30 March 2022

What you need to know before a barn conversion

By Renovation Plan

Barn conversions are desirable properties. Often found in picturesque countryside and combining a charming mix of traditional and contemporary styles, it’s no wonder they are popular on the property market. But if you’re considering converting a barn yourself, you should be prepared for a renovation project that may not be as straightforward as it sounds. Here, we’ll run through a few key points you should know before you start your barn conversion.

Be ready for a challenge

It’s important to remember that a barn was originally built to fulfil a function, so it won’t come with the practicalities a home needs, such as weatherproofing, security or even essential services like power or water. These are things you will need to factor into your design and renovation process, while taking into account the existing structure that you need to work with. So your first step in taking on a barn conversion is the acknowledgement that, in some ways, it may well be more challenging than building a new property from scratch – but as long as you are well-prepared, you should be in for a rewarding journey.

Get your head around the rules

Because barns are not originally intended as dwellings, they aren’t built to any sort of regulatory standard. However, when you come to convert an old barn into a home, it will need to comply with modern building regulations, which means you will almost certainly need to make major structural changes, from installing insulation to re-roofing.

You should take care you don’t get caught out by any legacy legislation too. For example, when you look to purchase a barn to convert, you might find yourself up against historical covenants that prevent a change of use, so make sure you check for any clauses that could restrict your plans and get a good solicitor on your side.

Employ an expert eye

Once you’ve chosen a barn to buy, you should always employ an expert to assess it structurally before you finalise the sale. This is due to barns often being thrown together as quickly and as cheaply as possible, so you will need to have the overall structural stability checked alongside any other problems such as damp or dry rot – all of which could end up costing you a lot of money down the line if you’re unprepared! Get in touch with a building surveyor to check the foundations, which you may need to underpin if you want a second storey, as well as the state of the roof and load-bearing walls.

Budget accordingly

With all this to consider, there’s no denying that a barn conversion is not going to be a cheap undertaking – not least because of the need for significant structural changes, all while trying to conserve the original features which give it that distinctive character. You’ll find your budget will largely depend on the condition of the building and the possibility you might discover hidden problems as you work through the renovations. However, converted barns are always in demand – which should make the upfront investment worth it.

The good news is barn conversions come with a tax break, as they’re largely free of VAT. You can also take on some of the DIY yourself if you’re looking to minimise spend, although this will depend on your confidence and ability! That said, one expense you won’t want to skip is getting the right insurance, just in case you do hit any problems during the conversion process. Specialist insurers will offer products that are designed for this kind of project, with dedicated barn conversion insurance and broader renovation insurance policies on offer.

Design with flair

Once you have taken all the necessary steps outlined above, the next challenge is turning an old barn into a desirable home. For this, clever and creative design is key. Old barns come with a lot of character, so using original features and staying true to its heritage will help you create an individual home that feels in sync with its history. Where possible, try incorporating features such as old beams, open stonework and timber cladding into your design and offset it with contemporary technology, such as underfloor heating and high-spec glass, to create a striking effect.

In fact, glass is often a key feature of barn conversions. After all, most barns were not designed with windows or openings, so filling them with natural light through rooflights or even glazing entire gable ends is a wonderful way to brighten them up and create a feeling of warmth and homeliness. Open-plan living arrangements also lend themselves well to creating an open, bright space while many barn conversions include mezzanine floors as an attractive feature. So whichever design features you choose, you can be sure of a stylish, individual property that is bound to stand out on the market.


Want to find out more about renovation insurance?

You can find further useful information on our conversion insurance page. If you’re not ready to get a quote yet and would prefer to speak to someone, you can find the details by clicking here. We can’t wait to find out all about your project!