Top 14 Common Barndominium Mistakes To Avoid (& Fixes)


Barndominiums are an increasingly popular housing choice.

After all, they install quickly, cost as little as $25 per square foot, and deliver good longevity with low maintenance requirements. 

At the same time, barndos aren’t perfect or impervious to mistakes.

In fact, people commonly make mistakes when installing these buildings, which can reduce the lifespan of your building, can result in costly repairs or fixes later, or may result in ongoing problems.

Taking time to avoid those mistakes will ensure that your barndominium reaches its maximum lifespan, with minimal maintenance.

Of course, you’ll always need some maintenance, but taking care to install your barndominium correctly will always improve your home.  

1. Choosing The Wrong Build-Site 

Choosing a build-site can actually require a significant amount of time investment and research. A good foundation rests on a bed of dirt with good drainage and good support. 

This means that the first step to choosing a build-site is almost always to conduct a soil test. For that, you’ll have to hire an expert to do the analysis. 

Of course, if you already know the soil isn’t right, you can immediately plan on doing foundation preparation to remedy that. But, if you can avoid that, a soil test may save you a lot of money by confirming that the soil is good for a foundation. 

You’ll also want to check the height of the water table. If your build site is too close to the water table, you might have to either move it or take extra preparatory measures to ensure that your foundation is stable. 

2. Taking Shortcuts With The Foundation 

The foundation is the most important part of your building. Taking the time to build a good quality foundation ensures the long-term stability of your barndominium. 

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Yet, many people very quickly pour a concrete slab and immediately build on it. That can be a mistake. 

For example, if your soil composition is too hard, you’ll want to replace the layers of dirt under the foundation with soils with good drainage. If the soil is too soft, you’ll want to use piles to stabilize the foundation. 

And, chances are high you’ll want to pour your concrete slab over a rebar or wireframe to ensure it has the kind of strength needed to support your home. Having an engineer work out the strength required for your concrete slab is important. 

For example, what kind of weight distribution will you have based on the design of the barndominium? Do you have a second floor? How does that impact the weight on the slab? 

Finally, proper foundation leveling is essential. However, you’ll have to do that before pouring, which normally means digging and leveling the plot before ordering your concrete. 

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3. Poor Drainage 

Installing a foundation can have a significant impact on how water drains around the building. That’s especially true considering all of the water from the rooftops will end up on the sides of the building. 

This means that installing proper drainage around the building can save your foundation during heavy rains. 

For example, in many areas, it’s a good idea to install or build water diversion around your building, so that water diverts away from the foundation. 

In other cases, you may want to build a drainage field, running water underground and out to a drainage field further away from the home. This will prevent the soil under the foundation from washing away. 

If you live in an area with a hard ground or you have soil with very good drainage, this might not be necessary. However, it’s a good thing to take into account when building. 

4. Lack Of Gutters

Moving water off of the roofs and to the ground is an important part of building a home. Yet, many people forget about or skip gutters. 

That can be a mistake, especially with barndominiums, which typically divert most water from the roof to one or two places on the ground. Without a good gutter system, that can turn into flooded areas, muddy areas, and even pits and holes and your foundation washing away. 

Gutters also keep water from dripping off of your porch or doors into areas that you actively use. For example, if you don’t want to get wet every time you stand near the roof, you’ll want gutters. 

Most barndominium kits come with easy-to-install clip-on gutters, but many won’t, and you’ll have to add them on your own. 

5. Lacking Insulation 

Good insulation is important for reducing heating and cooling bills. It’s also important for reducing noise from outside and from the roof. 

Yet, many people opt for the cheapest insulation possible during installation. That can be a mistake, especially on the roof. 

In most cases, fiberglass batting is the most popular insulation for barndominiums. 

However, foam board is also a great choice. On average, you’ll pay about $1.20 per square foot for mid-range insulation options. 

Barndominiums also have noisy roofs. You can silence this by adding a layer of isolation in the form of extra insulation, which can also help you to meet local insulation codes for your roof. 

Here, an extra layer of batting or a cavity between the roof and ceiling with loose fill insert can help a great deal. 

You need a minimum R-value of 13 for wall insulation. In climate zones 0-4, you need an R-value of 19. In climate zones 5-8, you need an R-value of 24. 

Importantly, if you don’t meet those specifications, your final inspection will fail. 

6. Not Sealing Doors And Windows 

Many barndominium owners finish their building, get everything in, and then find out that their windows condensate or even drip water. 

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Why does that happen? Installing windows in metal buildings means adding a significant level of sealing. 

This includes flashing, or plates that extend from the windows into the wall. You’ll also need silicone to prevent water from dripping through and into the home or into the wall cavity. 

Finally, you’ll need good insulation around the frames. This extra insulation ensures that the windows don’t change temperature too suddenly, which will also reduce condensation. 

7. Overlooking Wall Systems 

Barndominiums are typically delivered as empty shells, which you’ll have to install interior walls in. It’s important to consider the wall and interior framing system. 

