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.
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?
A barn can last upwards of 100 years depending on the barn type and how well it’s taken care of. Some barns, like pole or pier barns, last approximately 40 to 60 years with proper maintenance.
Are old barns worth money?
Yes, most old barns are worth a lot for their aged wood. Barn wood is worth anywhere from $5.00 to $12.00 per square foot, depending on the type of wood and the size of the barn. You can get anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 on average for the materials.
Learn other ways to dispose of wood and lumber, whether you wish to sell, upcycle or donate it.
Can I sell my barn entirely?
Selling a barn in its entirety is a great way to get it off your hands. If you’ve already demolished the structure, you can list the wood for sale for someone to collect. According to Randy, "There are so many sites that owners can sell their barns on, and it’s free to list." which can help you easily get rid of your barn.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Wallender, Lee. How Much Does It Cost to Build a Barndominium?. (2022, November 04). Retrieved From The Spruce
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.
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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