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Your must haves if you were building barn from scratch...based on what you know now!

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  • #41
    Just built a barn from scratch this past summer.

    Things I like:
    1. Heated nelson waterer
    2. Concrete slab for wash stall and tack/feed room
    3. Loft (I can easily store 200 bales plus miscellaneous other things. Helps insulate in winter. My horses are never locked in stalls so fire hazard is less of an issue for me).
    4. Smoke detector that will ring in the house
    5. More outlets than I thought I needed
    6. Individual bluestone paddocks off each stall (about 20m x 30m, roughly) which each open into grass turnouts. Very versatile. I have tons of gates so possibilities are nearly endless
    7. Very open - "L" shaped barn with overhang. Barn isn't completely enclosed. Horses wear heavy blankets with hoods in winter and do just fine.
    8.Bluestone paddock in front of barn which connects to driveway enables farrier/hay/vet direct access to barn in all weather and I can still use the space for turnout. Muck pit (12'x12', 3 walls with gate across front to keep horses out) is in corner of this paddock as far from barn as possible.

    Things I don't like

    1. While horses did fine this winter and through a hurricane, I'd like to get garage doors to be able to enclose barn more if necessary

    2. Hot water and heat in tack room. House is very close to barn so that's why we skipped these initially, but sure would be nice to have heated water for the horses (and tack cleaning!) in winter. I can heat buckets of water for how toweling, but can't do a real bath (which I didn't think I'd need until I got a horse with skin issues). Also have to bring my tack into the house for the winter. Financially, this is not a possibility unless I win the lottery, but if you can, do it.

    3. Make the barn as close to the house as possible. Mine is very close (30-40 yards away?) and still seems like a long way in the cold/dark/rain/etc.

    4. I have 2 horses and 2 stalls - and really only room for 2 horses on my 3 acres. However, I really wish I had a 3rd stall Probably good that I don't though!

    All in all, I've been in my new barn for all 4 seasons now and it is fine. My horses are happy and healthy, and I haven't run into any issues getting hay or muck removed. While some things could have been improved, given the budget we had I wouldn't have done much differently.


    • #42
      Absolute musts:
      1) A hot water heater
      2) a sink in the tack room that is deep enough to hold a 5 gallon bucket
      3) stone screenings as the base for our stalls and topped with rubber mats
      4) exterior doors for all the stalls that open to an overhang
      5) a concrete center aisle
      6) dedicated hay storage area (we added this later, but were able to accomplish by enclosing an area under our 12 foot overhang)
      7) more electrical outlets than you think you'll need
      8) industrial style ceiling fans in the center aisle and over each stall (we live in Texas where ventilation is really important in the summer)
      9) a toilet area in the tack room. This has proven handy for contractors plus our lone boarder
      10) exterior lights over both the front and back barn doors with a photo cell so they turn on and off automatically
      11) sufficient trailer turn around space
      12) a small paddock adjacent to the barn for horses who require limited turn out after an injury


      • #43
        I'm currently putting in a small barn at home for my retired guy and a few other retirees. Because they're just pets at this point, I have set up the barn to be quite simple.

        It's a 20' x 40' building. At one end is a storage room that is 10' wide and runs the width of the barn. Then there are three 10x12 stalls (longer rather than wider), and an 8'-wide covered aisle. Each stall has a separate run out, and each run out opens up onto a separate, slightly larger grass area. I also have additional grass turnout space separate from the barn.

        I set it up with the thought that I can easily take care of the horses, while also trying to give them as much access to grass as possible (hence the multiple grass areas to allow for rotation).

        This set-up helps because the horses (almost) always have access to their stalls, so when I can't get home during the day, they don't have to be locked inside (My non-horsey parents can feed lunch without having to really know anything). The 'other' grass areas I can use when 1) the main turnouts are getting eaten down, and 2) the weather looks good. If both are chewed up, say mid-August when it's dry and hot, the horses can simply stay in their stalls/run-outs, as they won't want to be out much anyways.

