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Barn plan: Machine/Storage shed attached to barn?

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  • Barn plan: Machine/Storage shed attached to barn?

    I would appreciate some thoughts on this issue. DH and I are planning our next barn on our new(ish) property.

    We have reached an impasse. DH really really wants as much as possible under one roof. We both agree the arena should be attached to barn, short side of arena connected to one long side of the barn. He wants to also put a machine/storage shed lengthwise along the other side of the barn. We live in a cold windy climate and he thinks this will make life a lot easier for us in the winter. Also, we both work off the farm and all chores have to be done before or after work. The less steps we have to take, the better.

    I have reservations about this for two reasons.

    1) I will then have no outside windows in my barn at all. I wanted to have windows on at least one long wall of the barn. My current barn has windows that open (sliders with a metal grill covering them) and I really like that. I have boarded at barns with no windows and they are so dark and dank.

    2) Fire risk. I have already talked him out of having an attached hay shed. A machine shed is not as big a risk as a hay shed but still....there will a tractor in there, plugged in overnight so it starts in the morning. A vehicle or tractor might be idling in there for a short time. A friend of mine had a house fire when a damaged electrical cord (car plugged in overnight) started a fire in her attached garage.

    He still really wants an attached storage/machine shed.

    Before you answer, consider these three facts:

    1) My horses are rarely in during daylight hours. They are out from dawn to dusk barring blizzards or freezing rain.

    2) We have a very inhospitable climate. It is not uncommon that, between December and March, we will have -25 Celsius (-13F for you Yanks) for literally weeks at a time. It gets to you after a while.

    3) My husband does not ride and although he enjoys farm life and pitches in with horse chores...horses are not really his thing. He is, however, very supportive of his family's horse obsession. This barn and arena will be for me and my kid's horses and my micro breeding operation.

    Thoughts? Thanks in advance for reading this novella....

  • #2
    I wouldn't do it. As you stated, the fire risk and no windows.


    • #3
      An acquaintance of mine has a garage/shop, barn, and indoor all under one roof. It works for them. Let's see if I can describe the configuration...

      The indoor arena/shop is a large, long rectangle. About 2/3 of it is a regulation-size large dressage arena (20m x 60m). The other third, continuing in length, is the garage/shop area. Between the two is about 20-30 ft of length that houses, on the left, open space with a large sliding door that goes through to the shop area, and, on the right, an office/viewing room and a bathroom/shower/laundry area that is between the arena and the shop area.

      A short end of the rectangular horse barn is connected to the indoor at half the length of the dressage arena (at B).

      While all the areas are under one roof, the horses are separate from the garage/shop area, and there is a bit of a buffer between the arena and the garage/shop as well. Plus, the other short end of the barn is open to the great outdoors and the length of the barn has horses' stalls open to individual paddocks on either side, so there is plenty of light.

      Clear as mud??
      "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch


      • #4
        I would be an added expense but you could clerestory the division between the shop and the barn, that is, have a two or three foot tall break in the roof with windows or panels. There's some negatives with this and some positives. If you orient the windows facing south with a big enough eave you can capitalize on solar gain in the winter and reduce your lighting bill, but if the ray of light comng in through the windows makes spooky shining things out of your dust or is blinding that's not so good.
        My dad had a machine/storage shop attached to the end of the house and we lived there maybe twenty years with no issues, BUT, things have changed nowadays and your insurance might see otherwise. I'd put it on the side with a concrete block wall or a fire rated wall - again going to add to the cost- fewer steps and a happy DH though.
        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
        Incredible Invisible


        • #5
          The Farm Fire Safety clinic, 2 days!, that I attended really stressed keeping machinery in a building AWAY from the horse barn. Machines included golf-carts, tractors, trucks, ATVs, anything fueled by gas or electricity. Speaker was a professional Firefighter, had seen MANY fires started by these various machines in the barns over his lifetime career.

          Keeping powered machinery in a building apart reduced the dirt problem horses cause with dust, reduced the fuels of hay, sawdust, that fuel leaks, plug in heaters, hot exhaust systems when parked, had to start fires with. Locally we have had several barn fires, not even horse barns, started when parked vehicle was left plugged in to keep heater working overnight in the cold. Barn was a total loss, machines lost too. Some livestock lost which were in the barns.

          Few people are attentive enough to constantly keep a barn absolutely clean of dirt, hay chaff, bedding bits that happen in horse barn. Then you park the vehicle with hot exhaust system above the fuel, and expect no problems??

