You have your house, your horses, and a gorgeous chunk of property that will be just perfect for your future establishment. Or perhaps you are looking to expand your business and are looking for an economic barn to add to your existing one. You’ve thought about hiring an architect to design a barn that will have every little thing you ever imagined in your dream barn. But before you go that route, you decide to first review all of your options, including a kit, or prefabricated, barn. Here are five key considerations to take into account when deciding whether a prefabricated barn is right for your equine business. As well, we supply a comprehensive list of the different manufacturers and their services.
Speed, efficiency, and cost are the three leading reasons why many barn owners choose to go the prefabricated route. Barn manufacturers offer plans at a set, predetermined price. The customer clearly knows what he or she will be spending, and what will be delivered—and when—for the price. While prices for kits vary considerably between manufacturers and will also differ based on your choice of materials and options, you can generally expect to spend about 30% less for a standard kit versus a custom barn made of wood (see sidebar “Barn kits at a glance”). John Blackburn of Blackburn Architects points out on his website (www.blackburnarch.com) that design fees with kit barns are also less than with custom structures. “Even so, customers don’t have to sacrifice the look, the functionality, or the sustainability of their prefabricated barn just to realize the savings,” he notes.
Today’s kit barns can match the style and quality of custom barns. Many manufacturers offer options, such as European stall fronts and rubber pavers that grace the barn with a high-end look and feel. Keep in mind, however, that the more options you choose, the more the price increases.
Do you have an existing barn that could use a face-lift? Many kit manufacturers offer barn components, such as stall fronts, windows, and pavers that can be retrofitted to give your barn interior a fresh new look.
Materials used in prefabricated barns vary substantially, from wood to man-made materials, to metal. The choice of material will depend on your budget, aesthetic requirements, and climate. Oak timber for posts and beams and pine siding for the interior are standard choices for those who love the look, durability, insulating properties, and breathability of wood. For a low-maintenance variation on this theme, oak timbers can be combined with man-made siding materials, such as Hardie board. Hardie board is one of several fiber cement siding products that are termite- and rot-resistant, maintenance free, and available in a variety of permanent colors. The manufacturer of Hardie board, James Hardie (www.jameshardie.com), offers Hardie board siding with specific attributes relative to the climate where you live.
Metal, the material offered by MD Barnmaster (www.mdbarns.com), tends to be less popular than wood because it is cold in winter, hot in summer, and noisy when it is rainy or windy outside. Sharp edges need to be covered to safeguard horses against injury. However, metal is durable, maintenance free, and easy to sanitize. Metal also handles high wind and heavy snow loads exceptionally well, and has a 0% flame spread rating.
Some companies offer “green” or recycled building materials in their kits. Blackburn Architects uses sustainable, FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) wood products, recycled rubber pavers, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) stains and sealants, and low-toxicity, low-maintenance cement board siding.
Sand Creek Post & Beam is an environmentally conscious barn manufacturer dealing only with suppliers who thin-cut forests. Their suppliers allow the wood to dry naturally, without the addition of toxic chemicals. For each purchase, Sand Creek Post & Beam donates 10 lodge pole pine or Douglas fir trees to reforestation. They donate scrap wood to local youth and school organizations, and recycle sawdust for bedding.
Most barn kit manufacturers will offer options at various price points. Areas of customization include roofing and siding materials and colors, tack and grain room fittings, and stall fronts and doors. Windows, hardware, cabinets, cupolas, feeders, doors, vents, kickboards, screens, partitions, light fixtures, and chew guards are other options that are widely available to help make your kit barn truly feel like your own.
The same considerations apply for kit barns as for custom barns when choosing where on your site to locate the barn. Drainage and ventilation, sun exposure, wind direction, and type of soil all shape the ideal setting for your barn. Also consider water and power supply to the site.
