When it comes to creating a new home via renovation, a popular choice is to retrofit an older building, especially one that wasn’t originally used as a house. While this has been done to some fairly unique buildings such as churches and even old schools, the barn conversion continues to be a classic choice for someone looking for something slightly different. There are, of course, pros and cons to a project like this, and to help you with your decision-making, we’ve put together a list of things you should know before attempting this.
Locate A Barn
The first step of a barn conversion is to find an old barn to convert. This might seem obvious, but you have to remember that it’s not as easy as you might think. Most barns are already situated on owned land where individuals live, so buying the barn from them will naturally involve you buying up a significant portion of the land around the barn as well. Of course, there are plenty of people out there that consider selling, and there are many estate agents that will list these buildings for those that are interested in a project such as this. If you struggle to find one via an estate agent, however, you can also ask the local council in the area who may own some of these barns and the land around them too, and so it may be worth contacting them to see if they have anything available for sale.
Seek Planning Permission
You’ll need to get in touch with the planning department in your area to get permission before starting your conversion. This comes in the form of what is known as a “change of use”, which essentially gives you permission to convert a building into something it wasn’t originally intended to be. For example, this would also be done if you were changing an old factory into apartments or a church into a club. In some cases, especially for older properties, they can be listed buildings and may even be situated in a conservation area. In this case, it may be slightly more difficult to get permission; however, it’s not impossible. However, there will likely be restrictions on what you can and cannot change, so it’s important to discuss this with the relevant authorities.
Put Together A Plan
Any project like this, whether it’s a conversion of a structure that already exists, the creation of a brand new property, or simply the renovation of a home, requires a plan. This plan should contain everything you need to know about your project and should also be easy to follow for anyone else you’re bringing in to work on the conversion. It should include everything from materials required, as well as where you’ll source those materials, to the décor and timeframe of the project. Failing to create and follow an in-depth plan like this can lead to an increased chance of unexpected problems, and this can add a significant amount of delay.
Get Insurance For The Project
When undertaking a large project such as this, it’s easy to forget about the immense risks that there are to your finances. When working with old structures, there is an increased chance for damage, and therefore it’s important to know that you’re covered in this event. Building warranty, or more specifically, in this case, conversion warranty, is especially important, as it will be recognised by what is known as the Council of Mortgage Lenders and is accepted by other lenders that you might find on the high street. Without a warranty like this, it’s unlikely you’re going to source a loan for the project at all, as lenders want to make sure that their money is safe to be put into your project, even in the event of structural damage or other issues. You can find out more about building warranty at buildsafe.co.uk.
Consider Your Budget
This needs to take up a large amount of your planning, and that’s because, notoriously, construction projects often go over budget due to unforeseen circumstances. Many things can impact your budgets, such as hikes in material costs due to increased demand, a lack of available manpower for the job, injuries on-site, and even bad weather. These not only impact your funds but also create a delay for the project too. This is why it’s so important to be incredibly thorough with your budgeting and to also account for as many scenarios as you can that would increase the amount you need to spend during the conversion.
Decide On The New To Old Ratio
Choosing to convert an old building rather than build a new one is often because of the unique aesthetics. The older appearance of these buildings is often incredibly endearing and fascinating, and removing too many of them could ruin the entire appeal of the structure. Ultimately, it’s generally agreed that leaving the exterior as untouched as possible is ideal. Still, there are internal features that you may want to leave to preserve the authenticity of the building. Remember to follow any rules set out by authorities if the property is listed, and then proceed with a good idea in mind as to what you want to change and what you want to keep. You can also repair older features that are just too nice to get rid of but remember that even certain repairs may require permission too.
Think About Unique Features
When you’re converting an old property, the worst thing you could probably do is to essentially sterilise the property by removing the charm and unique features from it. Of course, the property is yours to do what you want within reason. With barn conversions, a common feature is the great natural light they can let in, with their walls being perfect for large windows. Barn conversions are great for creating large, open-plan spaces complete with balconies overlooking the house and unique layouts of furniture and rooms. Ultimately, you’ll want to have fun with this project and create something truly exciting. These large spaces function as somewhat of a blank slate, so use your creativity to combine the current features with new and fresh ones.