Barn remodel

Before and after photographs show a renovated farm building.

Renovation can often be a cost-effective solution to transform an outdated farm building into a structure that can meet an operation’s long-term needs.

Morton Buildings, which specializes in the design and construction of agricultural post-frame facilities, offers five recommendations to help farmers plan a successful remodeling project.

• Begin with a realistic assessment of the ultimate use of the structure.

“Considering the cost, determine if the remodeled building will fit into your overall operation by meeting immediate as well as long-term needs,” said Dan Nyberg, Morton Buildings training manager.

• If you’re planning to handle part of the work yourself, Nyberg said it’s a good idea to get a professional evaluation first.

“While nearly all farm operators have a broad range of experiences to draw from, identifying structural issues is really vital and may require professional help,” he added.

• For work you expect to perform yourself, versus using fully subcontracted labor, be realistic about the time it will take and the timeframe of the project.

“During the slower times of the year for field work, fitting in some renovation may be easy – but other times, hiring some help may be a better option,” he said.

• Ensure that every project estimate includes a clear and complete scope of work – what is included and what is not. For example, Nyberg said that while many contractors will install a unit heater, very few do the gas piping to supply it. It is a good idea to define who is doing the electric and gas connections in advance.

• Also, Nyberg said a buffer should be built into all cost estimates for issues that might surface after work begins.

“For example, the state of electric wiring behind wall finishes can result in significant additional costs when discovered in the middle of the project,” he said.

Prioritizing repairs

Nyberg said when repairs are needed, it’s important to prioritize. If the structural integrity for functionality of the building is in question – such as a broken column or large sliding door that won’t open – those issues should be addressed as soon as possible, he said.

On the other hand, if a structure just needs a facelift or fixing minor issues, he recommends carefully evaluating if an additional investment is a wise use of time and money.

“Be careful about putting hard-earned cash into a building that is simply too small, even if you feel it won’t cost too much,” he added. “Does the finished project actually work with your equipment now and in the future? That project may not be a good investment.”