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How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 3

Category: Essential information July 1st, 2010 by mbc

Here I’ll consider the actual costs of converting your barn and making it habitable.

The Conversion
So we’ve safely purchased our pile of stone, slate and wood and it’s quietly decaying away in the corner of a farm-yard somewhere, how much will it cost to convert it to a place a person (rather than a pig) could live in?

When I started out on my project I shied away from those cost-per-square metre charts that building books such as The Housebuilder’s Bible Eighth Edition (8th Edition) and Building Your Own Home are so fond of. To my inexperienced mind averaging the cost of the roof, floors and other works across the whole of the building made very little sense. I preferred a schedule of works, with each individual item costed and an overall total. I could then grapple with these and manage the individual components. To be honest usually finding that when the bills came in I’d under-estimated so needed to juggle the books or put other things off until later.

I can now see the value of a per-square-metre costing as an additional tool in managing costs. A per-square-metre cost provides an easy rule of thumb to see just what you’re getting for your money – and perhaps question it. Let me try and explain…

A total cost is a big budget and directs you to the question how much money do I need and where can I find it? Your thinking becomes goal oriented, you look for ways to achieve that goal and value for money can quickly become neglected and your flexibility compromised in pursuit of your budgetary target (…and of course, if you can find the money somewhere you probably will and therefore your budget becomes an (upward) moving feast – a far from ideal way to manage your finances).

Per-square-metre costs make you ask different questions, both when looking at the project as a whole and also at parts of the project. It helps address the over-riding big question of is it worth paying that much per square metre? … when I could have a new build / self build / existing house for less? (We could be optimistic and say perhaps more but the one thing most convertors discover quite quickly is that conversion is one of the most expensive ways to get a place to live). Also helping with the smaller questions – when you think in terms of per-square-metre costs the effect of the £200sqm marble flooring on your budget is pretty obvious.

So whilst a total cost is essential and individual costing of scheduled items of work is necessary, I think the per-square-metre cost is a handy yard stick for day-to-day practical purposes and decision making.

Once my conversion is completed I’ll calculate my own per-square-metre cost and see how that comes out (gulp). (Don’t be surprised if I chicken out on that one).

There are many factors to bear in mind when considering costs. Not all conversion projects are created equal. There is a scale of complexity and costs with conversions, at the hard and more costly end those conversions that need under-pinning, a new roof, rebuilding of unsound walls, have no utilities on site etc. and at the easier (never easy) and less costly (never cheap) end those that are structurally sound, have a workable roof and pre-existing utilities etc.

scale of complexity

scale of complexity

Back to answering the question at hand, how much will it cost me to carry out the conversion:

You can’t really put an upper limit on costs, but I’ll chance my arm here and give a range of per-square-metre costs. I think as a minimum, for a project at the lower end of my ‘scale of complexity’, with decent finishes and materials, some work undertaken by the owner and no major headaches along the way, there’s a minimum per-square-metre cost of £800. Further along that scale you soon get in excess of £1000 and I’ll put a more complex project with better finishes at £1500, with the sky being the limit at the top end.

So, my neck on the line, per-square-metre cost, Summer 2010 is: £800 – £1500+ …and you need to add a further premium to that in the more expensive, southern parts of the UK.

In summary I think the cost of a barn conversion is currently (Summer 2010) going to break down, as a minimum, something like:

  • Barn with permission – £150,000 to £200,000.
  • Plans and planning (no architect, self project managed) – £3,000+
  • Conversion work – for 100 square meters – £80-100,000

So, in answer to:

I am thinking of buying a barn for myself … could [someone] give me a ballpark figure as to how much this is lik[e]ly to cost?

My answer is basically, £250,000+

Please feel free to agree, disagree or discuss further…

Previously>>
Part 1: the building, Part 2: architects & plans

If you enjoyed that post, then read these…

What is a U value?
Now often quoted in building or building part specification, a U-value is placed upon an assembly of components to rate how well that assemblage performs in terms of energy efficiency.

category: ‘Essential information

BREEAM ~ Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
The term BREEAM is one that I’ve come across in various contexts over the course of this project and thought I’d better find out what it means.

category: ‘Essential information

Environment for Children
I was invited to a talk by Christopher Day in Cardiff so thought I’d take a look at his work to see just what he was about.

tag: ‘advice

Posted in Essential information | 13 Comments » « Leave Yours
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13 Responses

  1. How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 1 | my barn conversion Says:

    […] Answer the burning question … how much does a barn conversion cost? (Pt 1 – the building, Pt 2 – architects & plans and Pt 3 – the conversion) […]

  2. How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 2 | my barn conversion Says:

    […] Answer the burning question … how much does a barn conversion cost? (Pt 1 – the building, Pt 2 – architects & plans and Pt 3 – the conversion) […]

  3. Tania Says:

    I wondered what would be the average time of conversion? Once the barn and land is bought, plans in place. How long before the place is habitable?

