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What to Do With an Old Barn on Your Property

Make use of the old barn on your land by clearing it out and safely repurposing, restoring or demolishing it.

ByAbbey Hughes| Last Updated:12/08/2023
An old barn in a field waiting to be repurposed.

There are plenty of ways to repurpose an old barn. Some people turn them into profitable structures, like event venues, short-term rental properties, storage space and barndominiums. Others prefer to keep these structures for personal use, to restore them for historical preservation, to create studio space or even a playroom for kids. If you’re creative, the opportunities are endless. With advice from Myron Graber at Sugarcreek Builders and Randy Smith of Ohio Valley Barn Salvage, we came up with six practical ways to repurpose a barn, where to start the restoration process and how to clean and prepare the space for changes.

FAQs About Old Barns

What is the average lifespan of a barn?

Are old barns worth money?

Can I sell my barn entirely?

Restore Before Repurposing

If you have an old barn on your property, it has probably been there for more than a few years. Since many barns have historical significance and are built with high-quality timber, they become an ideal structure to restore or repurpose. However, it’s important to know when the structure is past its prime and it's time to tear it down.

Sugarcreek Builders logo.
Myron Graber, Owner | Sugarcreek Builders

“The majority of our clients are looking to preserve barns because they appreciate the history and character of what our forefathers built. Another reason to preserve barns is because they’re as green as they can get — they have a low carbon footprint.”

Whether you decide to tear down or restore the structure, old barns are desirable. The quality of the wood and the patina from centuries of wear and tear cannot be replicated. Many craftsmen, builders and DIY-ers alike seek out this type of wood for their unique projects.

The Ohio Valley Barn Salvage logo.
Randy Smith, Owner | Ohio Valley Barn Salvage

“Structurally sound barns are in high demand, especially Ohio barns. There are thousands of barns still standing in Ohio and we had some of the best master barn builders building the structures. There are no hand-hewn barns west of the Mississippi.”

Before you jump into planning a fun, new space, take some time to make sure your vision can be executed properly. Talk to a contractor to ensure the structure is sound and can tolerate any renovations. A contractor can also help you get the right permits and make sure the implied changes are up to code.

Graber explains "The first thing to do when starting a refurbishment is to get the structure evaluated — that’s the biggest thing. When you do, let the professional know your plans because he’ll know about codes and zoning, and can tell you if the project is doable.”

6 Ideas for Your Old Barn

1. Create a Wedding Venue or Event Space

With the increasingly high demand for unique wedding spaces, a barn is a great option to use as an event venue. The structures typically have high ceilings and open spaces, which are perfect for large-scale events. While you can choose to host a variety of occasions, barns are often used for weddings, company retreats, conferences, parties and more.

An old barn that has been converted into an event space and is decorated for a wedding.
A barn that has been converted into a home.

2. Convert It Into a Barndominium or Rental

What’s a barndominium? It’s a barn with large living quarters and multiple stories. While it can be smaller than most traditional homes, the barndominium is no small structure. Expect to pay on average $100 to $130 per square foot when converting your barn into a home.

Once you’ve successfully converted the space, you can rent it out or move in and enjoy it yourself. If it’s allowed in your area, you can even rent the barndominium year-round to a tenant.

3. Use It for Additional Storage Space

Maybe you’re a traditionalist or you just need some extra storage on your property. A refurbished barn can still be used to store items. Or, if you don’t use all the square footage on your own, you can rent out parts of the barn for others to store their belongings. Barns can be used to house furniture, lawn care equipment, tools, livestock or airplanes.

A barn being used for extra storage.
A set of racquetball racquets inside a barn.

4. Make It a Play Area

A barn can also be upcycled for personal use. Instead of renting it out, use the additional space to support your current lifestyle. If you have children or are looking for a fun entertainment space, you could turn the barn into a game room for kids or adults. Pad the floor and beams, then bring in toys. You could also turn the space into a personal bar or sports zone. Plenty of barns have been converted into basketball, volleyball or racquetball courts.

5. Turn It Into an Office or Studio

If you need a quiet space away from the home to get some work done or host meetings, consider converting your barn into an office space. This way, you have a large dedicated spot to accomplish your tasks for the workweek.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a place to be more creative, a barn can serve as a location for a studio. Whether you’re an artist, musician or even a dancer, a barn’s open space is a great place to pursue your passions.

An office inside of an old barn.

6. Sell or Use the Wood for DIY Projects

Your barn may be too far gone to renovate or repurpose, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw away all the debris. You can upcycle the wood it’s made out of into a variety of other things and create something new to pass on a piece of history. The wood from an old barn can be used for a variety of projects. Many pieces of wood are incorporated into the structure of a home or crafting market. Woodworkers use it to create something entirely new, like furniture, signs and more.

