Building A Barndominium In Michigan, MI: 2024 Guide

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A barndominium is a portmanteau of the words barn and condominium. However, they’ve many other names in various states, such as barn-home, Shouse, Shome, and barndo.

They can be a newly built agricultural-style structure or a repurposed unused barn renovated into a modern-looking home.

Typically, you can buy them with a steel or sometimes wood post-frame structure with steel, vinyl, or wood sidings. The roof covering includes shingle, steel, or many other types of roofing material. Some designs use a mixture of materials to use the best aspects of each.

Whichever version you go for, they are cheaper to build than a conventional home and complement an out-of-town district with its rural architecture.

Building a home to your unique specifications is one of the most satisfying things you can do. And a barndo has the added advantage of vaulted ceilings, plenty of living space, affordability, and a structure that confines the load-bearing walls to the exterior perimeter.

Therefore, none of the internal walls are necessary for structural stability, and you can configure or remove the partitions to suit your lifestyle.

Surprisingly, many barndo owners strip out the first-floor partitions and use them as a garage, workshops, offices, retail, or commercial areas. Some owners even use this space as a hobby equine exercise arena. How cool is that?

Usually, with a conventional house, this would be very expensive and completely out of the average person’s reach. But, using a barndo in Michigan, you can. 

Reasons To Consider A Barndominium In Michigan

Michigan is in the Lakes region of the upper Midwest. Many people automatically think of Michigan as heavily industrialized, like Detroit’s automobile industry.

However, it also has the dense forests of the Upper Peninsula with abundant natural resources, and the Lower Peninsula with forestry and agriculture. So, plenty of land outside the big cities will suit barndo living.

Living in a barndominium in the Wolverine State also has a few other advantages.

Weather 

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The southern and central portions of the Lower Peninsula have warm summers and cold winters. In contrast, the Upper Peninsula has warm but shorter summers and long, frigid winters.

The State has heavy snow averaging 30-40 inches annually, with the Upper Peninsula reaching an average of 160 inches. Also, the state’s temperature records range from -51⁰F to 112⁰F.

But, its extremes don’t stop there. Michigan averages 31 thunderstorms a year and 17 tornadoes annually.

With this extreme weather, you need a strong and stable dwelling that’s warm in winter and cool in summer, can cope with heavy rain and snow, and is resistant to rotting and pests. A suitably designed barndominium is the solution.

Open to Anyone

It’s easy to own a barndominium in Michigan. You can get a home loan from the USDA to help build, buy, or renovate a barndo, provided you’re willing to relocate to eligible rural areas within the state.

Furthermore, you don’t have to pay a downpayment if you have problems saving for one. The interest rates are currently set at 4.125% for low and very low-income borrowers and may drop to as low as 1% by payment assistance. 

Barndominiums Keep Their Resale Value

Although barndos keep their value and sometimes gradually increase, home-loan appraisers often find issues locating other local barndominiums to compare prices against. So, traditional properties often increase their value more than a barndo.

But this type of home has so many other benefits that it usually doesn’t matter.

Energy Efficient

Contrary to popular belief, a steel building isn’t automatically cold in the winter and hot in the summer. The secret is to provide the proper insulation to suit your climate zone.

Typically, the best readily available insulation in the US is spray foam, which insulates against hot and cold temperatures and seals holes and gaps through which cold drafts often blow.

There is more information on your climate zone and the insulation’s R-value necessary to cope with Michigan’s weather on the Energy Star website.

When your barndominium has enough of the required insulation, you retain a comfortable temperature indoors all year round without putting stress on your HVAC system. This, in turn, keeps your energy use down and the bills manageable.

For your information, we reproduce some of the information below:

Map of USA Climate Zones (www.energystar.gov)
Zone
Add Insulation to Attic
Floor
Uninsulated AtticExisting 3 to 4 Inches of Insulation
1R30 to R49R25 to R30R13
2R30 to R60R25 to R38R13 to R19
3R30 to R60R25 to R38R19 to R25
4R38 to R60R38R25 to R30
5 to 8R49 to R60R38 to R49R25 to R30

Table of Required R-Values. More information on wall insulation levels can be found on Energy Star’s page.

Affordable

Homeowners often choose a barndo because it’s cheaper to build than a conventional property.