Don’t forget that when you are determining the site, there is the matter of access by heavy trucks and equipment. You would not, for instance, want trucks to be driving over your septic fields to get to the building site. Jill Siragusa, marketing manager for Horizon Structures (www.horizonstructures.com) points out, “Wherever the barn is going to sit, there must be a driveway capable of supporting the weight of delivery trucks and trailers. Prepare your site with footers, pad, slab, or other preparation according to your local government’s building code. Be sure the access to the site is as level as possible, and make sure the trucks won’t be blocked by trees, fences, plantings, or other obstacles.”
Determining what permits and approvals you will need before starting any work will help your barn project to progress more smoothly. Check with your town and/or municipality about zoning requirements, which specify how land can be used and where buildings can be situated on that land. Building permits will be necessary as well. Your municipality will probably also require structural drawings or layout plans, photos of what the barn will look like, stamped or sealed architectural plans, proof of insurance, and a copy of your contractor’s license.
Some kit builders will handle some of these details for you as part of the package. Jill Siragusa (www.horizonstructures.com) explains. “Building a barn can be a daunting experience. We go out of our way to make the process easier. We will even work with our customers’ contractors directly to provide them with specs and answer questions. Our architects can help our customers with the zoning and permit process, and provide sketches for the local municipality.”
When shopping for your kit supplier, be sure to ask what part of the permit process they can help you with. Their experience is certain to be a strong asset to you as you work through the sometimes frustrating approvals process.
Before you Build
Before selecting your barn, it helps to do your homework—especially with respect to knowing exactly what the kit maker provides, what responsibilities you have in the project, and areas of hidden costs. Here’s a list of questions that can help you gather useful information:
- Experience: What is the provider’s specific horse experience? Does the provider understand issues related to horse and worker care, safety, and health? Can the provider show a portfolio of barns they have set up for customers in a similar geographic area as yours?
- Shipping/delivery: Are shipping charges included? If not, what are the estimated shipping/delivery charges to your site?
- Weather considerations: Do you live in an area of extreme climate? Wind, snow, and heavy rain are key determinants of material selection and site selection/preparation.
- Options: What options are important to you? Do you need a wash stall with hot and cold running water? Do you want fancy stall fronts? Rubber aisle pavers? Dutch doors?
- Building codes: Does the provider research the building codes for the area they are delivering to, to make sure their kits are engineered to meet the codes in your area?
- Site preparation and access: Does the provider assist at all with site preparation, or at least provide guidance on what type of pre-work is needed? Will the provider assist with determining that your site is accessible for delivery of materials? (For example, will they determine accessibility from photos that you send, or will they make a site visit?)
- Services: What services does provider offer with the cost of the kit? To help you get the full budget picture, determine what “extras” you must pay for separately (for example, preparing the site, purchasing materials for and installing aisle flooring, running electrical wiring, installing plumbing, purchasing lighting and plumbing fixtures, purchasing and installing stall screenings/mats, etc.).
- Construction team: Does the provider send their own carpenters, electricians, and plumbers to your property, or do you need to engage your own tradesmen? If the provider supplies the workers, are they licensed and insured? Does the provider do background checks on their workers? If workers stay on site during construction, are you responsible for their food and housing expenses?
- Warranties: What kind of warranties or aftercare does the provider offer in the event of problems?
- References: Is the provider willing to share references, or even take you on a tour of other projects they have completed?
With careful shopping, advance preparation, clear communication, and attention to details, you can soon be enjoying a well-constructed, attractive barn that functions just as well as its custom cousins.
Barn Kits at a Glance
There are many barn suppliers to choose from. This sampling will give you an idea of options available. As you can surmise from this information, it is critical to be clear in your communication with the supplier about what services and materials they do and do not provide, as well as who is responsible for what part of the process and at what point in the project timeline.
Horizon Structures offers extensive services and customer support designed to streamline the construction process.
