How to Design Your Own Barndominium

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Owning a home is an item on everyone's wish list. Whether you want to buy or build from scratch, an innovative design is something you may want to prioritize. Barndominiums also referred to as barndos, are the newest and trending home design sweeping across the world.

From native Texas architecture, barndominiums have moved from being used as traditional warehouses to modern houses with multiple rooms and workspaces. They can be used for residential purposes, rental workspaces, or getaway vacation homes.

If you are looking to design a unique barndominium for your dream home, you have come to the right place. Stay with us as we give you tips on how to go about designing your barndominium.

What is a barndominium

Traditionally, a barndominium was a huge structure built with a strong steel frame and sheet metal sides used for storage. Some were built with large posts and wooden sides; in the 1980s, barndominiums were used as storage houses, stables, garages and shop spaces. Barndominiums were often built as farmhouses.

Since then, these structures have gained popularity in urban areas. Their design and usage have been redefined to meet modern times' necessities. Today, barndominiums have been transformed into luxury living or working spaces and vacation rental homes. It is possible to build one and live in it or use it to make an income.

How to Design Your Own Barndominium

To design your own barndominium means you’ll be your own architect; you’ll draw out the plans yourself. Today, designing a barndominium is relatively simple thanks to technology and available software that enable you to draw plans like a professional would do effortlessly. Here are essential factors to keep in mind when designing your own barndominium:

1. Research building codes – Building codes are sets of rules and regulations that define how structures are built, such as structural integrity, safe exits, ventilation, fire resistance, and construction materials.

Different jurisdictions have different building codes. It is imperative to get acquainted with your local area's building codes before or when designing your barndominium. For barndos, the most common building codes are height, materials, hallway width, ventilation, insulation, etc.

2. Write down the must-haves – Designing your dream home is an exciting experience; more often, you can easily miss out on essential details. It is imperative to list down what you want, for example, the number of bedrooms? Walls or open space? Number of bathrooms? Pantry, laundry room or both? Etc.

You may have a proper design in your mind but writing it down helps you remember and start drawing your plan.

3. Budget – Like building any other structure, you have to consider your budget. The amount you intend to spend on building your barndominium will determine your design. Decide on a working budget before drawing your design.

4. Create a design collage – In construction, collages are used to make dream boards to keep you focused on the project. While this might look similar to an elementary school project, it helps you visualize and organize your design.

When you sit at a meeting with your loan officer, architects, or contractor, a design college will help them get a vision of how you want your barndominium to look. You can organize your design collage by layout plans, outdoor spaces, utility features, interiors, floors, etc.

5. Prefabricated or custom design – There are two approaches to a barndominium design; Prefabricated and custom. Prefabricated design involves buying barndominium kits; you buy different already-built pieces then assemble them on site. This approach saves time and money.

Custom design, on the other hand, involves the most work. Here you have the idea in your mind that you need to put it down on paper and ensure your contractor understands it. You might need to work with a professional architect to help you draw. However, with the new technology, you can download design software and do the rest of the work by yourself.

Pros and Cons of Designing Your Own Barndominium

Unlike traditional homes, barndominiums offer homeowners the best of both worlds. Below are some Pros and cons of building your own barndo:


  • Saves you money.
  • You get a unique design.
  • You have full control of your design.
  • You can customize as much as you want.
  • You enjoy versatility


  • It can be time consuming unless assisted by an architect.
  • Higher chances of making errors.

Barndominium Design Software

Generally, technology has made life simple. With a barndominium design software, you can easily design your own barndo like a pro. This fantastic computer software lets you plan, visualize your design and experiment with different layouts and spaces. You can create a barndominium floor plan with pictures, design a unique roofing style, sides with windows and doors as you would want, and finally, print a 3D version of the same.

Barndominium design software is available online; some are free while others require purchase. Here are some examples:

Planner 5D – It is an excellent and easy-to-use web-based 3D software used to create barndominium and other structural designs. You can choose between a pre-designed barndominium or a blank project. You can also upload an already sketched design and continue working on it. Planner 5D is free to use software.

CAD Pro – It is a powerful multifunctional design tool used for various design projects such as barndominium design, mechanical drafting, landscaping, etc. It has an easy-to-use interface and supports cloud storage for easy sharing of projects. CAD Pro requires purchase; however, you get free access to some plans such as deck plans, outdoor kitchen plans, and home plans.

PlanningWiz – PlanningWiz is an online room planner tool ideal for floor plans. It has data visualization abilities for your barndominium design ideas. With PlanningWiz, you can design new floors, walls and rooms, upload a custom background, view your barndominium design in 3D format, email, print and share designs, etc. It is available for free and on purchase; the free version has limited features.


The internet carries lots of inspiration for barndominium designs that can kick start your journey. Barndominium designs usually feature a raised gambrel roof and open floor concept. However, you can modify and custom design your barndominium into multiple living spaces that suit your needs.

After reading this article, we hope you are confident enough to design your own barndominium. If you are working on a limited budget, you can opt for prefabricated or barndominium kits. However, if you desire a unique design, consider working with an architect to help you draw your design or use a barndominium design software to visualize your idea. 

So what do you think, fad or here to stay?

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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