As equestrians, we understand just how much time, energy, and financial resources go into building your dream barn.
A dream barn is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and project for many of our clients. That is why it is so crucial to work with the right individuals and companies to ensure the best barn build possible.
Any horse barn is built primarily by two parties including the client (yourself) and the barn builder. Although there will be many other individuals involved, the success of your barn will largely depend on your relationship with the builder.
In this article, we’d like to provide our experience in dispelling some myths, providing best practices to find the best barn builder, and sharing some tips.
The Different Types of Barn Contractors
In the world of “construction,” there are so many different types of construction help available to you. It can sometimes get rather confusing understanding the different titles and their capabilities. Here are common types of construction contractors:
- Handyman – A handyman is usually great for fixing and installing smaller items around your barn (or home) after the construction is complete.
- Framer – A framer is usually best for the skeleton structural parts of your barn (or home). The framer is usually not involved with the barn’s foundation nor the exterior or interior fixings. We see clients sometimes hire a framer to install exterior window and door components, but this can lead to confusions given the framer’s expertise.
- General Contractor (GC) & Builders – This is the last and final category of industry professionals for barn construction. They are also exactly who we recommend to hire for your new barn’s construction or even renovation. Both types of individuals will manage the construction of your barn from start to finish.
Finding the Right Contractor and Builder
In today’s world, one would think that it is easier to find a reliable contractor given the internet. That being said, we find the best way to find a high-quality builder is to use your own network. We recommend to ask your friends, family, coworkers, and even real estate agents for recommendations. Referrals are always a great way to find the right partner in your barn project.
Once you have a few referrals, we recommend to listen to their experiences before speaking with a contractor. Some questions to ask your colleagues:
- Which builder or contractor did they use for their project?
- What particular work did the contractor perform? (This question is key. It is key because a contractor could perform work on a high quality shed row barn, but lacks the experience in building a high quality enclosed center barn aisle. Hence, it is possible that a contractor is highly skilled at one type of build, but not so much in another build).
- What is the quality of their workmanship? (“Good” differs person to person. We always recommend to ask the client’s contractor for more references so you can see some of their work in-person).
- How was the communication before, during, and after the barn build? (Good communication will make your life 1,000x easier and help give you peace of mind)
- Did the contractor provide a timeline and stay on schedule?
- What was the payment structure of the build?
- Did the contractor provide suggestions on the build’s safety, materials, and other considerations? (A good contractor will provide their recommendations based on their experience)
Once you narrow down on a contractor, we recommend to have very honest and transparent conversations about the entire process. A barn can take anywhere from a month to half a year to build depending on the size, amenities, and labor availability. Below are some discussion points and questions to touch upon:
- Discuss the barn site’s location, topography, and climate. An experienced contractor will provide loads of suggestions based on your particular site to ensure that the barn is built for success.
- Discuss and understand the barn builder’s “lead time.” In today’s ever-competitive labor market, it is sometimes difficult for a barn builder to procure proper labor. This might translate to longer timetables to build your barn. Whether you have a small or large barn, it is crucial to understand your builder’s timetable and understand any potential variables that might delay your project.
- Understand the builder’s crew. It is good to ask the size of the contractor’s team and their experience. It is also beneficial to understand whether the contractor’s crew is their own or if they are using sub-contractors.
- Discuss how long will the builder stand behind his or her work. This is equivalent to a warranty. Like anything in construction, hiccups will occur. How will your builder react to those? Will he or she stand behind their work for years after the completion?
- Discuss your hopes and wishlist for the barn. This goes without saying, but it is best to do your research on your wishlist and share with your barn builder. Although a stall and barn door manufacturer (like American Stalls) will provide recommendations, your barn builder can also provide recommendations on your wishlist based on the agreed upon barn structure.
- Discuss Permits, Code Inspections, and Zoning Requirements. This line item has the ability to affect everything from timelines, your overall expenses for the build, and also affect certain things like the height of your ceilings.
Once you have decided on a barn builder or contractor, it is helpful to know that most barn builders have limited time and expertise when it comes to planning a barn that has all of the industry best practices. That is when it becomes also crucial to work with a high quality stall, door, window, and flooring supplier like American Stalls.
Once you have finalized your contractor, we always recommend clients to connect us with their builders, contractors, and architects. This way, we are able to provide our experience in working with many different types of equine facilities.
To summarize, it is so crucial to find the right people to do the job for you and your dream barn. The right group of people – barn builder, architects, and suppliers – can make the process that much more enjoyable. The right group of people can also ensure that your barn is built for long-term success.
Do you have any questions or need pointers for your new barn or renovation project? Feel free to contact us today at (855) 957-8255 or complete our inquiry form. Our American Stalls team is here to be a resource to help you build a barn that is elegant, safe, and built to last.