Building a Horse Barn on a Budget

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Horse Barn on a Budget

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

 Everyone wants to save a dollar and you're no different.  How do you keep a tight rein on your barn building budget?  You'll find the answer in this article but first let's circle the issue a bit to get a proper perspective.  The cost of building a horse house can range from $5000 for a small run-in shed to well over $30,000 for a home-style equine palace.  When planning your budget, be sure to consider the various meanings of the word cost.  The initial cost is relative to many factors. Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage

    When thinking of the cost of the barn, consider immediate, short term, long term, maintenance, and associated costs as well as potential savings in each of these categories.  Immediate costs are the initial costs of materials and labor to construct the barn.  Short term costs (or savings) include replacements that will need to be made in the first year or two of service such as flooring that was a poor choice or wooden rails that weren't protected from chewing.  Long term costs (or savings) are replacements made after the barn is several years old such as replacing the shingles on the roof or gutting the stalls to replace dangerously deteriorated or damaged stall walls.  Maintenance costs (or savings) refers to regular upkeep items such as painting and weatherproofing as well as to the amount of bedding that is required daily.  Associated costs (or savings) include the amount of feed wasted or optimally used due to feeder or stall design.  A significant associated cost (to say nothing of heartache) can be veterinary bills due to management-related mishaps such as colic (automatic waterer malfunction or horse escaping from stall and getting into grain room) or  injuries (unlined stalls, dangerous projections in aisles). Your Horse Barn DVD

    So, before you start trying to cut building costs, re-examine the reasons you are building a barn.  What specific purposes is your barn going to serve?  Whether you are building a Budget Inn or the Equine Ritz Carlton, the building should be safe, healthy, convenient, efficient, and legal.  The structure must be strong and well-designed to prevent injuries.  It should provide a horse-friendly environment with proper drainage, ventilation, sanitary flooring, protection from the elements, and be comfortable.  It should be designed for convenience in performing the daily tasks of feeding and watering and stall cleaning.  The building should make efficient use of space, providing optimum stall space for the size horses you have and plenty of room for feed, bedding, tack, and tools.  And last but not least, the structure should comply with local zoning regulations.

   Become informed about these issues through books specifically dedicated to horse facility and barn planning.  Visit your County Extension Agent to learn about local soil and weather considerations and ask your agent to visit your proposed building site.  Contact your County Planning Commission and Building Inspector to find out how you can get a copy of the building codes that pertain to horse barns.  Ask friends and acquaintances who have had barns (or homes) built recently which contractors (excavators, electricians, plumbers, builders, finishers) they used and how they would evaluate their work.

    The more knowledgeable you are about the requirements and features of your barn and the barn-building process, the more able you will be to make dollar saving decisions.  There's the answer.  The more you know, the more you'll save.


Although there are exceptions to every situation, there are certain places in a barn where it is best to spend the money necessary to "do things right".


Be sure the site is level where the building sits and well-drained with grading so water flows away from the building.  Have a soil evaluation performed by your county extension agent to determine the percolation rate of your soil.  If you find the soil is very poorly drained, you will have to consider extensive excavation and fill or choosing another site.  If possible, after excavation and fill, let the site sit idle and settle for one year.


Don't try to mix batches of concrete for large areas in a small, home-sized cement mixer.  It takes too much labor, time, and electricity to be cost effective.  And you'd have to mix many small batches to pour a large pad so would likely end up with a patchy and inferior pad.  Order your cement delivered in a big truck.  You might be able to save costs by having your own crew help.  (See SAVE COSTS HERE)


Use 2 x 6s not 2 x 4s for stall framing and any areas of the barn that horses will contact.  2 x 4s are just not strong enough to withstand horse force.  Rough-sawn (RS) boards are full dimension boards.  When you ask for a 2" RS plank, it is 2" thick.  Planed boards are smoother and thinner.  When you order a 2" planed board, it is actually 1 1/2 inches thick.  RS boards are rougher and vary somewhat in thickness and width but they are stronger than planed boards.

    Don't cut costs by not lining your stalls.  An unlined metal barn is an invitation for some of the nastiest wounds, not only from a hoof punching a hole through the wall but from a pawing or rolling horse getting a hoof caught under the sharp bottom edge of the steel wall.  Stalls should be lined at least four feet up from ground level.  Don't use 1/4 inch plywood to line your stalls or you might someday find your horse with his foot caught between the lining and the wall.  Two inch thick boards are best.


All hardware, bolts, hinges, handles, latches and locks should be of the very sturdiest materials available.  Many latches and hinges are too light for use in a horse barn and can result in your horse's getting out of the stall and into the grain room, out on the highway, or tangled in the neighbor's fence.  If you can't find the hardware you want, seek out a local blacksmith or welding shop to have them made for you.

    For anti-chew strips, don't use dry wall corners.  Get 14 gauge or heavier angle iron from a metal fabricator, sheet metal, or welding shop.


Your tack room should be very secure to deter theft.  It is best if the tack room is windowless and that it has a strong door with a secure lock.  Be sure the tack room is designed to satisfy your insurance requirements.

    The grain room should have a horse-proof door.

    Fire prevention materials and equipment should be installed and fire control methods should be employed.

    Aisles should be uncluttered and designed so the walls have no dangerous protrusions (hooks, latches, faucets).


Don't accept a package deal for a "lower price" if the layout is not what you want or need.  Don't accept a building plan that features narrow aisles or doors.


Unless you have a good deal of plumbing experience and access to wholesale plumbing supplies and tools, you should hire a professional to install water pipes, drains, sinks, washers, wash racks and so on.  With plumbing, it is more difficult for an amateur to do things right.  There is much to consider: the slope of the drains, plumbing codes, what materials you can and can't use, depth of pipes, various means of planning for freezing weather.  It is best to rely on recommended professionals because they are familiar with products and methods.
When planning your electrical needs, don't scrimp on the number of outlets, switches, or light fixtures both inside and outside the barn.

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  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

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