Barns – Structure Guide

Barns: They’re Not Just for Farmers Anymore

Vertical barns - CarportUS

When we hear the word “barn” we immediately think of Old McDonald’s traditional farm with chickens in the yard, cows in the pasture, and a big, red barn with hay in the loft. And, while all of that still exists in one form or another all across the United States, modern barns have come a long way from the traditional farmer’s red barn we tend to picture.

Today, people from all walks of life are purchasing prefabricated barns to serve as multi-functional storage and utility buildings when a smaller shed or standard garage just isn’t adequate. They’re surprisingly inexpensive, functional buildings that are quick and simple to install and use. If you’re looking for a lot of storage space for tools, equipment, vehicles, or even livestock, a prefabricated barn could be a great choice.

What is a barn?

Traditionally, a barn is an agricultural building normally found on farms and ranches, for a variety of different purposes. In the U.S., “barn” usually refers to wooden structures that house livestock, (like cattle and horses), along with equipment, fodder, and often grain. As a result, the word is often qualified with specific purposes, such as tobacco barn, dairy barn, sheep barn, or potato barn. In more modern times, barns are used for general equipment storage, as a covered workplace, and for other activities that are better done out of the weather.

Here’s an interesting note regarding the origin of the word based on the Oxford English Dictionary:

“The word barn comes from the Old English bere, for barley (or grain in general), and aern, for a storage place—thus, a storehouse for barley. Another word for ‘barn’ in Old English was beretun, “barley enclosure” (from tun: ‘enclosure,’ ‘house’, or beretun (barton), also meaning a threshing floor. In historical times, the barn was to be distinguished from the granary, which was used to store threshed grain or cut off ears. Now, however, the common English name for a grain storage building is granary.”

While the traditional red, wooden barn is still alive and well (and is still one of the most popular aesthetics available,) many variations in style, color, and material are now available in what has, more often than not, become a large storage building rather than an agricultural barn where grain or livestock are kept.

The history of barns

The following information is adapted from a comprehensive Wikipedia article:

The basic structure and layout of the modern barn comes from the three-aisled medieval barn. The three-aisled barn, common in medieval Europe, originated in a 12th-century building tradition, also applied in gathering halls and churches. Over time, the layout and construction method was adopted by farmers and it gradually spread to simpler buildings in rural areas. Generally, the three-aisled barn had large entrance doors and a corridor loaded wagons could pass through. Various rooms, stalls, or lofts were constructed in the aisles on either side of the corridor to accommodate the needs of the owner, and were usually used for livestock or the food and supplies necessary to care for them.

Most old U.S. barns were built as log crib or timber frame structures, although stone barns were sometimes built in areas where stone was less expensive and more readily available. “In the mid to late 19th century in the U.S. barn framing methods began to shift away from traditional timber framing to “truss framed” or “plank framed” buildings. Truss or plank framed barns reduced the number of timbers instead using dimensional lumber for the rafters, joists, and sometimes the trusses. The joints began to become bolted or nailed instead of being mortised and tenoned. The inventor and patentee of the Jennings Barn claimed his design used less lumber, less work, less time, and less cost to build and were durable and provided more room for hay storage.”

Most modern barns are prefab steel buildings, although wood and aluminum are still popular as well.  As to why many U.S. barns – whether wood, aluminum, or steel – are red in color, we found this interesting explanation: “Many barns in the northern United States are painted barn red with a white trim. One possible reason for this is that ferric oxide, which is used to create red paint, was the cheapest and most readily available chemical for farmers in New England and nearby areas. Another possible reason is that ferric oxide acts as a preservative and so painting a barn with it would help to protect the structure.”

Why do you need a barn?

While you’re probably not a full-time farmer, the need for adequate outdoor storage is widespread across the country. If you’re just looking to park your car or RV under a roof so it’s out of the rain and snow, erecting a big barn on your property is probably unnecessary. A carport is more what you’re looking for, and they come in numerous shapes, sizes, and styles to choose from.

On the other hand, if your main concern is security – you want to make sure no one touches your 1977 Corvette – then a barn or garage is really your only reasonable choice. They’re completely enclosed, can be climate controlled, and can be locked up securely. Likewise, if you need to keep something of value completely protected from the elements, including temperature and humidity extremes, a carport won’t accomplish that for you. You will definitely want to consider a large storage shed, barn, or garage instead.

If you are actually doing any kind of farming, raising livestock, or storing a large volume of items, the sheer size of available prefabricated barns make them the best choice.

