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Which way should barn aisle and main barn doors face?

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  • Which way should barn aisle and main barn doors face?

    We've gotten 2 opinions. Picture this - sloped 10 acre lot. Home and barn will be toward the top of the lot. Perfect rectangle shape. The top and bottom of lot are the short sides of the rectangle. Barn will be at top right. When you are standing at the top of the lot where the barn will go, facing down toward the rest of the lot, you are facing West mostly - and a few degrees north. One opinion was to have the dutch doors facing West/facing the downhill slope of the lot, pastures and rest of property. Horse can hang heads out (there will be an overhang/roof for shade). If one horse is in he can see the other horse in the fields. The view in this direction is absolutely stunning, facing blue ridge mountains and we are high up. If it is super hot, I can move horses to rear stalls which will face East and have a view of a treeline. If the wind is howling in the cold, I can close the dutch doors. So in this option, barn doors face North and South each. This will prevent the wild winds from the west (and the mountains we face) from rushing through the barn aisle. But....in summer, that would be nice, wouldn't it?

    Option two - have the barn aisle going East to West. One set of barn doors would be facing West slightly northwest (the mountains where the wind tends to come rolling in from) This person worried that having the dutch doors taking the brunt of the wind would blow shavings all over. In this option, the wind would be coming straight through the center aisle. It gets VERY windy at the top of this lot. With 9 months of the year being times when I probably want a breeze coming through the main aisle. In this scenario, stalls would be on the house side and we can see our horses looking out of their stalls from out windows, screen porch and deck/patio.

    I see points of both. My thought is if the barn aisle is running East to West and the wind gets crazy, I can just close the barn doors. In the summers here, I think I would appreciate the breeze. Horses would be in during the day on the super hot days of summer.

    For fencing, the dutch doors facing the lot, pastures and West/northwest mountains make more sense. There are times I'd put my old guy in the "barn paddock" and keep his door open so he can go in and out to eat his soaked feeds.

    Thoughts? We are in VA - hot, humid summers...winters aren't horrible - at least the last 2 years haven't been Can send a drawing via email if anyone wants to PM me for input. (with lot plan, house location, fencing, etc)

  • #2
    Orient your barn so that on the hottest days of the year whatever prevailing breeze you have will run the length of the barn.

    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


    • #3
      Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
      Orient your barn so that on the hottest days of the year whatever prevailing breeze you have will run the length of the barn.

      I second this. Our barn double aisle doors face west because that is where the wind always comes from. Horses stalled inside all summer have a constant air flow, cooled as it enters the shaded barn before exiting the east end doors. Wonderful help in keeping things "a bit" cooler than outside. Also helpful in keeping any dust from hanging in the air year around.


      • #4
        I "third" it. Mine goes north/south because that's how the breezes go. My stalls are open on the west to attached paddocks and those doors are always open, so the occasional breeze comes in from the west and it's all good. I can open both sets of doors and don't even have to sweep the aisle...the wind takes care of it, an additional benefit of that orientation.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
          Orient your barn so that on the hottest days of the year whatever prevailing breeze you have will run the length of the barn.


          This is how my barn is situated. We tore down a 100 year old barn that was not salvegeable and placed a new barn on the exact foot print. The guys before air conditioning knew what they were doing!! Even on the hottest day of the year if there is a breeze anywhere in my county it is blowing through my barn. Add in stall fans and it can be 95° but pleasant in the barn. Windy days I just pull the aisle doors closed.

          Heat is much more stressful to horses than cold so I think we are better off prioritizing their comfort in the summer than our comfort in the winter.


          • #6
            Yes on prevailing winds! Also, you can close the barn doors in winter, but if your Dutch doors face prevailing winds you will have to keep them closed too. If they are on the sides, you can leave them open in winter which provides nice ventilation without making the horses wet or cold.


            • #7
              Summer breeze here is mostly from the east. My barn aisle runs north south; the summer breeze goes in the windows onthe east, across the aisle, and through the stalls on the west side. In the winter, the tack room/wash stall blocks the north wind. If it were really bad, I would get a barn aisle door, but our biggest issue is summer heat.
              IMO, breeze coming down an aisle does not cool the stalls sufficiently. I want the breeze to blow across the stalls, not past them.


              • #8
                For what it's worth, my barn aisle is oriented more or less north-south and as I recall, our worst winter winds come from the north-ish.

                That said, you might want to take into consideration a few other factors - at my place, there's a treeline a bit to the north that blocks some of the worst of the winds. Are there any physical features that might impact the way the weather hits your place?

                My stalls are on the east side of the barn, so they get morning sun (nice in the winter) and afternoon shade (nice in the summer). Consider how the sun will move across the property, and where will your buildings create shade?

