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Living in your barn

Pros and cons of a unique concept in living


Reasons for doing it | Design ideas | Pros and Cons


We've all heard the digs about being 'raised in a barn," but there are lots of people who cohabitate with their equines and love it.

Living in the barn can be a convenient and economical alternative to boarding or living in a separate house and barn.

Of course, living with your horses means you're with them 24 7, 365. Such a commitment means you really have to love your horses. If that doesn't scare you, see what some other horse-lovin' fools had to say about their reasons, designs, pros and cons of living in the horse barn.


Reasons for doing it

Everyone wants to save time and money, so the convenience and economics of a home/barn combination are its greatest assets.

Convenience. The convenience of having your horses close to you saves both time and energy, and knowing your babies are next door or downstairs gives tremendous peace of mind.

Economics. Building a home and barn in one structure can be more economical than building two separate structures, and an apartment in a barn creates an opportunity to rent out space if you build a separate house later.

Todd Gralla, of Gralla Architects in Lexington, Oklahoma, estimates that by building living quarters in your barn, you could save 10 to 15 percent over building a separate home of the same square footage. Gralla suggests that the real way to same money is by designing a cost-and labor-efficient facility.

However, warns Gralla, building your own home/barn can save you money only if you start with a good design and have the structure built correctly. Poor planning can ruin your estimated building budget, and shoddy construction means maintenance problems down the road. (Top of page)


Design ideas

Whether you're buying, building or renovating, good design and sound construction are important.

Buying. You can find home/barn combinations for sale, but they're scarce. Even when they're offered, real estate agents often don't realize what they're dealing with. When the Strasingers' agent told them she had found a property with a house and barn, she forgot to mention they were connected.

Building. The key is in the planning, says architect Gralla. "Poor planning means that it's really easy to make mistakes that will cost you money and blow your whole budget. Most people can't afford to have problems."

You can design a home/barn any way you want, says Gralla, as long as you keep in mind a few things: the lay of the land, your budget, your needs and future uses.

Understanding the layout of the land helps you avoid low-lying areas, and you can use natural light and shade trees to save on energy costs. Knowing your budget helps you design an efficient structure that's just what you need and not more than you can afford. Designing to allow for future growth, like more stalls, saves headaches in the long run and makes the facility more attractive, should you decide to sell.

One important tip: No matter where you build your living space (above or adjacent), allow plenty of light and ventilation for the horses, especially if the barn is fully enclosed. Fresh air keeps horses healthy and eliminates odor, bugs and dirt problems, for horses and for people. Both the Tuckeys' and the Strasingers' barns have large doors at the end of each aisle and windows in all the stalls to furnish fresh air for the horses. Runs attached to stalls can also provide fresh air, but must be strategically placed or blowing dust could be a problem.

However, Gralla says that ideal ventilation works from bottom to top, not side to side. He suggests including ridge vents, which work like little chimneys, along the top of the barn roof. Since hot air rises, these venting ridges pull hot, stale and dusty air out of the barn and keep fresh air circulating. Gralla doesn't design living quarters directly above stalls for this reason.

Gralla also suggests that you construct a hay storage separate from your home/barn. Hay requires different ventilation than horses or people, and can be highly combustible in certain situations. Insurance companies can be reluctant to insure homes or barns with hay storage attached. The Tuckeys' barn has a second-floor hay storage behind the apartment; their insurance company was reluctant to insure them until they installed smoke detectors, and now the couple plans to remove the hay and expand the living area.

Renovating. The same design principles apply to renovation. Gralla suggests that sometimes it's better to start from scratch rather than try to renovate an older barn; in either case, try to design exactly what you want and make sure it's built correctly from the ground up. (Top of page)


Pros and cons of living in your barn






1. Proximity - Being close to your horses gives you peace of mind and saves you energy and time - and time is money.

2. Money - Building a home and barn in one can be cheaper than building two separate structures, and having just one structure can be cost and labor efficient.

3. Enjoyment - For a horse lover, there's no better way to be close to your equines.

4. Novelty - Living in your barn is a way to stand out from the crowd without sacrificing the creature comforts of home.



1. Proximity - Not everyone is comfortable living that close to their horses. If your horses are your job, you never leave work; there's no way to escape clients or barn traffic.

2. Insurance - Insurance companies can hesitate to insure your home/barn; these structures are hard for them to define and they may not recognize the value of the property. Having hay storage within, or attached to, the structure is hazardous and also complicates the process.

3. Financing - Check to see if similar structures have been sold in your area in the last year. If some have been sold low or failed to sell, this will affect your appraisal, and you may not be able to get financing from your bank. These structures aren't for everyone.

4. Limited market - Should you decide to sell, you'll be marketing your place to a very limited group - other serious horse lovers like yourself. The converse is also true - good luck finding a place like this to buy. (Top of page)


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