What Qualifies As A Barndominium? [The Sniff Test Method]

Since the increase in population density, there is now a need for more housing structures that are economical and energy-efficient. Hence where barndominiums come into play.

However, you might ask, what qualifies as a barndominium?

Barndos, without a doubt, are multi-purpose buildings, providing plenty of room for living areas, storing farm produce, and keeping livestock.

A barndo is built with simpler materials that are less expensive than the many materials needed to create a standard home. It usually maintains a lot of space in its interior as well.

The barndo is already gaining popularity in the cost-efficient housing sector and is one of the most common new concepts in the industry.

The advantages of barndos are way more than those just mentioned; this article provides a clear understanding of what barndos are.

What Is A Barndominium? The Definition

Barndominium is a word coined from two different words; it is a combination of barn and condominium. A simple definition of barndominium can refer to a steel building used in a non-traditional structure.

As Farmers, we have been combining the living spaces with barns for ages, but in these modern days, it has not only become a fashionable option rather than strictly a choice.

What Is A Barndominium

A barndo is a relatively extensive steel structure, including living rooms and a workshop or garage area.

Some barndos may even include a horse barn. Originally, barndos were barn structures converted into homes; however, many are brand-new dwellings built from the ground up.

Some barndos stick to the original design of a barn-like exterior with basic living quarters that take up only a small percentage of the space.

The living space is shared with huge garages, businesses, and even cattle barns and stables, all under the same roof.

Other barndo designs are more like a metal-framed home with a barn-like exterior, with most internal space dedicated to living space.

History Of The Barndominium

Even though barndos have become common place in most real estate ideas, the concept and structures themselves date back to 1989.

The real estate developer Karl Nilsen of Connecticut, in the U.S.A., coined the term barndo to describe a new planning concept that converts horse barns into a larger extension of an all-in-one home.

In the 2010s, the concept was revived, showing new housing options based on cost-effective and energy-efficient options with the least amount of overall development.

Living nearby to tend to his horse farms might have been the initial reason Karl Nilsen developed barndos.

Still, such a concept is what was and is necessary as population numbers keep rising in more urban areas.

Who Can Use a Barndominium?

Barndos do not necessarily have to be for only farmers; since barndos themselves have multiple uses.

Whether for storing grain or keeping animals, this type of building has the potential to be a charming place to live.

It is especially suitable for people who are tired of the hustle and bustle of the big cities; to live in a barndominium, you must have some idea of what it entails.

The following advantages should be taken into consideration by someone wanting to live in a barndo;


Barndos are versatile, which is probably one of their best features.

Because of their open and adaptable design, people can use them for various purposes, including restaurants, stores, pubs, or even community centres.


Indeed, we do not enjoy waiting to move into our new home for a long time. Hence, barndos are simple to construct, and the process will be fast.

Those who don’t like spending extra money can do it themselves and hire a contractor to assist if they don’t mind paying extra money.

The advantage is that these houses’ material kits are already accessible, making the job much easier.

Additional Space

A good advantage of barndos is expanding the living area when truly needed.

Essentially, its design allows for the easy addition of some walls to the space, or it might be left open if that’s preferred.


When it comes to housing, we all seek durability. Barndos, fortunately, can provide us with this.

A barndo is tough and resistant to certain elements. Therefore, it will not rot and will repel pests at the same time. We can be confident that this structure can stand strong for many years.


Building a barndo is affordable and is less expensive than a conventional home.

The price for a barndo differs from country to country; for example, in the U.S.A., the final cost of building a barndo would range between $75 and $100 per square foot.

However, the price would be different in another country.

What Qualifies As A Barndominium?

Knowing what qualifies as a barndominium, it is essential to understand how it differs from a traditional house.

What Qualifies As A Barndominium

How Does A Barndominium Differ From A Regular House?

When the construction process is complete, a barndo is a house or a house/garage combination that is very different from a typical home.

A barndo is constructed with simple materials that are less expensive than the numerous materials required to build a standard home.

In addition to that, a barndo usually maintains a lot of space within its interior.

With this, there are some exceptional distinctions between the two notions.

Open space floor plans are common in barndos, where several distinct rooms are not separated.

Because of the changes that develop with floor-to-roof design patterns, building walls in a barndo is a little more complicated.

It is easier to build a barndo than a regular house, and the function and construction capabilities give a clear insight into the differences between both structures when compared.

When differentiating a barndo from a traditional house, one can note many differences, and a barndo can have a much higher standard than a traditional house.

The following comparisons show the difference:


Barndos use either steel or wood construction.

Steel is usually the preferred choice of material for constructing barndos because of its construction method and qualities that don’t use much energy.

Steel sheets make up the exterior and interior of the living space. Also, the metal structure keeps the unit in place.

It is best to erect a structure like a barndo by employing a contractor who can finish the process by purchasing a metal-producing kit that includes all the necessary materials.

A typical metal building kit will comprise the following items:

  • Red iron Frames with I-beams
  • Purlins for the roof and wall girts
  • Trim packaging and rod bracing
  • Weather-proof steel fasteners and base closures
  • Clips used to construct beams

It’s necessary to have a suitable foundation because erecting and fixing the metal frames is the most challenging component of building a barndo.

Time Taken To Build a Complete Barndominium

Barndos are not all the same, and the owner can personalize the size and layout of the barndo to their liking.

Hence, barndos take a lesser time to build than a traditional house.

Unlike typical houses, it takes only around six months to convert a barn or create a barndo from scratch.

When converting a barn, it’s necessary to lay down a concrete slab that’s adjusted to fit the existing or new frame.

As soon as the foundations harden, the framing procedure can begin.


Unlike the construction processes of a standard house, which are separate, the procedures in setting up a barndo can be completed all at once.

For that reason, a barndo will cost less than a typical house.

Energy Efficiency

Steel is commonly used in barndos to help reflect sunlight and reduce the need for increased energy use.

Barndos also makes it easy to build more rooms because of how easily you can use metal partitioning to close off more open space inside the unit.

One good way to reduce the need for continuous temperature control is by splitting because air conditioning and heating have to do more work to cool or heat a bigger space.

Space Availability

It is possible to have any reasonable amount of space in a barndo. Many people in barndos choose an open space floor plan, which provides more available area than a standard residence.

Barndos typically have higher ceilings than traditional houses, giving them greater vertical room.


Due to the widespread and unconventional structures of barndos, one might ask, what qualifies as a barndominium?

Typically, a barndo’s significant difference from a traditional home is its large interior space and less building time.

However, these qualities don’t limit a barndo. Also, barndos are more energy-efficient, cheap, and use simpler building materials.

Barndos provide relatively affordable housing options and lower maintenance costs.

James HallBarndominiums Advisor

I'm James, your barndominiums advisor. Several years ago, I had no idea what barndominiums were. Although I'd spent over 10 years in the construction industry, the first time I heard about barndominiums was when I saw my neighbor building a new-style home. That was the first barndominium I've ever seen, and I found it so fascinating that I wanted to learn more about them.

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