What Is the Difference Between a Pole Barn and a Barndominium?

What Is the Difference Between a Pole Barn and a Barndominium
What Is the Difference Between a Pole Barn and a Barndominium

Are you considering a barndominium, but find that you might rather want a pole barn house instead? A pole barn is slightly different than a barndominium and may not be what you expected once your home is built. What is the difference between a pole barn and a barndominium, and how should you choose?

A barndominium is a metal building built on a concrete foundation, while a pole barn only needs poles to support it. While barndominiums come pre-cut and drilled, pole barn materials are cut and drilled at the site. Barndominiums are built from metal rather than wood, making it maintenance-free.

Choosing between a barndominium and a pole barn for your next home can be an exhausting and stressful process. Read on to find out the difference between each one and how to make your choice!

Barndominiums Need a Concrete Foundation

When you build a metal building, such as a barndominium, a concrete foundation must be poured first, giving the building a solid footing and stability. The support columns go into the concrete, rather than into the ground. It also provides a solid base to build your home without fear of termites or other bugs destroying it from the inside or outside.

Pole barns are built on the ground, with or without a cover or foundation. Depending on your purposes, you might look at laying a foundation before you begin construction. However, the difference is that the poles are buried deep in the ground before the foundation is poured. 

Pole Barn Foundations Have Holes for the Poles

The stability for pole barns comes from, you guessed it, poles in the ground. Once the holes are dug, the poles are buried, then the frame is built around them. Pole barns are built on the ground without any special concrete foundations. 

However, if you live in a climate with multiple freezing and thawing cycles, your concrete foundation is more apt to crack sooner than if you lived in a climate with moderate temperatures all year around. 

Homes made in this way rely on the posts to support the frame, rather than the walls, which leave you a blank slate to build whatever you desire. 

Barndominiums Are Pre-Cut and Drilled

When you buy a DIY barndominium kit, all the pieces come pre-cut and pre-drilled to make construction easier and quicker. All you need to do is follow the instructions that come with the kit and build it. A bare-bones DIY kit is also much less expensive than a traditionally built house. 

Pole barn pieces are made at the site, at the time of construction, if you use wood. The difference is seen in the time it takes from start to finish. Depending on your purpose for building a pole barn, a barndominium might go faster in the construction phase.

Pole Barn Frames Can Be Volatile

Because pole barns are anchored to poles in the ground, it tends to shift over time. When your home is built without a solid foundation, you may have problems later on due to this shifting. One way that you can prevent that is to lay a concrete foundation once the poles have been set in the ground. 

Another way to prevent your pole barn building’s shifting is to use a steel frame instead of wood. A steel frame is more rigid than wood and stands up to more weight, wind, and other weather conditions. 

Barndominiums, because they are made from steel and have a concrete foundation, do not shift very easily.

Barndominiums Are Virtually Maintenance Free

Metal buildings are less susceptible to rot and termites, while still looking good throughout many weather conditions. While pole barns are typically made with wood that can rot easily, barndominiums require little maintenance and can stay beautiful for many years. Steel buildings are sturdy and hold up to extreme weather conditions better than pole barns.

Pole barns don’t need to use wood for frames, and when steel is used in place of wood, pole barns become almost maintenance-free. However, when pole barns are built to house animals, wood is usually used because it can be cheaper than steel. 

If you want the easy setup of a pole barn and the low-maintenance feature of a barndominium, choose a steel frame and poles while filling the pole holes with concrete instead of dirt. 

Pole Barns Can Be a Fire Hazard

Because pole barns are usually made from wood, there is more chance it could be a total loss should there be a fire. Barndominiums do not have this same issue because the frame and siding are made from steel. Unless a fire starts in your kitchen or elsewhere inside a barndominium, they won’t go up in flames so easily.

Pole barns can potentially go up in flames should a fire happen somewhere inside or outside near the building, such as a bonfire, if you use wood to build the frame. 

Barndominiums Are More Expensive to Build

Barndominiums cost more to build due to the materials used, such as steel versus wood, and require a concrete foundation. 

Pole barns are usually constructed with wood and do not require a foundation. However, if you are building a house out of a pole barn, you will need a concrete slab foundation to protect against it shifting or against the elements. 

Compared with a traditionally-built home, a barndominium is less expensive to build. 

Pole Barns Are Usually Built to House Animals

Given how pole barns are built, most people use them to house animals like cows or horses, which means there is no need to lay a foundation. Pole barns are built on the bare ground compared with barndominiums, which are usually turned into luxury homes combined with a barn or workshop.

