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Can You Build a Barndominium in the City?

Like many people, you might have fallen in love with the idea of building a barndominium, but you may not be so crazy about settling in an isolated, rural area far away from the conveniences of a city.

While some people love the peace and solitude of homes way out in the country, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to keep your own self-built barndo in or around a city. Whether it’s required for your job or you don’t want to be too far away from friends and family, you may find it a little disconcerting when almost every picture of a barndo you see is set within miles of rural countryside.

So, Can You Build a Barndominium in the City?

Build a Barndominium in the City - steel frame

While barndominiums are exceedingly more popular in rural areas than in built-up cities, it’s entirely possible to build a barndominium in the city. 

Yes, building a barndominium in an urban area is generally more expensive than out in the sticks, and the building regulations you’ll have to adhere to can be more stringent. However, there are a number of ways where city barndos have a clear advantage over the typical rural set-up.

Let’s go over a few of the key advantages and drawbacks below…

Pros and Cons of Building a Barndominium in the City

Build a Barndominium in the City - Wooden frame


Utilities are Readily Available

The first big advantage of building a barndominium on a city plot is that hooking the property up with the utilities is going to be a breeze compared to more rural builds. With almost every city plot, sewage, electricity, and other amenities will have an access point as close as the nearest curb or alley.

If you’re building on a more rural plot, then you’ll have to install a septic system, a water purification system, and connect the home to your local power grid through the installation of power poles, all for a hefty fee.

Easy Access

Having a drive leading up to your land is essential for getting construction materials and contractors to the site. When building a barndo in a rugged, rural area, building a drive that’s suitable for heavy vehicles like concrete mixer trucks, excavators, and flatbeds can be a huge project in and of itself. Furthermore, your contractors are likely to be based in a nearby town or city, and if they have to travel a long way to reach your country barndominium site, you may incur extra charges to cover the cost of travel.

When building on a city plot, however, the roads are generally all there already, meaning there’s no need to lay down a truck-worthy drive, or pay to haul materials over long distances.


Build a Barndominium in the City - Pouring Concrete

Higher Costs

Buying a plot of land (or any other kind of property for that matter) in a city is almost always going to be much more expensive than in a sparsely-populated rural area of the country. This is a simple case of supply and demand. There’s less free land to go around in a densely built-up area, and the market will therefore have a higher average price point per square foot.

During your research phase, you may find that you’ll be able to build a much larger and more comfortable barndo out in the sticks than you could in the city for the exact same budget.

Building permits will generally cost more for projects in urban areas compared to rural builds for much the same reason, and often present more administrative hoops to jump through as well, which brings us onto our next point.

Abiding by Building Codes

By and large, building codes are going to be more stringent and restrictive in urban, metropolitan settlements compared to rural areas.

In a densely populated city, any building project is going to have more potential to affect people and organizations compared to an isolated plot in the country, so it follows that there’ll be more regulations to consider. 

Barndominiums, in particular, can be hard to get approval for, with some authorities even going as far as to ban barndominiums from the city limits!

When it comes to isolated plots in the country, there’s very little potential for a project to step on anyone’s toes, as it were. You’ll need to follow regulations regarding the minimum acreage and may have to seek out further permits for things like drilling wells or installing sewage. Still, when it comes to the home itself, you’d be hard-pressed to find a country plot that’s easier to build on compared to the majority of urban plots.

Special Considerations for Barndominiums

Build a Barndominium in the City - Finished Home

Seeing through any kind of self-build project is no cakewalk, whether in the city or the country. However, there are a couple of special considerations you’ll need to look into before you build a barndominium in the city…

Steel Regulations

As you may have already discovered, there’s a broad range of steel types, grades, and specifications that can be used for barndominiums. Wherever you’re planning to build yours, there’ll be minimum requirements stated in the local building codes that you’ll have to meet.

To quote the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA): “the IBC points designers to the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) for hot-rolled and built-up plate beams and columns and the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) for cold-formed steel members….Metal building system designs are required to comply with both the AISC and the AISI specifications.”

Climate Control

Another big stickler when it comes to building a barndominium is the climate control inherent in the construction. Because steel is an excellent heat conductor, your barndo will require special attention to ensure it’s in-line with guidance from the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in terms of habitable temperature and moisture control.

You’ll need to install proper insulation in your barndo to ensure it’s considered habitable by the relevant authorities. Unfortunately, there’s no one catch-all approach to insulating your barndominium, and the requirements will vary depending on your location and the details of the building.

To find out more, why not check out our handy guide to insulating a barndominium!

Wrapping Up…

Building a good barndominium is always a challenge, and it can be even more challenging when you’re building in a city. However, if you have the budget, and pay due diligence to the relevant building codes, there’s no reason why you can’t build a fine barndominium in a city you know and love!

If you’d like more support in building your barndominium, feel free to check out our Barndominiums Made Easy Program!