Steel Building Barndominium

The term "Barndominium" originally started when a developer in Connecticut started a community focused on living near horses.  That was all the way back in the 1980's.  It re-emerged in 2016 on the popular Fixer Upper tv show.  With this national attention the idea really started to take off even without the literal idea of living near horses.  This new focus lead to an idea of a functional home with a barn type look and lower maintenance.  All of those features fit extremely well with a steel building.

A steel building barndominium can be configured no matter what you interests and lifestyle require.  The clear span design of a pre-engineered steel building allow you to configure the interior just about any way you like.  Many people settle on a comfortable living area and then figure out how much additional space they need for their shop, storage, hobby area or whatever they need for the rest of the building.  Just imagine having a steel building shell that encompasses 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 square feet or more.  You can even opt for a taller eave height and roof slope to allow you to build out a second story.  The options are vast, but there are considerations to be made.

steel building barndominium with tan wall and brown wainscot and trim

Where do I start with my steel building barndominium?

  1. 1.
    One of the first things you should do is talk to your local municipality to determine if they will allow the use of a steel building as a home on your property. You want to make sure you city or county does not have provisions preventing the use of steel panels or even steel in general when the building will be used for living quarters. Some people have found that a building to be used as a home cannot be square or rectangle. The best time to find all this out is before you have commited time and money to a project or even a piece of property.
  2. 2.
    Check with your lending institution to make sure you can borrow money for a Steel Building Barndominium. Your lender may need additional information including (but not limited to) information from your general contractor, design details, and warranty information.
  3. 3.
    Know what size building will fit on your property. The last thing you want to have happen is to find out there are specific set backs from your property line that limit what size building you can do. This may not be a problem if you have many acres, but even then it can be an issue depending on where you want to build.
  4. 4.
    Determine your local wind and snow loads. When considering a steel building, the zip code guides the loads and codes. While this is typically very accurate, each local building department can supplement these codes with their own requirements. It is much better to know up front what your requirements are as opposed to having to make changes down the road.
  5. 5.
    Decide how much of your building will be livable space and how much storage, workshop, or barn space you will need. One of the best ways to visualize this used to be sketching out what you want on graph paper. These days, there are several programs you can use to sketch your layout online or on your computer. Another popular option is to look through Pinterest to get layout ideas.
  6. 6.
    Figure out which building method will work best for your layout and budget. Some design options may dictate whether you look at a steel building or traditional wood frame.
Renegade steel building barndominium with open bay porch

Designs that make sense to use a steel building

The style building that makes the most economical sense with a steel building tend to be simple designs.  A "box" which can be either a square or rectangle is the most cost effective way to go.  This "simple" building can still be dressed up with inexpensive options to give you a nice look.  Even with this type design, having a floor plan to show door and window locations is helpful in supplying an accurate quote.
Just because you choose a simple design, doesn't mean you can't make the building look nice.  There are a few options that help change the look from just a metal building to something more architecturally appealing.  The list below will give you an idea of what you can do.

Steel Building Barndominium Options

Renegade steel building cupola with red roof and tan panels

Steel Building Barndominium Cupola


Adding a cupola is a simple way to give your steel building a barn look.  Commonly used as ventilation in actual barns, the cupolas typically used on a steel building are generally there for aesthetic purposes only.

Steel Building Barndominium Wainscot


Wainscot is easy to add and gives you the ability to create a contrasting color line at the base of the building creating added dimension and aesthetics.  As long as you are simply using this as a color change, you typically only add an additional girt and trim at this location.  In the overall scheme, you get a lot of bang for your buck with this option.  You may also choose to utilize brick or rock for your wainscot which you would need to contract with your local general contractor to provide.

Eave extensions

renegade steel building barndominium with 2' eave extensions (overhang)
Eave extensions add the most visual appeal to any steel building and are easily the most expensive option as well.  Nothing looks much better on a steel building than adding 16-24" to the roof line to create that common house or barn overhang look.  Adding soffits to the overhang completes the finish.

Eave Extension or Canopy

renegade steel building with canopy, red walls and soffit
If you want to continue the roof line for a porch it is considered an extension.  This option can be used at both the side walls and end walls.  If you choose to have the porch start below the eave it is considered a canopy.  Both of these options have a limit of 10 feet maximum as they are cantilevered from the building.  They also have to be placed along the frame lines for support.  Both of these have the option to have a soffit as well.  The support structure will still be visible below the soffit panels.  In many cases, customers choose to add a decorative post to the edge of the canopy to create a more traditional look.