The Ohio Valley Barn Salvage logo.
Randy Smith, Owner | Ohio Valley Barn Salvage

“Unfortunately, a lot of Ohio's great barns have fallen into a state of disrepair due to neglect or owners are no longer financially able to repair it. Every piece of wood is salvageable. The siding, beams and flooring are the most sought-after. Typically 60% of an old barn can be salvaged!”

Sugarcreek Builders logo.
Myron Graber, Owner | Sugarcreek Builders

“There’s a high craft market for reclaimed barn wood. We’ve reused timber for small home additions, fireplace mantels or decorative beams and embellishments on the home.”

How to Clear Out a Barn

Whether you’re repurposing or demolishing a barn, you’ll need to first clear out any clutter and debris.

1. Gather Tools and Supplies

Create a list of tools and supplies you’ll need to efficiently clear out and clean the space. This may include trash bags, a broom, a shovel, a powerwasher and safety gear.

A broom and trash bags inside of a barn
Tools in a barn to be removed before cleaning.

2. Create a Safe Cleaning Space

Remove any dangerous tools or items that could injure or harm others while cleaning, like blades, heavy equipment and things stored incorrectly or unsafely. This ensures the well-being of all participants so you can confidently go about the rest of your project with peace of mind.

3. Reduce Clutter

Sort any items left into piles. The best way to organize old stuff is to put them in “keep, toss and donate” piles. Get rid of things, like obsolete equipment, extra items you no longer use and old tack equipment, and consider donating your items to a local rescue, nonprofit or similar organization.

A donation box of old barn materials.
A room full of storage bins for organization.

4. Build Storage Solutions

If you’re putting items back into your barn, finding storage solutions can help you organize where your things will go. Consider going to big box retailers and looking for bathroom or bedroom storage, shoe racks or peg boards. Getting these items from a retailer is a great option for both returning things to the barn or consolidating them into the home.

5. Rent a Dumpster for Your Barn Cleanout

If you’re looking to get rid of items quickly, renting a dumpster is a great way to toss a large amount of debris all at once. By renting a dumpster, you can easily toss both lumber and household equipment without worrying about how much waste you have. With a barn renovation, restoration or deconstruction, you're bound to have a large amount of waste. Using a dumpster rental can help speed up the cleanup process.

A green dumpster for rent.
Get a Dumpster for Barn Clutter

How to Clean and Preserve a Barn

Restoring a barn is no small job, and there are several steps to take before you jump into big changes. Use the following tips to help the preservation process go smoothly.

The Ohio Valley Barn Salvage logo.
Randy Smith, Owner | Ohio Valley Barn Salvage

“As far as repurposing a barn the best way is to completely dismantle the barn, wash all of the reclaimed wood and reassemble the frame. Some people take the time and expense to clean a standing barn by sandblasting or cob blasting the wood free of dust and years of barn stuff.”

1. Remove Any Organic Material

Sweep up any dirt, hay or waste depending on the type of flooring you have and give a rough sweep of the walls to remove dust. Having organic material in your barn, like hay and straw, traps moisture and may lead to wood rotting.

2. Pressure Wash the Barn

Use a pressure washer or sandblaster to remove any dirt or small imperfections in the wood. Once you’re finished, set up dehumidifiers and fans to dry out the space for a few hours or days.

Keep in mind icon.

Safety Tip

Make sure your barn has appropriate drainage before you start this task so you don’t flood the space.

3. Tackle Any Repairs

Take advantage of this time to make any necessary repairs. This way, if something were to get damaged, it wouldn’t affect the new materials. Rotting posts, sagging timbers, leaning posts and foundation cracks are essential repairs that should be done by a professional before you go any further. “All barns have foundations, but not in the traditional sense. Some barns have pier, stone or wood foundations and all need to be assessed differently,” says Myron.

Keep in mind icon.

Pro Tip

If you’re repairing the roof or outside walls, remove any surrounding vegetation so it’s easier to access those spaces.

4. Repair Old Barn Wood

Sand, clean, refinish and seal the old barn wood to keep it from rotting and to preserve its structural integrity.

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Manage the Rest of Your Property

Now that you've taken care of the barn on your land, you can begin to tackle the rest of the area. Assess the space for other jobs you may need to do, like clearing away brush or adding landscaping to give the newly restored barn curb appeal.

Other Sources

Wallender, Lee. How Much Does It Cost to Build a Barndominium?. (2022, November 04). Retrieved From The Spruce

Expert Contributors

Sugarcreek Builders logo.

Myron Graber

Myron has been working on barns since his childhood, learning the trade from his father. He is now the owner of Sugarcreek Builders in Sugarcreek, OH, where he helps clients create their dream space while preserving Ohio's historic barns.

The Ohio Valley Barn Salvage logo.

Randy Smith

Randy is the owner of Ohio Valley Barn Salvage in Butler, OH, which carefully dismantles, reclaims and repurposes family barns. Before entering the ban salvage business, he owned a commercial roofing company for 25 years.

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