How to convert a barn –  8 things for success

Creating your dream home can be extremely exciting and very rewarding. One way to achieve something unique is to convert a barn. Converting a barn is big project, but with the right advice and guidance, careful planning, a respectful and creative design approach with sound financial budgeting, the outcomes can be awesome.

Start with a barn

If you already own one great, but if not, find one. There is a wealth of information available on the internet. What is a barn suitable for conversion? You may be surprised! Have an open mind, be creative and innovate.

If you have a chosen area this helps focus your search. A particularly effective way to find the right project is to appoint an estate agent, working for you to find the right opportunity and then negotiate the best terms for you. Depending on circumstances, through negotiation, there may the opportunity to purchase, subject to planning permission being obtained – speak to an estate agent to advise you.

Choose an architect

The early appointment of an architect as part of your team can aide your search considerably. Experienced experts are able to give valuable initial advice and guidance on chances of success, with an insight into possible challenges likely to be faced. Moreover, an architect can open your eyes to options with perhaps solutions which may not be immediately obvious. Having the right team in place from the start can save time, money and enable swift action when needed.


Finances are all-important, especially with building costs notoriously difficult to forecast when working with barns and indeed when converting any older buildings. A realistic approach and good financial planning are essential. There is nothing to be gained (and potential much to lose) by being over-optimistic, ill-informed, or by simply guessing key costs. The actual expenditure needed will always become a reality in due course, so good, reliable information is essential to ensure good financial planning, and for you to manage risk and make informed decisions.


Ensure that you are aware of your position regarding VAT. There may be opportunities to reduce the costs, with builders only charging 5%. Take professional advice on HMRC’s guidance at VAT Notice 708.

Planning permission

This is a key stage, upon which the whole project depends. The considerations are numerous, as are potential opportunities. Often doing the straightforward and obvious may be easier, but is it the best route or result? Explore options! Creative and innovative thinking can create some dramatic results and very often not breaking the budget. Is the property listed, or in a conservation area? Is the building structurally sound as a basis to work with? Does the building quality for a Class Q application? What information and specialist reports will the local authority require? The application will need a comprehensive approach. What design is best and will be approved? Choice of materials? The more you think about it, the more there is to consider – an architect is the go-to professional to guide you through these challenges.


Sustainable building design is as important when undertaking a conversion, as it is in a new build. However, the best solutions are probably less easy to identify or incorporate. The objective to be energy efficient, with low running costs are the same, whatever the project. Decisions made now will affect the building and its occupiers for many years. 


Assembling the right team includes appointing the right builders. Using specialists who have significant experience of working with older buildings can make all the difference, reducing stress, saving time and money, and ensure the best results. Quality specifications, attention to detail and those finishing touches can make all the difference.

Experienced architects very often work with a variety of builders and can introduce an appropriate selection of suitable builders to be part of your considerations and ensure good workmanship and competitive prices are obtained.


There is much to consider and when converting a building, discoveries will be made, raising challenges previously unforeseen. Conversions are complex, requiring numerous trades to be organised to work together. Plan you work, things can’t be rushed, and be realistic; qood project planning and supervision is essential.

In reality there is so much more to consider. We admire ambition, but don’t be cavalier, ensure that you are informed when you make your decisions. The rewards for getting it right can be very exciting.

Our architectural team has considerable experience in all types of barn conversion, including planning and creative design, throughout the westcountry.

Talk to us about your project. 01271 377 776.