Lean to porch

When you want a porch area that goes out further than 10', you can utilize a "lean to" for a much larger option.  This option can again either continue along the roof line or start below the eave.  Ceiling liner panel or soffit is an option.  The support structure is still visible below the panels as well as any cross bracing.  This option has to be considered when the building is being planned so that the lean to loads and attachment points can be designed into the main building.  With this option you will have rafters and columns along the same frame line or bay spacing as the main building.  These are most commonly added to the sidewall of a steel building, but can also be placed on an end wall as well.
Renegade steel building barndominium with lean to porch

Wrap around porch

Barndominium with wrap around porch
A wrap around porch is another popular idea with a steel building barndominium.  It has great aesthetics and adds a bit of function as well.  In the first image, the customer actually enclosed a portion of the the porch for more space.  In the second picture, wooden posts were added to give more of a traditional porch feel.  There are limitations again with what we can do for a wrap around porch.  The design is setup to be 10' canopies on adjoining walls in order to create the porch.  The canopies have to span an entire bay as they need to be supported by the main frame structure of the building on both the endwall and sidewalls.
Renegade steel buildngs wiht wrap around porch

Roof line with hips and valleys

$$$$$ +
Barndominium with hip roof, canopies, eave extensions, and wainscot

We commonly see drawings and sketches that include intricate roof lines with hips and valleys.  While these are easy to do on traditional stick frame houses, it becomes more complicated and costly when applied to a steel building.  There is much engineering that has to be done to carry the roof load for the roof line as it sits between the main frame columns and rafters.  The design doesn't just sit on top of the purlins, it has to be incorporated with additional steel support beams.  The engineering involved along with the addition steel added makes this a very expensive option.

This customer chose to add all options available to create their barndominium.  You can see they have extensions, canopies, wainscot, and a covered porch that hips back into the main roof line.  All of these options can easily double the cost of a basic steel building.

Monitor Style Steel Building

renegade steel building barndominium monitor style, tan with bronze trim
The monitor style steel building has a raised center section.  This section can be utilized to accommodate either taller equipment or as an area to add windows for additional light in the center of the building.  You still get a clear span design with no interior columns to clutter your interior layout.  This option is only available in limited areas in the South Eastern US.
Red Iron Steel Building with monitor roof line frame only

Gambrel Style Steel Building

The Gambrel style steel building has two slopes on each side of the roof.  You still get a clear span design with no interior columns to clutter your interior layout.  The pictured building also includes an optional lean to on each side.   The Gambrel option is only available in limited areas in the South Eastern US.
Gambrel Steel Building framing illustration

Metal Building Barndominium Interior

You may have a good idea of how you want the exterior of you barndominium to look, but what about the interior.  What we provide is a steel building shell.  Once erected, the building will typically have a clear span design that allows you to configure the interior any way you would like.  There are some engineering requirements that should be considered for your design.  Let's take a look at some of those items.
  1. 1.
    Along with an open floor plan, many people also choose to have an open style ceiling. You can simply run the lights and duct work to have a more rustic appearance. For a barndominium where you are building out for a second story inside, you can utilize the floor joists to support any type ceiling you want. If you decide to actually install a ceiling supported by the steel building structure, just know that we will need information to add enough collateral load to adequately support whatever material you decide on. This can add a substantial ammount to your bottom line depending on what you choose.
  2. 2.
    The layout of your interior only affects the location of doors and windows for your building. This can include sencond story window locations as well as sill height. Be sure to talk to your project manager to determine where your openings are located. Bear in mind that a steel building girt is typically 8 inches which makes the interior space 16 inches less than the outside dimensions.
  3. 3.
    Many state and local municipalities require you to meet a specific engergy conservation code. Be sure to check with them to determine if the entire building shell has to meet the code or just the conditioned air spaces.

Building Bracing and Frame Locations

steel building barndominium interior build

While we don't provide any interior framing, we can help guide you with your window and door locations while also considering the framing and bracing required in a steel building.  Read more about steel building bracing.

If you decided to go with a taller building, you can frame up the interior to allow for a second story as well.

steel building barndominium interior stick framing

Steel Building Barndominium Insulation

steel building barndominium interior wall build out insulation
You may be considering just insulating the interior walls you are building inside your barndominium, but we would also suggest having insulation for the steel building shell as well.  This will help you reduce chances for condensation as well as keeping the entire building envelope insulated.

Interior Build Out Gallery

Bottom Line

  • Steel Buildings are relatively maintenance free
  • The clear span designs allows for an open floor plan
  • Utilizing a simple design can result in cost savings

There are many great looking designs and images that make a barndominium look appealing.  The reality is that some floor plans work well with a pre-engineered steel building, while others are geared more for traditional wood framing.

Complicated plans calling aesthetic details like hip roofs, dormers and extensions can easily exceed the cost of a traditional wood frame building.  You may have even found it difficult to get a quote on a complicated steel building barndominium due to the time and engineering involved.  From our experience, 90% or more of the people that want all the fancy options end up building traditional or not even building at all when they discover the real costs involved.

While we don't want to discourage you from your dream of a steel building barndominium, we do want to help guide you through the process and help you see what options are viable in both an engineering aspect as well as economically.