Building a Barndominium: Part 1 – Homeowner's Perspective


Building a Barndominium: Part 1 – Homeowner's Perspective

When Carolina Farm Credit customer-members Mike and Susan Fadel first saw barndominiums in Texas several years ago, they became intrigued with the idea of constructing their own. The couple, who live in in Mecklenburg County, had purchased some farmland with the hopes of one day building on the property.

A couple of years ago, they realized their dream. Mike acknowledges that his initial idea of a metal building that would include living quarters and space for his classic car hobby ended up morphing into a different design due to the lay of his land and the regulations of the town. Instead of one large building, they ended up with two structures that are connected by a breezeway. The living space is open concept with high ceilings, concrete floors, and concrete counters. The structure is connected to another building for the cars.

Buildings with More Than One Purpose

Both structures have an attractive barn look, and the home is built with a hardy board that has a board and batten style to match the metal barn. For the dwelling, they went with a stick built home rather than going with a metal frame that would then require stick building within its walls. “It’s not a metal building because our contractor said it would be just as cheap to build a stick building for a portion of it. We separated the garage part, which is metal, and is actually a bigger footprint than the house.” Mike likes that the two are separate in case of fire.

Mike shares that ever since his barndominium complex was completed, they have frequent visitors. “So many people stop by wanting to build the same thing, asking if they can buy or have my plans.” Because barndominiums are relatively new to many people and to the market, Mike shares a few tips to consider:

Kits are available. Several companies, which can be found online, provide kits. Everything necessary is provided and you either work through the company to obtain a contractor or you find your own contractor. While Mike acknowledges there are some beautiful kits available, he and Susan ultimately decided to develop their own plan and work with a contractor locally rather than purchasing a kit. 

Look at plans online for ideas and inspiration. As with any other project, it’s helpful to get an idea of what may be available or what others have done. Google “barndominium” and numerous companies and designs will appear for you to peruse. While Mike and Susan spent time looking at various options and using them to refine his ideas, they ended up hiring a draftsperson to draw up the plans, which gave them added flexibility in adjusting the plans as needed to get the design they wanted. Depending on where you live, your city or county’s building permit review office will likely need to approve the design when completed.

Visit other barndominiums, if possible. If you can view other barndominiums first-hand, particularly one that is similar to the style you have in mind, that can give you a better idea of what you’re getting before you build. “The concept isn’t right for everybody,” says Mike. “I don’t know that the design we did is the best for most people but for somebody who has a hobby like I do, it’s so much easier to be able to have that space. I would definitely suggest you find somebody that has one, ask them to do a walkthrough, and ask them what they would do differently.”

Consider your family’s needs. Mike and Susan enjoy entertaining, so the large, open-spaced concept works well, and they are quite pleased with how it turned out, but acknowledge it took some getting used to. “It’s not your cookie cutter house like so many people live in,” he says. Sound carries more so than in traditional structures. Plans are available that aren’t as expansive and open spaced, if that’s your preference.

Traditional construction loans may not be available; work with the “go-to lender.”  While comps in other states, such as Texas, may be available, Mike says comps aren’t widely available yet in North Carolina. “That was the biggest thing in getting a traditional construction loan for something like this; it was almost impossible. That is why Carolina Farm Credit was amazing to work with.”

In part 2 of Building a Barndominium, Carolina Farm Credit appraiser Caleb Haywood shares financial and other considerations to keep in mind.

By Leah Chester-Davis