What Are Barndominiums Made Of? (Metal vs. Wood Build In 2024)

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Barndominiums or “barndos” are a modern version of our great grandparents’ houses on the farm.

Money was tight, so the family lived above the barn, where they stored the farm equipment, feed, and animals. Their living accommodation consisted of lumber or corrugated steel siding, like their barn.

Jump forward a few decades, and the modern barndo is still made from the simple and plentiful materials you’d find on a typical farm.

So, what are barndominiums made of? You can build barndos from a variety of materials.

Traditionally, they would be the cheap materials used on the farm that could withstand the local conditions. So, you’d find the Midwest areas would use wood frames and siding, while the South and Southeastern regions used steel frames.

Metal Barndominiums

The metal used in a barndo’s construction is usually steel because it’s relatively cheap, quickly worked and welded, and readily available in most areas of the country.

Generally, the framework skeleton is made from structural steel, supporting waterproof steel siding and roof. Traditionally, the outer skin would be large corrugated steel sheets fixed to the steel framework.

The roof covering could be either corrugated steel or shingles, depending on the owner’s preference and what is locally available.

These design features continue to be used to this day.

Let’s consider some advantages and disadvantages of building a steel barndo.

Pros

Durability

Generally, steel barndos are highly durable and withstand many things that a wooden barndo cannot; for example, extreme weather, high winds, and heavy snowfalls.

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Furthermore, steel resists all types of pests and vermin., such as termites and rodents.

Cost-effective

Steel-built barndos are significantly more cost-effective than those made from wood.

Metal structures are faster to build than wood and are generally less expensive.

Low maintenance

Steel needs much less maintenance than wood, so you’ll find that a barndo made from this material lasts much longer with much less effort. Steel structures need less painting than wood and aren’t damaged by rot, mold, or pests. Therefore, they cost much less to maintain.

The exposed steel often has a weatherproof coated surface, so you don’t need to paint for at least 10-15 years. Furthermore, the steel siding and roof can last up to 50 years before it needs maintenance. Moreover, steel is immune from fungal rot and pests like termites and rodents.

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Versatility

Steel barndos are generally factory-made before being shipped to the site for final assembly by steel contractors.

Manufacturers can make them to any design, from a ranchhouse to a hay barn. And the purchaser can choose the customizations, with the first floor perhaps reserved for boats, vehicles, hobbies, or a commercial enterprise.

Alternatively, you can have large rooms suitable for open-plan living.

Flexible interior customization

Because the outside wall framework supports the total weight of the structure, there aren’t any internal load-bearing walls or pillars to get in the way. Therefore, you can put your interior partition walls precisely where you want them.

If you prefer the first floor to hold a horse riding arena, a warehouse, or a multiple-vehicle garage, you can have it.

Quickly erected

Because sheet steel panels are larger than the equivalent wooden sidings, they take less time to assemble.

Suppose you choose to purchase a barndo kit. In that case, you can erect the structure in days or weeks rather than months for a conventional building.

Security

A steel barndo is difficult to break into, so your belongings are safe from a home invasion. Moreover, the steel framework and sidings will protect against some of the worst weather imaginable.

The official storm shelters in tornado regions are steel, so if designed correctly, you have your own hurricane and tornado shelter in the barndo.

Durable

Steel barndos are more durable than wooden barndos because the steel framework and sidings are more robust and will last longer.

Typically, a steel barndo protects against mold, rot, mildew, termites, rodents, extreme weather, and fire.

Easily sealed from the outside world

Because of the reduced number of joints in the large area siding panels, it’s easy to seal against drafts, rodents, and water ingress.

Combine this with spray foam insulation, and you have a wholly isolated residence.

Low house insurance

Steel is inherently fireproof. So, protecting the steel framework from heat effects using standard building methods will withstand a typical house fire.

Generally, covering the structural steel with a layer of drywall will protect the steel. Therefore, insurance companies consider a steel barndo a lower risk than a wooden dwelling.

Energy efficiency

You might think that a steel building’ interior becomes cold in the winter and hot in the summer. But, when you insulate a steel barndo with spray foam, it becomes very energy efficient.

Warm air can no longer escape, and you’ve prevented all cold drafts.

Recyclable

Steel is one of the few repeatedly recycled materials.

However, to recycle this material needs significant amounts of energy.

Cons

Excessive exterior noise 

Have you ever heard the sound of rain on a corrugated steel shed or garage roof? If so, you know the volume inside a barndo.

Furthermore, you might also have issues with nearby construction noise, traffic, or overhead aircraft. Although excessive, you can reduce this noise using many layers of acoustic insulation foam. But it is expensive.

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Heat conductor

Because steel is a better heat conductor than wood, you need more thermal insulation to maintain a comfortable interior temperature.

Appearance

Not everyone likes the look of a metal building.

