We are just starting to do the research to build our own barn. We're looking for a 12-14 stall barn with all the necessary amenities (eventually, auto waterers in 12 of the stalls, wash rack, tack room, maybe small office) as well as the not so necessary amenities which we would worry about later.
We're not sure where to begin. What kind of structure (and pros and cons)? what sort of costs for the various structures.
For example, has anyone bought a barn kit from say, barn pros? What was your costs above the initial purchase?
For a barn that size, I would look for other larger (i.e. 10-25 stall) barns in your area and see who built theirs, and find out if they are happy with it and the experience they had. Ask them what they would do differently if they were building it today. Then I would start getting quotes.
I would think shipping would kill you on a prefab if it isn't manufactured close by, but I am not sure. I don't know where you are at either or if you are looking at insulating, steel or wood frame, post & beam, cement block, cement aisle, metal or wood siding, what kind of roof, how many windows, dutch doors on the outside, overhangs etc.--all things that make a difference in cost. I doubt anyone can really tell you cost without more info.
Your cheapest structure will probably be a pole barn. There are also some really good books on the different things to think about when designing a barn. But one of my favorite things to do is go look at barns. People are generally very welcoming if you call ahead and explain why you would like to visit. I've done it many times.
You don't say where you are. Since building a barn is a subset of real estate, the three major issues are "location, location, and location."
Drive around your local area and visit as many barns as you can. Look around, ask questions, pay attention to the answers.
Also, pay attention to the dominant styles. While you don't want to "mindlessly follow the crowd" if most places have a particular orientation or particular style of ventilation then note that. Ask why that might be.
Go to your local County Extension agent. They are a wealth of valuable information on stuff like this. They will also have plans available.
As for "barn kits" a lot depends on what you mean by that. As a general rule if you're going to do it yourself (and you have the necessary skills available) you can do your own "kit" and save a bunch of money. If your skill level is limited to putting together what somebody else designed and cut then perhaps the kit is a good idea.
Lots of variables, here. Advice from your County Agent is free (you already paid for it). Make use of it!
We built a barn a couple years ago and seriously considered the Barn Pros Barns. They are really nice and reasonably priced for a wood barn. Depending on where you live, your county/state requirements may need changes to the basic barn for engineering, fire requirements or whatever. There are several Barn Pros barns in our area and we visited them and liked them.
We went with a custom wood barn because we wanted a 16 foot center aisle. We designed it ourselves, playing with the layout, and took the drawings to a civil engineer to transcribe them into drawings the county would accept. Our contractor generated the elevations as part of the contract.
The BEST 2 things we did was a 16 foot aisle and a 12 foot porch across the front and down the side where the horses come out of their stalls (we only have stalls on one side). We looked at every barn in the area that we could get in to and asked lots of questions about what people liked and didn't like about their barns. Plus did an extensive search on COTH.
We just had a new barn built 1 1/2 years ago. Visited lots of barns of all sizes and asked What's the best thing about your barn? What would you do different? Show me the little details.
We had a fairly detailed design and our own drawings ready before we talked to the local barn guy. One important note: watch very, very closely every day, they will make mistakes. The biggest mistake on our barn was the failure to frame up and rough in pumbing BEFORE the concrete crew arrived. I'd been asking when this would occur and they waited until the concrete crew was onsite. As a result the sink did not have a drain and one guy measured from the inside of the 6x6 supports and the guy at the other end of the barn measured from the outside, making the concrete pad assymtrical and requiring more concrete be poured! Also, visit the construction after dark, the high contrast, black and white view is how I spotted the asymmetry before it was beyond adjustment.