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Barn Deconstruction: Everything You Need To Know


Tearing Down a Barn 101


Whether you live on a property with an old barn that needs to come down, you need to make room for a new structure or you’re thinking about getting into the barn demolition and deconstruction business, we’ll review the steps and important safety tips to get you through the project.

If you are a beginner DIYer or don’t have complete confidence in your skills, we do not suggest that you try this on your own. Instead, jump down to find tips on what to look for in a barn deconstruction contractor.


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Steps to Tear Down a Barn

  1. Plan & Prep
  2. Strip the Interior
  3. Dismantle the Exterior
  4. Tear the Frame Down
  5. Clean Up



How to Demolish a Barn

As you start thinking about the steps for tearing down a barn, remember that there may be materials that you can salvage to donate, sell or reuse. Reclaimed wood is a popular and sustainable material to use when building new furniture or working on other DIY projects around the home. Hardware from the barn can also be reused, and antique fittings like hinges, door handles and light fixtures offer a trendy aesthetic. 

During the barn deconstruction process, consider separating the salvageable materials from the rotting wood or damaged items. If you’re interested in donating any of these materials, get in touch with your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore or another donation-based home improvement store.


1. Prepare for the Job

With such an advanced project as this one, it’s important to go in with a strategy. Make sure you know how much this job will cost you, what you’ll need to get it done and how to stay safe throughout.

Budget for the Barn Demolition Cost

How much does it cost to demolish a barn? For a 30 ft x 40 ft barn, the national average barn demolition cost is anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000, which includes demolition and debris removal.

Renting a dumpster is often the best way to get rid of all the debris. The average national cost of a 30 yard demolition dumpster, one of the largest sizes available, is generally between $347 and $753. The exact price will depend on your location, but renting a dumpster with will ensure you receive an all-inclusive price to help you budget for the project. 

Find Dumpster Services In Your Area

Some other factors that affect the cost of tearing down a barn include:

  • Size of the barn.
  • Amount of debris.
  • Condition of the barn.
  • Materials you’re removing.
  • Ease of access to the demolition site.
  • Demolition permit (if required by your city).
  • Whether you take the DIY route or hire a professional.
  • Whether or not utility work is required, like calling a professional to turn off electric, water or gas services.

Gather Materials

Make sure you have the right tools to take down the barn safely and efficiently. 

Barn Deconstruction Tools
Demolition Materials
Safety Equipment
  • Mallet
  • Ladder
  • Crowbar
  • Hammer
  • Chainsaw
  • Utility knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Circular saw
  • Cable or chain
  • Sledgehammer
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Tractor, truck or another large vehicle
  • Hard hat
  • Work gloves
  • Steel-capped boots

Take Safety Precautions

After you have all your supplies, make sure to follow these safety guidelines to prevent additional danger to an already risky job. 

Safety Precautions Overview:

  • Use a sturdy ladder.
  • Shut off electricity running to the barn.
  • Remove obstructions, like large tree branches.
  • Safely dispose of hazardous materials, like fertilizers, pesticides and gasoline.
  • Make sure everyone on the job has a current tetanus shot to prevent illness caused by bacteria from cuts and other puncture wounds.


2. Strip the Interior of the Barn

It’s best to work from the inside out when you’re tearing down a barn. You don’t want anything left inside when you knock it down, especially anything that can be reused. 

Clear Out the Inside

Instead of sifting through the rubble after the demolition, start sending trash to the dumpster and keep salvageable or valuable items safe. Take everything off the walls and remove any other items left inside. Then, use a screwdriver to take down all the barn doors, gates, closures and windows. Set aside anything that is in good condition, including hinges and doorknobs. 

Remove Flooring

If the barn has wood floors, use a hammer and crowbar to remove the floorboards. If they’re in good condition and you do this carefully, they can be reused. 

Steps to Lift Up Hardwood:

  1. Set your circular saw to slightly less than the thickness of the flooring.
  2. Cut lines perpendicular to the direction the wood is laying in one- to two-foot-wide sections.
  3. Pry up the wood using a crowbar and mallet.
  4. Toss the wood in a dumpster or keep any salvageable pieces.

Take Down Walls

Before you tear down the barn, make sure to remove any stable walls, lofts or other interior space dividers. The goal is to leave the inside completely empty before it gets pulled down.

