Barn conversions – where to start

Many of us dream of transforming a former farm building into our own home, jam-packed with character and a beautiful, unique space.

Converting a barn may seem the most wonderful opportunity and yes, the end result is almost always spectacular, but it usually comes with a number of challenges along the way.

Here are a few tips to help you find the right property to draw out its full potential:-


Finding a barn for conversion

This is much easier said than done. Potential agricultural buildings suitable for conversion are often as rare as hen’s teeth.

If you know the area where you’d like to live, contact your local estate agents – but be clear on your requirements as they may push you towards a finished home rather than a development opportunity.

General property websites such as Rightmove or Zoopla may have some opportunities and there are some specialized search platforms such as Barns etc or Renovate Alerts.

Otherwise ask around, especially friends, relatives or contacts in rural areas or close to where you’re looking to live who may know of opportunities locally. They may have even seen buildings in passing that owners may not have even thought about selling for such purposes.


Arranging finance

With a conversion project, you may need support throughout key phases of the works so therefore, so a standard mortgage may not suit. You can find more bespoke mortgage offerings to suit your project such as a stage payment self-build mortgage. We would advise you to speak to a credible financial advisor to seek the options available.

Note that the value of a barn immediately increases with planning approval to convert it to residential, and then again once the conversion works are complete. This should be taken into account when considering the financing of the project.


Get a survey

It’s important to have the structure’s stability checked out by a structural engineer or surveyor to ensure that it’s suitable for your requirements. An architect can help you arrange this.


Planning permission

You can apply to confirm your Permitted Development Rights for a change of use of an agricultural building to residential through your local planning department, which is known as a Prior Approval or Class Q route. Plans and other supporting information have to accompany such an application.

Other things you need to consider as part of an application include contamination, noise impact, flood risk, any Tree Preservation orders (TPO), Bats, and vehicular access. Your planning department will assess if there are any challenges that affect changing the building from agricultural to residential.

Note that you have to use the original structure and it has to be capable of conversion – so you cannot usually knock it down and rebuild it.

This is often a far easier route than submitting a full planning application but can sometimes also be challenging.

There are also other routes to obtain the required planning approvals, depending upon where the agricultural building is located, its size, and its previous use for example.


Choosing a barn conversion designer 

Many might assume that there’s no need for an architect when the shell of your building is already in place.

Barn conversion projects are quite the opposite – you’ll need the creativity and experience of an architect to be able to maximise the potential of an agricultural building. These structures were never usually intended to be dwellings, so this help will be invaluable in making the project a success.

Here at Fibre, we’re naturally good at helping our clients achieve their dream barn conversion – we’ve had plenty of practice at it and we continue to innovate within our designs to regularly create fantastic new homes for them.