Most common Myth of Barn Conversions: Part 1

“My Barn has been standing for 100 years it should be good to go!”

Most common Myth of Barn Conversions: Part 1 of 2 | Continue to Part 2

By Krista Hulshof

Barn House 2 – courtesy of VELD architect inc.

This is the phrase many barn owners think when considering a barn conversion.  Unfortunately, this is the biggest myth of barn conversions, why can’t I just move in and use it?  While the initial statement may be true, we want to make sure it stands for another 100 years and more importantly when you have people in it! 

The building code has three parts an agriculture section and small buildings, and large buildings along with assembly uses.  The agriculture code deems the building and its contents as less importance and thus allow certain reductions in structural, comfort, energy, fire and safety requirements.   When you want to change that use from agriculture to other (residential, commercial, events, etc.) you now have to meet the requirements of the code as your building and its occupants are more important.

Photo courtesy of VELD architect inc.

The first and foremost step is to understand what upgrades you need and then you can understand the costs associated with it and if you can take on the project.  I hate to admit it, but not all barns are suitable for conversion, and everyone has a budget.  Finding this information up-front really saves a ton of headaches, disappointment, frustration, and extra costs in the long run. I recently had a client come to me with all her zoning in place to allow the use she wanted, 2 years of work and fees with a planner but no one evaluated the barn for its structural and code capacity to be converted.  It turns out the costs to convert her specific barn were more than her budget, significantly compromising the design concepts and timeline for opening.  Had she had a qualified consultant review the barn much earlier these challenges could have been mediated.  Even before you purchase a property for the barn conversion project!  A qualified consultant will be at a minimum an engineer with experience doing barn conversions, and an architect who understand rural zoning, codes, and barns!  It is a special skill to do a conversion cost-effectively and well.  A good evaluation will look at some key items: structural condition, code compliance, as well as some history to understand your barn’s story.  It should not only present the issues but also some high-level solutions.

… to be continued

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