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What To Do with an Old Barn on Your New Property

what to do with an old barn on your new property

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Published date:

December 15, 2020

Last updated date:

December 15, 2020

By Manny Manriquez

Finally! All the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed on your new property. The once cozy-looking old barn now sits like a big, fat question mark wanting an answer. What do you do with an old barn on your new property? The first thing to do (if you haven’t already) is to start with an inspection. 

Start With an Inspection

Before you can make a decision, you should first have an inspection of the barn done by a licensed professional. This is similar to having a home inspection. An inspector identifies the major or minor problems with the barn and may recommend the best course of action moving forward. If there is significant damage, they will, most likely, recommend removing the barn entirely. When you purchased the property, the barn may have been included in the general inspection. Before you schedule an inspector to come out to look at the barn, check to see if this has already been done. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. The barn may have little visible damage, but the inspection report will give you a detailed view of problems with the barn. Review the report with the inspector and follow up with any questions you may have.

10 Things You Can Do with an Old Barn

Inspection in hand, here are 10 possible options for what to do with an old barn.

1) Scrap It

Maybe you think it’s an eyesore, or maybe it’s beyond repair. Either way, the first option to consider is bulldozing the relic of owners past. Barns with substantial structural damage such as significant termite damage or momentous rotting wood are better off torn down. If you want to have a barn on the property, you will need to build a new one.  Then again, it might be in the way of building what you actually want on the property. One option to make it cheap/free to tear down, is to offer it as a training for local fire departments. They come out for a training day and practice leveling your building. 

2) Turn It Into a Barndominium

A barndominium is a barn home. It is either an old barn that was converted into a house, or a new metal building home built to resemble a barn house.  You’d be forgiven for having not heard of it. Although the concept of a barndominium is not a new idea, the term barndominium was made popular on an episode of HGTV's Fixer Upper. In season 3 episode 6, Chip and Joanna Gaines turned a barn into an amazing 2700-square foot home. It features contemporary styling and has a truly spectacular dining space. Although the exterior still has the structural appearance of a barn, the inside is an unrecognizable farmhouse-style home. It's now a space that is truly livable, complete with kitchen and bathrooms, and was a huge achievement for the show. Converting all or even part of your old barn into a home would drastically increase the value of your property, and you can use it as a rental, Airbnb, or a shop with living quarters for yourself. 

3) Sell the Reclaimed Wood and Aged Metal

Speaking of farmhouse style, when it comes to modern interior design, aged metal and wood is a huge seller. Look at design blogs today and you will see a huge number of reclaimed materials. The trend is to get pieces with a story and character. In these cases, older buildings can be a treasure trove of these materials. Most barns have aged wood and metal which may have some damage but is still usable. This gets some income from your barn if you end up having it torn down. You can keep the materials for your own use if you want to make reclaimed materials. From bed frames to tables, there are a few uses for the siding, wood, and metal parts of the barn. If you are handy then you may want to take advantage of this. If you do not want to bother with reclaiming the materials, then you can also advertise the materials for anyone interested. You may be able to charge for the materials although consider offering it free for anyone that wants to come and get it.

4) Use It for Storage

If you have ever seen a barn before, then you know that it can be used to store any number of materials. Before you decide to use the barn for storage though, make sure that you take a close look at the conditions in the barn. Does it have any areas that leak? Does it have a musty smell? Keeping an upholstered couch in the barn, for example, may not be your best option but that still provides you with ideas for storage. Consider storing items in the barn that don't require tight temperature or humidity control. Many people store farm equipment or cars in a barn. This will keep them out of most of the elements, but cars can withstand the changes in humidity. You can also use a barn to store outdoor tools and equipment. A lawnmower, gardening materials, and more can all be stored in a barn. If you're going to be using the barn for storage, you will want to make sure that it stays secure. Make sure that the barn doors close securely and install a lock if there isn't one present. Although your area may not be prone to theft, any valuable materials left in the barn could be targeted. If the barn has a decent structural integrity, then a simple lock will probably be fine.  

