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Can You Convert a Pole Barn into a Barndominium?

May 28th, 2024 | 10 min. read

Cori Lane

Cori Lane

Cori grew up on her family's small grain and livestock operation in Northwest Indiana. In 2018, she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration & Marketing from Marian University Indianapolis. Having shown beef cattle for 12 years at the county, state, and national levels, Cori chose to pursue a career in agriculture. Today, she serves as the Marketing Content Creator on the FBi team. In her free time, Cori enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching sports, listening to live music, and traveling.

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Whether you call it a barndominium or shouse, one thing is clear: the popular trend of building a pole barn with living quarters shows no signs of fading.

We live in a social media era where users tag their partners in posts or "pin" images of new post-frame buildings to their Pinterest boards. Moreover, our website receives frequent visits and inquiries from customers wanting to replicate floor plans.

But what if you already have a pole barn on your property? Can you repurpose this existing structure into the coveted barndominium lifestyle?

The short answer is "yes," but this type of post-frame building project has unique challenges. This article discusses the five factors to consider when converting a pole barn into a barndominium. 

Whether you're drawn to the allure of country living or simply want to make an architectural statement, we explain the possibilities of breathing new life into old post-frame buildings and creating the home of your dreams.

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5 Factors to Consider When Converting a Pole Barn into a Barndominium

1) Secure Pole Barn Financing

MeetingFirst, you must consider how you'll pay for your pole barn renovation project. Some customers set money aside, while others explore financing options.

Editor's Note: Some financial institutions don't offer loans for barndominiums. Why? Many banks lack expertise in appraising pole barns with living quarters. The barndominium lifestyle is a relatively new and unconventional concept, making it hard to predict the resale value and return on investment. To save time and effort, we recommend asking your post-frame builder for a reliable list of lenders.

Once you've contacted a bank, you must understand their loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Lenders use this number to determine the risk they can take on a secured loan. An LTV ratio is calculated by dividing the amount borrowed by the appraised value. The higher the percentage (riskier), the higher the interest rate.

Another critical aspect of banking to understand is the loan review process. This procedure evaluates the overall quality of the loan portfolio for the board of directors and senior management. Essentially, it determines who has the final approval on your loan and what steps are involved in that decision-making process.

Be prepared to discuss the post-frame building size and provide copies of your finances. These documents include income verification, assets and debts, credit history, and other relevant records.

Remember to ask how payments will work. Will the lender disburse funds directly to you or the contractors? Or will a draw schedule (pay-as-you-go) be used?

Once your loan is finalized, you'll need an approval letter to show contractors when collecting bids.

2) Inspect Your Pole Barn's Structural Integrity

Pole Barn Kits_TrussesAs you can imagine, pole barn renovation projects are complex. You're altering the original floor plan and intended use, which requires additional building materials and subsequent design loads.

For this reason, you must inspect the structural integrity of your post-frame building. Will the existing pole barn foundation and trusses withstand the extra weight of interior finishes or a second story?

The easiest way to find out is to submit the original floor plan to a post-frame builder with an in-house engineering team. They'll review the blueprint to see how the pole barn was designed and make adjustments to support the new structural loads.

If you misplaced the original construction drawings, an outside engineering firm can be consulted to determine if your post-frame building will handle the added stress.

Moreover, our Repair and Renovation Specialists can look over your pole barn with a fine-tooth comb. They'll suggest fixing your post-frame building before converting it into a barndominium. The most common pole barn repairs with older structures include metal roof leaks, rotted columns, and sagging trusses.

Editor's Note: Ultimately, the purchasers assume the risk of repurposing their existing post-frame building into a barndominium.

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3) Re-Zone Your Pole Barn & Property

Building Permit-1Zoning laws are essential guidelines that govern the permissible and restricted property uses. 

These regulations vary by region and cover pole barn height, building materials, easements, setbacks (including driveways), and other aspects of post-frame construction.

Transitioning from a basic tool shed (for agricultural use) to a pole barn home (for residential use) requires careful consideration and adherence to local ordinances. You must verify that your county allows barndominium living and ensure your property is re-zoned properly.

Furthermore, your post-frame builder must provide the necessary drawings and comply with local building codes. For example, additional egress doors and fire-blocking materials may be installed for a residential pole barn.

Sometimes, customers encounter variances, which require them to fill out paperwork and explain their reasons for seeking exemptions from zoning ordinances. The county will decide on each request separately.

Re-zoning your pole barn and property can be long, challenging, and expensive. We recommend hiring a post-frame builder with proven experience pulling pole barn permits in your area.

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4) Prep Your Pole Barn Interior

Open Concept Living Room BeforeMost post-frame builders specialize in the shell only. Therefore, you need to hire an architect to design the living quarters, or you can do it yourself (DIY) if you enjoy floor planning. Then, our team will tweak the drawing to coexist within the pole barn.

Adding interior finishes to an existing post-frame building entails more than framing walls, hanging insulation and drywall, or applying a fresh coat of paint. It also involves prepping the pole barn to support modern amenities, starting with utilities.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) is crucial for maintaining comfort year-round. This step involves installing ductwork, heating units, and cooling systems for consistent temperatures throughout the barndominium.

Electricity is another essential utility that may require special attention. While some post-frame buildings may already have electrical wiring in place, they may need to be upgraded to accommodate the increased demand associated with residential living. This step involves installing additional outlets and upgrading circuitry.

Next, a septic system and well provide access to clean water and proper wastewater management. This step involves excavating and installing the septic tank, drain (or leach) field, and water lines.

Proper planning and adherence to local building codes are essential, so we recommend asking your post-frame builder for a list of reliable general contractors in the area.

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5) Upgrade Your Pole Barn Exterior

Stone-Wainscoting-Pole-BarnLastly, you may consider upgrading your pole barn exterior to match that of a stick-built home. Choose from classic options, including brick, stone, and vinyl siding. A continuous foundation must be poured for the brick and stone facades.

Another upgrade to consider is adding a pole barn porch. This post-frame building feature provides a welcoming entryway or outdoor space for relaxation and entertainment. We can picture you sitting in a rocking chair on the patio, watching those beautiful Midwest sunsets!

Overall, these enhancements improve the comfort, functionality, and visual appeal of your barndominium.

Will You Convert Your Existing Pole Barn into a Barndominium?

In conclusion, transforming a post-frame building into a barndominium is a complex but rewarding pole barn renovation project that combines the rustic charm of country living with the modern comforts of a home.

Addressing these five factors will allow you to confidently embark on your post-frame construction project, ensuring it reflects your vision and meets your needs. 

If you have any questions, our Repair and Renovation Specialists will inspect your existing pole barn. Best of all, it doesn't matter who constructed the original post-frame building! Our dedicated team has the knowledge, resources, and workforce to extend any pole barn's useful life or reconfigure it for a new purpose.

Whenever you're ready, please call our office at (800) 552-2981 to request a free pole barn repair and renovation quote.

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Do you have more questions about pole barn homes that are not covered in this article? If you need help designing and planning, please contact FBi Buildings at 800.552.2981 or click here to email us. If you're ready to get a price, click here to request a quote, and a member of our Customer Engagement Team will help you determine the next steps of your project.