5 things to know about barn conversions

  • Vernacular Homes - 5 Things To Know About Barn Conversions

In this age of reuse and recycle, a barn conversion is a wonderful way of reviving an old, unused structure that no longer serves its original purpose.

But they also provide the opportunity to create aesthetically stunning new dwellings and buildings; Kent, Sussex and Surrey have some amazing examples, many of which have been renovated beautifully thanks to their designers’ ingenious methods.

If you’re thinking of undertaking a barn conversion, here are some key points to consider:

What are the advantages of a barn conversion?

Barns offer something a little more special than the average home or building. Originally built as large open buildings designed to hold livestock, grains, equipment and machinery, they provide a spacious layout not typically seen in other structures. When professionally converted, this provides ample opportunity for creating large, airy rooms with endless possibilities.

The often higher-than-average ceilings lend themselves to beautiful features such as double height rooms, floor to ceiling windows, vaulted ceilings and exposed beams. This also allows for open plan design while leaving plenty of space to create separate rooms, too.

Can I design a barn conversion myself?

Researching and having some strong ideas about elements you’d like incorporated into your barn conversion can really help to ensure you create a building that you love.

When it comes to the design itself, it’s always wise to bring in a professional experienced in working with these types of buildings. A specialist design and planning team can advise you on what works well in a barn conversion, what to avoid, and help you accentuate the building’s beautiful historic features and charm, whether you choose a traditional or modern design.

A well-trained eye will make the most of the opportunities for innovative use of glazing, flooding the building with natural light.

Some designers use revolutionary technology. For example, we use Building Information Modelling (BIM) – a 3D software system which allows us to create virtual models of the building, and experiment with details such as walls, layout and dimensions. This not only helps clients to visualise the space, but the tech will also automatically update costs and quantities with every tweak. Clients can see exactly how their build will look, virtually walking through every room and importantly, understanding the costs before a single brick is laid.

Do I need planning permission to convert a barn?

In most cases, the answer will be yes. However, a change to planning policy in 2013 – known as ‘Class Q’ – was introduced which allows some barns to be converted under permitted development legislation using a different application process known as “prior approval”.

It should never be assumed that a build will fall under Class Q though; whatever your plans for a conversion, there will be regulations and rules to adhere to. That’s why it’s always advisable to work with a company that specialises in barn conversions right from the start, ideally one experienced in working in your area.

We have extensive experience of working on barns in Sussex and Kent and can guide you through the process from first architectural sketches to completion, working with all necessary professionals to gain the correct permissions from your local authority.

What can a barn be used for?

Depending on planning permission, a barn can be converted for a number of different uses. Barn conversions are a dream home for many, used as full-time residences where extra space has been created for living or hosting guests, or guest houses as a means of income as a holiday let.

The central structure and open areas of a barn can also make for a striking workspace; this could be a particularly appealing choice for businesses in the creative industries looking for inspiring premises.

Are barn conversions expensive?

Conversion costs will vary depending on the condition of the barn but, typically, it will cost a little more than building a new home from scratch. This is because significant remedial works are often necessary to make the building safe, secure and watertight, such as a new roof or foundations, or dealing with any rot or decay.

Planning permission costs should also be factored in, and these can be affected by whether the barn is listed or in a conservation area.

However, a barn project can be a very rewarding investment. Not only can you create a unique, bespoke building for yourself but a hugely desirable property that could attract a higher resale value than a similarly proportioned house.


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For an informal conversation about your project please call us on 01233 861177 or E-mail us using the form.