Is it possible to convert an existing barn into a home on site, that is, without dismantling and restoring it?
We are often asked about the possibility of restoring a barn on site. This has been done, but such a project poses some real challenges:
1- The Foundation
Existing barns are most often built on dry-laid foundations, that is, stone foundations without mortar. They have shifted over time and will always be a source of extensive maintenance. Such a dry-laid foundation is also not weather-proof, allowing for cold and damp air to freely circulate under your finished home. You can jack up the barn and build a new foundation under it, but this in itself is an expensive process that makes taking down the barn more feasible.
2 – The Beams
The purpose most people build a barn home is to see the ancient beams. If you try to insulate an existing barn from the inside to make it a home, you will have to cover over much of the beams. The only way around this is to attach your insulation onto the outside walls. But then you don’t have a foundation to support this insulated wall as you’ve built a building larger than the dimensions of your foundation.
3 – Bugs
Barns have to be fumigated to become homes. They often have some pernicious pests in the wood that you will not notice until your home is completed, when it is too late to cost-effectively treat them. We fumigate all of our frames while they are disassembled. On the other hand, the process of fumigating an entire barn in place involves putting a tent over the entire structure and posting a guard on site while the fumigation process takes place. This expense alone can be upward of $30,000.
Considering the above, we do not recommend investing the time and money into such an undertaking. It is simply not a good investment.