We could put on a show
May 16, 2007 6:44 PM   Subscribe

What should I do with my barn?

I might be buying a property in upstate New York which includes a house and a barn. I don't know what to do with the barn. The downstairs has old cow stuff (dairy equipment from the 60s) and the upstairs is the big, barny part. The roof has some minor leaks.

So what should I do with my barn?
posted by shothotbot to Home & Garden (22 answers total)
Clean it out and keep your collection of perfectly restored 1960s British cars in it.

Or turn it into a big place for having parties or other gatherings.

Or a concert venue for low-key folky shows.
posted by The World Famous at 6:59 PM on May 16, 2007

Keep the roof well maintained and leak free! Once a little water gets in, the old barns quickly rot and cave in.
posted by davey_darling at 6:59 PM on May 16, 2007

I've always dreamed of turning such a barn into a library.

I know someone who built a professional recording studio in his barn.
posted by metabrilliant at 7:02 PM on May 16, 2007

Seriously, though. Do you have enough money to turn it into a workshop (for whatever hobby floats your boat) cum guest house? That would be cool. I'll bring the beer.
posted by nax at 7:08 PM on May 16, 2007

Once you fix the roof if you have no use for it you might be able to rent it to someone with a mint collection of old cars.

Personally I'd convert the upper section to a guest house and use the bottom half for a automotive and woodworking shop.
posted by Mitheral at 7:08 PM on May 16, 2007

Welcome to your barn. I have a barn. I hope you love your barn. I have mixed feelings about mine, but one of them is love. The roof blew off in Hurricane Floyd and cost about 12K to replace. It was covered by insurance but I got into a tussle with some roofers who I had to take to court. I won the court case but they never paid. I'd send the sheriff after them but they live down the street and I'd be afraid they'd try to burn the place down with me in it.

My barn is 40x80 by about three stories tall. The roof does not leak. It is imperative that the roof not leak. I do have some pigeons and I am concerned about them. When I replaced the windows in the barn [just nailing up windows over open spaces, nothing fancy] some of the pigeons got trapped and it was a mess. Cleaning up pigeon shit requires wearing a respirator.

Hippies grew pot in my barn. Hippies left a VW bus husk in my barn that I had to pay someone to remove. It left sparks when it scraped its way out of the concrete floor. Part of my barn started to sink and I had to get it stabilized. The stabilization didn't totally "take" and I had to get it further stabilized to the tune of another few grand. It creaks in the wind. It's attached to the house and it makes the house creak I am a little afraid of it and totally in love with it at the same time.

I have been painting my barn for a decade. I got it partially re-sided which was expensive but worth it. People from town came by to say hello when I was residing/painting to say how happy they were that someone was keeping the place up.

I keep my tools in it, and some old furniture. There is a milking shed attached to it that I keep firewood in. The phone line to the house come through the barn and birds rest on it. This affects my dial-up speeds.

This is what people told me I should do with my barn when I asked this same question. I'm not sure what you should do with yours.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 PM on May 16, 2007 [4 favorites]

Start a cult. You can sacrifice goats in the barn.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:33 PM on May 16, 2007

Sell if for the wood, lots of sites on the Intraweb, for example: here and
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:57 PM on May 16, 2007

Some of the things my parents do with their barn:
  • park three cars, end-to-end
  • store out-of-season recreational equipment (small boats, sleds)
  • store firewood (lots of it; heating oil is expensive, but blowdowns on your property are free, so wood heat is very important in a drafty older house)
  • store all the bits and bobs that apartment-dwellers never get to keep around--pieces of once-and-future furniture, potentially-reusable cardboard boxes, etc.
  • park the tractor/mower/snowblower
  • park the trailer that hitches to the tractor for moving firewood around
  • mine fertilizer (the place was formerly a chicken barn, and old chicken manure is gooood fertilizer for your vegetable garden in the shelter of the south wall of the barn)
  • mount a weather vane on top of the cupola, because standing in the L dooryard of a traditional New England farm house doesn't allow you to tell by feel which way the wind is blowing
  • store trash in a raccoon-proof "trash room" before pickup day
  • give foolproof directions to the house ("It's the one on route X with the big barn" "Oh, that house! OK")
  • hold rainproof yard sales (getting rid of some of the aforementioned "bits and bobs")
The barn has also previously, but not currently, been used to:
  • house a small flock of chickens (they had a pulley-operated trapdoor that led to a fenced yard outside--rather cool) (the chickens, of course, were not the ones operating the pulley)
  • host children's birthday parties featuring pi├▒atas
  • entertain guests by taking them to the top floor, warning them of where the bad floorboards were along the way, and then showing them the view
  • provide an available-light photography studio for a moody teenaged daughter with a borrowed Pentax K-1000 (ahem)
In short, barns are the original multi-purpose buildings. If you have been living for some time in an apartment or a house with a small (if any) garage, I suggest that you just move in and give yourself two or three years with no particular plans for the barn. See what happens when you always have the option of saying "Oh, we could do/put/keep/raise that in the barn!"
posted by Orinda at 9:39 PM on May 16, 2007

