Guide To A Barn Conversion

Whether you are attracted by the countryside views, the rustic history behind the building, the tranquil privacy, the clean country air, or all of the above; a converted barn may be your ideal dream home solution.

Unused barns are hugely sort after pieces of real estate and can attract a tidy price even before conversion due to their potential. Barns are sturdy buildings full of character and history and are often in commuting distance of a major city.

It is precisely because of their history and importance to UK rural heritage that barns are protected by the government. This protection comes in the form of pressure being put onto local authorities to find new uses for the barns that will enrich the local community.

Individual dwellings then are fairly low on their preferential list for usage, behind community centres, schools and other amenities. Nevertheless, there are still many barn conversions on the UK property market and also many, as of yet, unconverted barns available, ready to go, with planning permission.

Barns were built with efficiency and cost effectiveness in mind in times where transport was not so accessible or readily available. Because of this barns were built with local building materials in distinctive regional styles and variations.

They are then something to behold; impressively built structures with huge potential. But, it must be remembered they were purpose built for whatever work was undertaken within, and so - with their huge doorways and tiny windows – they are far from easy to convert into homes.

Within the regional and functional variations of build there are three main architectural types of barn available for conversion:

• Box Construction Barn: Simple structure supported entirely by the four external walls of the barn.
• Cruck Framed Barn: The roof of the barn is supported by the walls as well as internal timber A-frames.
• Post and Truss Barn: The entire weight of the roof is supported by an internal timber frame by adjoining with vertically placed posts.

Level of entry

Barns are available on the market completely converted, modernised and ready to move in, or if you are looking at your purchase as a profitable investment opportunity you can start from scratch and do all of the converting yourself:

Buying an already converted barn

There are plenty of converted barns out there ready to be bought. All you need to do is get online and do a bit of research into the area you would like to purchase in and find some estate agents that offer properties in that area.

Barns etc ( is a website that offers a comprehensive service that helps you find barns in the UK. So check with your mortgage lender that they are prepared to back this type of investment and look into any special rates that they may have before you make any kind of commitment with your searches.

Converting a barn

Because of there obvious potential and rich heritage an unconverted barn can fetch a 6 figure sum if it has the correct planning permission and other amenities.

Estate agents price barns by taking into account its potential worth and the cost of conversion, the price of an unconverted barn should be around 40% of its worth after conversion.

Thorough research is imperative once you have located a barn that you are interested in purchasing. Before you make any financial commitment you must consider the pitfalls to be avoided and the boxes to be ticked.

Local amenities

Schools, shops and healthcare are all things that you should be looking for in the surrounding area of your potential conversion both for yourself and for potential buyers in the future.

People might want to feel like they are in the middle of nowhere but in reality; literally living in total isolation is not so idyllic.

Hot water and electricity

Always keep in mind that barns were not built to be comfortable family homes. One of the most troublesome and indeed costly of tasks can be connecting to the services that you would take for granted were you moving into a regular residential property.

Is the barn listed?

The restrictions placed upon a listed building could really limit your plans. That is if you can afford the vintage materials and specialist labour.

Listed barns should then be approached with caution and thorough research, but not ignored entirely; such a barn could turn out truly incredible, with a great feeling of authenticity and, therefore, a superb resale value in the long-run.

Planning permission

Purchasing a barn with the planning permission for change of use already in place will save you a lot of difficulty but it will come at a higher cost.

If you are looking to purchase a barn without planning permission be sure not to part with any money (apart from the architect’s fee) until you have had the planning officer give your architect’s drawings the green light.

Once you have planning permission be sure to do a detailed cost analysis before you commit to the purchase. You will need this if you intend to get a mortgage on your barn conversion anyway and you may have to pay for all sorts of strange extras that you were not expecting, like protected species (Bats and Owls) surveys.

Safety requirements

As with any property you must ensure that your quaint old barn is structurally sound and that it is not too crumbly to support a renovation. Otherwise, to meet minimum safety requirements you will be forced to tear most of it down and build from near scratch - which all but defeats the object.


You will do yourself no favours if your plans include PVC windows or any other dodgy modern accessories that are by no means in keeping with the barn’s original character.

Planning officers will be looking for clear signs that you intend to respect the heritage of the barn and so things like budgeting for authentic building materials will do your chances of a go-ahead no harm. Moreover, it will do your eventual profit margins no harm if you do everything properly and do not cut corners.

Getting the most from a barn conversion

Because of the awkward and difficult nature of a barn conversion, to get the best results, that honour both the heritage and your need to feel like you are in a comfortable home, it is advisable to enlist the services of a specialist.

Whilst this is no substitute for the help of a specialist, here at WelcomeHome we would like to wrap up with an offering of hints and tips for getting the most from your conversion:


• Install glazing in cart openings, this will maximise the sunlight whilst keeping this traditional feature intact and functional
• Instead of removing windows, try to subtly widen them, especially if they are not clearly visible from the outside
• Use pale colours inside to give the illusion of light in the darker corners
• Use a lot of glass and steel furnishings along with mirrors to reflect light around the inside of the barn


• Small box rooms are not right for this type of conversion and can really ruin your project
• Do all you can to preserve the main barn house as an open plan communal living space, convert any stables or outhouses into bedrooms as they are ideal
• If this is not possible try to house bedrooms and other private spaces in enclosed partitions at the ends of the barn conversion so that the grand central space is not lost
• Intermediate mezzanine levels can be installed to make use of the vast height of your home without losing the original, tall, feel of the barn

Good luck!

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