Advantages: Once the site is prepared, the barn can be built within days. Once the barn is up, the customer can bring in their crew to prepare drainage trenches and pour concrete for aisle and wash stall floors (Horizon’s crew does not cover this part of the project). This minimizes delays in trying to coordinate the services of various teams concurrently. Barns can be delivered with electrical wiring in place; customers need only have their electrician connect the barn’s wiring to the property’s power supply.
Costs: Prefab wood barns cost, on average, 30% less than custom built wood barns.
Permits: The customer must obtain and pay for building permits and sealed drawings needed. The customer is also responsible for ensuring that the barn location is not in conflict with any building code or zoning ordinance for the area, and is responsible for all site preparation, including leveling, fill, and grading. The company employs an architect to help their clients with the zoning and permit process. Horizon’s barns can be moved around if needed. In some municipalities, prefabricated barns are considered temporary structures (even if they are anchored to cement footers), which can save the property owners money in terms of the type of permit required, property taxes, and insurance.
Warranty: 30 years on shingles, 1 year material warranty on everything from floor to roof, lifetime warranty on all hardware, 15 years on fasteners.
This company specializes in pole barn construction. Their designs integrate a series of strong timber posts that are generally considered to be stronger than standard framing methods and are suitable for areas with severe wind, heavy snow, and intense seismic activity.
Advantages: Barn Pros offers quick shipping (sometimes 2-4 weeks) at no cost within the lower 48 states (most models).
The only additional costs, per the company’s website, are nails, concrete, and roofing materials.
Prices: Prices start at $22,412 for a 2-stall barn ($25,012 with stall package), $32,375 for a 4-stall barn ($37,575 with stall package). Their special Dover Elite series, available only through Barn Pros and Dover Saddlery (www.doversaddlery.com) start at $50,724 for a 2-stall barn and feature such specialty items as one-of-a-kind powder-coated European style stall fronts.
Materials: Barn Pros uses high-quality timber for strength and durability.
Kits include working blueprints, an engineering packet with wind and snow loads, a full lumber package complete with hay loft and trim, and all materials to build the barn except for concrete, nails, and roofing. Stall kits include stall fronts and doors, metal chew protection for corners and edges, divider and metal retainer channels, Dutch doors, and rubber mats.
Warranty: Limited lifetime structural and hardware warranty covering the structural integrity of the building framework and certain hardware components, provided the owner maintains properly in accordance with Barn Pros recommendations.
Materials: MD Barnmaster offers their Ranch Series steel barns, which are easy to maintain and are built to last a lifetime. Steel is engineered to withstand high winds, heavy snow loads, and fire. Steel interior wall systems are kick proof, chew proof, easy to sanitize, and have a 0% Fire Spread rating.
Their Estate Series barns are constructed of a steel frame, with an exterior finish of painted steel, tongue and groove wood, or Hardie board siding. The steel interior wall system features tongue-and-groove wood facing on stall fronts. Buildings are topped with interlocking, leak-free Armor-Grip roof panels.
Warranty: MD Barnmaster offers a “no hassle warranty:” 3 years on materials and workmanship; 40 years on roof panels; and lifetime “kick-thru” limited warranty on steel-lined wall or door panels. Exceptions and details are posted on their site.
Blackburn Architects, P.C.
This company offers predesigned barn models, called their “Greenbarns” line.
Advantages: Pre-determined designs are less expensive than custom designs.
Prices: There are presently four Greenbarns models, starting from $90,000 for 4 stalls.
Materials: They use sustainable, FSC-certified wood products; recycled rubber pavers; low VOC stains/sealants; and durable, low-toxicity, low maintenance cement board.
Sand Creek Post & Beam
Environmentally friendly: This company promotes new growth and healthy forests and deal with suppliers who thin, rather than clear cut, forests. Their suppliers allow the wood to dry naturally and use no toxic chemicals.
Construction services: Customers are free to build their barn themselves or find their own builder. Or, this company offers customized construction services that range from answering questions by phone, to onsite consulting, to complete turn-key construction services.