The two most significant reasons are that they’re easier to erect, and if you use steel as the primary construction material, you’re using one of the few endlessly recyclable construction materials available, which means it’s relatively inexpensive.

Durable

Steel barndos in the Great Lakes State make very durable properties. Typically, they’re resistant to:

  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Fire
  • Heavy snow
  • Tornadoes
  • Other extreme weather

A barndo is generally proof against earthquakes, even though Michigan doesn’t usually experience them.

Apparently, the most recent measurable seismic disturbance was a 4.2 magnitude tremor measured on May 2, 2015, about 5 miles south of Galesburg. You’ll be pleased to note no significant damage or injuries were reported. 

Long Life

Structural steel frames don’t rot, and steel sidings and roofs need much less maintenance than traditional construction materials like wood and masonry.

Typically, a steel barndo in Michigan will last at least 50 years with an occasional inspection.

Structural Integrity

Metal barndominiums have the structural strength and integrity of all-steel construction.

The building’s strength is much greater than one of the same size made from wood or masonry.

Low Maintenance

Because steel barndos have a higher structural strength than wood or masonry, you need less material to build a similar-sized conventional property. Also, barndos suffer less accidental weather damage and daily wear and tear.

Furthermore, steel doesn’t suffer from humidity-induced contraction and expansion, meaning it doesn’t split like wood.

Also, it’s impervious to rodents, fungi, and insect pests. Therefore, steel needs less painting than other materials and requires less maintenance.

Easily Built

Steel barndo kits are manufactured in factories and delivered to your land for assembly. Machine-cut components from a factory fit together quickly with no additional cutting, unlike homes built from masonry or wood.

Typically, a barndo takes around half the time necessary to construct a similar-sized, conventional house. Generally, from laying foundations to moving in can take as little as six months.

Is A Barndominium Construction Feasible In Michigan?

Yes, building a barndominium in Michigan State is feasible, but you must plan your project carefully and comply with the local zoning regulations and building codes.

But, then, you’d have to do this everywhere in the US. Remember that these laws vary across the state and can change between counties and cities.

Furthermore, you also have to comply with the regulations laid down by the local Homeowners Association. However, their rules are usually stricter in suburbs and less stringent in rural areas, where properties can be far apart.

Building Codes

Building codes cover every property construction operation and ensure the structure is safe to enter and live in.

To ensure your home complies with local building codes, hire licensed contractors local to your part of Michigan State or those who can research and understand the laws relating to the area, such as an architect or general contractor.

Look at UpCodes; it’s a helpful resource for information on building codes in Michigan. You’ll also notice that Detroit has its unique set of regulations.

However, nothing beats contacting your local government office for information on which codes relate to building or renovating your barndo in your town.

Zoning Regulations

It’s a good idea to research the zoning regulations in the area of MI you intend to build your barndo. Read them thoroughly and understand the pros and cons.

If you don’t follow the rules to the letter, you may find yourself fined or have your project shut down until you comply.

Some zoning rules restrict the type of building you can erect, while some limit the building materials. For example, you may find that they don’t allow steel sidings or roofs.

Furthermore, some rules also restrict the property’s footprint area. Also, determine whether the site you’ve bought is a residential zone, as some renovated barn homes were initially built on agricultural land.

Better still, find out before you buy the land. If you aren’t sure, ask your zoning office which zone the property is in. However, all is not lost if it’s not residential, as applying for a zoning variance may be possible to allow the project to proceed.

Utilities

Some zoning rules make certain utilities compulsory and restrict off-grid methods such as septic tank drainage, solar or wind power generators, or drilling a freshwater borehole. So, find out which utilities you must have and which are optional.

This also links up with which utilities are available nearby. For example, it will severely overstretch your budget if you have to pay to link your property to the nearest municipal drainage line, several miles away.

It’s much easier and more sensible to install a septic tank if they’re allowed. However, if they’re not, ask about a zoning variance.

Get the Best Location

The most essential point when building a barndo in the Great Lakes State is whether you like the area.

When choosing the location of your dream home, consider the following:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals and medical facilities
  • Recreational facilities
  • Zoning regulations: check with your town hall for information on restrictive zoning and building laws.
  • Accessibility is everything. As some areas of Michigan have many inches of snow and rain, you need an access road that’s easy to keep clear or won’t wash away.
  • Scenery is important. This project will give you your lifetime dream home. So, ensure you overlook a pleasant view.

