Barndominiums are popular and affordable buildings that allow almost anyone to quickly construct a home, barn, or place of business.
Metal frame buildings are cheap – often under $25 per square foot, which makes them an attractive choice. However, they’re also sturdy, durable, and resistant to many of the problems that plague wood buildings.
With proper care, a barndominium will last 30+ years – with minimal reinvestment into the building.
Still, barndominiums are not immune to problems. In fact, there are 10 common issues with barndominiums.
Most of them result from installation, which means you can avoid them by paying attention, making the right choices, and then continuing ongoing maintenance.
1. Lack Of Insulation
Barndominiums are cheap to install. However, they do not come insulated.
In addition, failing to insulate these buildings can be a mistake. Even if you’re putting in an actual barn, you likely want insulation. Why? Rapid changes between air inside and outside of the building will result in condensation on the inside of the building.
That can lead to rust, mold and mildew, and damage to anything you have stored inside the building.
Most areas actually have insulation requirements for buildings based on what you’re doing with them. It’s important to review those codes and choose insulation that meets local codes.
Here, fiberglass batting and foam boards or insulated panels are the most common options. If you’re insulating a home, you might even go with both options.
In addition, both cost an average of about $1.25 per square foot – which means you can insulate even very large buildings cheaply.
2. Foundation Issues
The larger your building, the better your foundation will be.
Unfortunately, many people try to install a barndominium on a very quickly installed concrete slab. However, that can lead to a cracking foundation, meaning the building doesn’t have the support it needs to stay stable.
Investing in a good foundation can be expensive. In addition, if you’re installing a barndominium for use as a stable or storage area, you probably don’t want to worry too much about the foundation.
However, if you’re building a home or you’re putting in a business, it’s important to ensure that you have a good foundation.
That means digging out and leveling the underfloor, compacting the dirt, using layers of soil and gravel with good drainage, and then pouring a stable concrete foundation with reinforcements to prevent cracking. Normally, that will work out to about $2,000 per 500 square feet of foundation.
3. Floor Plan Design
A barndominium is essentially a large and empty building – although you may have more than one floor. That will mean designing the floor plan yourself and installing the interior walls. This can be challenging, especially if you have no prior experience with designing floor plans.
Of course, there are plenty of tools to help. You can look at existing builds and floorplan samples to get an idea of what things should be.
And, you can always hire a professional company to do the floorplan for you. This will be important because the floor plan has to consider practicality and accessibility.
For example, where does it make sense to install bathrooms and kitchens based on the difficulty of installing water and sewage lines? Where should the hallways be for convenience and accessibility? What is the most convenient room shape for your space? How big should each space be? Do you need built-in storage areas?
4. Building Code Issues
Almost every area has specific and unique building codes. That will be true unless you’re building completely outside of city limits.
Even then, you may have issues with state or even county regulations. Normally, these affect things like:
- Permits required
- Cost to build per square foot
- Insulation requirements
- Roofing insulation requirements
- Corrosion resistance (e.g. areas with high salt content may require significant corrosion prevention)
In addition, you’ll also get:
- Electrical codes
- Plumbing codes
- Sewage codes
- Fire codes
- Mechanical codes
In some cases, you may even have to ensure that your building supplier complies with local structural codes for your metal building. However, you can easily verify that by asking.
If you haven’t complied with building codes at the time of inspection, you’ll have to go back to fix them. Often, that will also come with a fine, which will continue to increase until you resolve the issues.
5. Condensation Around Windows
If your doors and windows aren’t properly isolated, they will condensate. That can cause significant damage to anything on the inside – including mold and mildew buildup.
Moisture building up around the windows can penetrate wall cavities, drywall, and even drip down onto flooring.
The only way to prevent it from being an issue is to ensure that windows are installed properly. This means isolating and insulating the windows.
Here, you want to use foam in and around the frames. You also want to seal the windows with silicone.
If you have windows professionally installed, this kind of isolation should come as a standard. However, it’s important to discuss it with the builder to ensure that your insulation is done right.
6. Noisy Roofing
Metal roofs are famously loud, especially when it rains. But, you don’t have to live in a drum every time there’s a bit of wind. Instead, you can better insulate the roof to prevent the issue.
That often means using rigid foam boards against the ceiling or two layers of insulation to better absorb the sound. You can also reduce noise by installing a ceiling with an air cavity between the roof and the ceiling – which you can then fill with foam.
That’s a fairly simple step to ensure you have quiet and peace inside your home.
However, you’ll also have to ensure that you choose the right materials. For example, you can use textured metal for the roof to scatter raindrops and reduce the noise. You can also use underlayment and a raised roof profile to do the same.
In most cases, the best solution is a combination of solutions, with insulation, good roofing material, and underlayment to ensure good noise isolation.
Barndominiums are normally made out of steel which means they are vulnerable to rust. However, you can often prevent this issue by simply practicing good maintenance.
For example, most barndominiums rely on paint to protect the steel from moisture. If that paint chips or cracks, having it fixed is important to protect your investment.
However, many barndominiums come with paint guarantees ranging from 10 to 30 years. If your paint chips or cracks, chances are high that you can have it fixed for free. And, that will include any damage to the metal caused by paint failure.
If your barndominium is out of warranty, you’ll have to maintain the paint yourself. Often, that will mean touching up paint every year and repainting every 5 to 10 years depending on your environment and the type of paint you use.
8. Fabrication Errors
Metal buildings can come with fabrication errors. When this happens, you’ll still be covered by the warranty from the manufacturer.
Fabrication errors are also rare, which means it’s extremely unlikely to be a problem with your barndominium. However, if it does occur, some of the most common issues include shearing or tearing of the metal paneling on the exterior.
If that happens, your only option is to contact the supplier to ask about the warranty and coverage.
9. Water Diversion and Drainage
Good drainage is important to ensuring that water doesn’t enter your home when it rains. Often, this means installing gutters, installing diverters over the doors and windows, and ensuring there is drainage around the building.
That’s especially true for metal buildings, which often have large roofs that either dump water in one spot or that may have water built up on the top. Failing to install proper drainage will mean that you have water buildup on the windows, around the doors, on the roof, or at the foundation.
Here, simple gutters and water diverters are enough for the top of the building. However, if you live in an area with a lot of rainfall or that frequently gets flooding, installing water diversion around the foundation and installing drainage around the foundation will also be important.
Here, you’ll normally want to install a sink that leads to a drainage field further away from the building, so water does not harm the foundation or wash out underneath it. That can mean investing significantly more in the drainage than you might have originally planned.
10. Financing Isn’t Always Easy
Most building projects qualify for a large number of financing options. However, that isn’t always true for metal buildings.
Instead, you’ll have to seek out specific financing solutions for your metal buildings. Fortunately, many banks offer loans specifically for metal buildings. In addition, most construction loans will also cover metal buildings.
For example, a one-time construction loan ensures you have the capital to construct the building. It then converts to a mortgage after about a year. This gives you plenty of time to build before you need the construction finished.
Metal buildings like barndominiums are popular, affordable, and convenient. That’s making them increasingly popular, especially as construction time takes very little time compared to wood or brick builds.
At the same time, barndominiums do have problems just like other types of buildings. You’ll have to pay attention, ensure you make the right choices for your area, and invest in choosing quality to avoid those problems.
Otherwise, barndominiums are relatively low maintenance, sturdy, and suitable for almost everywhere.
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