        The storage room is large enough that I can store enough hay for 4 months, and I have additional storage space in a shed about 20' away. It will hold my hay, shavings, grain, and some basic grooming/blankets/etc. supplies. For my three retirees (having known the horses for 5+ years and been the one caring for them), I won't need much grain or shavings. I chose to do dirt floors, at least for two of the horses, because they are older and dirt floors would be easier for them to get up and down. My guy who is younger and likes to paw is likely going to get mats, because he's a pain.

        A frost-free hydrant is a MUST. My dad tried to convince me that we could run a hose from the house... I laughed. The hydrant will be at the end of the aisle, and on the side of the barn towards the 'other' turnouts, so not a long trip to fill that water. Also, having the horses almost always attached to their stalls means only having to worry about the water buckets in the stalls for the most part.

        Again, most of this planning is for ease and convenience. Having retired horses, who I already know well, made planning easier. I know what will and won't work for these horses. All have lived in run-out stalls and been happy.

        My only question mark with this barn is what my other horse will do once he's retired... having been in a dressage training barn for all of his life, and being on limited turnout, it'll be interesting to transition him to the "rough life."


        • #44
          I would suggest running & burying water lines and electric lines to each stall in the building stage so you can put in autowaters, even if you can't do it right now. . That's a hard retrofit but easy to have in place.

          I also suggest a solid partition between stalls where you feed your grain; if they don't see each other while eating there is a lot less knashing of teeth & stall kicking at feeding time. You can put bars or whatever in about 2' back from the feeder.

          A convenient place to store your muck forks/brooms/etc that isn't in the way while leading horses. A latchable area for your feed.

          Hydrants at both ends of the barn.

          Go with the more expensive, energy conserving light fixtures to start with. They'll provide good light & save you money in the long run.

          If you can swing it, exhaust fans in the barn eves.

          Motion detecting lights outside & inside are mighty helpful when you just want to do a run through.


          • #45
            If I could do it different or better: ceiling of some kind to reduce bird perching places! A wash stall that has heat. One of the nicest small barns I ever saw was 6 stalls with ailse in front of them and the end of the barn was big, enclosed room that held the tack room and the grooming/bathing area. That was all heated and well lit so blacksmith/vet/grooming person could work in comfort in brutal cold weather and kept heat needs to a minimum! Buliding from scratch I would also arrange my tunouts so there was a sacrafice area that could open to several different pastures by opening gates. A trailer turn around would also be mandatory! Mine involves backing down a steep hill and I don't like that! :-) Easy access for a load of hay or bedding and a pereminter fence with an automatic gate! (money is no object, right?)


            • #46
              Does any of you have a wide aisle with a smaller doorway? I would like my barn to have a 16'-foot-wide aisle, but I would like the barn door to be only 8' to 10' wide. The reasons are that the smaller doorway looks better in my barn designs, the smaller door would be lighter and easier to open, and the cost would be less. As long as it is wide and tall enough for a tractor, is this a problem?
              "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


              • #47
                Another question: for those of you who have mentioned that you wish your barn were closer to the house, why? Is this due to cold weather and snow? Or is it more of a factor of convenience for quick feeding and chores? How close is close, or I should say, how far is too far?

                I am planning my barn to be in a spot which is about 200' away from the house. The site works well for the layout of paddocks, view orientation and such, but I also thought that distance would keep down the flies around the house. I plan on having screens over my manure compost piles to help reduce flies as well. Admittedly, there is nothing scientific about this arbitrary distance: it could be that 100' is far enough, or it could be that a mile is the minimum to eliminate the flies.

                Any opinions?
                "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                • #48
                  The fire department here prefers structures be at least 100' apart from each other, as the well may be.

                  On the aisle with the small door, doors should not be hard to open, that means they are not hung right.
                  Most any more use overhead doors with a people door by it, so you don't have to open the larger door as often.