Budgeting For A Michigan Barndominium

A Michigan barndominium project varies in price depending on its size and design complexity. Typical factors include land price, labor, materials, design, building and zoning permits, and soil conditions.

Typically, a conventional property in Michigan costs at least $180-$500/sq. ft. In comparison, a barndominium of similar size and design complexity costs around $110-$210/sq. ft.

Therefore, if you build a standard 60 ft. x 40 ft. or 2,400 sq. ft. barndominium, it’ll cost you $264,000 to $504,000 compared to $432,000 to $1,200,000 for a traditional house. However, if you select high-quality fixtures and fittings, expect to pay more.

Alternatively, buying a barndo kit as a shell and hiring a local contractor for finishing can considerably reduce the outlay.

Barndo Kits

You can buy a barndominium kit for your Midwestern dream home.

Typically, these range from $18-$29/sq. ft., depending on their design and complexity. And, they can be steel or wood post-frame structures with steel siding, roof, trim, and wooden doors and windows.

However, labor usually costs extra, as does ground preparation, foundations, and finishing.

Land Clearance & Foundations

Laying foundations in the Great Lakes State depends on the type of foundation you need and its size. However, you generally have a choice between a concrete slab and a basement, costing between $4,000 and $14,000 or more. 

Land clearance removes surface vegetation and underground tree roots that may interfere with the foundations and oversite concrete. Generally, land clearance costs between $1,000 and $5,000.

Additional Expenditures

In addition to the barndo cost and its foundations, you must also pay for the following:

  • HVAC – a minimum of $12,500.
  • Plumbing – Up to $5,500 for pipework plus fittings.
  • Electrical – Up to $2,500 for wiring plus fittings.
  • Excavation and land grading – Between $20,000 and $50,000 to clear land, install utilities, grade surface, and install a standard driveway.
  • Building permit costs vary with city and county. But, they can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Typically, permits for single-family homes are a percentage of the total project cost in Michigan. 
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Expert Barndominium Builders In Michigan

Barndos are quicker to build than traditional houses, and you can produce a finished barndo for around half the cost of a conventionally built home.

The following list of nine barndominium builders and suppliers includes companies that supply kits only with no other services and those that provide a complete turnkey project from start to finish.

Furthermore, some are based out-of-state and supply nationwide, while others work locally in Michigan. Do some research and find a contractor that ticks all your boxes.

Building Companies

  • DC Builders offers high-quality, luxury timber frame barndominiums and new homes across the US. It provides turnkey projects so the company can handle every aspect of the build. Address: 1639 Dickerson Blvd A, Monroe, NC 28110. Phone: 704-225-9669
  • D&J Building Michigan builds pole-barns, barn homes, and barndominiums across MI. The team uses local materials and erects the barndo. However, you need a contractor to finish. Address: 5979 N. Lapeer Rd. North Branch, MI 48461. Phone: 810-441-0275
  • KAB Construction is a construction company offering barndominiums and pole barns. The team covers every project step, from design, foundations, erection, and finish. However, they only work around Monroe. Address: 2121 LaSalle Road, Monroe, MI 48162. Phone: 734-755-7451
  • Kräm Construction & Design specializes in pole barns and post-frame barndominiums with metal or vinyl sidings. However, you can customize them as much as you want. The company also trades as Pole Barn Living. Its working radius is 100 miles around Reed City. Address: 11406 E 8th St, Reed City, MI 49677. Phone: 231-499-1646
  • Michigan Barndominiums specializes in prefabricated barndo kits. The team installs foundations, erects the kit, and finishes the interior. The company also provides custom-designed barndos. Address: 1236 Rankin Drive, Troy, MI. Phone: 248-330-4651
  • Morton Buildings is a sizeable barndo kit provider based in Illinois, serving the entire country. It uses mixed materials in its kits. It doesn’t erect or finish but helps find a suitable local contractor if you require one. Address: 252 W. Adams St. Morton, IL 61550-1804. Phone: 800-447-7436
  • Orchard Construction builds wood post-frame homes and barndominiums with wooden sidings and exterior finishing in southeast Michigan. However, it doesn’t supply kits. Instead, you get a custom-designed and built barndo. Address: 73261 South Fulton Armada, Michigan 48005. Phone: 586-784-5454
  • Patriot Builders PFC, a.k.a. Michigan Pole Barn Homes, produces pole barns and barndominiums. Typically, it uses wood post-frames with steel sidings and shingle roofs. The team will do everything you need, from land preparation and foundations to interior finishing. Address: 8392 Argentine Rd. Linden, MI 458451. Phone: 810-625-3848
  • Rhino Metal Buildings produces prefabricated barndominium kits and ships them to your location. They don’t offer construction services, so you need a contractor to provide foundations, erection, and finishing. However, their prices are low. Address: 4305 I-35 North Denton, Texas 76207. Phone: 940-312-7646