How to Knock Down a Wall:

  1. Make sure it’s not a load bearing wall. If it is, it could bring part of the barn down before you’re ready.
  2. Use a utility knife to cut the junction between the wall and the ceiling.
  3. Create a small starter hole in the drywall with a sledgehammer.
  4. Remove panels of drywall between studs with a reciprocating saw.
  5. Get rid of insulation, though this is unlikely for interior walls, especially in barns.
  6. Remove drywall from the other side of the wall.
  7. Cut through the studs at the bottom of the wall with a reciprocating saw.
  8. Once all the studs are gone, use a crowbar to remove the top and base plates.
  9. Toss debris in a dumpster.


3. Dismantle the Exterior

Start with any rotting pieces of the siding and roof first, then focus on the other pieces. Make sure to leave the wall joists in place and toss roof shingles into a roofing dumpster.

Safety Tip: Be careful and pay attention to pieces that may fall as you’re working. Don’t put any weight on parts of the structure that are rotting. Tear off what you can and skip to pulling the whole structure down. 

If your barn has a wood or metal roof, it may be easier go into the second-floor rafters and knock off the pieces from the inside out with a shovel or sledgehammer. Just make sure no one is standing near the outside wall of the barn while you do this.


4. Tear the Whole Thing Down

Here comes the main event – and it requires extreme caution.

To tip the barn skeleton over, use a chainsaw to cut “relief notches” into the frame. This will help ensure the barn falls in the direction you want. Then, hook one end of a big cable or chain to the center post of the barn and the other end to a tractor, semi-truck or another large vehicle. 

Drive away safely and slowly. This will rip the posts out and cause the barn frame to collapse. If you plan on reusing, selling or donating the beams, do your best to prevent excessive damage as you drive forward.

Safety Tip: Make sure no one is inside the barn or near the exterior.

If the barn doesn’t fall on the first try, connect the cable or chain to a different post. Depending on the strength of the barn, more than one beam may need to be pulled before the entire structure falls.


5. Clean Up

If you’ve already sorted out salvageable materials, cleanup should be pretty easy. Simply toss all the debris into a roll off dumpster and you’re good to go.

Don’t burn or bury any barnwood that is painted or treated, especially if it’s an old barn. Older barns are likely painted with lead paint, and burning or burying those pieces of wood is not environmentally safe. 

Need a dumpster for your barn demolition? We can help.


Here’s What to Look for in a Contractor for Barn Removal

If you don’t feel confident taking on this advanced project after reading through these steps, we suggest hiring a professional to do the work for you. The expense of working with a pro beats the possibility of seriously injuring yourself. 

“I’ve heard some serious accidents related to barn demolitions. In one instance, the barn dropped right on top of someone and broke his back. In another story, the timber was swinging as it was being moved and hit someone in the head. Luckily, they’re both okay, but this is a project that can be very hazardous.”

Doug Morgan, President | Mount Vernon Barn Company 

Morgan recommends you ask about the following qualifications when finding a contractor for the job.

1. Insurance

This type of project involves relatively high risk, so make sure the company you’re hiring has both liability and workers’ compensation insurance. If they can’t show you a current certificate for either, find someone else. 

2. References

Ask to see references or speak with people they’ve worked with before. This will give you a first-hand account of how reliable the company is and how good they are at the job. Plus, you can ask any questions you need answered from a property owner’s perspective. It’s also a good idea to see if the company is listed with the Better Business Bureau and what their rating is.

3. Waste Removal

Make sure to discuss who is responsible for getting rid of all the demolition debris once the barn is dismantled. It may be your responsibility to find a waste removal solution. If you rent a dumpster, you won’t have to worry about getting an entire barn to the landfill, just toss all the debris inside and the dumpster company will haul it away.


After the Demolition

If you managed to salvage a lot of wood and hardware from the barn deconstruction, try using the reclaimed wood for other DIY projects. The possibilities are endless, but here are some ideas of things to make using barn wood:

  • Build upcycled wood shelves.
  • Install genuine hardwood floors.
  • Make wood countertops for your kitchen.
  • Use the beams to add a mantle over your fireplace. 
  • Build some new furniture, like a bench or a dining table.

Once the barn is torn down, you’ll also have plenty of space to build something new on your property. If you don’t have a need for a new barn, consider building a guest house for your in-laws or an addition to your existing home for your growing family.

Have any other outdoor projects you want to try? Check out some of our recommendations below.


Recommended reading: Complete Yard Cleanup Guide | Backyard Project Ideas | How to Remove a Tree Stump

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