                You might also consider snow loads - this was made very clear to me the year we had big snow (as in a couple of feet). House roofline runs east/west, so the northside face of the roof got minimal sun - so I had to get a big roof snow scraper thing, so we wouldn't get ice dams. That was not fun, so I'm very glad that the ridgelines of the barn and garage are north/south oriented, so at least I'll only have to worry about the house, should we get that kind of snow load again.


                • #9
                  Without doubt as others have said any barn should/must be oriented in such a way that it gets the best ventilation. Far easier to close off a cold wind then to cool down a hot stale barn. Horses don’t care about the view.
                  It is always a plus when the builder has a decent understanding of the benefits of passive solar when designing and situating the structure.


                  • #10
                    Practically all barns and shed here are built lengthwise E/W or a bit SW, because you can provide breezes with how you open and close doors and windows, but you can't provide for the cold winter blows as easily.
                    That is why for many here, to have as much where you will have animals on the South side is more important.

                    As for snow or wind loads, you have to provide for that with your engineering and that should be separate of the orientation of the building, more with the amount of snow or wind your area may get, for what engineers have told me.

                    I would not know how to tell you to build, how about spending a few hundred dollars to ask a local engineering firm to look over your plans and site?


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                      Practically all barns and shed here are built lengthwise E/W or a bit SW, because you can provide breezes with how you open and close doors and windows, but you can't provide for the cold winter blows as easily.
                      That is why for many here, to have as much where you will have animals on the South side is more important.

                      As for snow or wind loads, you have to provide for that with your engineering and that should be separate of the orientation of the building, more with the amount of snow or wind your area may get, for what engineers have told me.

                      I would not know how to tell you to build, how about spending a few hundred dollars to ask a local engineering firm to look over your plans and site?
                      Thanks Bluey - we did get a 3rd party builder to go over our plans and the lot - he felt that the aisle and barn doors should be facing the wind head-on - and that if the dutch doors were facing that direction, shavings would blow all over. My thought is that if it is cold, the barn doors will be closed anyway. He also has a farm/barn. The barn builder and my trainer felt opposite. That the "wind tunnel" aspect would be crazy. We may now angle the barn in the same angle and direction that the house will be facing. This would put the wind at the corner of the barn and may be the best option. It will blow past dutch doors and down aisle some, and we can put tack room on that corner.

                      The only issue is that some of the dutch doors will be facing the sun all day but I can use the back stalls in summer and we will have an overhang over the doors anyway.

                      There are no natural buffers. Property is bordered by a sparse row of trees but they will do little to protect. The wind comes off the mountains that we will be facing.

                      I will probably drive around the area at some point and ask some barn owners with existing barns what their opinion is. Don't care about aesthetics but want to get it right ideally as we can't move it once it's in


                      • #12
                        An old timey 'cowboy' I know in Omaha was responsible for the design of his barn and a few others in that area. He said that having the main aisle in a North/South orientatino provided the best ventilation. Ventilation is more important to horses in Winter than warmth, for the sake of their lungs.
                        RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                        • #13
                          The idea here is because a E/W oriented barn gives so much more protection to the area in front of it in the winters.

                          You can find a way around summer heath, that yes is harder than winter cold on most animals, but in the winter, outside, the cold can be deadly, so that is why most want their pens to have protection from the N winds and blizzards.

                          Engineers can tell you that, for every foot of height, you get several feet protection in front of it.
                          If a barn is, say, 23' tall, you may have 150' protected from the North cold winds in front of it.

                          Now, that may not apply at all to what you have there, but in the winter, if you have any serious winter, you really don't want to keep your animals in a barn all the time and that is when that comes into play.

                          As I said, practically all barns and sheds here are oriented so they give the most protection from the North storms in the winter, but that may not be a concern where you are or the way you may manage your animals.

                          I know, I wanted the covered arena with overhangs with stalls and runs my neighbor and I are building to be oriented S/N.
                          It would have connected well with the existing outside arena, that we now will have to move, but was dissuaded by most everyone in our area not to lose the southern exposure protection.

                          I will say, once you make a decision, don't let second thoughts get you to gritting your teeth, be happy with whatever you end up with, because there is no perfect solution.
                          All we do has advantages and trade-offs, is the way life works.

                          Don't forget to take many pictures and let us see some, please.


                          • #14
                            Keeping the barn aisle parallel to the prevailing summer breeze will cool the stalls quite efficiently, as the air movement down the aisle will draw air from the stalls the way a river will draw flow from tributary streams. This may not be a perfect analogy but it is a functional one.

                            The OP is in the South where heat, not cold, is the enemy. Even in No. VA temps are quite temperate (compared to, say, Superior, WI). Cold snaps are just that and come and go rather quickly (relatively speaking). In cold climates different standards might be more appropriate.