For example, if you intend to attach the walls to the building rather than to a floor and subfloor and the ceiling, you’ll have to install a wall system. 

Those are normally best installed when building the frame and purchased as part of it. Waiting until the last minute to install those can result in extra difficulty. 

In addition, skipping attaching internal walls to the frame can result in weak internal walls that may collapse in case of an earthquake or hanging heavy-weighted items like cabinets on them. 

8. Poorly Installing The Metal Building 

Metal buildings are normally simple to install but they do require following the instructions. For example, if you leave panels partially fastened, they might tear or shear in the wind. 

If you assemble it in the wrong order, your building might not have the strength to support its own weight during the build process. 

Building well means: 

  • Unloading with a crane or with moving equipment 
  • Storing parts in a dry place or covered
  • Installing following the instructions and construction order 
  • Following safety precautions 

You’ll also want to inspect pieces as they go up to ensure that no pieces with factory defects make it into your home. 

9. Underestimating Roof Pitch 

If you’re building a custom barndominium, it’s important to get the roof pitch right for water drainage. Not doing so may result in water sitting on your roof. 

However, if you live in a relatively windy area, a flat roof may be fine. Here, you likely want to consult with an engineer or with the building designer. 

10. Not Using Overhangs 

Overhangs prevent water from dripping off the roof, doorposts, or frames directly onto the building. 

Installing overhangs, especially overhands around the full roof, will improve water flow and building usability when it rains, even if you have gutters. 

In addition, they will prevent some rain from hitting the joints and seams of your building, which will reduce the chances of rust

11. Not Using Professional Planning 

Professional engineering is important to ensure that your building properly distributes weight across the foundation and the frame. That’s especially important as you start to load the frame. 

Engineering should take factors like the strength of the foundation, the weight of each floor, the soil, the height of the water table, and the amount of stress on different parts of the frame, etc. 

Professional planning will also help you design a layout for water and electrical distribution, although you’ll want separate engineers to actually plan that in. 

Finally, professional planning will ensure that your build site does not interfere with electrical, plumbing, or other engineering underneath your site. 

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12. Skipping Plumbing And Electrical Engineering 

Most states require that you have a licensed plumber install your water and sewage systems. This is especially true for the sewage drainage field or a connection to the sewer mains. 

You’ll want to ensure that your ventilation, sewage distribution, and layout are good. You’ll want the same for water pipes. 

Electrical engineering is also important. Here, you have to distribute the electrical load across the home, which means understanding what’s likely to be used in each room and setting up the electrical wiring accordingly. 

In most cases, the final building inspection will require electrical layouts signed by a licensed electrician. 

13. Skipping Building Permits 

Building permits are required in most areas of the United States, although very rural builds may not require them. 

However, even if you live in a rural area, it’s important to check county and state requirements to ensure you don’t need a building permit. 

Depending on where you live, you’ll need:

  • Lot approval 
  • A zoning check to ensure you can build a home in that area 
  • A construction permit 
  • A final inspection showing that you meet building codes like IBC, the National Electric Code, and the International Plumbing Code 

FEMA publishes a checklist of what you need to acquire a building permit here

14. Underestimating Budget 

It’s important that you plan to have enough money to handle everything to complete construction on your barndominium. 

Unfortunately, that’s often much higher than many people anticipate. And, running out of money before your project is finished can result in significant delays. 

For example, you can expect to spend about $27,000-$60,000 on the metal barndominium. Costs may be higher if you opt for a custom build. 

You can also expect: 

  • $2,000-$3,000 in excavation costs
  • $4,000-$10,000 in foundation and supports
  • $3,000-$8,000 in ducts and heating 
  • $12,000+ for plumbing and sewage 
  • $5,000+ in drywall
  • $5,000+ in flooring 
  • $2,000-$12,000 in electrical work 
  • $2,000+ for the driveway

You’ll want to consider windows, insulation, isolation, sealant, paint, flooring, subflooring, toilets, cabinets, and everything else you want in the house. 

If you estimate those costs, add an additional 20% to the estimate, and use that as the rough amount you need to get started. 

You’ll also have to figure out how much you’re paying for labor, how long actually erecting your barndominium will take, etc. Here, the cost of labor can be one of the most expensive parts of a building. 

However, one of the advantages of prefab buildings is that most of the labor is done in advance in a factory and is rolled into the initial cost – meaning you can cut actual installation down to a few weeks or less.  

Still, it’s important to have a margin of error in your budget. Housing projects very often run over budget. Having that budget on hand ensures that you have the financial room to complete your project, even if unexpected costs come up.

Finishing Up

Barndominiums are low-cost, quick to build, and often very durable. If you take precautions during the buying and building process, you’ll have a cost-effective home that lasts for decades with minimal maintenance. 

These 14 common problems are a good place to start. However, you’ll also want to ensure you do your research, choose a good supplier, choose paint suitable for your weather, and get an option with a good warranty. 

Good luck with your home.

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