                  To drive a pickup in an aisle, it needs to have at least a 10' wide door, preferably 12'.


                  • #49
                    Thanks Bluey.
                    "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                    • #50
                      A lot to decide before you build

                      You need to know how you want a horse kept. I want horses out 24/7 if possible...I built a fence divided south facing shed. I wish the shed was twice as deep but preparing a mound at least a foot higher than paddock ground to put it on was great. I wish the shed had electric for shed fans and a light for a quick look see at night. I have a waterer in the fence line in front of the shed...wish it was a square double sided Ritchie instead of a round Nelson. The shed serves two areas and that has been very valuable.

                      The horses are most miserable in the bug season. Heat and bugs makes them miserable...10 TIMES more miserable than winter weather. My barn has no insulation and is very cold in Minnesota winters BUT the air exchange is great and there is no stagnant ammonia saturated air at all even if I compost bed in the winter. I have 2 12x14 stalls one 12x12 and one 14x16 I have a never used washed stall I was talked into and a 12x12 tack. I groom but rarely bathe...never have...even with white horses. Know yourself. I got someone who I believed knew construction of horse facilities and mostly they did a good job... but they set electric lines under ground that have been damaged by gophers that are rampant in the area they and I are in...it will cost a lot to have the lines re placed but protected from gophers...the "wash" stall drains into the aisle and tack not down the drain. The concrete pad was well laid but not well slanted for water.

                      I have 1700lbs Irish Draughts and a itchy butt needs a sturdy wall and they can fold ordinary gates like accordions.

                      16 foot aisle...fabulous. I have one too small sliding aisle door at one end...pre-existing building modified for horses...and one high beautiful garage door that a fully loaded hay truck can drive into...hay barn addition...stores 6 months of hay easily and room for extra stuff.

                      I am on sand so I opted to not do more than class 5 the stalls thinking I would mat them later. I rarely use the stalls in the winter...horses do not want to come in. In the summer they want to be in all day out of the bugs in front of their fans(each stall has an outlet) the stalls drain fast and I never have to remove much bedding. If I had fans in the shed they would like that...if the sheds were darker and deeper thay would like that too.

                      I have 2 stalls that have dutch doors and the barn sides have a too low over hang(previous existing structure kind of too low for 17+hand horses) all the horses usually come and go from the barn out those doors. I was worried when I debated Dutch Doors that the ground heaving would stop up the doors in winter but the eave overhang keeps this from happening so I wish all the stalls had Dutch doors. The dutch tops are a PITA and often can't be connected to the bottoms.

                      HUGE safety issue if you have steel siding, never have unbacked steel. All walls need to be protected behind or in front of the steel to a generous kicking height. They WILL put a foot through the steel and it is a horrible injury we cause by being too cheap to line the walls...4 feet is common but I have to 6 feet and I lined the hay addition as well just in case I ever used it for stalls or as a shed.

                      In general I design so if something happened to me or I got to take a vacation someone could safely take care of the horses without going into the paddocks or touching a horse. I designed it so one woman could do the care of at least 7 horses or more. The horses would be safe and healthy and happy.


                      • #51
                        Originally posted by columbus View Post
                        You need to know how you want a horse kept. I want horses out 24/7 if possible...I built a fence divided south facing shed. I wish the shed was twice as deep...
                        How deep is your shed? I'm trying to figure out how big to make my run-in sheds.

                        ...I believed knew construction of horse facilities and mostly they did a good job... but they set electric lines under ground that have been damaged by gophers that are rampant in the area they and I are in.
                        What kind of conduit protects (or doesn't protect!) your underground electric wires? What will you replace it with, or will you put it above ground?

                        I am on sand so I opted to not do more than class 5 the stalls thinking I would mat them later.
                        What are class 5 stalls?

                        I have 2 stalls that have dutch doors and the barn sides have a too low over hang...
                        What is the height of your overhangs and what height do you wish they were?

