Pole Barn Home Design Guide for Builders

Posted by Jamie Kline on Feb 29, 2024 1:28:49 PM
Jamie Kline

Pole Barn Home Design

If you've ever built a custom home, you know as well as we do that no two are the same.

Even if you have two clients using the same floor plan, at least one will inevitably put their touch on their new home.

Clients can make some pretty interesting choices about how they'll make their home truly theirs – and it can go beyond tweaking a layout or opting for imported marble countertops.

Such is the case with pole barns.

Long-considered utility buildings, pole barns as houses are now getting a second look from some future custom homeowners.

And while in many ways building a custom pole barn home is no different than building a custom home, there are still some differences – as well as important design considerations.

In this guide, we'll dive into the nuances of constructing this type of custom home and what every builder should be looking at in their pole barn home designs.

Pole Barn Home | Design & Project Basics

The foundation of a pole barn custom home project – be it a “barndominium” or “shouse” (shop-house)  isn't dissimilar to a traditional custom home – or any construction project for that matter. There are indeed universal project considerations that are as appropriate for building a shed as they are for building a skyscraper.

  • Budget – This is where projects start and stop. It's also what often stands between a client's dreams and realities. 
  • As we've often said with more traditional panelized custom home building – as well as traditional pole barn construction – a client's budget determines everything about their project. Those with limits on their budget may need to make some adjustments to their project's vision to get a home that meets their expectations.
  • Timeline – Another common refrain from our work in custom home and pole barn building, a client's timeline also has major impacts on a project. Clients looking to be in their new home sooner rather than later are likely looking at spending more money and a modified construction schedule to accommodate their deadline.
  • Location  – This one is two-fold. Not only are we referring to the location of the property where the home will be built, but also where the home will be built on the property itself.
  • On the macro level (where the build site is located), this gets a bit deeper than knowing an address. Both you and your client need to be aware of any zoning or building restrictions. These can vary widely depending on the municipality. Keep in mind that pole barn homes have a unique aesthetic to them in the same way a log home does. While a pole barn home might fit right in somewhere rural, it might stick out in a bad way in a more suburban area.
  • On the micro level (where on the property the home will be located), there are still many considerations to keep in mind for the pole barn home design. Clients may have specific desires for where they want their home situated – for example, facing a specific direction or taking advantage of natural landscape features.
  • Purpose/Use: If there's one thing we love about pole barn homes, it's their versatility. Absolutely, a pole barn home can be designed and built to be just that – a residence. However, with some creative design work, the home can serve double duty. It's not out of the realm of possibility to build a post frame structure that's not only a home, but also a workshop or commercial office space.

  1. Regularly get questions about how to pay for a project? Our Pricing Resources Center has plenty of answers! 
  2. What does the pole barn home construction timeline look like? Check out our Custom Home Building Timeline Checklist.

Digging in Deeper: Pole Barn Home Design Details

If there's one thing we know about designing a custom home – regardless of type – it's that the final product is incredibly specific to the future homeowner. As we've often half-joked, we've never built the same home twice.

To that end, getting into the details of custom home design is a team effort between you and your client. Your punch list of discussion post frame house plan design topics should include:

  1. Site prep
  2. Exterior architectural style & aesthetics
  3. Interior floor plan & layout
  4. Insulation & efficiency measures
  5. Utilities and services

1. Site Prep

While this isn't a design element of a pole barn home per se, it is a very important component of the construction process.

Before any construction can begin, the site must be prepped for building. This includes clearing and leveling of land, as well as ensuring proper drainage to prevent water and potential foundation issues down the road.

When considering site prep for a pole barn home, it's also important to keep in mind the orientation of the structure on the build site. 

Orienting a building to take advantage of natural sunlight can enhance warmth and lighting, cutting down on utility costs. This passive solar design considers the sun’s path to maximize light during the winter months while minimizing excessive heat during the summer.

Additionally, careful consideration of prevailing winds can aid in natural ventilation and cooling, providing a comfortable living environment. In colder climates, blocking northerly winds can help significantly reduce heating bills. Meanwhile, in warmer climates, orienting the home to catch breezes can improve air circulation and provide relief from the heat.

2. Exterior Architectural Style and Aesthetics

While custom homeowners are coming up with some creative design choices for their residences – say, converting a former church into a home, going the pole barn route doesn't have to mean creating a house that looks ready to store farm equipment.

