Barndominiums: Here Are the Facts

A barndominium at night.

Barndominiums are a perfect mix of living quarters and a place for fun — all within an affordable, low maintenance, energy-efficient metal building. (Image:

Today’s home and business owners who seek affordable, multi-functional living spaces with workshops are increasingly opting for “barndominiums,” which are essentially pre-engineered steel buildings that combine living quarters with another type of useful space. These are more affordable and take up less space than multiple buildings.


Barndominium is a play on the words “barn” and “condominium,” and are exactly what they sound like: a metal-built barn that has been transformed into a modern living space. Although the term “barndominium” has been around for decades, it has drastically changed from what it stood for in the early years. Initially, barnodominium was a name given to barns that had been modified to include living quarters. Today, however, they can range from being very basic to having modern features.

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While the term barndominium is relatively new, the concept of a home with a barn is not radical. In countries like the Netherlands and Germany, vernacular architecture mixing barns and quarters together was common. In 1989, the term barndominium was first used. It was coined by a real estate developer named Karl Nilsen. The project he conceived did not take off as planned, but people tweaked the idea and it grew in popularity.

Watch this video to see how barndominiums are constructed:

Nuances of barndominiums

Equal parts fashionable and functional, modern barndominiums can combine the curb appeal of a home with the affordability and durability of a steel building. Offering the “best of both worlds,” so to speak, barndominiums typically feature residential quarters alongside:

  • Workshops
  • Auto shops
  • Garages and equipment storage
  • Aircraft hangars
  • Office spaces
  • Equestrian buildings
  • Art studios and exercise spaces
  • Vacation rentals and getaways
  • Barns
  • Carports, RV storage, and boat storage

What are the benefits?

Pre-engineered barndominiums arrive at a building site in clearly marked, easy-to-assemble packages. This shortens construction time and lowers labor and erection costs substantially when compared with traditional wood construction.

Steel barndominiums also offer low, long-term care and maintenance costs when compared with wood homes, which typically require repainting, residing, and other maintenance every so often to maintain their functionality and appeal.

A prefabricated barndominium is essentially a blank canvas, meaning the owner can customize it to their liking using features such as windows, skylights, insulation packages, mezzanines, overhangs, heated floors, and other such extras.

A prefabricated barndominium is essentially a blank canvas, meaning the owner can customize it to their liking.
A prefabricated barndominium is essentially a blank canvas, meaning the owner can customize it to their liking. (Image: via

What is the approximate cost?

The cost-per-square-foot of a barndominium really depends upon the location, the materials you use, the features you choose, and the builder you work with, among other things. They can start as low as $40 per square foot and go up to $125 per square foot or even higher. If you choose to equip your barndominium with options like granite countertops and custom-made cabinets, the costs will obviously be higher.

It is not impossible to set up a barndominium with adequate DIY abilities; however, it takes less time to set up such a structure when a contractor is hired. Remember, you are already saving a lot of money. Most people appoint professional construction companies for laying the concrete slab foundation and installing the metal framing. Later, the owner can customize the interior according to their needs. On average, everything can be finalized within 6 months.

If you’re looking to shorten your commute, maximize your workable hours, or simply have a designated space connected to your home where you can work, store goods, or recreate, a barndominium just may fit the bill. This is an especially good option during the global pandemic, when travel may be limited.

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