Barndominiums are a fast-growing new home trend. It seems like everyone wants one! But, you start looking into how you get your barndo project off the ground and things start getting complicated.
Barndominiums are homes. As such, they have long build times and a lot to consider. You’ll want to have everything in mind and all of your ducks in a row before you get started.
Luckily, barndos are still simpler and faster than traditional housing. This barndominium building checklist will get you started with the basics of what you need to know before you start building your barndominium. Let’s get started!
15 Steps For Building Your Barndominium Home
If you’re building a barndo, there are roughly 15 steps you’ll have to follow. The first start before you build the barndo, with permits, planning, acquiring property, etc. The last is just moving in.
In addition, each of these steps can be as hands on as you want them to be.
Some people prefer to hand the whole project off to a builder to have it mostly constructed as a “turnkey”, where all you have to do is wait to get a key at the end. This costs more, but you’ll have less to stress about, less to plan, and less to do.
Others prefer to be as hands-on as possible and may take over large parts of the interior finishing.
Whatever you opt for, the steps for building your barndominium should be as follows:
- Permits and planning
- Excavation and Grading
- Foundation Framing/Plumbing Rough-in
- Erecting Your Barndo Kit
- Doors & Windows
- Interior Walls & Framing
- Electrical Work
- Drywall + Paint
- Cabinetry & Trim
- Moving In!
Pretty straightforward, right? Of course, this will still take 6-18+ months depending on what you choose and what kind of foundation your home gets.
5 Things To Know Before Building a Barndo Homestead
There are a lot of factors that will impact whether you can build a barndo or not.
Some of them will seem superficial but can still result in significant delays and issues with your home.
1. Local Building Codes and Regulations
Every municipality has its own building codes and regulations. That’s why you’ll need to get your barndominium plans stamped by a local architect, no matter where you are.
That also means ensuring that materials, insulation, foundation and foundation depth, wind rating, snow load rating, and other details all align with local requirements.
You’ll want to pay special attention to regulations if you’re opting for a pole barn. Here, some municipalities don’t actually allow you to live in all of a pole barn. Instead, you’ll have to use a certain percentage of it for agriculture or for storage!
Paying attention is important. In general, it’s a good idea to sit down with a local planning authority, go over your plans, and ask them to give you a heads up on anything you might want to be aware of.
2. What Your Bank Thinks
Your barndo is a home, but your bank might not think so. In fact, many banks put barndominiums in with modular housing. That’s right, with mobile homes.
Talk to your bank upfront, shop around, and make sure you’re working with a financial lender willing to give you good terms on your loan and your mortgage after the construction loan.
For example, if your bank treats your barndo as a mobile home, it may depreciate the value too quickly, which could negatively impact the mortgage. Make sure you check what’s there and that you find a bank that knows what a barndo is.
3. Buildings Almost Always Cost More Than You Think
Almost 90% of all building projects go over time and therefore over budget. Barndominiums are less likely to suffer from this problem than traditional housing.
However, it’s important to have a safety margin built in. Most builders recommend about 20% of the budget and 20% of the time set aside for emergencies or delays. That might sound like a lot, but having it planned in means you’ll be able to take setbacks without it ruining your project.
Housing association agreements can appear in the most rural of places. Even if you don’t think an HOA should apply, you should double-check to be sure before moving forward.
HOAs can flat-out ban many barndominiums or require that you spend a significant amount of money on siding that matches their specific requirements. Double-check these requirements before planning your barndo.
5. Soil Tests
A soil test will tell you what you need for your building, what kind of foundation you need, and what kind of drainage you need. It will also tell you if you can have a standard septic tank or not.
This is so important that it’s advised to work it into your requirements with your real estate broker before buying land.
Can I Build My Own Barndominium Home (DIY)?
The short answer is: yes you can! In fact, many people opt for barndominiums because they can quickly get the shell up and then do a large part of the interior work themselves.
The longer answer is that there are parts of a barndominium that you probably don’t want to build yourself. For example, the foundation is probably close to the same price to pour yourself versus having a professional company pour for you.
In addition, you’ll almost always want a professional erection crew to put up the building shell. That’s important unless you have a crane or a lift license, because many barndominium kits require cranes.
Often, you can also just have the metal building manufacturer do the erection work for you – which will save you a lot of time and effort.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to evaluate each step of the barndominium build process to decide which parts you can or should do yourself and which it’s better to leave to a professional.
Those answers will also depend on your skill set and what you want to do yourself.
Barndominium Home Construction Timelines
On average, you can put up a barndominium in about 6-9 months from breaking ground. However, planning and building start well before that.
It’s also important to pay attention to what kind of foundation you want – as you may have to pour your foundation well in advance of building erection.
In general, the construction timeline should look something like this:
- Planning – 6 months before building starts
- Planning Permission – 3 months before building starts
- Breaking Ground
- Foundation & Footings – 3-6 months before erection
- Building Shell Erection – 2-14 days
- Plumbing & Electricity –2-3 weeks
- Floor & Interior Walls – 2-6 weeks
- Cabinetry, etc. – 4+ weeks
- Final Inspection
In each case, your region, your barndo type, and your building crew will change the timeline a lot. For example, if you’re going for a pole barn, you don’t have to cure the foundation at all.
Some metal building kits also function as pole barns, so the weight is on piers in the ground, not on the slab foundation, and you can build the shell immediately.
Building A Barndominium Steps Checklist
How does all of that work out together? Let’s take a deeper look at what you have to do to get your barndominium up and ready to live in.
1. Permits and Planning
You need all of your ducks in a row before you start building. That means planning, budgeting, and applying for permission.