Click here to see the list of barndo builders in Michigan in full detail.

Michigan’s Zoning and Legal Framework

Before building your barndominiums in Michigan, you must consider the legality of what you’re doing because if you break the rules, even unintentionally, your project could be set back for weeks or months.

All construction projects require compliance with Michigan’s local and state regulations, and federal laws governing the entire country. These are what are known as the zoning regulations and building codes.

Building Codes

All state and local governments base their building codes on the International Code Council’s guidelines. Building codes ensure that every new building or renovated pre-existing structure is safe to use and complies with the law.

Furthermore, some regulations apply to all of Michigan State. In contrast, others are used locally to account for the conditions found across the 11th largest state in the US.

It makes sense that the laws should vary when the state has a large variety of climate, landscape, resources, and geography from one end to the other across its 97,000 square miles.

Barndominiums are usually entirely residential and comply with the residential building codes. However, this construction method attracts many home industries, as the business uses the open plan first floor.

In contrast, the owner devotes the rest of the barndo to living space. In this case, the commercial part must comply with commercial or industrial codes, while the residential part must comply with residential regulations.

Generally, all building codes keep the property safe for its occupants and keep the premises operating within the law.

The main building code categories include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Structural safety
  • Mechanical safety
  • Fire safety
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical safety
  • HVAC
  • Energy efficiency

One of the best ways to become familiar with Michigan’s building codes is to browse UpCodes, where you’ll find a comprehensive list of statewide building laws and those relevant to Detroit.

However, check with your local building permit office for local variations before proceeding with your barndo project.

Zoning Regulations

Zoning regulations look after the residents and businesses of the city or county and maintain the local government’s long-term plan for the area.

Generally, each zone has a specific purpose within the entire community, supported by the rules decided by the zoning board. Typically, the board establishes the regulations, and the town enforces them. 

If you intend to build your primary home in an area of Michigan, check that the relevant zone is in a residential category; otherwise, you’ll break the law. If you aren’t sure about your plot’s category, ask the planning inspector before buying the land.

Land Use

The local zoning boards in Michigan separate districts for a specific use. This keeps the town or county “tidy” and planned.

Generally, the main zoning categories include the following:

  • Heavy industrial
  • Light industrial
  • Recreational
  • Agricultural
  • Commercial
  • Retail
  • Residential

Using this list, you can probably see the benefits of zoning.

For example, who in their right mind would choose to live in a heavy industrial zone? And is it a good idea to have condominiums in an agricultural area?

There must be some overlap as many farms incorporate a farmhouse where the farmer and their family live. But this is generally the exception rather than the rule.

Zone Assessment

So, zoning regulations specify what and where you can build. And this maintains the local council’s plan.

Therefore, before purchasing your barndo plot, ensure it has a residential zoning category. Or, you can apply for a zoning variance to convert the current category into one suitable for your home.

Generally, the zoning regulations restrict the construction projects in the zone using the following criteria:

  • What is your barndominium’s position relative to neighbors and public boundaries?
  • How high are the barndo’s ridge and eaves?
  • What kind of design and type of house do you have?
  • How large is your barndo’s floor area?
  • How large is your building plot?
  • What is the finished property’s purpose?

Address Potential Issues

Zoning regulations restrict properties and their purpose to ensure complementary land use within the zone. In this way, they benefit all businesses and residents within the town or county.

However, the zones are sometimes too restrictive and must be more lenient. A typical example of this situation and one which often affects barndominium owners is as follows.

