A barn is built by just two people – you and your barn builder. He may have many other people on the job, but the success of your barn is going to depend on your relationship with your barn builder.
When looking for a barn builder, referrals are always a good way to find one. But remember that someone’s dream barn or way of working may not be the same as yours. If the referral came from someone who had a simple shed row barn built and you are thinking of something with dormers, a hay loft or special flooring, it may not be the right fit. Ideally, you want a barn builder who will not only listen, but will offer suggestions as well. But one that knows that the final decision is always yours. You don’t want someone who has just one way of doing things no matter what you want. On the other hand, if you’re new to barn building, you don’t want a barn builder who does everything you say, even though he knows it’s unsafe or there’s a better way to do it. Your barn should be a collaborative effort.
Here are some things to discuss with a potential barn builder:
- Discuss the site location with your builder. If he has reservations about your choice, discuss them and work to find an alternative site. Also, make sure you know who is responsible for site preparation. Sometimes the barn builder handles it; sometimes they want you to take care of it before they start.
- Discuss the timetable for your barn. If you are building a huge barn, the builder will need to set aside adequate resources to start. This may mean that scheduling may be pushed back a month or more. Consider whether you’re willing to wait that long. On the other hand, a small barn project can sometimes be slid in between completing one large project and starting another. But big projects can run longer than anticipated and that window of opportunity can disappear, so confirm with your builder exactly when they will start your barn. And when they will finish.
- Discuss zoning requirements, permits, code inspections, etc. and what these entail. Also, determine who will be responsible for getting these.
- Discuss who will contact underground utility companies about buried lines for cable, phone or other utilities. Don’t assume it will be the builder – he may be assuming it will be you!
- Ask about the crew who will do the job. Have they been with the company long? Or do they use sub-contractors? Are they covered by the builder’s insurance?
- Ask about the contract and ask if you can see it (and possibly have your lawyer review it) before signing.
- Ask about how problems with workmanship will be handled after the barn is built. How long will the builder stand behind his work?
Finally, while hiring a barn builder is the most efficient way to get a barn built, most barn builders have limited time and expertise in designing a custom barn to meet your specific needs. If you need more assistance in the design of your barn, you may want to consider using an architect who specializes in equestrian facilities. The architect is there to evaluate the needs of the owner, from overall site planning, programming, phasing, and design to overseeing the entire construction to make sure the barn is built as intended. Yes, the cost is more, but if your barn is your business (or just your passion), an architect can help you with both form and function.
Take the time to find the right people to do the job for you. And, to help matters along, try to have a pretty clear vision on what you want your barn to look like. Yes, you can leave it up to your barn builder, but then it’s not YOUR dream barn, it’s his.
Photo Credit: Classic Equine Equipment