The answer to the question of how long a barndominium lasts depends on two main factors.
Firstly – what is the barndominium made of?
And secondly – against what are we expecting it to last out?
The first question gives us some easy answers. A barndominium – a building based on a traditional barn, or converted from a traditional barn, where people, rather than crops or animals live – tends to be made of either one thing or another. There are mostly wooden barndominiums, and mostly steel ones.
If you have a mostly steel barndominium, you’re looking at a half-century, minimum, barring anything trying with excessive force to knock it down or tear it up.
If you have a mostly wooden barndominium, with regular maintenance against wood pests and wear and tear, you could be looking at 100 years or more. We won’t know for sure until barndominiums have been around that long, but experience with regular barns built on similar lines and with similar materials tells us to expect this sort of lifespan.
The second question is more vexed and vexing, demanding that we spin some reasonable disaster fantasies to see how well a barndominium is likely to fare against them.
First though, let’s deal with standard, non-disaster durability.
One piece of good news. The main reason people are choosing to build barndominiums in the 21st century is specifically because they’re durable in the everyday circumstances of life.
Migratory Americans have been building wooden houses, cabins, shacks, you name it, more or less since they became Americans. They are familiar with the hazards that can beset a wooden home – dry rot, damp, weather, woodworm, and more.
There are inherent weaknesses – but also inherent strengths – in building your barndominium out of wood. In terms of survival over time though, because there are multiple weak spots, wooden barndominiums look to be weaker.
That’s probably why more and more people are choosing to build their barndominiums out of steel. In terms of its durability, steel gives you:
- Resistance to most weather
- Less likelihood to burn down
- A really tough meal for most pests. Termites are relentless little critters, but they’re unlikely to stick around on a diet of steel
- Resistance to rot and damp
- Durability through the concrete floor that is common with steel barndominiums
- Strength through the poles and beams that generally support the whole barndominium structure
That right there is looking like a long-lasting home.
Before we get into disaster territory, let’s assess how both wood and steel barndominiums fare against the natural elements any home has to withstand.
- Wood is not naturally moisture resistant. That means if you get a lot of rain, a lot of it can find its way into the wooden timbers of your barndominium and weaken them. Yes, you can waterproof your wood, but firstly it costs more, and secondly, the application of lots of sealant makes the wood a relative fire hazard
- Strong winds and snowstorms should be no match for a solidly built wooden barndominium
- Pests are a problem. Termites, woodworm, fungus, and mildew all love to take their best shot at compromising the organic integrity of wood. Again, there are ways of combating these pests – but each battle you fight adds to the living costs of your wooden barndominium
- We mentioned that adding waterproofing can make your wooden structure a fire hazard. You can also make your wood fireproof – but that’s really going to cost you
- Steel is notoriously strong, so a steel structure should withstand most winds and most weather
- Steel buildings can and will burn in the right conditions. You’re intensely unlikely to encounter the right conditions or a high enough heat to make that happen though. Probably, in a heat that high, you’ll have…other things to worry about
- Steel is a naturally colder material than wood, so left untreated, you might conceivably freeze to death in your steel barndominium. With adequate insulation though, you should be safe and warm in there till Spring.
- Most steel structures that stand up will resist winds up to at least 120 Mph, and can also handle heavy snow – by being moisture-resistant, the steel simply sits there, trying, and usually succeeding in resisting the urge to buckle under the snow’s weight
- Moisture-resistance also means that the likes of rot, damp, fungus, and mildew are on a highway to nowhere with a steel barndominium.
So, when it comes to the natural world – steel barndominiums for the win!
Natural disasters are very adept at destroying natural resources. Resources like wood. We’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz, right?
For the most part, when disaster strikes, you’re going to want to be in a steel barndominium. Here’s why:
- Earthquakes: Steel barndominiums are engineered to endure seismic tremors up to level 4. Wooden ones – not so much
- Lightning: You might think steel barndominiums would attract more lightning than wooden ones. You would be wrong. Also, when they do get struck by lightning, they’re far less likely to burst into an inferno of flame, and far more likely to absorb and earth the energy
- Destructive winds like tornadoes: Steel is an interesting metal – among most modern construction materials, the one with the highest strength-to-weight ratio is steel. That means it’s your best defense against the likes of twisters
- Flooding: As mentioned earlier, steel barndominiums don’t let water in, so in areas of heavy rainfall and flooding, they’re a much safer bet than wooden buildings
- Wildfire: The burning point of wood is quite within the range of wildfires to hit, meaning if wildfires strike, your wooden barndominium has every chance of going up like a comfortable Roman Candle. To achieve the same effect with a steel barndominium, you’re probably looking at igniting a reasonable quantity of jet fuel.
So, overall, we can say that barndominiums have a standard lifespan of 50+ years if they're made of steel, and over 100 years if they’re made of wood – and maintained against all the things that are only too happy to eat your barndominium out from under you.
But in the event of extreme weather (which is more and more likely as climate change really begins to hurt us) or natural disaster, a steel barndominium has a much higher likelihood of surviving to see its half-century unscathed than a wooden one does.