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Basements can also incorporate cellar steps that lead outside to provide easy access and offer an emergency exit from the basement.

5 Advantages Of Having A Basement In A Barndominium

Although building a basement for your barndominium may seem intimidating, it will add value and functionality. 

Adding a barndo basement offers several advantages.

1. Additional Living Space

with the addition of a basement, this area can be finished to include additional bedrooms, bathrooms, a family room, office space, an in-home gym, a home theater, a wine cellar, and/or a laundry room.

2. Additional Storage Space

Traditional barndominiums don’t typically include attic space so adding a basement will provide storage for your home to keep your holiday decorations and other items often stored in an attic. 

It can also be utilized to store home canned goods and root vegetables to prolong their lifespans.

3. Convenient Location for Mechanical Equipment

Basements are also an attractive option as a location for HVAC equipment, furnaces, water heaters, and heat pumps.

4. Heat Relief

Since basements are built below ground level, they are cooler than areas built at or above ground level. 

In hot climates, basements provide an excellent respite area where you can cool off.

5. Protection

In areas prone to tornadoes, basements can provide a safe shelter option.

Tornadoes can rip off roofs and tear down walls, but they do not blow away basements. Basements usually offer a safe storm shelter option for your barndo.

Potential Challenges and Limitations

The main challenge in adding a basement to your barndo is that it will cost more money. Constructing a basement requires ground excavation, additional materials, and more labor.

This translates into additional time for your build, too, as it typically takes several weeks to complete a full basement, whereas slab construction generally only takes a few days to cure before beginning frame construction.

Adding a basement may require additional permits and inspections, which also adds additional costs to your project.

Because basements are located below ground level, they can be prone to flooding.

Another limitation of a basement is the lack of natural lighting, so it will require the addition of several light fixtures to make the space well-lit and attractive.

It’s also important to ensure your basement is properly ventilated.

Additionally, having a basement means more maintenance. Damp conditions and moisture levels require regular checks and maintenance due to potential mildew, mold, and other issues related to moisture.

You may also want to consider adding a dehumidifier, drainage system, and the proper waterproofing materials to your basement construction.

3 Barndo Basement Considerations

In addition to the cost factor, it’s important to consider the terrain where your barndominium will be constructed before deciding to add a basement. Every location is not suitable for a basement.

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1. Soil and Ground Conditions

The proper ground and soil conditions are imperative in constructing a sound basement.

The basement is incorporated into your foundation. A sound foundation is the key to longevity in your barndominium projects.

Things to look at regarding soil and ground conditions include:

  • Surface texture – This is determined by testing the proportions of sand, silt, and clay in the ground at the building site.
  • Permeability – It measures the rate at which water moves through the soil at the location.
  • Depth of soil to bedrock – How deep is the soil until you hit bedrock? Bedrock provides more stability for basement construction but excavating ground rock is more expensive.
  • Slope – The ground slope at the site impacts ground stability and the ability of the land to allow for runoff during rain events.
  • Clay content – Soil with heavy amounts of clay impacts the shrink-swell stability of the build site. Soil with heavy clay content will swell when wet and shrink as it dries. This can lead to erosion and damage to your foundation.

2. Water Drainage and Flood Risks

As previously mentioned, it is important to look at the slope of your land to allow for water drainage and runoff. Low-lying areas are prone to flooding and do not allow good water runoff.

Flooding factors are also easy to overlook. Many sites do not experience flooding often which can lead owners to believe they do not need to be concerned with potential flooding risks.

Serious rain events do occur from time to time, so it is important to look at flooding and long-term rainfall records.

3. Structural Integrity and Support

The basement sits at the lowest point of a building’s foundation. 

Without a properly constructed basement, the entire integrity of your barndominium’s structural integrity and support is at risk.

Barndominium Basement Costs

As with any additional space in a building project, adding a basement will increase the cost of building your dream barndominium.

Comparing Costs: Basement vs. No Basement

Building costs are typically calculated per square foot. Adding a basement adds more space and, hence, additional costs.

