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What's involved in choosing an American Barn?

American barns are usually considered for the larger developments such as livery yards, riding schools etc and they are designed to keep everything under one roof, from loose boxes, tack rooms, feed stores, even offices, reception areas and toilet blocks. American barns are usually built from new but carrying out conversions of existing farm buildings is becoming more and more frequent.

Conversion or new build?

If you’ve got an existing building that can be converted to use as an American barn, that’s always a good starting point, and in many cases using an existing building can be quite a cost effective way of creating what you want. Most buildings that can be converted into an American barn are steel framed buildings that may have been used as a workshop, hay barn or to keep farm animals in, where any internal fittings and walls can be removed without affecting the building structure.

Generally speaking, with these sorts of buildings, roof heights aren’t a problem and neither is the ability to install new windows, doors or ventilation grills; as long as the building is large enough to house what you require without affecting its structure, then conversions are quite often a financially attractive proposal.

However some buildings may just not be suitable or it may not be cost effective to convert them; each will have to be taken on its own merits.

Remember that from a planning point of view, unless you can demonstrate that horses are being kept for agricultural use, American barns will be treated like most other equestrian developments, whereby they are generally considered to be for either a recreational or commercial need, and as such, even converting the use of an existing building into an American barn will require planning permission to be gained before it can be converted. It’s also worth remembering that all Planning Authorities are likely to look more favourably on an application if an existing building can be re-used for something else, particularly if the building in question is already redundant.

If a conversion isn’t a viable option then the other alternative to consider is new build

New Build

As we’ve mentioned already any American barns that aren’t for agricultural use will require planning permission. There are lots of things to consider, when you’re thinking about American barns and we’d always recommend visiting other yards or liveries to try and gain a good idea about the good and bad points of different layouts, internal designs, construction types and also manufacturer. If you can, go and see American barns that are a few years old, that way you can also get a good idea of quality   and wear and tear.

By far the greatest majority of new American barns are from timber frame construction, similar in a lot of ways to the construction of timber framed stables, but with larger structural elements. The majority of them are based around a central passageway, with looseboxes, tack rooms, feed stores etc situated to either side of the passageway.


Of course there are planning issues to consider with the position of a new American barn and like everything involving a planning application a great deal of thought needs to go into the visual and sometimes environmental impact on the surrounding area and your neighbours. Wherever you are proposing to build a new American barn, having the ability to keep it close to other non residential buildings, having it screened by trees or the lie of the land or being able to camouflage it by a degree of landscaping, would tend to be looked at more favourably from a planning point of view.

You should consider the supply of water, electricity and drainage to the American barn as well, and in simple terms, the further away from the existing services, the more expensive it’s likely to be to connect them; this is particularly true if you intend to have your water and electricity connected to separate metered supply.

If your American barn is to be built on a Greenfield site, then remember to give some thought about vehicular access to it, particularly for feed deliveries, but thought also needs to be given about providing awkward access, when considering thieves and rustlers. 

Obviously the base of the American barn needs to be flat, so if you are going to build your American barn on the slope of a hill, more excavation and fill is likely to be required where you cut into the slope to create a level surface, than if you build it on a flat or level surface to start with. If you’re considering building you’re American barn in a dip, you’ll need to make sure that flooding isn’t likely to be an issue as well.


Most manufacturers base their barns on modular construction techniques and so their width and length tend to be based on the same modular sizes. Their width tends to vary between 10.2m and 10.8m and the barn lengths tend to be based on multiples of 3.0m, 3.6m or 4.2m.


The internal layout really depends on individual needs and preferences, as we’ve mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to visit other yards so you can get other peoples views of the things to consider.


American barns tend to be a much more comfortable environment than stables, for both the horses and people. It is much easier to control ventilation in an open environment than the more enclosed  environment of a stable. The ability for the horses to interact with each other in a much more comfortable environment is greatly increased.

Many owners use tractors inside American barns, and if that is likely to be the case with you, make sure that the ventilation can cope with the exhaust fumes.


Some people think that one American barn is much like another, and aren’t aware of what to look for to determine the difference. Hopefully by the time you get to this stage, you’ll have visited a few yards and will have been able to see some of the differences between them for yourself, it can be quite useful to get the view of others over this. As we’ve mentioned earlier, costs are obviously a priority, and most people will endevour to get the best value from any purchase, and like with stables the old adage of you get what you pay for is still generally true, which in turn means that the higher the quality or higher the specification, then generally speaking, the higher the cost.

There are quite a number number of American barn manufacturers available to pick from and sometimes it can be quite a process to compare the relative specifications between them. Good things to look out for are comparisons on the roof height and design and whether roof trusses are present or not. Check out the section sizes and the spacing of the main structural timbers, Compare whether the external cladding is weather boarding or tongue and groove and compare their thickness as well. Compare the sizes of the doors, the section sizes of the door timbers and also check out the extent and thickness of the kick boarding inside the box. If you can also make sure you know what timber is treated and what it is treated with. Take a good look at the quality of the door and window and door furniture, locks, talking grills, etc. If you’re providing office accommodation or toilets, check out the quality of any fittings that are provided and simple things like electrical and lighting points should also be compared.

When you finally get down to cross referencing prices to specification, please make sure that you are comparing the prices of the different manufacturers like for like. All too often we hear people tell us that they thought something was included, but they ended up paying extra for it.

We would always recommend that you try and get the highest specification and quality you can afford with any building purchase, you don’t want to be spending a lot of time and money on ongoing maintenance once the buildings are a few years old, you’ll want them to last as long as possible before that starts to happen.

Basic Construction Principles

By the time you get to the stage of building your American barn, you’ll already have gone through the process of deciding what you want and where you want it and all you’ll have left to do is get it built. The principles behind it are the same as when building stables, although the construction thicknesses are a little deeper and the method of fixing the barn to the base is slightly different. If you’d like to know more about it, please take a look at the stables page.

Please browse our website, or you are welcome to contact us at any time for advice or more information, or read our FAQ's

Please browse our website, or you are welcome to contact us at any time for advice or more information,
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