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Barndominium Basics

A couple inside their under construction barndo.

Barndominiums are growing as a real estate trend, offering a nostalgic alternative to conventional or newly built homes by combining a traditional barn-like exterior with customizable living and workspaces. To help you decide if building and financing a barndominium is right for you, here’s a look at everything you need to know about barndos.

What is a barndominium?

If you’ve noticed these structures popping up, you’re not alone. They often look like a typical barn, but inside, they’re more like a traditional home. Typically, barndominiums are constructed on a concrete footpad, framed with steel and covered in metal sheeting instead of wood or siding.

There are many different types and styles and while most are framed with steel, others are wooden post-framed or stick-framed with metal siding. Because barndos are so customizable, buyers and builders aren’t limited to one floorplan or style. They range in size, design and purpose. Some serve as the family home, while others may include workspaces, equipment storage and stables.

How does a barndo differ from a conventional home?

A few key differences exist between a traditional home and a barndominium:

  • A conventional home is often built out of wood, brick, and vinyl or cement siding, but most barndos use a steel frame, metal siding and roofing as the primary exterior building materials.

  • Barndos provide a blank canvas for owners to create the interior space they want. Adding work, storage and equipment space to a barndominium’s design is easy.

  • Based on the square footage and design, barndos may need more land than a conventional home to meet zoning regulations.

  • A barndominium may fit those who dream of living in wide-open acreage or building a weekend retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Pros and cons

As with any home, there are advantages and challenges associated with building and living in a barndo.

Barndo pros:

  • The design of your barndo offers endless possibilities. You can build using a prefabricated kit or collaborate with a designer and builder to create a custom home that reflects your style and living needs.

  • A steel building can withstand most weather and is more resistant to storm, impact and insect damage.

  • A barndominium is often more than a home, including spaces for your home office or workshop, equipment and storage.

Barndo cons:

  • Depending on where you live, you may struggle to get the permits to build a barndo since it’s not considered a conventional home by many.

  • While a barndominium may not have the upkeep of a wood-framed home, metal may corrode and rust over time.

  • If you decide to sell your custom barndominium, you may struggle to find buyers who are seeking your unique design choices.

  • Metal homes may transfer more noise inside than conventional wood or brick homes.

How much does it cost to build a barndominium?

Land, materials and labor are the primary costs, but you’ll need to budget for other expenses, too.

Buying land

Factor in how much acreage you want and determine the costs of barndominium land packages in your area, including access to roads and utilities. Land costs vary based on location and the type of land.

Site preparation and development

Before any building can start, the land must be prepped. Costs depend on the barndominium land package—if it’s cleared, leveled and in a buildable condition, then development costs may be far less. On the other hand, adding utilities to the lot could be a significant investment.

Floor plans

To design your own barndominium floor plan, you must work with a professional drafter or architect. A pre-set floor plan is a more affordable but slightly less customizable option. Expect to pay more for extensive or custom plans. Once you have a design, provide it to your architect or contractor to create a site plan with mechanical and plumbing drawings.

Building materials

Exterior building materials are where you can save money on a barndominium compared to traditional houses. A reasonable estimate is that around 40-50% of project costs are typically materials. Keep in mind interior costs may run similar to conventional home builds. Since barndos are constructed primarily from metal, you can save time and money by not relying on lumber for framing and siding. If you use a kit, the exterior building supplies are included and delivered to your site. If you work with a builder, starting from scratch, they will source and supply the materials needed and include that in the total cost.

Construction and labor

There are two standard options for construction:

  • Barndominium kits come with all the plans and materials you need. The manufacturer delivers the materials for assembly, and you can hire a contractor to put it together.

  • Another option is to hire a builder or general contractor with experience building barndominiums. They’ll employ subcontractors and monitor the project until completion.

Beyond materials, labor is often the other significant construction cost, ranging from 25-35% of project costs.


Since many barndos are mixed-use, such as home and work or storage space, traditional insurance may not cover it. You may have to find insurers specifically offering barndominium coverage and read the policies to understand what’s covered, as they may vary by carrier. Typically, you can get coverage ranging from the actual cash value of the property to replacement costs and extended value policies.

Barndominium financing

Just like with other types of financing, you’ll want to prepare for the loan application process. When you’re ready to apply, have your credit score, documentation of your floor plans, and bids from contractors ready. In most cases, the more information you have, the better. Include:

  • Interior and exterior floor plans
  • A list of supplies
  • Contractor or subcontractor bids to establish estimated cost
  • A realistic timetable

This information will help your lender see you’re taking the project seriously and have plans to move forward.

With our expertise in rural financing and construction loans, Rural 1st can help turn your vision into a reality from start to finish. We’re with you every step of the way, providing personalized guidance and support to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible. So why wait?

Contact us to learn more about how we can help bring your vision to life.

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