Although designers can customize a metal barndo to look like almost anything, they don’t have the same appeal as a natural wooden home. Therefore, it’s less desirable for those people looking for a more traditional appearance.

Also, the neighbors might prefer not to look at a nearby metal building. Furthermore, many towns and cities refuse permission for metal buildings in residential areas.

Wooden Barndominiums

Although metal barndominiums are all the fashion, there is still a market for a more traditional wooden-built structure.

Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of this building material.

Pros

Reduced exterior noise

The internal structure of wood is essentially like a bundle of small diameter tubes filled with air.

Therefore, like a double-glazed window, it effectively insulates the interior from excessive noise.

Reduced heat loss

As well as wood’s soundproofing qualities, it’s also good at insulating against heat loss.

If you can seal the joints between wood panels, you need less additional insulation than a steel barndo.

Appearance

Although a steel barndo can look like almost any material, nothing beats the traditional rustic charm of natural wood.

Not only will you enjoy living in a natural wood house, but your neighbors will prefer it, and the local government will have fewer zoning objections to a wooden barndo than a metal one.

Ease of construction

While steel barndo kits are easier to build with cranes, wood barndos are easier to construct on-site, by hand.

Earthquake resistance

Because wood can flex, it’s more resistant to earthquakes.

Therefore, wooden barndos are ideal for those living in areas prone to seismic events.

Lower carbon footprint

Sustainably sourced softwood has a lower carbon footprint than steel and needs less energy than steel to build a barndo.

So, your wooden barndo can be a superb eco-friendly living structure.

Long life

The treated wood used in barndo construction is resistant to pests, mold, rot, and other deterioration, and will last for decades with regular maintenance.

Cons

Natural materials degrade

It doesn’t matter how much you treat wood with preservatives.

Over time it will degrade due to insects and weathering. And, unless you regularly maintain the exposed material, it will degrade faster than steel.

Flammable

Wood is inherently flammable, so if you have a house fire, your barndo will suffer more damage than steel-made ones.

Pest infestations

Wood is a food source for many insects and parasitic plants. So you must be more vigilant than when owning a steel barndo.

Regularly check it for termites, fungi, and other pests.

Soft material

Wood is much softer and easier to damage than steel, so watch out for rodents and birds breaking through the outer skin to make their nests.

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Regular maintenance

Unlike steel barndos, you must spend time on routine maintenance if you want to keep your wooden home looking great.

Wood needs routine repairs, sanding, and repainting, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Depreciation

Everything depreciates over time. But, some lose their value faster than others.

Wooden structures depreciate in value more quickly than those made from steel.

Which Material Is Best For Barndominium Homes?

Both wooden and steel barndominiums have different advantages and disadvantages, so it’s difficult to say which material is better.

The final decision on whether to choose a steel or wood barndo lies with the purchaser and includes other factors such as availability of materials, zoning regulations, and your bank balance. However, consider the following:

  • Steel provides greater durability than wood and is more affordable.
  • Wood has a lower carbon footprint than steel, but steel can be repeatedly recycled.
  • Wood is a better thermal and acoustic insulator than steel but is more challenging to draftproof than steel.
  • Steel is sturdy and can withstand extreme weather conditions, but wood will remain standing in an earthquake region.
  • Steel looks good without regular maintenance for many years. But, it doesn’t have the aesthetic appeal of wood.

Choosing between the two materials is always a compromise.

But overall, we believe that steel wins out as it’s cost-effective, erects quickly, and is durable with minimal maintenance.

What Are Barndominium Walls Made Of?

The answer to this question depends on whether you intend to convert an old barn or start from scratch. And don’t forget the material you intend to use; steel or wood.

For simplicity, let’s consider a steel barndominiums kit.

During foundation pouring, set steel posts in the concrete. Then, assemble the remainder of the horizontal and vertical steel framework using a crane.

When bolted and welded together, its stable structure transfers the building’s weight from the exterior framework to the foundations, therefore eliminating the need for internal loadbearing walls and allowing versatile customization of the interior partition walls.

Usually, the framework is a combination of wood and steel. The interior uses wood lumber to easily install drywall, insulation, flooring, HVAC, and other components.

After installing the structural framework, external siding, and roof, it’s time to work on the interior walls. Install the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems inside the walls and cover them with insulation and drywall boards.

Summary

Having seen the pros and cons of wood and steel barndominiums, it’s up to you which one you choose.

Do your research and ask local barndo owners which type they chose and why. Then consider the various reasons for using each material type.

You’ve probably noticed that even a steel barndo uses lumber in its skeleton. Don’t be afraid to combine the two materials if it makes assembly easier. But, always hire a structural engineer to decide where to use lumber.

Now you’ve decided which material to use, what are you waiting for? You can ensure that you and your family have their “forever” home in a few months rather than years.

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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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