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Pole Barn Home vs Barndominium – Which Is the Better Home?

Compared to traditional homes, barndominiums are more affordable, durable, and versatile. However, some people do not like the idea of living in a steel building.

Pole Barn Home vs Barndominium

A pole barn home may provide an alternative to a standard barndominium. Both options share many features, including large frames with posts or columns spaced eight feet or more apart. The frame allows for a variety of layouts that are difficult to achieve with a traditional wood stud home.


The main differences include the material used for the frame and the method for securing the frame to the ground. These differences lead to a variety of advantages for each option. Before choosing the design for your new home, compare the pros and cons of building a pole barn home vs barndominium.

What Is a Barndominium?

The first barndominiums were pole barns with living quarters added. Some of these designs were built on steel frame barns while others were built on wood post-frame pole barns.

When people talk about barndominiums today, they are typically referring to steel-frame buildings. The frame consists of thick steel columns, which makes it easier to use large, open floor plans. The columns are often spaced 12 to 20 feet apart.

Barndominium open concept layout.
Columns mounted on concrete foundations.

Unlike a traditional wood stud home, the interior does not need load-bearing walls. The steel frame offers more than enough support for the roof beams and rafters. 

The columns are mounted to a concrete foundation. While many barndominiums have slab concrete foundations, you can also build a steel frame over a partial or full basement.

Barndominium metal siding and roofing.

The exterior walls are typically covered in metal siding or aluminum siding. Most barndominiums also have metal roofing.

What Is a Pole Barn Home?

A pole barn home is a residential property built using wood post-frame construction. Instead of steel columns, a pole barn home is built with wood posts that are anchored in the ground.

Wood frames
Wood posts use closer spacing.

The wood posts are typically spaced 8 to 12 feet apart. Wood frames tend to use closer spacing compared to steel frames, as the wood posts offer less support. However, the wood post-frame design remains more stable compared to a traditional wood stud frame.

As with a steel barndominium, a pole barn home can have open floor plans. The design possibilities are almost endless, as the post-frame eliminates the need for load-bearing walls.

Pole Barn Home vs Barndominium – Overview of the Benefits

Choosing between a pole barn home vs barndominium is not an easy decision. Both choices provide unique benefits, but it is easy to get overwhelmed when comparing the pros and cons.

Start by reviewing the benefits of building a steel barndominium:

  • Long-lasting frames
  • Greater protection
  • Fire resistance
  • Lower insurance costs
  • More design possibilities

These are just a few of the reasons to build a steel barndominium. However, you should also look at the potential advantages of a pole barn home:

  • Lower construction costs
  • Faster construction process
  • Pole barns are rust-resistant

Along with these benefits, both options provide advantages compared to building a traditional home with a wood stud frame. A stud frame typically consists of double 2x4s spaced about 16 inches apart.

The frame is anchored to a concrete foundation. However, to support the roof, the interior requires load-bearing walls. This limits the design options when choosing the floor plan.

Traditional homes also cost more to construct. Building a stud frame requires more labor compared to erecting a wood or steel post frame. The framing for interior walls and the placement of load-bearing walls also increases the cost.

Average home

The average home costs about $100 to $200 per square foot to build. A steel barndominium may cost $20 to $90 per square foot, depending on how much of the construction you handle without contractors. The cost of a pole barn home ranges between $15 and $35 per square foot but may cost more with finished interiors.

No matter if you choose a steel barndominium or a pole barn home, you are likely to save money compared to building a traditional home.

So, how do you decide between a pole barn and a steel building? Here is a closer look at the advantages offered by each choice.

Steel Buildings Last Longer

Steel barndominiums have durable steel frames that can last well over 100 years. Unlike wood, steel is not prone to rot. The main threat is corrosion, but there are ways to protect a barndominium from rust, such as proper insulation and using galvanized steel.

When building the steel frame, the columns are anchored to a concrete foundation. The steel frame does not shift as the ground settles. It remains fixed in place.

Steel Fame Home

Whether you build a traditional wood home or a pole barn home, the wood frame can shift. As the posts or studs shift, the drywall may crack. The overall structural integrity of the frame gradually weakens.

With proper maintenance, a wood frame can last over 100 years. However, most wood homes suffer from the ground settling and the natural degradation of the wood.

By preventing the frame of the house from shifting, a barndominium is less likely to suffer from the same wear and tear that wood homes suffer from.

Barndominiums Are More Stable

The stable steel structure of a barndominium offers superior protection against the elements. Strong winds and harmful weather are less likely to cause major damage to a steel building.

A steel frame can withstand stronger forces compared to wood frames. The typical steel building can withstand winds up to 170 mph. Tornadoes can produce wind speeds up to 110 mph but often travel at speeds between 20 and 30 mph.

Severe weather is always a concern when you live in a wood home. A tornado, debris from a storm, and heavy winds can cause moderate to severe damage to a wood frame.

As wind or debris hits the side of the house, wood posts or studs may splinter or crack. This may also increase the severity of shifting caused by the ground settling.