What are the different kinds of barns available?

There are countless variations available among prefab barns, but the basic barn design categories can be broken down as follows:

  1. Vertical barns
  2. Boxed eave barns

Both these basic styles are similar, and both are highly functional in their own way. An example of a vertical barn style includes a wide and high central storage barn with ample space for large vehicles or just about anything else you need to store, along with a lean-to-style structure on each side which can be used like an attached carport, or can be enclosed as a single bay garage or storage shed.

Boxed eave barns swap those features, offering a large open middle aisle similar to a very sturdy RV cover with an enclosed storage section/room on each side instead of the open carports available on the vertical style. Both are highly functional and good-looking styles that are available in many different sizes, colors, materials, and roof designs to accommodate your particular needs and aesthetic wishes.

To see all the different variations available in prefabricated barns, view our catalog!

How to choose the right barn

Choosing the right barn comes down to understanding what you want and need out of a prefabricated shelter or building. As noted above, if you’re just looking to protect your car or other items from the worst of the rain and snow, a carport will do that for you. It’s going to be less expensive than a barn and quicker to build. You just need to determine what size you need, then consider color, style, and materials based on your preferences.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a permanent shelter that’s going to offer complete protection from the elements, security for your possessions, and/or give you a place to indulge your woodworking hobby or even pass as living space in certain circumstances, what you’re describing is a storage shed, barn, or garage. The more space you need, the more likely you are to need a barn.

Should you order a DIY barn kit or hire a professional?

While it is possible to save a little money ordering a do-it-yourself barn kit off of Amazon and having it shipped to your house, we’ve found that a lot of homeowners underestimate the labor required to properly construct a quality barn. Additionally, the cost of shipping is probably going to be substantial, since the kit you receive is going to be very heavy.

In our professional opinion, your best option is to let a team of professionals handle delivery and installation of your new barn for you. And, that’s not just because CarportUS offers some of the best installation services in the nation, absolutely FREE with your purchase of any storage barn. It’s also because we’ve been to many properties over the years where the owners have gotten a DIY kit partially erected before throwing in the towel and calling for help. Or, they’ve completed a DIY kit, but then needed to call us in to install the replacement that they had to buy when their “project barn” collapsed.

To get a high-quality barn on your property that’s going to stand the test of time and function well for the price, you should really have a professional install it for you.

What to look for in a barn builder

The most important factor you’ll want to consider when searching for a barn builder is experience.

And, that’s not just a matter of how many years a given contractor has been putting up barns. Years of general experience is important, but experience with the particular barn kits and materials you’ve selected is even more important to ensuring the success of a project.

If you hire an installer who’s put up a hundred barns, but hand him a design or set of materials he’s never worked with before, he only has a slight advantage over your mailman or hairdresser when it comes to constructing that barn. There’s bound to be a lot of trial and error and he’s not going to be as fast or efficient as usual.

On the other hand, a contractor who’s put up a hundred barns identical to the one you’ve ordered is going to be able to hit the ground running and not look back. You’ll have the best quality construction in the quickest turnaround time, and that means the highest customer satisfaction rating possible.

What makes barn kits the best in the business? may be a relatively new website, but the professionals behind it have decades of experience selling, installing, and maintaining steel storage buildings across the country. That’s why you can be confident that any barn you purchase from is going to be the very highest quality, delivered safely and securely, and installed by experts with loads of experience.

Our prefabricated metal barns are rated to withstand winds up to 140 mph, and snow load up to 35 pounds per square foot. Additional leg bracing, upgraded anchors, and other optional enhancements can extend that level of stability even further.

All our barns are built with strong 14 gauge galvanized steel framing, 29 gauge metal roofing and  siding. Center structure has a 12’ eave height, 3’ braces, peak braces/trusses, and gables on front and rear. Lean-to’s have an 8’ eave height and 2’ braces, gables on front and rear. Units come with concrete or rebar anchors. Mobile home anchors are included ONLY on buildings 50’ and 54’ wide.

Our barns are available in sizes ranging from 21′ to 41′ wide, and from 30′ to 54′ long, accommodating essentially any storage needs you can imagine. Boxed eave, and vertical roof styles are available on all of our prefabricated barns, but standard roof style is not available.

If you find a barn in our catalog that you like, we’d be honored to deliver and install it ourselves at no extra charge. We’ve put up hundreds of metal barns all over the east coast, and we’re highly experienced with every kit we sell. Contact us to discuss your options is you have any questions at all.