What to Consider Before Renovating an Old Barn

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Traditional farms have been disappearing from the American landscape, and it’s much to the nation’s detriment. It’s not hard to understand why so many family farms have gone out of business given the low-profit margins associated with small-scale farming and the rising price of agricultural land. The good news is that the many old barns that dot America’s rural landscapes are so well-made that they often continue to stand up to the elements for decades after former caretakers have left.

When land buyers purchase old farming properties, they have an important choice to make. Is it worth renovating that old barn, or should it be torn down? In most cases, renovation is the right decision.

 

The Versatility of Traditional Barns

Traditional, timber-framed barns were made to last. Just because a new land buyer doesn’t intend on using them to house livestock, that shouldn’t mean they get torn down or simply left to rot in place. Revitalizing those old timber-framed barns and retrofitting them to serve a new purpose extends their useful life. 

There’s no need to be dogmatic about sticking with tradition, either. Many of today’s small-scale farmers and other landowners are combining the best of both worlds. Try, for example, choosing metal for your barn roofing, but sticking with traditional wood siding. This approach combines traditional aesthetics with modern efficiency to great effect.

Creating and Reaching Personal Goals

Every new landowner has a different set of personal goals in mind. Some plan to become hobby farmers, or even enter local markets as full-time, small-scale agriculturalists. Others love the look of rural America but don’t want to get their hands dirty. It’s always best to define goals for a piece of property before making renovations, and that goes for barns as well as houses.

Those who want to put old barns to practical use have the least work ahead of them. It takes fewer resources to retrofit an aging structure than it does to reconstruct it with complete historical accuracy. Plus, maintenance, insurance, and even taxes are all higher for historical buildings, and few contractors are familiar with timber-frame construction. It usually makes more sense to use modern repair and renovation techniques.

Covering the Cost

It’s not usually cheap to renovate an old barn, but unless landowners are sticklers for historical accuracy, it should cost much less than having the structure demolished and replacing it with a new one. There are also grants and loans available through the US Department of Agriculture that can often be used to cover some of the cost of repairs or renovations.

For those who are planning to cover the costs by starting a new farming business, it may make more sense to prioritize those repairs that are most necessary first and put off what can’t be fixed now until the crops start coming down. Replacing the roof, addressing foundation issues, and repairing severely damaged siding should all be at the top of new farmers’ barn repair priority lists.

It’s Worth the Cost to Preserve American History

America developed as a nation because of hard-working farmers and ranchers. Over the course of several centuries, much of the country was converted to agricultural land, and many of the barns and other buildings constructed during this time are still standing. Why not preserve a piece of American history and tradition by repairing, renovating, or remodeling that old barn instead of tearing it down? It’s almost always worth the cost.

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