Building a home is an intricate process, and when it comes to constructing barndominiums, understanding the permitting process and building codes is crucial. Despite the seemingly daunting nature of this task, a proper understanding of the requirements and regulations can make the process smoother, safer, and more rewarding. This article aims to provide an in-depth guide on navigating permits and codes for barndominiums.

Understanding Building Permits and Codes

When embarking on the journey to build a barndominium, the first step is understanding the permits, inspections, and regulations that may come into play. These requirements vary significantly based on location, so it is essential to check with your local permitting office to understand what is required in your area.

Building permits are licenses issued by government agencies that allow individuals or companies to construct a building or structure. Typically, common permits needed for any new construction, including barndominiums, are building permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, mechanical permits, and more depending on your specific project and location.

Building codes, on the other hand, provide the minimum standards for safety, health, and general welfare. They detail the requirements for design, construction, and materials. Barndominiums, like any building, must comply with these codes adopted in your local jurisdiction. Common codes include the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC). These codes cover many aspects like structural integrity, fire safety, energy efficiency, accessibility, and more. Key code considerations for barndominiums include roof snow load design, wind bracing, wall framing, insulation levels, and ventilation.

Special Permits and Requirements

In some cases, special permits may be needed. These can include permits for things like septic systems, wells, wetlands, shoreland, and more. These special permits are usually dependent on your site conditions.

For instance, if your property is located in a FEMA-mapped flood zone, you’ll need to comply with floodplain regulations. This can include the acquisition of elevation certificates. On the other hand, if your barndominium will be located in a wildfire hazard area, there may be requirements for non-combustible siding, roofing, and decking. Defensible space regulations will also apply.

Certain design and construction considerations like ADA and FHA design standards may apply for accessibility features like ramps, door widths, blocking in walls for grab bars, and more. This comes into play particularly if you are building a barndominium for commercial use or are renting out part of the building.

Construction and Design Considerations

When it comes to constructing a barndominium, there are several considerations to keep in mind. For metal building systems, for instance, the manufacturer will likely provide engineering for the structural framing. However, this design will still need to meet local codes.

Fire-rated construction may be required between the dwelling and garage, or between units in a duplex. This is an essential design consideration to keep in mind as it can impact the layout and design of your barndominium.

In northern climates, snow load design is crucial. Heavier snow loads may mean that trusses or rafters need to be spaced closer together. On coastal properties, design for high wind loads is critical. This may require enhanced tie-downs, straps, clips, and stronger garage doors.

Energy efficiency is another key consideration. Energy codes like the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) set efficiency standards for building envelopes, lighting, and HVAC systems. If you’re doing radiant heating in the slab, it’s essential to follow professional design for slab insulation and tubing layout to ensure proper performance.

The Permit Process

Getting permits early in the design process is recommended. This approach allows any changes to be incorporated before construction starts, saving time and potentially money down the line.

Inspections are required at certain stages, like before pouring concrete or closing up walls. Scheduling inspections in a timely manner keeps the project moving and can prevent delays in your construction timeline.

Using licensed and insured contractors is highly advised. It’s essential to verify licenses and pull permits before starting work. In some cases, specific work like electrical or plumbing usually needs to be done by licensed professionals.

Consulting with qualified professionals like engineers for structural design and septic designers for septic permits can ensure you’re meeting all necessary requirements and safety standards.

Local Regulations

Building codes and permit requirements can vary significantly by location. It’s important to check with your local county or city officials to understand what is required for your build.

Some counties have restrictions on secondary dwellings and minimum requirements for livable structures that may impact barndominium plans. For example, some only allow a secondary dwelling up to 40% the size of the primary house.

Zoning restrictions can also impact your barndominium build. These can include minimum parcel size, setbacks, and height requirements that affect the placement and design of your building. Agricultural zoning may have different rules than residential areas, and some counties require minimum setbacks from property lines, especially for metal buildings which are considered higher fire risks.

Some areas may require engineered plans approved by the county before issuing a building permit. This requirement can add to upfront costs but ensures that your building is designed to withstand the specific conditions of your area.

Permits often need to be displayed on site during construction, and regular inspections need to be scheduled to get final approval. Construction timeframes of 12 months or less are common, but the duration can vary based on the complexity of the build and local regulations.

Tips and Best Practices

Being knowledgeable about the local requirements and working closely with the permitting office can help streamline the process and avoid surprises down the road. Using a reputable designer familiar with local codes can help ensure permit drawings meet requirements the first time. DIY plans may need adjustments, so be prepared for potential changes.

Permit costs vary greatly by location and can be thousands of dollars depending on the scope of work. Complex builds typically require more permit fees, so be sure to factor these costs into your budget.

Permit rules can change over time, so staying updated with the county requirements is important, especially for longer building timelines. Even if you’ve built a barndominium in the past, don’t assume that the process and requirements haven’t changed.

Understanding that inspectors are there to ensure the safety and durability of your building can help foster a positive relationship. Following their guidance can prevent costly re-work down the line.

Remember, following all codes and permit steps helps ensure a safe structure and avoids fines for violations found later. Even with permits, unapproved deviations from codes can still result in orders to undo and correct the work.


In essence, building a barndominium requires a thorough understanding of permits, codes, and regulations which may vary significantly based on your location. With careful planning, a good understanding of the local requirements, and the guidance of qualified professionals, navigating the process can be straightforward.

Remember to initiate the permitting process early, adhere to the established building codes and regulations, and maintain open communication with local officials and inspectors. With these practices, you’re well on your way to constructing a barndominium that’s not only a dream come true but also safe and compliant with all necessary regulations.


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