Building a Horse Barn on a Budget

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Your Horse Barn
Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac
Your Horse Barn DVD
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
Horse Housing
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Horse Barn on a Budget

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information



Be your own contractor.  Organize and coordinate the various aspects of the project.  Except for the rarest of cases, you won't need an architect or engineer.  You will, however, need a set of plans to turn in to the planning commission's building inspector.  Find out the required format for the plans to be submitted.  Draw the plans yourself or hire someone to draw them to your specifications.  You can also purchase pre-approved plans from some barn builders.Your Horse Barn DVD

    The style of barn you choose will greatly affect price.  An run-in shelter would be the least expensive type of barn.  A shed row style barn, suitable for dry, warm climates, would be less expensive than a fully-enclosed barn with central aisle.  Expensive additions to barns include wash racks, hot and cold water, heated (air-conditioned) insulated tack rooms, and rest rooms.  Consider which of these things are essential and which might be added later.

    Make up a materials list.  Some building supply yards will do this for you.  You check their list over and add, delete, or substitute materials as you see fit.  You can hire a consultant to help you with this.

    Site preparation.  Hire a contractor to excavate, level, or fill as necessary  The excavator could also dig the trenches for water pipes and electric lines or you might want to do this yourself (see LABOR TRENCHING below).

    Each of the following aspects of the barn project can be completed by you (see LABOR below) or you can hire one or more companies to complete the work:

* Foundation and footings.
* Electrical Work
* Plumbing
* Framing the building.
* Roofing.
* Walls.
* Cement Work.
* Finish work.


Ask if you can help prepare for or work with any crew that you hire.  Most would rather not have you work along (and their insurance regulations may not allow it) but you might be able to do prep or clean up work that could save you some money.  It doesn't hurt to ask.  Of course, if you are not skilled or experienced in the building trade, it would not save you money if you helped and it might cost more to have your work redone or repaired.


If you can find 3-6 helpers (at least 2 need to be strong and somewhat experienced) you can run your own concrete crew.  If you are doing a large amount of concrete, such as the entire aisle and several rooms, you should schedule the work over several days as it is just too tiring for a computer operator to do too much heavy concrete work all at once.  All helpers should have good hand protection, tall rubber boots, and wear old clothes.  As the concrete truck unloads, initially there will be heavy work moving and floating the concrete.  After it is roughly leveled, there will be a lot of edging and finishing to do which can even be done by children.


Pipes and wires to the barn and under the barn must be buried a specific depth (as indicated by your county code).  You might save costs by renting a trencher from a tool rental shop and preparing the small ditches for your plumber and/or electrician ahead of time.


The general advice is to never tackle something as important as wiring because faulty wiring can be a fire hazard.  And that is true.  However, there is much time-consuming labor involved in wiring a barn that can be done by the "home handy person".  If you study the county building code and check a book out of the library on wiring, you might decide to do some of the work yourself.  You will be hiring a licensed electrician to make the connection from the power company's source to the barn site.  Ask the same electrician if you can hire him for advice, consultation, or supervision on the materials you will need to buy for the interior and exterior wiring, including plugs, switches, light fixtures, and so on.  Depending on your previous experience and skills and your relationship with the electrician, you might be able to do some portions of the interior wiring yourself.  In a barn, all exposed wires must be run through metal conduit pipe.  Cutting the pipe and feeding the wire through can be very time-consuming and costly (labor).  Also, your barn will likely have as many as 100 switches, plugs and lights, each which must be connected.  All of the electrical work will have to be inspected before you seal up the walls and the power is turned on anyway.  So you might either work alongside your electrician or have him check your work before you call the county electrical inspector out.  If all of this sounds too complicated to you, then you should hire your electrician to do it all.


You can save a good share of labor costs by putting the sub-roof (plywood or insulation board) and sub-wall (insulation board) on yourself.  If you don't mind climbing around on a roof or handling 4' x 8' sheets of material, you can put the "skin" on your barn.  Nailing off these large areas can take a considerable amount of time.


The foundation and framing style affects price.  Generally, a "pole building", that is one that is based on posts, is cheapest.  The poles sit on concrete footings and act as both foundation and wall framing.  The poles run from the footings to the roof.  Pole barn construction is in contrast to block or frame construction which are set on a continuous concrete footing/foundation. Horse Housing

    The roof framing is usually either trusses or beams and rafters.  Beams and rafters are suitable for small barns, give a more open ceiling, but are labor intensive and aren't practical for wide barns with long roof spans.  Trusses are engineered to withstand the load for the specific building and sit right on the posts of the pole building or the top of the framed walls.  They require less material and go up fast but due to their gridwork-like appearance, make for a less open ceiling.

    Metal roofing might work for you.  Metal is much less expensive than shakes and safer in the event of fire in the area.  Shakes are the most labor intensive type of roofing to apply.  Metal lasts longer than shingles and rolled roofing.  However, metal roofs can be noisy unless they are insulated.

    The wall framing for non-horse areas (such as tack rooms, feed rooms, etc.) can be of 2x4s and covered with inexpensive siding or paneling or not finished at all inside.
To cut down on the number of windows you will need, you can install Fiberglas panels at the top of the walls (clerestory) where they join the roof and at the triangular portions of the gable ends.  The panels will let in a lot of light and cost less than windows or an equivalent amount of barn wall siding.  Fiberglas panels do not allow for air flow like windows.  Fiberglas should not be used where a horse can reach it as it would easily break.  Also, Fiberglas panels used in the roof are notorious for leaking.


There is a lot of finish work that you can do yourself:

Lining the stalls
Laying stall flooring or mats
Painting and finishing the tack room
Painting and treating wood areas.
Installing metal chew strips.


Sometimes it is tough to foot the bill for an entire barn all at once.  With carefully designed plans, you might be able to build the barn in stages.  Maybe you can start out building a portion with 2-stalls, tack room and feed room and plan to add 2 or more stalls later, or perhaps a wash rack or breeding laboratory.

    The more knowledgeable you are about the barn building process, the better you will be able to make decisions that will save you money while not compromising your horse's safety and health or undermining your long-term investment.

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