- Find a property that means your specifications and requirements
- Find a metal building kit supplier and contract for a kit
- Request plans and have them stamped by a local architect
- Find a local builder(s) and tentatively schedule dates with them
- Work out if you’re sourcing materials or they are
- Work out building specifications
- Handle any soil tests and surveys necessary
- Apply for building permits
From there, you’ll have to wait until you get a yay or nay from your local planning commission.
- Apply for a temporary utility pole
- Have a well dug
- Rent temporary toilets
- Put an address on your property
2. Excavation and Grading
Before you get started, you’ll want to ensure that your property has temporary electricity, temporary toilets, and an address.
Once you get planning permission, you’re free to start building. That generally starts with hiring a bulldozer and excavating and grading your property for the foundation.
Normally, that means a flat foundation with a 10 degree drop away from the foundation to provide for water drainage. It may also mean integrating significant space for piers and footings.
3. Foundation Framing/Plumbing Rough-in
Here you build out the frame to pour the foundation in. If you’re installing a septic tank, you also want to do that at this stage.
At this stage, most people also prefer to rough out plumbing for sewage so that it’s under the foundation. That means laying all relevant water lines, installing all relevant sewer lines, and fastening everything in place so you can pour the concrete over it.
Pouring the footings and foundations can typically be done in just 1-2 days. However, you’ll have to spend weeks curing the concrete afterwards. That often means spraying the top of the concrete down so it doesn’t dry too fast and crack while the inside is still wet.
Most concrete is set enough to walk on in 24-72 hours. However, you’ll generally want to wait about 3-6 months to build on it.
For that reason, many builders prefer to pour the foundation in the fall. It can then cure and rest over the winter. Then, they’ll start the building project in March.
Longer than you expected or longer than you want to wait? Some builders will use a foundation after just 30 days – providing they have piers under the foundation.
In addition, pole barns don’t use foundations, so you can build them right away.
5. Erecting Your Barndo Kit
Your building kit will be delivered and erected, usually in a matter of days. In fact, a 10-man team should be able to fully install a 2,000-square-foot barndo in about 7 days.
Sounds fast? It is! Building kits are erected more quickly than traditional housing for several reasons.
First, everything is pre-cut which means the only thing your builders have to do is fasten it together.
The second is that everything is standardized, which means the process is always exactly the same, every time they put it together. You’ll likely have a frame up in about 2 days. Then, it’s just a matter of putting the siding on.
6. Doors and Windows
Fitting the doors and windows can normally be done in a few days – depending on how much glass you have. Here, you might have this done by your building supplier.
You might also want to source separate doors and windows and have your own builder install them. Either way, you generally want to fit them as quickly as possible after getting the shell up to prevent wind and water damage to the interior.
If you’re putting insulation in immediately, you’ll also want the doors and windows in before the insulation.
Most people putting up a barndo opt for either spray foam and foam board or traditional fiberglass batting. In either case, insulation will take a few days or less and you can move on to the next part of the home. Here, the roof and floor are likely to take the longest.
It’s important to:
- Double-check R values and make sure you meet or exceed recommended values for your area
- Look at cost of insulation, R-value, and efficiency per volume of space taken up
If you don’t know what to do with insulation, make sure you ask your builder.
Flooring should go in before the walls because it means you can always move or adjust the walls. Here, barndominium owners are more and more often going for finished concrete.
This means you pour a layer of very fine and tinted concrete on your floor and then polish it to a high finish. It often looks and feels like wood or rock.
Whatever you want, you should ensure that it’s finished before moving on to the framing. Plan to spend about 2 weeks on it.
9. Interior Walls & Framing
Barndos need very minimal interior walls and framing. However, you’ll have to put them in for bedrooms and other private spaces.
Timelines can vary a great deal. However, you do want to ensure that your interior walls meet local fire resistance standards.
10. Electrical Work
You want the electrical work in after the interior walls are framed but before you put the drywall in.
If you have a certified electrician, they can self-inspect and you won’t have to pay for a separate inspection. If you do the work yourself, you’ll have to pay for an inspection, before the drywall goes up.
Plumbing should go in before the interior walls are finished and after the wall framing is done. This allows you to run pipes through the walls.
Here, you or your plumber will run pipes off the plumbing rough-in from before laying the foundation, connect everything, test it for leaks, and otherwise get it ready to go. This also has to be inspected unless you have it done by a licensed plumber.
12. Drywall + Paint
Once you have your inspections, go ahead and cover everything up. That means drywall or whatever other interior paneling you’ve decided to use.
Make sure you have signed inspections first or you will have to take this out again to get a certificate of occupancy.
13. Cabinetry and Trim
Cabinetry can take a long time but it can also be done mostly off-site. That’s especially true if you’re opting for ready-made.
However, many people prefer to have custom-made cabinetry assembled mostly on-site and installed. That can take about 4 weeks for a full kitchen but may go much more quickly.
You’ll need an inspection from your local building controller and fire marshal. You can typically schedule this through city or county hall. Then, you’ll only have to wait until they have time.
From there, you can show them your inspection certifications, show the fireproofing, go over the materials, and get a sign-off that your home is safe to live in.
Keep in mind that it is illegal to live in your property before this sign-off, and you may be fined or denied occupancy if it appears you’re already living in the barndo and don’t have written permission to do so.
If you’ve handled everything by the book so far, you could get your certificate of occupancy on the same day as the inspection.
In general, you’ll want to try to schedule this about a month upfront, because both officials can be busy.
15. Moving In!
That’s it! You can move in!
Of course, many people prefer to get a certificate of occupancy and then keep working on the house. However, you’ll have to talk to your fire marshall if you’d like that to be the case for your home.
Enjoy your new barndo.
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