10 Custom Barndominium Tips & Steps You Need To Know

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You’ve decided to build a barndominium and you’ve possibly even picked land. What now?

Taking your barndo from dream to reality is a relatively straightforward process, but you can expect it to take about 9-12 months from start to finish. 

The following 10 steps cover everything you need to know to get started: 

  1. Setting a budget
  2. Planning your dream barndo 
  3. Applying for planning permission 
  4. Buying land and materials
  5. Getting financing
  6. Breaking ground 
  7. Pouring the foundation 
  8. Erecting the building
  9. Building the interior 
  10. Moving in 

That’s about it. The rest of the article will walk you through these steps and give you in-depth tips on how to succeed at each stage. 

Step 1: Setting A Budget

Everything starts with a budget. If you know what you can spend, you know where you can aim, what you can plan, what you can buy, and where. That’s why you should always start out your barndo project with a round of budgeting.

In most cases, that means: 

  • Assessing your existing capital and buying power.
  • Talking to a loan officer to discuss your potential loan options.

Here, you’ll want to figure out what you have in terms of cash that you can put down on your home. In most cases, about 10-20% of the total project needs to be paid for out of pocket.

Of course, your existing assets can also go towards that. For example, an existing home, your existing capital, etc. 

Other considerations include whether your construction loan is going to cover the cost of the land, the cost of the barndo kit, etc. Some do and some do not.  

Finally, your loan estimation will normally require an analysis of the eventual sale value of your home.

You won’t be able to take this step with a bank until you have your plans and location in order, but you can do a rough estimate yourself by looking at similarly sized homes in the area you want to build in. 

Step 2: Planning 

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Once you know what you can spend, you can decide how to spend it. That starts with figuring out how to allocate your budget, starting with land, 

Once you know what your budget is, you can start planning. That means: 

Land

Normally about 20% of your total budget will go to land. However, that can be much lower depending on where you are, what your total budget is, and whether you already have the land.

Where can you live based on that budget? How much property can you buy? 

Selecting a Floor Plan

Most people either download a floor plan, design one themselves, or pay an architect to do the same. This will include factors like the total size of your building, the number of stories, the amount of floor space, etc.

How much space do you want? How much can you afford? Does it fit on your chosen property?

Once you know that, you can research and select a barndo kit, which will determine how much budget you have left. 

  • Familiarize yourself with building codes.
  • Make a detailed list of features.
  • Prioritize your options so you can make choices later.

Choosing Materials

Choosing materials, design features, etc., will depend on the budget. For example, a monolithic slab foundation can cost you about $5-$14 per square foot. On the other hand, a basement foundation can cost as much as $45 per square foot.

Flooring options can cost anywhere from $3 to over $100 per square foot.

Setting a total home budget per square foot of space will allow you to divide that budget between flooring, foundation, insulation, cabinetry, paint, wallpaper, doors and windows, etc. And, you’ll need to do that before you can apply for planning permission, because your planning permission application will have to include that. 

Planning will always include prioritization, because it’s unlikely that you can just afford whatever it is you want. That means you’ll want to decide what’s most important, set aside a budget for that, and then work with whatever budget you have left. 

Step 3: Making Purchases

Now that you know what you want, you can go ahead and make preliminary purchases.

Here, you’ll want to ensure that you’re locking in your options so you can move forward with planning permission and financing. That means: 

  • Either purchasing land or putting a binder on it to ensure it’s yours.
  • Either purchasing your building kit or signing the paperwork so that you can get the schematics.
  • Finding a contractor and planning a rough start date.

A good builder will make or break your project. So, it’s a good idea to put time and thought into this process.

However, if you’re having your building erected by your building kit provider, you’ll have more time to research the general contractor for the interior. 

Step 4: Applying For Planning Permission 

You can apply for planning permission after you have a building and you can put together a materials list, blueprints, etc. 

Here, you’ll want to: 

  • Request schematics and blueprints from your barndo kit provider.
  • Have those schematics stamped by your local architect.
  • Have a plot plan drawn up by your surveyor.
  • Acquire surveys and impact reports for your property.
  • Drawing up a floor plan, a mechanical plan, etc. 

From there, you can submit your planning permission request to your local county. 

Do you really need this? Chances are, yes, you do. Most areas require planning permission, even if you’re in a rural area. If you’re not sure, contact the local county council to ask. 

Here, you can typically expect to spend $400 or more on your application. You can also expedite the process by calling upfront to ask what’s needed and double-checking that you’ve crossed everything before submitting the application. 

Best of all, many areas allow you to apply for an “over-the-counter” application, meaning you’ll get approval on the same day. 

Step 5: Getting Financing

Financing a barndo can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a lot of existing capital.

In addition, not every bank is willing to work with non-traditional housing. That can mean shopping around and looking for a bank that will offer you optimal financing for your barndo project.