Suppose you intend to renovate a derelict agricultural barn into a high-quality residential property. This benefits the area as it improves an existing property and provides a quality home for a family.

However, the barn is currently in an agricultural zone, which means you can’t build a house or live in it.

Also, we’ve already recognized that a newly built home is better than a disused and tumbledown barn. This is where the previously mentioned “zoning variance” comes in handy.

It’s a legal tool that allows the prospective homeowner to apply to the zoning board for a change to the zone’s use, therefore allowing them to legally build a house in a non-residential area by changing its current classification.

We recommend you employ an attorney or certified architect to apply for the variance, as they have more experience with zoning than the average Joe.

Financial Solutions For Michigan Barndominiums

It’s rare for someone to finance a home purchase without a home loan or mortgage, and barndominiums are no exception.

Furthermore, most people who want a barndo intend to build one from scratch or buy and construct a kit using local contractors. This situation is where problems occur. 

A house purchase is simple for a lender because they can see what you’re buying and determine a typical value, allowing them to allocate the necessary funds, which is not easy if you intend to build. In this case, you want the money up-front to pay for materials and labor.

But, the lender can’t see what you’re buying and has little idea of the finished property’s quality or value. Even more so with a barndo because relatively few are around for an assessor to compare prices.

So, it’s usually more challenging for a potential barndominium owner to find finance for their project than for a conventional house owner. 

When looking for a home loan lender, don’t restrict yourself to using the word “barndominium,” as the customer may know these buildings by another name.

Mentioning the following synonyms may go a long way to helping get finance:

  • Barndo
  • Post-frame
  • Barn-home
  • Shouse
  • Shome®

We recommend trying your current bank first, as you already have a history with them.

However, if you’re relocating to MI and intend to change your bank, or your existing bank’s terms are too restrictive, we recommend finding a finance company currently offering reasonable rates for construction-to-mortgage loans.

Usually, a local Farm Credit lender is the best bet, but don’t forget the Michigan-based lenders authorized by the USDA or VA.

Farm Credit

Farm Credit supports rural communities with home loans and other financial services. Some of their institutions include CoBank, GreenStone, and AgriBank.

The best way to contact them is via the lender search engine on the Farm Credit website.

Eastern Michigan Bank

A heavily specialized, local bank, Eastern Michigan Bank, could be the ideal choice for a home loan. They have eleven branches and ATM locations across the State, so one branch should be near you.

Phone: 810-679-2500 or 800-397-2504.

Government Guaranteed Sources

The federal government guarantees home loan programs for those who can’t get regular mortgages for various reasons. Typically, these could be because they have a low income or can’t save for a downpayment.

For example, the VA home loan assists veterans, current armed forces personnel, and their spouses to buy their homes in Michigan.

Alternatively, the USDA home loan helps those earning very little who can’t afford a downpayment to relocate to less populated US states and buy a barndominium or conventional home.

Those relocating to Michigan can benefit from this USDA program. However, before applying, remember to satisfy their stringent criteria to qualify for a federal or state home loan.

Current Barndominium Listings In MI

Here we are, at the point where we decide whether building a barndominiums appeals to us or whether we look elsewhere.

But hold on. If you don’t want to build a barndo and deal with the hassle of petty local bureaucrats, awkward contractors, and the issues associated with waiting up to six months to complete the construction, there is another option.

You can always buy pre-owned barndominiums from someone who has done everything for you.

Even if you don’t want to put up with someone else’s room configuration, you can hire a contractor to rearrange the existing partition walls to fit your new Wolverine lifestyle without compromising the barndo’s structural integrity.

If you prefer to buy your home, look at our list of pre-owned barndominiums in the Great Lakes State of Michigan. Currently, plenty are available, and you’re bound to find one that ticks all your boxes.

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Adam Marcos

Adam Marcos, a veteran with 25+ years in custom home building, now serves as Managing Editor of BarndominiumZone. He passionately helps people on their journey of creating their dream barndo homes, offering valuable insights and practical advice. With a warm and approachable demeanor, Adam inspires readers to embrace unique living spaces that reflect their aspirations. Join him on a transformative adventure, turning ordinary spaces into extraordinary havens of creativity and fulfillment. Experience the magic of bringing visions to life, one barndo at a time.

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