Your business is outgrowing your current barn and it’s time to consider an addition. With a little time and planning, barn additions will increase your barn space, while also increasing your business.
When you bought or built your current barn, you thought it was perfect: since it was bigger than you needed, it gave you plenty of room to grow. But as more clients head your way, you find that your current barn just isn’t big enough. The thought of searching for a bigger barn and suitable home, moving your horses and uprooting your clients is enough to give you nightmares. Instead of moving, evaluate your business and see if you can satisfy your needs by adding on to your current barn.
First, consider your plans for your business. Do you want to breed more mares each year, or stand your stallion to outside mares? If so, you need more turnout space, additional stalls and a breeding area. Would you like to bring in more boarders? Then you need a bigger tack room, more wash racks or grooming areas and extra stalls. Would you like to offer lessons and horse shows? If so, you need an indoor arena and spectator seating.
Next, look at your property and buildings. You can’t create more acreage, but you may be able to subdivide large pastures or turn unused land into small paddocks with shelters. If you need to add an office, enlarge a tack room, increase the number of stalls or install wash racks or grooming areas, look over your existing barn to see if you have unused storage space that could be remodeled and used. If you need to build on, is your barn far enough away from other buildings to give you space for an addition? Lorri Hayward of Hayward Designs says you also need to look at the topography of the land. If the land slopes sharply away from the barn, it may be hard to add on. Also evaluate drainage around your barn: areas that tend to hold water aren’t suitable for an addition.
Before adding on, Michael Harriston, vice president of Ohio Barn Builders, LLC in Bath, Ohio, warns that you should check over the structural soundness of the original barn, especially if it is older. It can be very expensive to reinforce the structure of an older barn so that it is safe to add onto. In this case, it may be easier and cheaper to create another building instead of an addition.
Finally, check with your county, city or township to see if they require a building permit for your project. Also be sure to check zoning laws and review building codes for barns (and barn additions) in your area. John Blackburn of Blackburn Architects specializes in equestrian facilities. He advises that many cities require architects for projects involving public facilities, those containing housing or those exceeding certain square footage. Failure to abide by local ordinances governing building can result in heavy fines and work delays, and the authorities may even put a permanent halt to your project if you fail to comply.
Thomas Croce of Thomas L. Croce Architects in Lebanon, Ohio, works with barn owners to design barns and additions. He says that if you know exactly what you want and can clearly communicate that to a builder and local law doesn’t require one, you may not need an architect. However, firms like his help barn owners evaluate their needs, look at various options and then prepare building specifications for the builder. Croce says, “Clients get the benefit of the experience I’ve gained from past projects. We help avoid mistakes in design and planning which can result in the need to redo portions of the project, hidden expenses such as additional labor cost due to inefficient design and things that can present a safety or health hazard for the horses.”
John Blackburn adds that his firm has experience making the addition complement the barn instead of detract from it—and that this takes skill and planning. He adds that architectural firms with equine experience like his not only consider the look of the addition and how it complements the barn, but they consider how the addition fits into the overall farm and business plan. He also warns that you should be sure any architect you hire is licensed. “If someone is calling themselves an ‘architect’ or referring to their services as ‘architectural design’ they must be licensed,” he says.
Once you select an architect, he’ll want to know what you hope to achieve with an addition. Give him a plot that shows your property boundaries and indicates the topography, existing structures, roads or driveways, fencing, as well as photographs of your existing barn. Tom Croce says that after the initial consultation, he uses these documents and information learned while talking to the client to create preliminary 2-dimensional plans and 3-dimensional computer models of the proposed project. After the client reviews the plans, Croce makes changes until the client is satisfied. He then creates construction drawings and specifications for the builder.
Once you have the design, it’s time to start building. Unless you have extensive construction experience and plenty of time on your hands, it is best to hire a professional. Although the costs of labor can be more than triple what you might spend on materials alone, a builder won’t have to fit the work in around running a busy equine business. It might be tempting to cut costs by hiring a family friend or relative who has construction experience, but unless their experience is specific to barn building, it is best to go with a professional who understands the needs of horses and their owners. Your architectural firm may be able to recommend builders, or you can check with local barns to get referrals. Be sure anyone you hire is insured and offers a warranty for their work.
Owners of prefabricated barns worry that they can’t build on. However, companies like Barnmaster offer additions for their barns. John Davis of South Texas MD Barn Company says that the ease of expanding the barn is a major selling point of their buildings. “With the pre-fabricated walls used on our buildings it is simply a matter of extending stalls out from what is already there and extending the roof line,” he says.
When it comes to metal structures, adding onto the length is far easier than width. Still, Dennis Rusch from Morton Buildings recommends that people build bigger from the start. “We try and get clients to build big initially by adding extra space for storage,” he says. “Then, if they need to add stalls, they can convert the extra space and move the storage to another building.” Rusch points out that, often, adding another building can be cheaper than adding to an existing structure because of the work involved in preparing the barn for the addition.
Some barn owners are turning to a new option when adding on: fabric buildings. Several companies now offer riding arenas made of tough, weather-resistant fabric and steel tubing. The fabric lets light in, so during the day you won’t need electric lights in your arena and you won’t have shadows. Most companies allow you to customize the fabric arena to incorporate the colors you like and add additional ventilation and door locations. These arenas can be added next to existing barns to create an attached indoor riding arena or extra stabling, and they can be built in various sizes. Dealers offer quick and easy installation—so a fabric arena can be ready much more quickly than a traditionally built indoor arena.
Educating yourself about barn building before adding on is a wise decision. Cherry Hill, co-author of “Horse Housing,” says, “The more knowledgeable you are about the barn building process, the better you will be able to make decisions that will save you money while not compromising your horse’s safety and health or undermining your long-term investment.” Research and educate yourself, plan carefully, and work with a good architect and builder—and your addition can add space and value to your current facilities.