  4. mbc Says:

    In my case nearly three years and still going…

    But fear not – I don’t think I’m typical, I’ve not pushed progress and done a lot of time consuming stuff (like repointing) myself. So if you have the budget, a good builder, a relatively straight-forward conversion and a fair wind I reckon you could get habitable in 6 months or so.

  5. rhr Says:

    I am in the last throes of a 4 year project on a 300m2 sandstone and brick barn conversion in the northwest. The original buildings cost about £300K, and so far I’ve spent a further £250K on a total conversion, including new floors, roofs, dpc, insulation, wiring, plumbing, internal finishes, and some external works (paths, gates etc)to a reasonably high standard. Therefore £800/m2 seems about right.

  6. Harvey Blackshear Says:

    My wife and I have recently purchased 49 acres on which exist a 7 acre lake and a beautiful barn, half walled and open to one side. We are in the planning stages with two contractors on the plans to convert htis barn into a cozy, yet WOW factor cottage. We are sturggling to accommodate what we need with what we have. Our contractors neither have ever converted a barn and we do not find anyone i the area that has. Any suggestions are appreciated

  7. mbc Says:

    ‘We are sturggling to accommodate what we need with what we have’… do you mean financially or in terms of space (or some other constraint)?

    Where are you geographically? To me the key to a conversion is a suitably skilled & experienced builder – preferably local. Let us know where you are and we can see if there are any recommendations.

  8. rl Says:

    I have a cotswold threshing barn which with old cattle sheds either side has planning consent for 300 sq m. Being neither a filmstar or banker, funds are not open ended. Looking to ground source heating systems and solar cells. Guidance please?….there is plenty of landspace and a south to southwest aspect.

  9. mbc Says:

    Hi rl, thanks for the comment…

    Sounds like a great project – out of interest how hard is it to get planning permission for residential barn conversions in the Cotswolds? In Carmarthenshire there seems to be a blanket requirement to try and sell for at least two years for commercial / holiday cottage use at market rates prior to even applying for residential permission.

    Anyway, onto your project. My personal preference is to avoid heat pumps – too many variables and too high a potential cost for my liking – I’ve heard some horror stories (read the comments at the end of this post) – although many of those problems may well be a thing of the past as the technology has undoubtedly matured and the addition of PV panels is now more affordable and a potential method for mitigating risk of sky-high running costs (having said that, pump+PV is a £20k+ project). I’d definitely install solar thermal hot water panels (although in the middle of a gray winter that’s hard to say, I can’t say I’ve seen much action from mine in the last few months) to heat a thermal store and couple that with some additional inputs – a log / multifuel stove, some kind of biomass boiler (the new gasification boilers look interesting, although bear in mind those require a fuel source so some land is necessary unless you’ll buy all your fuel in), even an oil boiler if there are no further alternatives.

    Underfloor heating is a definite for me (although only on the ground floor) as great results can be achieved from relatively low temperature water (35-40 degrees C+) in comparison to traditional radiators.

    Insulation – the more the merrier. At my barn insulation is in line with building reg’s, in future I’d look to exceed reg’s – keep as much of the heat you generate as you can. I’m not a great fan of Passivhaus , but that’s a personal thing and plenty of people are great advocates of them – certainly worth forming your own opinion if you haven’t yet. Give the Code for Sustainable Homes a read as well, it’s a great primer and a (mostly) sensible standard.

    Probably too early to worry about finishes, but personal I (& I think most barns) favour natural materials for both aesthetic and practical reasons.

    Anyway, mind-dump over … please feel free to ask further questions…

  10. rl Says:

    Planning…it has taken 18 months to get where I want to be. The planners have been positive and helpful. I have taken my time and ensured drawings and technical specifications have been well considered (late night hour well considered)and I have not sought the impossible. Many barns of this kind have been converted in the area and mine is a good example of its kind. There are very few left.
    No I did not have to prove it is unsuitable for commercial use because the application is for a single dwelling only.
    I will respond to your other points another time. Thank you for your interest.

  11. The trouble with barn conversions | my barn conversion Says:

    […] PLANNING PERMISSION NB: This section is only applicable in certain parts of the country, my experience is in Carmarthenshire, other parts of the country do not have such restrictions. […]

  12. rl Says:

    I am looking to appoint a quantity surveyor to detail the planning and structural specifications before going out to quote.
    I have in mind that if I can find the right QS I will then get him to oversee the build. How much will such a person cost? I am not keen on introducing an architect for this.
    Views please.

  13. mbc Says:

    My understanding is that QS’s like architects usually charge a % of the build cost (don’t you just love that trick?) – I think something like 3% for full lifecycle involvement. I’ve not worked with a QS myself, I used a technician to draw up plans and a schedule of works for which I received quotes, then employed a builder for the major building work and PM’d the rest myself.

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