          His best recommendation is a building just for machines, cement floor, built away from any barns with horse supplies inside. Most horse barns are fire traps with clogged aisle, scattered bits of dried fuel everywhere, stored hay.

          You may get an insurance break if machine shop is kept away from other buildings. Sorry about having to walk between buildings, just is safer from all fire studies.

          Fuel for all the machines should actually be kept in a WELL MARKED small building away from any other building. This would include gasoline, diesel, oil, flammable materials that would be dangerous in a building fire. Possibly explosive for any firefighters entering the larger building during a fire.


          • #6
            It might be worth a chat with your insurance agent. We found the savings over time in our insurance rates by not having hay stored in the barn went a long way toward covering the costs of building a hay storage shed. If there is significant savings in having them separate it might help the DH see your side of things...


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by subk View Post
              It might be worth a chat with your insurance agent. We found the savings over time in our insurance rates by not having hay stored in the barn went a long way toward covering the costs of building a hay storage shed. If there is significant savings in having them separate it might help the DH see your side of things...
              Good idea. We are in agreement on the stand alone hay shed but the machine shed is still an issue. At this point I have relented insofar as we are talking about attaching a short end of the storage shed to the arena. He has agreed to increased fire measures like use of a fire wall and flame resistent materials for the machine shed. The extra cost of that vs potential insurance savings might help my argument.


              • #8
                Hmm, after reading the post on the forum by the firefighter I feel bad about my response, but here it goes.

                I also live in an extremely inhospitable climate and am designing a new barn.
                We, like your husband, really wanted to try to have everything under one structure. The reasons for this being threefold...first, the climate makes trekking around the property miserable at times. Second, our municipality may not approve more outbuildings since building the barn/arena is already pushing that envelope somewhat and third, cost.
                Our goals in design were ease of maintenance, ease of horse care and comfortable riding environment.

                We have decided on the following:
                Attached barn and arena in L shape. Arms of L are almost the same length. Arena oriented E/W, barn will make other arm of L on west end of arena, oriented N/S. What this does is create a completely sheltered area in the 'lee' of the L. The inside corner receives shelter from the NW wind (dominant direction here) as well as plenty of sun from the S. We are also having a ground level suite on south end of barn, which is why it's so long.

                To solve the tractor/hay/bedding storage problem, we are adding a roof all along one side (south side) of arena, at a height below the arena windows. Also, the main arena roof will be single pitch away from the inside area (to north) so water and snow will shed away from our work area.

                This saves the money of building a separate building as the roof will be cheap, plus provides open air but very sheltered and dry storage for tractor, hay and bedding. We also plan on storing tractor in the barn during extreme weather, in a space along one side where the large overhead door will be. This is very common here but I understand not a favorite choice. The overhead door will be on the east side of barn, facing into our sheltered area.
                The best part about this is all turn-out will be done out this side of the barn, so when leading horses to pasture/paddock you will be in the wind break provided by the building.
                Both barn and arena will have many windows: All along south side of arena (above storage roof) and east side of barn. Plus barn will have windows in each stall (so square windows on west and east walls). Which I plan on having open in summer. Barn will also have single-pitch roof, angled to west, away from the sheltered inner corner area.

                I hope this description makes sense....

                Good luck!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                  Good idea. We are in agreement on the stand alone hay shed but the machine shed is still an issue. At this point I have relented insofar as we are talking about attaching a short end of the storage shed to the arena. He has agreed to increased fire measures like use of a fire wall and flame resistent materials for the machine shed. The extra cost of that vs potential insurance savings might help my argument.
                  I wouldn't be able to sleep at night with the machine shed attached


                  • #10
                    This is so interesting Tasia, because virtually every facility in my area stores their tractor in the barn or arena. It is so common it never occurred to me that it was considered dangerous, the only danger I have ever thought of is walking a horse past it and worrying that they will bang into the metal! Even barns with machine sheds still store their main everyday tractor or gator in the barn.

                    All have separate hay storage though. I am comfortable having hay stored open air next to the arena but I would not have a full stack fully enclosed in the arena or barn, although the antiquated idea of hay loft seems so practical!

                    This thread has been really interesting to me. Thanks for posting Mozart!


                    • #11
                      When I built my house, I didn't want an attached garage, because of the times you heard something in the garage caused the fire, many times the vehicle.

                      The builder told me there were probably more times something in a house catching fire than the few the garage was the culprit and he insisted the convenience was so great and the fire danger so small as to not be a consideration.

                      Ok, I have a house with a garage attached and the house has not caught on fire ... yet.

