Using old barns as housing

By The Old House Web

Housing: A Special Concern

Barn Kitchen

The conversion of barns to housing is not new, but has become increasinglypopular in recent years. Yet the changes involved in converting most barnsto housing are so great that such conversions rarely preserve the historiccharacter of the resource. Ordinarily, numerous windows are inserted, wallsare heavily insulated and refinished, the interior volume is greatly reduced,chimneys and other fixtures normally lacking in barns are added, and sitechanges, such as close-in parking and residential landscaping are made,giving the building a greatly altered site. Many other barns are "converted"to houses by dismantling them, discarding the exterior, and reusing theinternal structural system in a new building. The beams are saved, butthe barn is lost.

In cases where the conversion from barns to houses has been successful,the positive outcome results in large measure from the careful choice ofthe barn: A modest-sized barn with a sufficient number of existing residential-scalewindows, in which nearly the whole internal volume can be used as is, withoutbuilding numerous new partitions or extending a new floor across the openspace (haylofts in such cases serving as loft-space for "second story"bedrooms).


Historic barns form a vital part of our Nation's heritage. Not everyhistoric barn can be saved from encroaching development, or easily broughtback into productive use. Yet thousands of such structures can be repairedor rehabilitated for continued agricultural use or for new functions withoutdestroying the very qualities that make them worth saving. By carefullyexamining the historic significance of each structure, owners of historicbarns can draw up plans that preserve and reuse these historic structureswhile maintaining their historic character.

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