                        Good info.
                        "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                        • #52
                          I wasn't always a Smurf
                          Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                          "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                          The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


                          • #53
                            Originally posted by PeteyPie View Post
                            How deep is your shed? I'm trying to figure out how big to make my run-in sheds.

                            What kind of conduit protects (or doesn't protect!) your underground electric wires? What will you replace it with, or will you put it above ground?

                            What are class 5 stalls?

                            What is the height of your overhangs and what height do you wish they were?

                            Good info.
                            Some thoughts on run-in sheds.
                            if they are portable, try to make them no more than your gates and maybe a trailer on the highway can haul them.

                            Also, in our area, may be different in yours, deeper than 12' on a 9' front is too deep for the sun and air to get to the back and you can get humidity and molds in there.
                            May be different where you are.

                            The ones we made are 12' deep, 9' in front, 8' in the back and some 27' long, others 30', depends on what we want to make fit.
                            Our sheet metal comes in dimensions that work best with those increments.

                            We like for animals to have access to sheds all around, so they can get out of the wind from any direction.
                            That is not always possible if you are putting sheds on fence lines.

                            For horses, we line the bottom 4' with 3/4" exterior plywood/OSB, so if a horse happen to kick them they won't kick thru the metal, rare as that would be, we use heavy gauge.

                            With two or more horses using one shed, we found that the boss picks where it wants to stand and, even if the other side is empty, submissive horses will stand by the boss, but outside the shed in the rain and wind.
                            Figure how you want to manage the horses and think that bigger, longer shed may not be what many horses will use anyway.


                            • #54
                              Originally posted by Bluey View Post

                              With two or more horses using one shed, we found that the boss picks where it wants to stand and, even if the other side is empty, submissive horses will stand by the boss, but outside the shed in the rain and wind.
                              Figure how you want to manage the horses and think that bigger, longer shed may not be what many horses will use anyway.
                              So true. I built the most gorgeous run-in for my 2 mares, 12x24 with an attractive 12' porch, for a total of 576 sq ft covered. So far so good. Then I brought my 3rd horse home, and she turned out to be very territorial. She has taken over the shed, standing in her corner like a troll under a bridge. The other two hover nearby but dare not enter, no matter what the weather. So frustrating!
                              Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


                              • #55
                                Has anyone built/planned the structure of their barn to allow for expansion in the future (ie: more stalls, an attached indoor, lounge room, etc...)?


                                • #56
                                  If I was going to rebuild my barn.......I would not use wood......I would use cement blocks and paint them.....I love my soft stalls and would use them again or look into 2" rubber pavers for stalls and alley ways. I have automatic waters with a pedal and love them.....no maintenance needed......but I would have a shut off valve for each one instead of having to shut the whole system down. I have 24/7 access to paddocks from their stalls and would definitely do that again.

                                  I also have my wood shavings bin attached to the barn We load it from outside....but have a door to the inside of the barn so don't have to go outside to get the shavings.



                                  • #57
                                    I've wished several times that I had another wash stall. One for the horses, and the other for all the other uses I find for it.

                                    I made our aisleway 15 feet wide, so 16' boards could be used for ceiling joists and fasten beside each post that forms the stalls on the aisleway. I'd never go narrower than that after living with this one.


                                    • #58
                                      Many things deemed "must haves" when I built my barn still hold true for me, if I were to rebuild...

                                      1. Concrete floor throughout, with fitted rubber mats covering the stalls/grooming/wash bay
                                      2. Plenty of lights: two lights per stall, one at front and the other at the back; three lights per grooming stall: one on each side and one at front. Strips of light every six feet above aisle.
                                      3. At least four feet wide for tack room door.
                                      4. Dutch door per stall.
                                      5. Cold/hot water for wash bay. Large sink at wash bay with cold/hot water.
                                      6. Swinging overhead wash boom for wash bay.
                                      7. Size: 12x12 or larger.
                                      8. Foam insulation under the roof to prevent "raining".
                                      9. Cupola.