In fact, with modern design strategies, pole barn homes can be made to employ a more traditional home-like aesthetic. In other words, a modern pole barn home can look like what you'd expect for a home.

What's more, it's not uncommon for pole barn homeowners to incorporate some finishes and exterior materials more common in traditional custom homes, such as:

  • Brick veneers
  • Natural stone
  • Wood

And like a traditional custom home, there are plenty of exterior trim options that can be added to the pole barn house design to boost curb appeal and function:

  • Dormers
  • Roof gables
  • Covered porches

3. Interior Floor Plan & Layout

What's the #1 thing we love about the thousands of floor plan designs we have for custom homes?

That's easy.

They're all 100% customizable.

In fact, most Barden homeowners take one of our existing plans and modify it to their liking. Others work closely with their Barden Independent Dealer and our Drafting and Design Department to come up with their own unique plan.

Why do we mention this?

Because the same applies to pole barn home design.

Building a Barden pole barn home uses the same panelized construction method used to design and draft a panelized Barden custom home. And with that method comes the freedom for your client to come up with a layout that meets all their needs and wants.

Your work guiding a client along to create a floor plan they'll love is no different from what you'd do in a more traditional custom home project.

Resource: Custom Home Construction Timeline: A Barden Independent Dealer's Role

4. Insulation & Energy Efficiency Measures

At their core, pole barn homes are rooted in pole barns – a utility building that was never originally intended to be a home. Thus, they're generally missing many things that make a structure habitable. Insulation is a prime example – most traditional pole barns aren't insulated.

From a certain perspective, this isn't any different than what those who convert delivery vans into homes do – watch any video of repurposing the vehicle and adding proper insulation is among the first orders of business. 

A few key discussion points on your plans for a pole barn house include:

  • Insulation Choices: This one is a bit more complex than with a standard custom home. Essentially, there are a few different ways to insulate a pole barn home – e.g. standard fiberglass (Batt) insulation, spray foam insulate, a combination of the two, etc. Ultimately, insulating a pole barn home comes down to meeting your local building code and its R-value requirements for interior and exterior walls, as well as ceilings. 
  • High-Performance Windows and Doors: This one goes without saying, but is worth a mention. Windows made for energy efficiency, such as those with Low-E glass or insulated glass units (IGUs), are worth their weight in gold in keeping a pole barn home comfortable. The same goes for insulated exterior doors.
  • HVAC System Integration: While most new HVAC systems are made to meet energy efficiency regulations, meeting them can go out the window with poor system design for the home. By that, we mean installing an oversized or undersized system can lead to inefficiency and increased costs. Installing the system to cool or heat spaces that are never used – say, an equipment storage area – is just as bad.
  • Radiant Floor Heating: Since post frame homes are built on a slab foundation, those in colder climates may wish to look into a radiant floor heating system. Note that while radiant floor heating may increase the comfort in one's home, there are increased cost considerations that should be identified and budgeted for early on.

5. Utilities and Services

Again, pole barn houses are no different than building any other type of custom home, and at the very least, they'll need electrical and plumbing service.

Keep in mind that a pole barn home may have an unconventional layout – it's entirely possible to have a living area adjacent to or above an open garage area. As such, planning the location and installation of utilities takes on added importance.

When it comes to electrical service, some potential points to consider:

  • Outlet locations for living spaces
  • Adequate lighting and outlets for workspace areas
  • Exterior outlet locations

Likewise, the same goes for plumbing lines to service bathrooms, kitchens, or potential work/storage spaces.  

Remember when we talked about site prep? Utilities should also be part of that discussion. Unless the home is off-grid and completely removed from municipal sewer and water systems, installing utility lines – for example, sewer connections and power lines – will be part of getting the property ready for the build.

Creating a Winning Pole Barn Home Design

As we've pointed out multiple times, though the final product is unique, designing a pole barn home isn't dissimilar to what happens during our standard panelized custom home construction process. In fact, many elements are identical in both instances.

Regardless, by working closely with your client as you would in any other instance of custom home building, together you'll create a home that checks the box for being unique and all others for their wants and needs.

And by the way… we’ll be releasing new post frame home designs throughout this year. Stay tuned! 

Miss Our First Pole Barn Design Guide?

Check out our article, "Pole Barn Design Guide for Builders.” We dig into how to design a pole barn for more traditional applications. 

Topics: Custom Home, Pole Barns

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