What Is a Barndominium?

A barndominium is just what it sounds like: a combination of a “barn” and a “condominium.” Barndominiums combine a living area, usually built above (or around) a larger open space used as a barn, a workshop, a shed, or some other hobby requiring extra square footage. This description might invoke images of “The Little House on the Prairie” or some different rustic farmhouse style of home. However, most barndominiums built today are large, metal structures.


The concept of combining a home with a barn has been around for hundreds of years. The Low German House, for example, is a type of vernacular architecture found in Germany and the Netherlands that combines living quarters, byre, and barn under a single roof. Many Amish and Mennonite communities across North America continue to attach their homes, barns, and workshops into single buildings.

The term “barndominium,” however, appears to have first surfaced back in 1989. Karl Nilsen was a real estate developer who, in the 1980s, was creating planned communities around the “theme” of raising horses. Just as many country-club homes are built around a golf course, Nilsen thought horse-lovers should have their own planned communities with ample space for their equine companions.

According to a 1989 New York Times article, Nilsen’s horse-lovers community planned to sell homes with fenced pastureland for each family to manage their horses. Instead of building a separate stable, Nilsen planned on creating a barndominium concept. His concept placed the living quarters of the home on top of a full stable underneath. Though the real estate project never completely took off, the idea of a modern home that incorporated living quarters for both humans and animals began to take hold around the country.

What Are The Benefits of Building a Barndominium?

One of the main benefits of designing a barndominium is that it is straightforward to customize to fit your needs. The large, open building plans make customization reasonably easy. Though the living quarters are usually located on the home’s second story above the barn, workshop, or storage area, single-story barndominiums are also popping up around the country.

Barndominiums are also generally energy efficient. The steel framing and sheet metal siding make it relatively easy to seal the building envelope completely, one of the most critical features of energy-efficient passive homes. Most barndominiums have energy-efficient windows and high-efficiency spray foam insulation.

Many barndominiums include solid, stained concrete floors and nine-foot ceilings. These features allow for large windows on the home’s south-facing side. This design method is an essential part of passive solar heating, allowing heat from the sun to enter the home through large, energy-efficient windows. Then, that heat is stored in the thermal mass of the concrete floors.

Other benefits of building a barndominium include:

  • Quicker construction time: The large, open floor plan generally allows shorter construction times, reducing cost.
  • Durability: Barndominiums built from steel framing, and metal siding will generally last a lifetime and better withstand the elements.
  • Adaptive Design: Because barndominiums can be designed as a work/live space, they are an excellent option for people who want or need to work and learn from home. Their open interiors also make renovations and customizations easy, allowing homeowners to create a home for a lifetime.

How Much Does a Barndominium Cost?

The cost of a barndominium will depend on several factors, including the size of the barndominium, the amount of land that comes with it, the material used (metal most likely being cheaper than a wooden barndominium), interior customizations, and finishes. Homeowners looking for a barndominium should expect to pay $95 to $125 per square foot for a complete turnkey build. The average cost for a 2,000 square foot barndominium sits at around $220,000, comparable to other types of homes on the market.