                      There are many more stories of hay catching barns on fire, we know that happens rather often, so yes, I would not store hay but in a hay only building.

                      As far as machinery, again, I would not know, but seems that most barn fires are caused by so much else than a tractor or 4 wheeler stored in there.

                      I would rather build so the barn is less apt to catch on fire than worry about the tractor stored in there.

                      I would build with other than wood, except maybe for the tackroom and store hay and bedding in a separate place, etc.

                      It is common sense that the more different buildings you have and well separated, the less chance than one catching on fire will burn them all and what is in there, people or horses.
                      Then, you spend a lifetime working there, going from building to building, or most under the same roof, those are decisions you have to make, see how risk adverse you are.

                      I still don't like the attached garage, it is scary to me, but it is immensely convenient, compared with the old one that was way on the other side of the yard a good 1000 feet away to carry household supplies or have to go put the vehicles up and walk back in bad weather.

                      I say, if you live where you have lots of bad weather, you may take more of the kinds of risk in how you build for convenience than where you don't have to fight the weather so much.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by winter View Post
                        This is so interesting Tasia, because virtually every facility in my area stores their tractor in the barn or arena. It is so common it never occurred to me that it was considered dangerous, the only danger I have ever thought of is walking a horse past it and worrying that they will bang into the metal! Even barns with machine sheds still store their main everyday tractor or gator in the barn.

                        All have separate hay storage though. I am comfortable having hay stored open air next to the arena but I would not have a full stack fully enclosed in the arena or barn, although the antiquated idea of hay loft seems so practical!

                        This thread has been really interesting to me. Thanks for posting Mozart!
                        I don't keep any kind of machinery/vehicle in my barn I don't even like leaving things plugged in. There was a good thread under off course about the causes of barn fires.


                        • #13
                          Very interesting information so far.

                          Like you, OP, I would simply not want a barn with no windows at all... horses aren't designed to live in caves. The light issue alone would deter me, but there is also the issue of ventilation to consider.

                          I would not previously have worried about the fire risk of an attached machine shed... but only a couple of months ago, my BO's home burned down, and it appears that the most likely culprit is the machinery that was housed in their garage, plugged in overnight. Once you see the devastation of something like that, you don't easily forget it.

                          Is there any way that the machine shed could be attached to the far side of your (attached) arena ... so that while it would all still be one structure, you would have the arena separating the shed from your barn space? That would allow you to still have windows on one long side of your barn, and if something in the machine shed did go awry... at least it would not be right on top of the stalls, and you'd have some time to evacuate the barn, and put the fire out before the horse area was involved.
                          We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                          • #14
                            I didn't have any choice, my barn and machine building are attached, and they were here when we got here.

                            I don't call it a machine shed, because it's probably the nicest, best-built building on the property (and I am including the house when I say that). It's super insulated, concrete floor, and the wiring (all through conduit) is good enough to run a small city!

                            Having said all that, it's all sort of "wasted" because it's attached to my little barn which has a dirt floor, not a lick of insulation, and wiring that, while safe, is barely minimal. When we installed heated water buckets, we had to run the service from the machine building service box, not the barn's.

                            If I could separate these two buildings, I would do so in a heartbeat! Dirt from the barn's dirt floor blows into the big, nice building and make it a mess. Also shavings and hay. There is a door between the two that I can close, but it doesn't help much. Plus, I need to leave it open in order to get any breeze or light into the little barn.

                            Before someone build the machine building, my little barn opened directly out into the big field. This would be oh-so-convenient, and I wish it was still set up that way.

                            My farm was originally a horse operation, and it has vestiges remaining of very good horse planning. But, between the first owners and me, there were several others who ripped out stalls, ripped out fencing, ripped out the hot-walker, and erected this behemoth building -- which I think was actually built to store an RV. <sigh>

                            Life is about compromise, but if you can convince DH to build a separate building for the machinery, I think you will be happier. I know I would be!


                            • #15
                              Personally, I would not attach the machine shed for two reasons

                              1. Many barn fires are caused by "electrical" issues some of which are pluggedin tractors or other vehicles. Maybe with a firewall, but I'd be uncomfortable.

                              2. My preference is a barn with two doors to each stall... a front to the aisle and a back to a turnout or shed roof. We lost one horse to a barn fire and had another badly injured in the same fire. They had big windows out the back of the stall, but no door. The fire came from the loft and down the front of the stalls and neither would leave through the burning door. Alex eventually decided to jump out the window, but Ned wouldn't leave.