Barndominiums Are Fire Resistant

Steel frames are fire-resistant. Steel melts at a temperature of about 2,500-degrees Fahrenheit. Wood starts combusting at about 572-degrees Fahrenheit and turns to ash at 1,112-degrees. The heat from a typical house fire often reaches between 1,100 and 1,500 degrees.

While a fire may destroy portions of the exterior and interior of a steel barndominium, it is unlikely to destroy the frame. This reduces the risk of the structure collapsing, which could determine the difference between life and death during a severe fire.

If you choose to build a pole barn home, consider using fire retardant insulation. You can also use fire barrier paint to add a protective coating to exterior features.

Steel Protects Against Mold, Rot, and Pests

Rust is a concern with steel buildings, but it is a manageable problem. The threats to a wood frame are greater. The main threats to a wood home are pests, rot, and mold.

Termites can cause serious damage to a wood frame over a short period. A termite colony can weaken the structure of a home within a few months and destroy it within a year or two.

You do not need to worry about termites with a steel building. Termites search for wood, not steel. While rot and mold rarely pose serious risks to a steel barndominium, they can still appear.

Moisture caused by leaks may eventually penetrate the wall cavities, soaking the insulation and promoting mold growth. Interior leaks may slowly rot the wood frames used for interior walls.

Rot and mold are concerns for any type of building, but the risks are greater when you live in a wood home. Pools of water around the sides of the pole barn home can expose the wood posts to moisture, increasing the threat of wood rot and mold growth.

Rot or mold may damage the interior frames of a steel building. With a pole barn home, rot and mold can damage the interior or exterior. If the wood frame starts to rot, it may become inhabitable.

Insurance Costs Less for Steel Buildings

Many insurance providers still do not know how to treat steel barndominiums. You may occasionally find higher costs compared to insuring a traditional wood stud home. However, the insurance costs are still likely to be lower compared to a pole barn home.

Pole barn homes are not the most stable structures. There is an increased risk of damage from severe weather and accidents. These risks drive up the cost of insurance.

According to one review of insurance prices, insurance for a steel barndominium may cost up to 40% less than insuring a pole barn home.

Pole Barns Are Inexpensive to Build

After exploring the benefits of steel barndominiums, weigh the advantages of building a pole barn home. The first advantage is the cost. Pole barn homes are often less expensive to construct due to lower prices for material and less labor.

Materials typically cost about $15 to $25 per square foot. You may pay an additional $5 to $10 per square foot to hire professional labor.

Barndominiums cost close to $20 to $40 per square foot for materials. If you purchase the kit and complete most of the construction without contractors, you may spend less. However, you are still likely to spend more compared to building a pole barn home.

It is also possible to build a pole barn home without a foundation. Laying a foundation can cost between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the size and type. For example, a slab foundation may only cost several thousand dollars, but a full basement foundation will cost much more.

Pole Barn Homes Are Quick to Build

In rural areas, it is not uncommon to have a barn-raising party, allowing you to get the frame up in a single day. Even without the assistance of neighbors and friends, erecting a pole barn frame does not take long.

Pole barn homes are also typically quicker to build when the design does not include a foundation. If you decide to build a basement foundation for a steel barndominium, you may need to wait about two months before starting work on the frame.

Pole Barns Are Rust Resistant

Steel buildings are prone to rust when not properly protected from moisture. Rust is not a major concern when you build a wood home.

The nails, screws, and bolts used to build the wood frame may eventually rust if exposed to water. However, this is unlikely to create a serious problem or impact the structural integrity of the wood frame.

Which Type of Frame Should You Use?

Steel barndominiums come with a longer list of benefits compared to pole barn homes. Pole barn homes are often less expensive and quicker to build, as they do not require a concrete foundation. However, the advantages end there.

Keep in mind that pole barn homes are not always less expensive and quicker to build. The contractors that you hire, the materials that you use, and even your region can impact the total construction costs. You may also pay more for insurance.

While both options offer many benefits over a traditional wood stud home, steel barndominiums stand out due to their durability and efficiency.

Rust is not a threat to pole barn homes, but you do need to worry about pests, rot, and fires. A wood frame can slowly rot when exposed to moisture. Pests, such as termites, can also gradually destroy the structure.

Steel barndominiums offer protection against those threats. Termites cannot eat steel. Moisture may cause rust, but the potential damage is less severe compared to wood rot on a post-frame building.

The structural integrity of a steel building is also superior. If you live in an area that frequently experiences severe weather, you may prefer the security of a steel frame.

Conclusion – Pole Barn Home vs Barndominiums

In the end, you should choose the type of construction that meets your specific needs. If you dislike the idea of living in a steel building, consider building a pole barn home. You can still enjoy many benefits compared to building a traditional home.

If you want the most durable, long-lasting home, consider building a steel barndominium. Barndominiums can last longer than a lifetime and offer an endless selection of interior layouts and designs.

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