Here, the more capital you have upfront, the easier you’ll find getting financing actually is. 

In addition, most barndos require a construction loan. It’s up to you if that’s one phase or two phases. However, you should have planning permission, a general contractor, and land picked out. 

From there, you’ll want to have the assessor look at the prospective value of the home based on materials, the size, and the location. Then, you’ll get back details on your prospective loan based on your existing assets and capital. 

Here, it’s always a good idea to check with multiple banks. You’ll also want to ask how hands-on the bank wants to be.

For example, some will give you a project manager to ensure your barndo is constructed according to plan. Others will basically allow you to do whatever you want. 

Step 6: Breaking Ground

Breaking ground is the process of starting your construction, and that normally starts with site prep.

Depending on your location, site prep might be a simple matter of grading an area and ensuring you have a good sub-base for your slab foundation.

In most, it will mean excavation to level the ground, remove stumps and rocks, and otherwise ensure you have a suitable place to build on. 

Many foundation types also require excavation for the footings, which normally have to be below the frost line. Then, you’ll want to consider a septic tank or well. 

It’s always best to have a professional team come in to do this work, because they can bring out equipment and do the work for close to the same price you can rent it. In addition, grading can be hard work.

Step 7: Pouring The Foundation 

In most cases, laying a foundation is a relatively straightforward process.

Most barndo owners opt for the simple monolithic slab, which means setting footings, roughing out the foundation and septic tank, and then pouring the concrete in a single day.

However, there can be complications like where you live, the slope of the ground, etc. For example, if your ground isn’t flat or you’re in a flood-prone area, you might want or need a crawlspace foundation. 

The requirements for your foundation will also vary significantly depending on what kind of building you’ve chosen.

For example, if you’ve opted for a metal pole barn, you’ll have to sink the piers and then pour the slab over that after putting up the posts.

On the other hand, if you have a more traditional building with a monolithic slab and building anchored to that, you might want to pour the slab as much as 3 months in advance and allow it to cure.

In every case, you can get foundation guidelines from the kit provider. This means they will hand you the specs your building needs, and you can work that out with your construction crew to ensure it also suits your home. 

Step 8: Erecting The Shell  

Once your building materials arrive, you can go ahead and get started with construction. That will be with your own erection crew or one supplied by the builder depending on your choices. In either case, you’ll want to align materials delivery with the construction crew.

The frame itself will typically go up in just a day or two. In fact, if you have a standard 30×50 building kit, you might see it go up in just 3 days with a crew of 10. Then, sheathing will be another few days and your building will be ready to go. 

Most metal building kits will require lifts or cranes. For this reason, it’s almost always better to leave their erection to a professional crew.

However, you can always do or help with some of the work yourself. On the other hand, a lot of metal building kit manufacturers do this work for free – which means you might as well sit back and let them do it. 

Keep in mind that most metal building kit providers don’t provide residential doors and windows. You’ll want to have those picked out and ready to install a few days after your materials show up. 

Step 9: Building The Interior 

The outside of your barndo can go up in as little as two weeks from materials delivery to you being handed the keys. But the interior is another question entirely.

You’ll have to decide what to do yourself and what to have a general contractor do, and you’ll need professionals in form the plumbing and electricity. In fact, the interior includes the following: 

  • Plumbing rough out 
  • Electrical wiring 
  • HVAC 
  • Interior framing (e.g. walls, insulation) 
  • Flooring (even if it’s just finishing the concrete) 
  • Drywall
  • Cabinetry 
  • Lights
  • Trim
  • Paint/wallpaper 

Once you have all of that in place, you’re basically ready to move in. However, timelines can vary significantly.

The simplest interiors might be ready in a month or two. The most complex can take 7 months or more. So, you’ll have to work out what you want and why to figure out how long that will take. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need to ensure the electrical work, the plumbing, and the HVAC are inspected and signed off on by a registered professional before you cover them up.

Otherwise, you’ll just have to uncover them to finish the inspection. 

Step 10: Moving In!

The flooring is in, the cabinets are up, and you have the keys. What now?

You’ll have to apply for a Certificate of Occupancy, and that applies no matter where you are in the country. Not having one can result in fines and even jail time.

That means going to your municipality, applying for a Certificate of Occupancy, and scheduling an inspection with the fire marshal and building inspector. That can take a while. However, once your home is approved, you can move in. 

If you want to move in sooner, for example, if you’re doing your own work on the interior, it’s a good idea to finish out one room and then apply for temporary residence with your municipality.

Some will allow you to move in and get the inspection later after you’ve finished everything else. 

What Next? 

You know the steps and what you have to do to get your barndo ready to live in. So, it’s time to get started.

Working out your budget and picking a floor plan is generally the best start you can make.

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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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