Once you have those roof leaks taken care of, use the space available to you to build something really big inside. A boat, perhaps? Since you don't need to space for anything else, it can be one of those projects that you work on whenever you feel like it.
posted by ssg at 9:56 PM on May 16, 2007

Start a herd of miniature horses. Fix the leaky roof and store both horses and hay in the barn in the winter. Oodles of fun!
posted by po at 12:01 AM on May 17, 2007

Recording studio
posted by chillmost at 1:06 AM on May 17, 2007

Well I know what I'd do. Live out all my pack-rat fantasies. Pile it high with lots of unbelievable crap that my children and their children have to clean out when I die.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:01 AM on May 17, 2007

I live in mine. The woman who we bought it from started turning it into a house, and we are continuing the process. Sounds like you already got a house, though.

If the roof and the frame are good, you can divide it up any way you want. Ours has 4 levels- the bottom has not changed much since the cows moved out.

My neighbor across the street has 3 levels. Basement stores all kind of boats over the winter. The ground floor is a major woodworking shop. Top floor he put down heavy plywood for a dance floor. There are square dances 3-4 times a year, plus the disco party on his birthday(last Saturday).
posted by MtDewd at 5:09 AM on May 17, 2007

Man... Now I want a barn.
posted by onhazier at 5:22 AM on May 17, 2007

Do any nearby youth groups need a place to host activities or meetings? Once your place is fixed up a little it could be a lifesaver to them.
posted by hermitosis at 5:41 AM on May 17, 2007

My fiance's family occasionally books a barn that was turned into a very cool group bed and breakfast for get-togethers. It is a fantastic way to use all that space. I'm sure if you were curious, you could contact the owners of the linked B&B and ask how they did it and they would be happy to oblige.
posted by bristolcat at 6:03 AM on May 17, 2007

give foolproof directions to the house

... by painting a whole side of it, or the whole damn thing, in a nifty and amazing way. Patterns or stripes or fake "Visit Rock City" billboard. Or a flag, if that floats your boat.

me's envious of people who have barns
posted by scratch at 6:33 AM on May 17, 2007

give foolproof directions to the house

Oh, and my barn has an old painting of a cow on it.
In the official town booklet, the directions to the town clerk's office used to say 'go a half a mile past the barn with the cow on it.'

The town clerk's office has moved, but the cow's still there- now we dress her up for holidays.
posted by MtDewd at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2007

Mind you, if you want to use the barn for boat-building or youth group meetings or other activities that wouldn't require a full conversion but would carry on year-round, then you will have to take the seasons into account. In winter the barn will be cold; the classic solution is to (build, if necessary, and then) insulate one room and add some sort of heat source that won't burn the whole place down. In summer the barn may well become a gigantic oven, especially the upper floors; windows in the right places for cross-ventilation, good luck with the site's prevailing winds, and/or a couple large fans can help. (On the other hand, if the barn has a cellar sunk into the ground, it's probably nice and cool down there, though earthy-smelling and home to many a spider.)

This is not to scare you off from purchasing the property. I'm definitely pro-barn. Just want people to know what they're getting into.
posted by Orinda at 10:29 AM on May 17, 2007

Although I live in the burbs, I do own a 20' x 40' metal bldg behind the house. We call it the "garage-mahal." Only manly activities take place there, like darts, we play darts. A little game I like to call 420. I have a stereo, cable television, air compressor, bathroom, all of my tools and I still park my motorcycle in it. My wife and I keep out highend bikes in it and the kids bikes are stored there. Our parties usually involve the garage-mahal. When my wife and I looked at the house, she feel in love with the layout, kitchen opens to the main living area. So when entertaining, there is no wall between the kitchen and the living room. Me, I fell in love with the shop.
It's not a barn, but one can fantasize.
I will have a barn one day. If I can ever convince my wife to move to the country, I'll surely have a barn on the property in no time at all. You're very lucky.
Never gvive up the barn. I would trade a weeks worth of salary to go check out your barn
posted by winks007 at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2007

Paint a schizophrenic rant on the side in tiny letters.

Or, in all seriousness ... build an awesome home cinema inside it? By which I mean a separate shell inside with soundproofing and heating and everything.

Damn. Now I want a barn of my very own.
posted by tomble at 5:10 PM on May 17, 2007

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