5) Rent Out the Storage Space

You may not need the storage space, but someone else might and they’ll pay you for it. You can find websites that will allow you to rent storage space in a barn. This is a great way to turn your barn into a money-maker. Depending on the size and condition of the barn, you can rent the space to one or more people for storage. When you do rent the space, make sure that you and the renter agree on access to the barn as well as liability for any damaged items. In general, it's best to have these items in writing so there's no confusion. Some websites that offer storage space in barns already have this built into their sites but always verify before you sign up. 

6) Convert It to an Art Studio

An art studio may be just what you need if you enjoy painting, sculpting, or drawing. Although you might not first think of using a barn as an art studio, it's a surprisingly good option for art. First, the barn is a large space that tends to be fairly well ventilated. Since paint fumes and other art supplies can be difficult to manage in a small space, having a large barn to work in will give you more options for creating art while still being safe. Most artists also need a fair amount of room to work and don't like to have to worry about being too cautious about staying clean. The great part of having a barn to work in is that it's not a problem if you spill paint or other materials in the barn. You can put down drop cloths if needed, but you shouldn't run into any significant problems. Also, you'll have plenty of room to store your art while it's drying or not in use. This is especially beneficial for artists who enjoy large paintings or works. 

7) Make It Your Office

You probably need a home office space if you work from home part or full time. Although you can turn almost any room into a home office, it's not a bad idea to use a barn for an office. You will enjoy having a larger space to work in. Another reason why it's a good option is that you'll be near your house while still being away from it. Most people find that they miss going into an office since they're easily distracted when working from home. Moving your office into a barn allows you to be close enough to go back and forth as needed but you'll still have an office space where you can focus on what you need to do. 

8) List it On Airbnb

You may be surprised at the growing intent of vacationers to stay in old barns. A small investment of time and money can make your barn into a cute apartment or home that you can rent out to people. This is always a good option if you live in a scenic area where people may want to come and visit for a trip to the great outdoors. Make sure that you update the space with amenities that people want while still maintaining its rustic charm. Pro Tip: Leave the name and number of local dives unique to your area. Vacationers are looking to experience all the charm of your property and the local area, the more you can meet that expectation, the better.  Pro Tip 2: Pay for professional photography. Your pictures do the heavy-lifting of selling potential renters on staying in your place versus the rental down the street.  If you're not sure of what to charge, look at similar properties in your area. You're responsible for cleaning and maintaining the space, which you can outsource, but don't be surprised if your barn turns into a hotspot. Consider changing the prices depending on the season as you'll likely have more rentals during the warmer months. Add in extra perks or rewards if you're having trouble finding renters during some seasons. 

9) Make It a Wedding Venue

Barn weddings are increasingly popular as wedding venues, especially during peak wedding season. If you go to any wedding Pinterest board, you'll probably find dozens or even hundreds of ideas for barn weddings. A barn is a space that has natural appeal. It offers some shelter while still being open to the outdoors. Many people will get married outdoors and then use the barn for the reception. This type of wedding venue and style is known as rustic chic. One of the keys to making this work is to ensure that the barn is clean, has good lighting, and can fit many people. This may mean that your barn will benefit from some updating. Updates to focus on include: lighting, more lighting, the grounds, available decorations, bathrooms, running electricity, heating and ventilation. Consider working with a wedding planner or asking for a consultation to ensure that your space gets attention for people who want to get married in the area. You'll also be a hotspot for weddings if you have referrals for other services. Depending on how much time you want to spend on turning your barn into a wedding venue, you can consider setting up wedding packages. For certain price points, you can provide not only the location but also contract with a photographer, caterer, and other services to set up a beautiful wedding day. Many couples enjoy having package deals. If not though, you can still rent out the space and have the couples manage their own services. 

10) Board Horses

So maybe you don’t want to use your old barn for yourself, an office, or to have drunk wedding crashers on your property. Thankfully, you can avoid the renovation costs (and the drunks) by boarding horses.  People who don't have barns of their own will pay you to board their horses for them. Their beloved and expensive pets will be safe and well taken care of in your barn.   If you're not interested in taking care of large animals, you can convert the barn into a boarding area for dogs. You may have to install kennels and insulation, but it can be a good option. 


Now that you have an idea of options for your barn, you'll be in a good place to make an informed decision. A solid barn that's been built to last can be a great asset and money maker so don't discount how you can make this structure work for you.

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