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Working at home

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Well-placed windows offer light and beautiful views of the Oklahoma landscape for John and Tami Paul of Woodward. The television dish is the only hint someone other than horses reside in the structure. (Photo by Tami Paul.)

Farmers and ranchers can easily justify the cost of a new metal building over the cost of custom-built home. When they spend the majority of their time outside working, in their minds a metal building offers more return on the investment. A metal building offers room to work, store equipment and tools, and make repairs. They may even take shelter there during a thunderstorm until the rain lets up enough to make a run for the house.

Many people have shortened that run by putting a work area and home under one roof. These are generally metal buildings with built-in full-service living quarters, and a generous workspace or recreational space fills in the rest.

With options for radiant heat installed under concrete floors and residential levels of insulation there can be a comfortable place to make minor repairs to tractors and implements just outside your door. There would be no need to have tools taking up a drawer in the kitchen anymore either.

The comforts of home would just be a handful of steps away.

Apartments built in to these buildings don’t have to be bare bones. Full bathrooms and laundry facilities complement full kitchens and comfortable living areas. Tall sidewalls offer plenty of room for windows to enjoy the rural views or see that thunderstorm roll in that you don’t have to dodge anymore. For many reasons, these dwellings have become more popular in the last few years.

Whether you call them barndominiums, house sheds or shed houses, the end goal is the same—working at home is now easier.

For Mike Hynek, Guide Rock, Nebraska, many decisions about building a combined space were easy. Metal buildings are more cost efficient to build and adding an apartment within the building made more sense than constructing an additional, separate structure.

He was already constructing a new metal building on his property when a friend suggested he add an apartment to his plans.

“We have hunters come in from time to time,” Hynek said. “Having a place for them to stay made sense and was a lot less expensive than building a separate structure.”

Hynek’s building is 70 feet by 168 feet with 18-foot sidewalls. The apartment will be 20 feet by 40 feet and will offer three bedrooms on the second floor. A kitchen, bathroom, living room and laundry will make up the first floor.

“We had already ran water lines to the building for hydrants at both ends, so running plumbing for a bathroom wasn’t that far of a stretch,” Hynek said.

Radiant heat keeps the building itself warm and exhaust systems will keep equipment fumes from being a problem.

The living area, which is still under construction, will also have propane heating.

Hynek farms and he owns and operates Hynek Construction. While the apartment will be handy for recreation now, he sees it as a growth opportunity down the road.

“My operation may include a hired man in the future,” he said.

The apartment offers Hynek an edge in the hiring process as it could easily accommodate a young family.


Barndominiums might close the gap between home and work but still offer comfort and relaxation. (Photo by Tami Paul.)

Make your barndominium fit your needs

A barndominium doesn’t have to be big enough to park a combine; it can even be a two-car garage if that’s what the owner needs. Other barndominiums include more than just an apartment and a shed to repair equipment.

John and Tami Paul, Woodward, Oklahoma, have lived in their barndominium for almost four years. Their one-and-a-half story apartment features two bedrooms and one bath. The large shed space is big enough to house a 35-foot travel trailer, a 10-foot-by-20-foot office space, and two 12-foot-by-12-foot stalls with enough room leftover for a pool table and the occasional half-court basketball game. Included under the roof of the building is an enclosed tack area with eight doors leading to separate outdoor pens. This area gives the Pauls room to work with their ranch and show horses without worrying about the weather.

Weathering the storms

For those living and working on the High Plains, weather is always a factor when choosing building materials.

Much like the tale of the three little pigs, the quality of the building materials will influence a building’s longevity and cost of ownership. Choosing thinner or cheaper materials may look like a good way to save, but not when it comes to insuring a barndominium or any structure, says Mistie Long, sales manager, State Farm Insurance, Woodward, Oklahoma.

When considering sheet metal to use on the roof or sides, thicker is better and can reduce your current insurance costs as well as future repair costs.

Long used 26-gauge sheet metal as an example of good roofing material.

“Most of those are hail resistant,” she said, adding that an owner may see an insurance discount if that option is chosen.

Long points out that the exterior of a barndominium requires very little maintenance and it is important to check with your local insurance agent on any other discounts available.

Available space is another factor when it comes to insuring a barndominium. Long says to decide what percentage of the building will be used for living and what percentage will be used for working.

The amount of dedicated space for each should reflect the owner’s needs.

The owner’s needs should be met with any construction project, but barndominiums seem to fit the needs of more and more rural residents.

Jennifer Theurer can be reached at 620-227-1858 or

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