Saturday, September 4, 2010

The barndo's back, baby!

We find is mildly hilarious that this little blog only gets real "traffic" on one particular post. A year or so ago I wrote a scientific description of the anatomy of a barndominium and a select group of folks seem to accidentally stumble upon us when doing their own research on this mysterious building concept. And by "select" I mean the type of person who is probably just as desperate as us to set up shop on a budget. Apparently, we are among the elite (crazy?) few willing to consider this option and, as such, have actually contributed to the paltry body of "literature" on the subject. Well. Isn't that something.

(Matilda stands in the background and dons her usual shock-and-awe expression)

See, once we lost our builder (the man who was one of the only who had built many of these structures in our area) and once we'd licked our wounds from the insults added to the injury of his disappearance, we pretty much gave up on the barndominium. My weeks long assault on the entire building community via email blast-like requests for bids revealed the truth about unconventional building methods. It's just not all that appealing to builders. After many (oh. so many) meetings with various companies and contractors, we heard a variety of reasons why our idea was stupid. It would "cost more" (truth: you can't beat the price of a pre-fab metal building for exterior materials. You just can't). It would "fall apart" (truth: A building made of steel beams and metal, secured into a several foot deep bed of concrete really, really isn't going anywhere. Really). It was "confusing" (truth: If you're confused then let's just shake hands and say goodbye right now).

It just wasn't something that anyone wanted to tackle. Weeks of these conversations, which usually culminated with my dramatic interpretation of how one actually builds a barndo (imagine my arm being the crane and my head being the roof), ended with Jer and I screaming "uncle." We give. Or we gave. We caved and agreed to the whole notion of a traditional (and pricier) stick frame construction but wrapped in metal as the exterior material. Hmph.

(A triumphant flower in the August heat)

In fact, we even signed some contracts, news I haven't shared yet because I'm confident it may still end badly. No building contracts but agreements to finally complete the design that our wayward architect did not. Agreements to refine the overly engineered foundation plan that our wayward foundation engineers (you know, the one's who threatened to put a lien on our property? The root of The Messiness? Oh, you didn't know because I didn't tell you? Well there you have it) did not complete. We found a builder who gave me warm fuzzies mostly because he has yet to slobber on and on about all of his past work and continues to find the prospect of our project interesting. And even he scratched his head over the barndo, considered it, thought it was tricky, and talked me into the conventional build. Until yesterday. Yesterday he called to explain that he too had done some research, spoken to metal builders, other general contractors and the like and that he wanted to move forward with a, (he giggled when he said it), "barndominium."

Don't go throwing me a pre-fab metal building party just yet. All this means is that we'll move forward with pricing this option. So it's likely we may end up with something else. And at this point, not a single thing would surprise me. But when it's all said and done, hopefully it will be shelter enough. Barndo or no, metal or wood.

(Boo tries desperately to come home with us and live the posh life of a suburban donkey.)


John said...

Perhaps you have already pursued this avenue but what about Mueller Steel buildings? They seem to be very comfortable designing and creating steel buildings as homes. And plus, their Texans! They may have already done a Barndominium before, hell, they may have a whole line of Barndominiums to choose from.

jennakl said...

Yes! We've definitely considered Mueller and still may end up using their products but they don't actually construct the building which is where we run into problems :) I think a lot of people around here use their products and buy the kits from them and then have a builder put it together. The real trouble is finding a GC who wants to oversee this project from start to finish. Since it's raw land we've got to find someone who can start with getting electric and roads set up all the way down to handing over the keys. We've got it narrowed down to a nice group - it's only taken a year. UGH! Thank you for the advice tho - and keep it coming! I really wish I'd done my Americorps service in Habitat like you!

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to get a GC to JUST handle getting the site prepped? Then maybe a builder who could put the kit together (I'm assuming they come with instructions)? heck, I don't know if that's even possible but I admire anyone with a Dream and the gumption to pursue it in the face of Messiness (and here's hoping all THAT melts away soon)!

jennakl said...

Good ideas but the problem is that we need a GC only for the foundation (foundation is a HUGE issue here - not a simple little slab to pour), then someone to put up the building, then someone to actually build the house inside. We've explored absolutely every option over the past year and are definitely getting one GC to oversee the whole thing.

keith brawley said...

You just haven't talked to the right one yet!
That's Us!
Brawley Construction Systems
You can checkout our website (still underconstruction)
A client we're working with sent me this blog.
We didn't coin the phrase but we own the domain name.
We have built several...have references...and portfolios we could show you.
You can email us

jennakl said...

Keith - thanks for contacting us! Imagine that, a builder writing TO US?!