Average nationwide foundation construction costs are approximately:

  • Concrete slab – $7/sq. ft.
  • Pier-and-beam – $9
  • Crawl space – $13/sq. ft.
  • Full or partial basement – $33/sq. ft.

Hidden Costs and Potential Overruns

All construction projects are subject to hidden costs and potential budget overruns. The most common culprits in basement construction are:

  • Improper planning for excavation, labor, and weather delays.
  • Inaccurate estimates often result due to increased material costs between the time an estimate was prepared and the time construction actually begins.
  • Failing to account for hidden costs, such as time theft from labor, and permit costs.
  • Change orders – builders often bid jobs with a plan of utilizing certain materials, but customers sometimes decide to use more costly materials in the project.  Some examples in basement construction include drainage systems, additional waterproofing materials, sump pumps, and egress windows.

Another additional cost in adding a basement to your barndominium build is additional framing materials. Adding a basement will add costs to the purchase of a barndo kit for additional steel and other materials.

Return on Investment and Resale Value

As with any home resale, location is one of the key factors. Building in areas that hold value and appreciate with high job growth and attractive local amenities is one of the most important considerations.

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Other factors that will impact your bottom line are the use of high-quality steel, concrete, and other building materials, including high-end interior finishes.

Lastly, the condition of your barndo at the time of resale is critical. Be sure to regularly maintain your barndominium home to ensure the highest resale value.

Designing the Perfect Barndominium Basement

The perfect barndominium basement design is subjective, depending on personal preference and your intent for the use of the space. 

With that being said, there are some factors that will ensure longevity, good design, and quality construction.

Effective Basement Layouts for Barndominiums

The possibilities for the layout of your barndo basement are endless. The amount of space will depend upon your choice to include a full or partial basement.

With a full basement, the large open space will offer extra space that can be utilized to incorporate a storage area, additional pantry space, a laundry room with a chute from the upper floor, office space, a family room and so much more.

In a full walk-out basement, the door can provide access to an outdoor patio and, by adding a galley kitchen to your basement, you’ll be all set for great outdoor entertaining.

Ensuring Proper Insulation and Ventilation

Keeping your basement dry and properly ventilated is essential to prevent damage.

One important tip is to allow new basements about a year of drying out time before adding insulation. Concrete contains a great deal of moisture and it’s important to allow ample drying time before insulation.

There are a variety of quality insulation materials and methods, including inside and outside insulation to consider, depending on the location of your barndo.

Ventilation can be as simple as opening a window or using a box fan. Most new construction will include whole-home HVAC systems. You may also want to consider investing in an air purifier and/or a dehumidifier for your basement space.

Choosing Materials Suitable for Underground Use

Materials utilized in basement spaces should be chosen with an eye on water and mold resistance, soundproofing, and good insulation factors.

Safety and Legal Concerns

Proper ventilation, compliance with local building codes, emergency exits, and the prevention of mold, mildew, and radon are all items you will want to address in adding a basement to your barndominium.

Local Building Codes and Regulations

Building codes and regulations vary from state to state and county to county. Each location offers its own unique codes and regulations.

It’s critical to ensure you check and remain in compliance with the local building codes and regulations in your specific location.

Ensuring Safe Emergency Exits

Many local building codes require emergency exits to utilize a basement as a living area. 

This can be quickly and easily accomplished with egress windows or walk-out doors and steps leading outside.

Basement Health Issues: Mold, Radon, and More

Basements tend to have damp conditions and other moisture-related issues. You should schedule regular maintenance checks to inspect for moisture and mold issues in your basement space.

Another common issue in basements is the presence of radon gas. This gas is colorless and odorless and is produced by decaying uranium. 

Radon has been found in nearly every type of soil in the United States. Long-term exposure has been shown to cause lung cancer.

Problems arise when radon gas becomes trapped in your home. Regular radon testing should be done, particularly in basement spaces. 

Short-term radon tests are the first step in determining whether long-term testing should be completed. Short-term radon test kits are available at hardware stores and through online retailers.


Adding a basement to your barndominium ultimately boils down to your budget, location, and personal preferences. Many barndo enthusiasts are now adding this feature to their projects.

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