How to Find and Use Your Barn Plans

May 30, 2018
Robert Manziel

(Last modified on February 22nd, 2020)

How to Find and Use Your Barn Plans

Let’s take a step back from all this shed business. Sheds are great and all…but what about barns? Barns add way more to your property value, house all kinds of essentials, and allow for much more space than a small shed. Even small barn plans can accommodate a luxuriously sized man cave—or whatever other sort of wild stuff you need to seclude from the rest of the world! Since barns are primarily a functional building, rather than a residential one, the amount of designs and purposes varies drastically. Today, I want to talk about how to find and use barn plans that match your needs exactly. Let’s begin!

Large Barn Plans

If you already know what you want, I describe how to use your barn plans and find materials down below. If you don’t, then here are some ideas and basic plans to get those gears turning! Refer to my post here to see what your expected costs might be (multiply it twice to account for the large size of your barn). Once you have an idea of what you want, seek out a collection of barn and shed plans to make your vision a reality.

Having your plans clear ahead of time helps you manage your time, your budget, your materials, and your sanity. You need all of these things before you begin, although it’s quite possible you will lose your sanity along the way if you get crappy barn plans. A wide range of options also helps you stay within the law of your locale. Anyways, let’s talk architecture!

Post and Beam Barn Plans

Post and beam barn plans use heavy timber, rather than typical lumber, to get the job done. Since the wood is much sturdier, it allows for larger and spacious structures, all using fewer materials. These open spaces accommodate animals and living quarters with ease, making them the most popular type of barn (and practically the only type of barn plan out there). This style is called post and beam because every aspect of support is carried in the beams. You can customize the walls however you like, as long as you don’t throw in too much heavy stuff. Large windows, shelves, tool hangers, and decorations go up there with ease.

As you look for barn plans, lean heavily towards post-and-beam barn plans. They’re tried and true. They accommodate living quarters, lofts, offices, and anything else you would want in a barn. They also allow for all sorts of construction materials—something you can read more about in the Rough Cut Lumber Barn Plans section. The plan for these barns tends to look samey, which is why I cover all types of Post and Beam barn plan types. For example…

Gambrel Barn Plans

The Gambrel barn plan looks spectacular, though it takes a little extra knowledge and more thorough barn plans to pull off. It only differs from your typical post and beam barn plan through its roof shape. Instead of being a sharp single-angle roof, it has several corners along its slope that almost make it look curved. This allows more ceiling space on the second floor, which is especially nice if you plan on living there. It also has a sharp angle at the front of the building and often a side area that continues from the roof.

The side area is excellently sheltered from the elements, making it great for keeping animals contained, setting up a workshop, or storing machinery. Due to the rarity of gambrel barn plans, each and every gambrel barn looks unique. If you want your barn to look different than any other in the area, go with a gambrel barn plan!

Barn Plans with a Loft

Thankfully for everyone, you can always add a loft plan in after construction. As long as you build your barn properly according to your barn plan, it should be more than enough to accommodate your loft. The advantage of finding a barn plan with a loft is that it cuts down on space. The barn naturally supports the loft in its design, while you need to make special accommodations for renovations down the line. Building with a loft in mind also allows you to construct larger lofts in a more simple manner.

A loft gives you area for dining, tools, machinery, and storage underneath it. At the top, you can throw in more storage or a place to simply relax. An office close to your place of work, rather than your home, also helps separate your job from your normal life. That can be a life-saver when it comes to your social life! Keep in mind that a loft can go above an enclosed room as well, and the walls of that room can be turned into shelves…the possibilities are endless. Lofts truly help you maximize the use of space in your barn. I highly recommend throwing one in, if you don’t flat-up build a two story barn in the first place!

Barns with Living Quarters

Nothing is better than living in the same place that you work. Actually, I take that back. There are a bunch of better things. But hey, you can sleep in up to three minutes before you work, relax in your bedroom during your breaks, and generally be around whenever you’re needed. For farm work, all of those things are essential in running a business—at least if you’re the owner of the place. They truly match the rustic countryside and allow you to efficiently use your land, especially with two-story designs.

These types of barns are typically incorporated into the tried and true post-and-beam plans. With living quarters on the second story, it can truly feel like a different world when you step into your living room. If you plan on building a barn and renovating it to have living quarters down the line, take into account the increased price. Renovations for barns cost quite a lot—sometimes more than the original barn. Building a desirable plan to begin with, even if it costs more in the short-term, works out better. You can also create adjacent sheds or homes, though it’s just not the same. Living in close quarters with animals gives you a bunch of health advantages, too!

Rough Cut Lumber Barn Plans

Rough cut lumber barn plans are your cheapest option for large barns. For one, their materials require so little treatment and rarely ship far, driving their cost down dramatically. And another thing—less time spent prepping that wood yourself means less time building and less time wasted. Time is money! The disadvantage of rough cut lumber is that it weathers poorly. If you don’t plan on treating it or painting it down the road, you may end up with structural problems or leaks of all kinds. The last thing you need is a moldy barn.