                              We've since kept our horses in one door stalls for a while, but I MUCH prefer having a back door. I don't know if it would have helped, but at least it was a chance.

                              In a fire you probably have 15 minutes from an early detection to unsafe to be in the building.


                              • #16
                                I was training in a racing and hunter/jumper stable in a great big tall commercial building that worked wonderfully for the cold northern climate.

                                The sides of that building were easily over 20' and no telling how high the peak was.
                                Under that roof we had a 160'x100' indoor, a 60' round pen that had another wall 6' inside of the main wall, that was our Hitchcock pen to exercise and jump horses free, the inside then like a regular round pen and past that a completely enclosed and insulated area used for big farm tractors, big loaders and other farm equipment.
                                That was under the same roof, but enclosed away from the horse part.

                                On the one long side we had a whole row of 12'x12' 4'+ high concrete block stalls with wire mesh over that, a 14'? aisle, the lenght of the whole building, with rollup doors on each end a truck could drive thru and on the side butting the indoor, round pen and shop we had several more stalls, a 12'x24' tack room, fed room, cube room that a truck would dump alfalfa cubes in thru a roof trap door from outside, a lab room for medicines and AI work, wash/grooming rooms and a large space with stocks for vet and farrier work.

                                I would guess the whole building was a good 300' x 150'.

                                All the inside was insulated, concrete block or metal, very little wood other than lining the base of the walls in the indoor and round pen, so it was fairly fire proof.
                                Shavings were in a nearby open, roofed concrete three sided space trucks dumped them into and the manure spreader truck was on one side, under an overhang, where you could dump wheelbarrows or much buckets directly into the truck from above.

                                In blizzards, it was a dream to work in there, as light as daylight in there and not that cold, we didn't even know it was bad outside, training and breeding kept on without a worry.

                                Right by that big, huge metal building we had a whole row of "mare motel" type large runs under one long shed, but those were not in use in the coldest of the weather, we didn't breed that early.

                                Once the weather cleared, we had big outside rings with cross country, natural type jumps and also regular jumper ones also.

                                I don't know what their fire protection was, if sprinklers, alarms, but the way that was built, I would not be surprised if that was there, I didn't know to look for that then, so many years ago.

                                We raised beautiful alfalfa small squares by the semi truck load that were sold or used for the cow herd in the winter, but our horses were fed alfalfa cubes, so we didn't have a hay barn, just the cube room inside the barn.

                                I will say, it is best to build separate structures, at least 100' apart, better more, so they can get their equipment around them, that are the recommendations from fire departments.
                                We have a barn and built the house 140' from it, on their recommendation.

                                BUT, if you design it well, are very careful what materials you use in your barns and feel lucky, you can have it all under one roof and never have a problem.

                                In a way, I would say, "if in doubt, don't" has worked well for me.
                                Last edited by Bluey; Mar. 22, 2011, 04:04 PM. Reason: Changed building size, I think closer to what it was.


                                • #17
                                  Typically, when the tractor or other machine is in the barn it is not plugged in; as the reason it is inside, is that the inside is heated, so there is no need to plug it in. I don't see how this is more dangerous than any other electrical in the barn: Waterers, fans, heaters, fridge, kettle, general wiring....there are a lot of electrics in a barn.

                                  I always find it interesting how people from warmer climates suggest having attached runs, and outside doors on stalls. I would never do this. It is virtually impossible to keep an outside horse-type door (dutch or sliding) draft-free and snow free and at -40 it is just too cold to have a barn with that many places for cold air to seep in. That is why it is always preferable to have a 4' sealed door to take horses in-out for turnout rather than having to take them always through the big tractor door. Opening a large door many times/day just robs your barn of all of it's heat.

                                  If I lived somewhere warmer, I would love this though.

                                  PS, the building we are planning is metal, not wood.


                                  • #18
                                    My concern besides the tractor/ machine being plugged in, would be that someone puts the tractor etc in the building hot. I think there was a thread on here about a gator starting a fire right outside a barn. The muffler started the dry grass on fire. Just things to think about.


                                    • #19
                                      We bought our place already built, but it has worked well for us. The indoor arena is on one side of the barn on the end(making a fat L), there is a large door going outside, then next to it a smaller walk through door into the arena, then the machine storage area is on the far side separated by a 6 foot solid wall, but under the same roof. That way it is separate from the main barn, but all under one roof. Our arena is basically a large 60" square round pen with the aisle for storage next to it where we have the tractor, attachments for it and our riding mower. It has 2 doors opening out - on the end and side.