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Thinking About Barn Design? 5 Key Differences Between Your Home and Barn.

Thinking about Barn Design? Wondering why you barn doors aren't air-tight? Let's talk about the six biggest differences between your house and your new barn.

Many first-time barn owners (and those who have been around barns for years) have questions for us regarding certain characteristics of their structure and wonder, "Is this normal?" The answer is more than likely yes, so let's talk about a few examples.

1) Air Gaps & Ventilation Barns need to breathe! Horse urine, manure, and many other substances create pathogens, ammonia, and general pollutants. As such, it's very important for the health of your animals that your structure has proper ventilation to clear out these pollutants and bring in fresh air.

As a result, you'll see a few different design traits in your barn that you won't usually find in your home or shop. The biggest difference being air gaps around breezeway doors, dutch doors, and even tack doors. Not huge gaps, but usually a good quarter to half an inch around the perimeter allows for air to flow into the building in a controlled manner.

Depending on the current climate, your barn's layout, and a few other factors, this air will either cross flow from one side of the barn to the other, or if installed, will flow upward to your cupola and/or vents mounted near the ceiling. This allows for the pollutants to be removed, and to vent heat from the structure during summer months.

You want to feel a nice breeze in your barn, and air gaps around doors play an important role.

2) Slope of the Floor

The floor in your house is as level as possible. The floor of your garage is close to flat. Your hay loft is certainly level. Similar to your garage, the slab in your stalls and on the first floor of your barn is "flat". Your horses won't notice, and you likely won't either, but a high quality barn will almost always include a slight slope in your breezeway and stalls.

"Think like water". The reason your breezeway and stalls have a very gentle, hardly noticeable slope is so that water, and more importantly urine, has somewhere to go. Horses generate an immense amount of urine (as in over two gallons per day for many horses-check out this article). Most of it is absorbed by bedding, but for the urine that escapes absorption, it's important that it finds its way outside as to not promote ammonia concentration in the air (see difference one, Air Gaps).

Additionally, a gentle slope in your breezeway helps eliminate any standing water that results from grooming or the occasional spilled water bucket. Again, you'll likely never notice the slight slope, but allowing the water to escape keeps the barn free of excess moisture and reduces the risk of ice forming in your breezeway.

This slope is most pronounced in the Wash Bay (if you have one), and is likely not present in a tack room or office. Check out this video for more information (start around 1:00 or so to skip straight to the slab).

3) Slab Finish

You may have a polished slab floor in your home or office. These are typically as smooth as possible. Your garage is likely to have a smooth finish as well.

Similar to tile, when these slabs get wet, all heck breaks loose as it feels like you're walking on ice. This leaves us feeling like poor Fido here, featured right.

To prevent this, your barn will come with what we call a "light to medium broom finish". This means we literally run a broom over the slab as the concrete is being poured to produce an even texture that provides good traction, even when wet.

4) Plumbing and Electrical

As you're likely aware, our barns are Post & Beam framed (as opposed to stick or stud-framing like a house). Due to this, and because the structures are meant to house animals, you'll notice that all the plumbing and electrical in your barn is protected in one way or another.

Specifically, electrical will be run in conduit. The type, thickness, and size will vary based on your local building department, but the important notion being that the wires themselves are encased in a plastic or metal tubing that protects them from damage, and protects your animals from electrical shock. You'll see the conduit running up and down posts, as well as across walls. In your home these are buried within the wall, but since they're exposed in barns they need to be protected.

When it comes to plumbing, the biggest difference is that you'll usually see insulation surrounding the pipes themselves. This isn't always the case, but since barns are typically kept unheated (we won't tackle that debate in this article), the insulation around plumbing keeps the pipes from freezing and bursting during the cold winter months.

5) Lighting

Lighting is an important factor in a high quality and enjoyable barn.

When we oversee Electrical & Lighting installations, we are sticklers about the types of fixtures that are installed in your barn. Specifically, lighting in a barn needs to have the animals' safety in mind, so we'll usually insist on safety globe fixtures, or fixtures that have a protective casing in general.

Exposed lightbulbs in a house or garage are typically fine, but since a barn sees much more action, the risk of a bulb being damaged or breaking is increased and with it the need to protect your animals. Safety Globe fixtures, such as the one featured here on the Barn Pros Online Store, have a safety glass case to catch sharp fragments if a lightbulb were to burst, and a steel cage to prevent damage from impact. They also serve to keep cobwebs and dust away from the heat of the bulb, offering protection from fire hazards (Not to mention rain when mounted outside).

Lighting design is an in-depth topic for another article, but we wanted to make sure we called out the importance of safety fixtures for yourself and your animals.

6) Structural Integrity

A final difference worth mentioning, though very in depth, is the structural strength of your barn. People are often impressed at the sheer size of the posts and foundation in their barn, but there are some specific reasons involved.

Other than horse stalls needing to be able to stand up to an angry horse, a scared horse, a cast horse, cattle, or some combination therein, many barns must put up with the tremendous weight of hay storage.

Not all barns have hay lofts, but those that do must be strong. Really strong. For reference, a typical home is engineered to support 40 lbs. / SF on any particular floor. Barns, on the other hand, are typically set up to handle a tremendous 65lbs. / SF. in the loft and withstand thousands of pounds worth of heavy equipment in the breezeway.

So if you have a 48 foot long barn (such as our Olympic) with a standard center loft, you have roughly 576 SF of loft space. That translates to roughly 37,440 lbs. when fully loaded! To put that into perspective, that's equivalent to about five one-ton RAM Trucks, four John Deere 4000 Series Tractors, or a herd of 31-37 Horses. Phew!

All of that weight is overhead. Your Barn Pros barn will handle it no sweat, and this is the reason for the big, beautiful timbers in our barns.



Thanks for spending a few minutes with us today on this subject. As your barn comes to completion, you'll notice these differences and hopefully you now feel more educated about them!

'Till next time.

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