I recommend using rough cut lumber barn plans only if you need to throw together a barn immediately. With a sudden influx of animals, that can be more often than you think! Just try to get the wood properly sealed down the line so that you don’t waste money on the construction. Of course, even though I am distinguishing rough cut lumber barn plans separately from the rest, you can actually use rough cut lumber with any kind of barn plan. Just keep in mind its pros and cons if you decide to switch the suggested materials of your chosen barn plan.

Small Barn Plans

Using small barn plans, you can turn a relatively tiny amount of land into a productive zone that gives back more than what you put into it. Use it to house small livestock and enjoy the resources those animals give us! You can also create a multi-storied small barn and grow a few things in there year-round. With proper planning and investment, a small barn can easily produce half the food a family needs every year.

Small barn plans are much more difficult to find than the industrial ones or barns with living quarters. There are just fewer buyers—with many potential customers living in an area with strict zoning restrictions. With this is mind, you may need to adapt barn plans that you find, unless you grab a collection of wood working plans. Make sure there is a dedicated and sheltered area close by where you can prepare the food itself, either before you start building or as you build.

Visit local barns in your area that do what you want to do and downsize those plans. You see exactly what sort of system works, then you can combine it with all of your other needs for an efficient small barn plan. If you do end up adapting your own plan, and it’s distinguished enough from the plan you started with, then I highly recommend turning it around and selling that plan. Just make sure your roof is well supported, the building can withstand heavy snow, and your foundation sits above the water table. As long as you do those things, your barn will weather the test of time and prove useful for others!

Finding Materials for your Barn Plans

I’ve talked about how to find and judge building materials before, but I would like to go into detail here. Building a barn takes a lot of cash, and no one has mountains of that laying around, so let’s talk about all the ways to reduce that cost and find your materials. First, check out the net. Craigslist, auction houses, trading sites, online home listings, and so on all hold potential to find very cheap materials. Going to your local chain store also yields a lot of materials on clearance because of small imperfections. As long as these flaws don’t affect the integrity of your barn, go for them! Just don’t buy at full retail price while you’re there.

The best way to gain high-quality, new material is to visit your local lumberyard. Give them a list of what you need and they’ll deliver on the goods. Some of them will also cut and ship them for you! Even for these extra fees, it beats big box prices and the time it takes to do it yourself. You can focus on building instead of spending a lot of time chopping and cutting. Simply double-check their measurements against your barn plans and then start building!

While we’re on the topic, think about what types of materials you want. Obviously, wood is the single most important material for any barn. In newer barn plans, though, plastics and metal might be involved. They offer their own pros and cons, so consider this while you pick out a barn plan and shop for materials! If you bought a collection of plans, don’t be afraid to change your barn plans during the process of shopping if one of them looks a lot cheaper to build at that moment in time. After all, you have quite a few plans for a reason. Switch to the one that best suits your needs!

Additional Notes for Building with your Barn Plans

If you live in the country, zoning laws are not very strict. If you live in the cities or—just why?—in the city, you have a lot more restrictions to deal with. First, zoning laws determine what sort of building codes you follow. Residential, commercial, industrial, urban services, agricultural, and direct control areas constitute the majority of zones. Building a barn is most likely banned in commercial, industrial, and urban services zones.

If you find yourself in the wrong zone, look into the history of zoning laws. If your zone was recently changed to one that does not allow barn construction, overturning it in an appeals court is easy, and you can get your barn! For more information on building regulations, check my post here.

Another thing to note before you build your barn is what exactly you’re using it for. This directly affects which type of barn plan you want to grab. It also keeps your ultimate goal clear—something that drastically increases the speed and success of large building projects like these. If you want a man cave in there, go with a simple and spacious design (or use these tips). If you want to house animals, look into post and beam barn plans that incorporate stables. In the event you want to live close to the place you work, find multi-room barns or barn plans with a loft to satisfy your needs. Since the purpose of your barn changes which plan you need, think about what you want and decide early on how to accomplish it!

As a final note on dealing with barn plans, I want to emphasize one thing. Budget. Properly. If you fail to budget your time and money for the project, you inevitably end up wasting a lot of resources on an incomplete building. If you leave materials standing out too long—untreated and fully exposed to the elements—then they could be ruined. That’s a whole lot of money down the drain. If you need help building this quickly, then find some friends or hire a contractor to make it happen. If you need more money to put into the project, then follow the material guidelines I outlined above…or just wait for a more appropriate time to begin building!

Final Word on Barn Plans

Whatever you choose to build, and however you choose to build it, I’m certain that the right barn plan will set you on the path to success. But barn plans aren’t everything. You need perseverance, dedication, and above all…resolve. Okay, that sounds a little more epic than it needs to be, but you get the point. A working man needs to carry through with his plans, whether it’s with sprucing up a man cave or building the ultimate barn from scratch.

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