The barn loft has long been a mainstay item when it comes to a convenient storage solution for hay and supplies when building a horse barn. The recent migration from small square bales to large or round bales in hay production has caused folks to revisit their ideas on whether to incorporate a loft space in a new barn design. Barn owners with existing loft space that has become redundant for hay storage needs, find themselves in a quandary as to what purpose it might serve in the future.
When building any new structure, it is always cheaper to build up versus out when it comes to construction costs per square foot. The barn loft can still serve a valuable purpose in equestrian lifestyle outside of the original hay storage purpose. Careful planning with some simple additions to the design, can provide a beautiful adjunct space useful in daily barn life. Here are a few ideas to consider for both a new design and as a renovation project that will enhance the horse barn loft and make it compatible with a variety of uses.
The barn loft can offer a community café/break room space for visitors and staff at a boarding facility; a temporary sleep space for breeding barn caregivers during long nights waiting on foals to arrive; a playroom for children; an office or studio; or a secure ancillary storage space for show equipment/clothing and tack or seasonal items such as blankets not in daily use. If heat and water are supplied to the loft, bathroom facilities may also be added.
Note: Many towns do not permit living spaces above a horse barn, due to fire and health hazards. Always consult your local authorities before embarking on the addition or renovation of a loft.
Easy Access Is Key
The provision of a full staircase from ground level to the loft space will make access for folks of all ages easiest, rather than a rung ladder attached to the interior aisle wall. Access can be located inside the barn, and it can also be incorporated from outside.
A door placed at the gable end(s) of the barn that opens onto a balcony space with an exterior staircase, and a loft height designed for standing room inside will offer maximum benefit for adult use. If the balcony is placed at the gable end that overlooks the entrance to the barn, it will automatically create the perfect welcome area below to greet barn guests replete with shade. On ground level the surface can be paved, chairs and planters set up and the area utilized for relaxation.
Fire safety is improved with two egress points made available, and fire extinguishers and all safety measures should be integrated into the renovation/design.
All loft access points should include a well-sealed door, to eliminate unwanted visitors such as vermin. Ideally all walls and floors will be similarly sealed, to avoid draughts and odors permeating the space and deter birds and unwanted critters from gaining entry.
All electrical wires should be encased a protective conduit throughout the barn to prevent chewing or damage from vermin.
Ventilation and Light
The inclusion of windows and/or skylights will add passive airflow across the space. The lighter the space the bigger it will feel and the more pleasant it will be to use. Monitor barn designs offer the perfect solution for folks that love light filled spaces, as windows can be placed along the entire length of the loft on either side, with a kneewall below to prevent snow damage from the exterior in colder climes.
In hot climates commercial grade window fans may be installed, air-conditioner boxes provided in the walls, or windows and ceiling fans employed to garner a cooler space.
Heat and Insulation
Walls and ceilings that are efficiently sealed from rodent entry can be insulated to provide extra comfort during colder temperatures. If renovating a loft space be certain not to undermine the passive airflow design of an open soffit roof system or ridge vent.
There are many options on the market for heat sources. Eco-friendly solutions such as roof solar panels, plug-in appliances such as infrared heaters (expensive), radiant systems etc. are all options. Whatever method you choose, ensure it is safe for use in the interior environment. Open flames of any sort should never be used.
Be aware that the addition of a permanent heat supply to a loft can constitute it being considered a living space in certain States, and may subject it to zoning/building code regulations and permit requirements. Additional insurance may be required but it will add to the appraised value of the property at sale.
A loft can be converted into almost any type of living space, temporary or permanent as long as local zoning allows the purposes. The provision of running water can certainly enhance the use of the room.
Consider how pipes will be drained or protected during freezing weather, and how heated water will be supplied if required. The use of ‘Pex’ or plastic pipes can assuage many concerns in regard to temperature fluctuations.
Materials and Maintenance
Be aware that use of certain materials inside, such as green wood, may cause condensation ‘dripping’ until cured for 12 months or more. Carefully select all materials for appropriate use and choose low maintenance options whenever possible. This will save on repair costs and ensure longevity of the build.
The loft with a deck attached to at least one gable end of the building, will provide many hours of enjoyment for the horse barn owner to sit and enjoy the vantage point and view ‘all they survey.’ There is something truly wonderful about having a quiet space to sit and relax after a long day at the barn, with your dogs at your feet while you watch your horses contentedly munching grass in the pasture as the sun sets on the horizon.
Don’t be shy to ask your barn builder for suggestions as to customizations that can be made to any barn design, to maximize the use of your dollar spend on barn real estate.
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About Horizon Structures: One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.
All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –
Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.
Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.
For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
Photos are available on request.
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Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.