Anyone build a barn first and live in part of it

etr2002September 19, 2011

My husband and I don't want to actually build our house for another 2 years so I can get out of grad school first and not go through the stress of building at the same time. In the meantime, we are considering building a small barn with living quarters. Anyone else do this? If so, what company did you use (if national) or where did you find your plan? We have animals that we need to house, so this would work-out great for us.

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Sophie Wheeler

Most municipalities won't allow this.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:22PM
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It's allowed out in the county where we live but not in the city.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 6:50PM
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Ive seen it done in several different areas, all rural or at least not within city-limits, of course. One of my partners in my firm had a hobby horse farm with living quarters in the barn for a weekend retreat. I've also seen ranches listed for sale with caretaker's quarters as part of a barn and I've stayed in weekend rental built into the loft of a barn. In both that I have been in, the two-story living quarters took up about 1/3 of the barn, along one side, but there would be a number of ways to do it. Assuming your local zoning allows, the other thing I'd check is insurance. I have no idea whether it would be a factor or not, but better to find out now rather than later.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 6:52PM
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We lived in a barn for five years. We put up a 40X100 metal building. There is a shop on one side. The middle houses a 20X40 apartment that we stick framed. And, there is room for 5 stalls on the opposite side. We didn't advertise to the County that we were living out here. Last week we got the final on our house, so we are working on moving things up there.

The space was small, but for two of us, it worked. The dust is awful. The horses make noise, but you get used to it, unless you have one that kicks or does something else strange.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:47PM
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Before starting to build we thought about building a barn and making one side as a guesthouse. We decided it would be too expensive and ended up buying a small trailer instead. We lived in it for 2 years while getting the house finished enough to live in.

If you need the barn for animals anyway and can use the living quarters as a guesthouse or office later, it could be a good idea. But where will you live while you're building the barn?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 4:54AM
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If that is what you wish, I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. But in most places Mr./Mrs. I-Know-Better-Than-You-What-Is-In Your-Best-Interest has already slammed the door on that idea with an ordinance that they persuaded some governing body to adpot.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:44PM
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I know someone who once built a tool shed. They put a front porch on it; which was so big it was almost a leanto. They camped out. When storms came theyput a pup tent in the "leanto". They expanded the toolshed. They ended up living in the expansion. They built an addition to it. The toolshed has long since disappeared but its footprint is part of the living quarters.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:03PM
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The most money spent in any build is in the beginning. It takes a lot more per square foot to build what you're talking about than it would to just build a giant box and slowly finish out the interior. You still have to get the water and power to the site. You have to have a septic system, and most systems can only serve the primary residence, not any secondary structures. Otherwise, you may have to have two septics. You've got lot clearing and grading and a driveway to be constructed.

It might be better to plan a home in stages, such as planning a large garage/family room/kitchen area that you can live in and then do additions for the bedroom areas with additional baths. You will have a much easier time of getting permits as well. It won't be cheap as a "barn", but it will have real living areas that won't make you want to kick your dog everytime you get tired of the nailing and painting and want to crash after a hot shower.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:52AM
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Thanks for all the input. We are researching our options and trying to decide our course of action. Personally, I want to put-up a barn and then build a house, but my husband is ready to move now and is wanting to explore options.

We have 100 acres and lots of animals, so a barn is a must for us either way. We have water and power in our current barn, and I can't imagine not having both at our next homeplace either so that will be an expense anyway. Fortunately, the area for the barn is already cleared and there is a drive, but I know other sitework will have to be done. We are definitely not going to piece-meal per se our new home as we've already been that route and will not do it again with two small children - kuddos to those of you who do because I think I would lose my sanity!

The members here are wonderful! Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 9:40AM
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I'm a little late to the conversation so I hop the OP sees this...

This is exactly what we're planning to do. It's just my husband and I and we own a small ranch home now (no mortgage). Our biggest expense (equalling a small mortgage payment) is boarding the 2 horses I own. Rather than go into debt with a new mortgage we are using a small part of our retirement to build a 36 x 36 barn with living quarters above. We bought the land last year and already have it fenced with the driveway, septic, foundation and electricity in. We are hoping to get the shell up before snow flies (here in Maine). Our plan is to get on the land by next fall and rent our current house until the real estate market improves a bit. That way we will eliminate the cost of horse board and have rental income. When we are ready to sell our current home we will use the money to build a house separate from the barn with cash.

There are lots of companies that offer barn plans with living quarters online but I decided to design my own because I wanted the look of a taller barn rather than a shorter stable.

We had no problems with building codes nor insurance... I checked with both before initial planning.

Here is my design -

Here are a few of my favorite designs found on the web -

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:17PM
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    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:21PM
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Pictures posted for you leslief761

Mavel gallery

Barn Pros

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Thanks so much for posting the pictures!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 4:23PM
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I've just about completed my barn. I've been living in a pop-up camper during the build. Moving into the barn was a major step up! We need a barn as well, so it's money well-spent. Our property is rural and un-zoned, so we can do what we want. Our barn is 28' X 48'; 12' tall on the first floor, with a loft over 2/3's of it. I did build a full bathroom to make it livable. I'll be starting the house soon!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 4:29PM
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I would love to live atop a barn with my horse and some barn kitties below.
2 people that I know have done this. The first, it's 4 years later and the girl is still living on top. I guess she nixed her plans to build a home. Her quarters above were done very, very nicely.
The 2nd the people that built it, actually had 2 small apartments put in. Thier older daughter lived in one and they rented the other side out to one of the boarders that did the feedings, turn out, etc.
It seemed to work well for them. They did have a separate building for hay and sawdust.
I doubt that the space would ever truly go to waste after you get your inital use out of it. Hey, free rent could give you a great caretaker...

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 3:39PM
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flgargoyle, it must be nice to have a 12' first floor! I wanted to but was having trouble fitting the stairway to go that high in a 12 x 12 area. I would love to see more pics of the inside. What did you do for the separation of the animal area ad the living area? We are trying to decide what kind of vapor barrier/insulation/firewall we want to use...

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 4:00PM
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It's a barn in name only, as I probably won't ever house animals in it. I'll use it as a workshop. 1/3 of it will eventually be walled off and finished as a great room for large get-togethers, as our house will be very small. With the bathroom, the great room can also serve as a guest house for overnight guests.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 5:29PM
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