                            In the South you want a fairly high ceiling in a barn. Heat rises and the high ceiling gives it a place to go. Ridge vent, turbo-vents, cupolas, or other non-powered ventilation systems allow the heat to escape. Some will also add a large ventilation fan to carry away excess heat. That's OK but increases costs. Careful engineering of "passive systems" will go a long way towards reducing heat buildup without increasing operational costs.

                            In the South a hayloft above a barn is ill advised. It's great up North where it will provide insulation in the winter. In the South it will just aid in heat buildup. Then, of course, there are the other issues with hay lofts; we'll leave those for another day.

                            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                            • #15
                              My barn doors face east and west with the prevailing wind, also on the top of a hill. It does help cool when there is a breeze, but in the winter my barn is 5-7 degrees colder inside, than outside. The prevailing wind blows dirt right off the paddock into teh aisle. Another issue I have is the sun that blinds me in the aisle coming from the west in late afternoon and evening - I can't groom in the aisle because I can't see anything. If I could do it over, I'd build the other direction, running north and south.
                              Last edited by hundredacres; Mar. 27, 2013, 09:43 AM.


                              • #16
                                My barn doors are very tall and face E/W. Last summer was the first summer I had horses home and I moved them before I had electric. I was quite surprised on our 100+ days how cool they were. They were only hot and sticky once or twice during the summer because of the breeze.

                                Surprisingly my buckets didn't freeze this winter either which I was surprised about, but during big storms, the wind is tough...

                                Would rather be cool in the summer though.
                                For things to do in Loudoun County, visit: www.365thingstodoloudoun.com


                                • #17
                                  We're in KY

                                  Our barn is lengthwise, N-S, breeze blows right through it.

                                  It's an old tobacco barn, so it has a very high roof (think 30 feet) with roof and ridge vents.

                                  I have aisle fans and stall fans, but... I found if instead of aiming the stall fans down at the horses, I aimed them up toward the gaps where the over hang in the barn roof is, the barn stays much cooler during the day.

                                  I also have two enormous "polar cool" units. They are big fans, that have corrigated cardboard filters on one side and a fan on the other. You hook it up to a hose, which soaks the cardboard, then the fan pulls the water cooled air through the filters and it comes out quite cold.

                                  My barn is 40x140 and it will drop the inside temp on a hot day by about 15 degrees. The horses just stand there with their heads hanging out in front of it, they love it.

                                  Beats naked stall cleaning.


                                  • #18
                                    One thought on the dutch doors facing the sun (as OP mentions later in the thread) -- if you are going to have an overhang there as well, this may block out much of the sun. I'm in an area where we don't often get too hot, so it may not apply as well to you in the south. But when we built our house, the south wall of the great room is mostly glass windows/doors and has an overhang out over it that is, as the designer put it, like a hat brim. In the summer, when the sun is high above, it provides shade so we don't get too much sun through those windows, but in the winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon, it allows the sun to reach the windows and keep the house warmer. Now, I'm further north of OP, so not sure how well that applies, but something to keep in mind if it can help.

                                    For us, the prevailing wind is from the east and my barn is oriented with this in mind the main doors we use are on the north and south sides, and then the stalls open to the west with overhangs there. I do get some blowback when the east wind is blowing strongly that will disturb the bedding -- it is amazing how that wind can swirl around. In the warm times, which we get much less than you southerners, I can leave the N/S doors open and still get some cross breeze in there.


                                    • #19
                                      Definitly take into account prevailing winds in your area.

                                      I faced my barn N/S with stalls inside facing E/W for that reason as Midwest Winter winds tends to be more from the North & NW and rarely blow from the East.
                                      Barn is attached to my indoor that has 12' sliders on all 4 sides, so plenty of options for letting in air or closing out cold.

                                      I kick myself annually for failing to add an overhang over the stalls, because when that rare East wind blows, it can bring snow inside my stalls
                                      Stalls are open 24/7 and horses can get sufficient shelter, but I sure hate shoveling out fresh shavings because they got buried under snow!

                                      My barn is a metal pole bldg and only the barn roof is insulated.
                                      Stays comfortable even with the stall (Dutch) doors open to pasture & weather.
                                      90F & humid? Barn seems at least 10 degrees cooler.
                                      -10F? Still bearable inside for me.
                                      When it is comfortable outside, I leave the 12' sliders open in the barn & arena to catch any breeze.
                                      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                                      • #20
                                        Prevailing winds here are mostly from the North West. If you have a barn with a dog trot aisle that can be closed off in winter, you'd want the aisle from North West to South East. But if you don't have doors that you can close in the winter, you'll end up with a wind tunnel. Ask me how I know.
                                        "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
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