However, if you want to save money laying a concrete foundation, you could build a wood floor on top of a weatherproof covering. While this might not be an ideal situation in colder climates, it could be a decent option in moderate climates.

Which Should You Choose: A Pole Barn House or a Barndominium?

Now that you know how each building is built and how it stands up to weather conditions and the ground shifting. But how do you choose between the two options? 

  • First, consider your purpose. If you plan on building a house, or a workshop with a living space, then a barndominium might work for you. On the other hand, if your purpose includes a workshop space together with a place for animals, a pole barn might be more practical.
  • Second, consider your budget. Since barndominiums are more expensive to build than a pole barn, if your budget doesn’t quite cover a barndominium, think about building a pole barn. While pole barns are normally used for animals on farms, you could create a second story to build your home. 
  • Last, consider your other resources, including your construction abilities. While money is a resource, that’s not going to serve you when it comes to maintaining your structure. When you build a pole barn, it requires more maintenance to keep it in good condition. A barndominium requires much less maintenance, so if you don’t have decent “fix-it” skills, that might be a better choice for you.

Let’s take a closer look now at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of building. 

Advantages of a Barndominium

Barndominiums have several advantages over pole barns, including being free from rot and termites. 

  • Barndominiums don’t use trusses in the same way that pole barns or other buildings use them, so you get more usable space. Because of this, you have more space to build a loft or an upper level and spread out more.
  • Barndominiums are rust-free and are leak-proof due to the seamless construction. However, if the frame is not seamless, it can rust.
  • Barndominiums have rigid frames that will hold their shape for many years, even in the most extreme conditions, minus a hurricane. Even then, a steel-framed barndominium should stay standing throughout harsh weather conditions.
  • They have more design options with more than one level due to the all-steel construction’s strength.
  • Your home insurance rate could go down because of the low risk of fire or other damage.

Disadvantages of a Barndominium

While it may seem that a barndominium is perfect in every way, there are several disadvantages of a barndominium, including being expensive to build compared with a pole barn. Of course, if you use steel to build a pole barn, the cost of the two might work out to be equal.

  • Barndominiums are more expensive to build than a pole barn but less expensive than a traditionally built house. 
  • If you don’t know how to work with steel construction, you will need a professional contractor to build your home for you. But the instructions that come with a DIY kit will tell you how to put the building together, and if you can follow directions well, you should be able to put it together well with the help of a friend or two.
  • It will help if you lay a concrete foundation before building the barndominium. While this is an advantage in terms of protection from the elements and keeping the building straight and level for years to come, it can add quite a lot more money to the build’s cost.
  • Sometimes a steel building, when not constructed properly, can rust. To prevent that, make sure the frame is seamless and built tight to keep water from getting into the weak points. 

Advantages of a Pole Barn

After getting this far in the article, you’re probably wondering if building a pole barn is worth the trouble. Pole barn homes exist, and they are cheaper to build than a barndominium because it has fewer pieces to build. 

Sometimes, however, wood is more expensive than steel. A pole barn constructed with wood can be more expensive than a steel barndominium.

  • Pole barns take less time to construct, depending on how many details you include. If you’re only building a shelter for animals, it could be up in a few days, ready for use. If you’re building a home, the shell can be up soon, but it will take more time to finish.
  • Pole barns are less expensive to build than a barndominium. Unless, of course, you use steel rather than wood to construct it. 
  • The site preparation can be easier, depending on whether you add a foundation or not. If you need a foundation, then you need to prepare the site and make it more level.

Disadvantages of a Pole Barn

Throughout this article, you’ve seen how pole barns stack up to barndominiums in construction, maintenance, and safety. And it’s true–pole barns do have some disadvantages that you need to be aware of, but they’re not reasons to not choose a pole barn for your next home. It just means you need to do some extra work to make them work for you.

  • Pole barns shift more often as the poles move with the ground during each season. 
  • Pole barns require more maintenance, especially if it is constructed with wood rather than steel.
  • Pole barns built with wood also tend to rot and are more susceptible to termites. 
  • When you build a pole barn with wood, it comes with a higher insurance rate due to the higher fire risk. 


A pole barn and a barndominium are very similar, yet very different. Both pole barns and barndominiums can be made into homes, and both can be made from steel if that is what you wish. But a pole barn house will cost more to build if you use steel. 

Barndominiums and pole barns are trending because of how simple they are to maintain and how customizable they are. You can create a workshop in part of the home while building a modest living space in the other space. Or you could build a “Bed and Breakfast” and turn the entire building into glamorous rooms and a state-of-the-art kitchen and dining space.