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Designing a barn. What features would you want? How wide should aisle be? etc etc.

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    Designing a barn. What features would you want? How wide should aisle be? etc etc.

    Just curious. Down the road may be building a barn- in an area that gets some snow in the winter.

    I love my hot water heating. We have the heat loops in the floor of the barn/tack room on one thermostat, and then loops in the outer wall all around the barn/arena on a different thermostat. I never have cold feet, the temperature is constant, it is quiet, and it is very affordable. We are also very insulated. not only to help with temperature, but it also keeps the arena a bit quieter in storms. Our barn is set at 11 degrees, and our arena is around 6 degrees (Celcius)

    We have 12 foot aisle. This works for us. I wouldn't want narrower if you have stalls where the horses can put their head out. Our stalls just have a small/higher head opening, so they can't reach very far into the aisle: if we used stall guards I would want wider.

    I do wish we had some sort of over hang over the barn door entrances to make it less likely snow could drift up against the barn doors. Our barn/arena is one big rectangle, with the main barn doors on the sides at the one end...which can mean the melting snow does sometimes slide off and block the door. We put some metal braces up to help reduce the slide force over the doors.
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


      This is my dream/wish list; your mileage may vary, or you may prioritize differently. I have stated my preferences without regard to cost, but of course, in the real world, you'll have to make compromises based on cost.

      Oriented to catch the prevailing breeze, sited on high ground with good drainage on all four sides. 8 - 10 foot aisle, minimum, 12' preferred, esp. if you're going to have trunks, vaccuums, etc., in the aisle, or if you're going to be driving tractors/equipment down the aisle. Overhangs with dutch doors leading to turnout on BOTH sides of the aisle. Stalls on sides of the aisle aligned for cross ventilation. Always consider natural light and cross ventilation. And drainage! Align the support posts on the overhangs between stall doors so you can drop bedding in stalls from the outside with a small front end loader. Automatic waters with good insulated plumbing. Ceiling fans for the stalls OR electrical outlets in the ceiling to make hanging fans safer. Stall grid system for drainage in the stalls with mats over them. Slots or doors in stall grating so you can feed grain from the aisle. IF you're storing hay in a separate building (which I prefer), the door or slot should be big enough to throw hay; otherwise, trapdoors to throw hay from loft. More electrical outlets than you think you need. One two outlet receptacle for every single stall is not too many.

      The high tech, soft pavers in the barn aisle. I have seen enough horses "skating" on a paved or concrete barn aisle to last me the rest of my life. Personally, I liked stone dust aisles, watered and raked race horse style, but it's not practical for a high traffic barn

      Staircase, rather than ladder, to loft. Bigger tack room than you think you need. Bigger wash stall than you think you need with EXCELLENT plumbing. (Spent more time snaking the wash rack drain than I want to consider. Make sure your contractor KNOWS what all goes down the wash rack drain and plans accordingly.) One of those car wash overhead arms for the wash rack so you're not dragging a hose around your horses feet. Consider a grooming stall, because if you have boarders and/or lesson students, crosstying in the aisle becomes a big problem.

      Bigger water heater than you think need. Washer and dryer, properly vented, in tack room. Small bathroom in tack room. (At a certain age, peeing in a stall gets old. I am that age, + 15 years.) Big, deep sinks in tack room AND feed room. Because you might want to soak beet pulp and clean tack at the same time. (Oh, and you definitely want a separate tack and feed room.) Enough room for a fridge, coffee pot and microwave in the tack room. Trust me, you'll need them.

      Good, safe lighting. At least one area in the barn (wash rack is fine) with really good, bright light so you can see what you're doing bathing or clipping or during a vet visit.

      No one has ever said "You know what I hate about this barn? There's too much storage." However much storage you plan for, you'll over run it.

      An equipment shed CLOSE to the barn, with power, so block heaters can be plugged in. So if you have to have the tractor, skid steer, etc. in an emergency, it's not far to go.

      If you can provide details about part of the country, number of horses, commercail vs. private, etc., I can probably pare down my recommendations a little bit.
      The plural of anecdote is not data.


        Well, I have my whole barn planned out for a dream world....

        18’ aisle, concrete with sprayed-in-place rubber (stall flooring same). I originally had 21' in my plans but I guess that's a BIT excessive. Personally, I find even 12' to be confining. My current shedrow has a 16' aisle, and I couldn't ever go less than that.
        H-shape barn with two aisles with stalls on one side of each and tack lockers on opposite walls and a cross center aisle with entrances to feed room and lounge.
        Euro curved stall fronts.
        Window to outside on stall backs.
        Individual lockers that open in the aisle. I hate trunks in the aisle.
        Lounge with full bathroom incl. dog bath, and kitchenette.
        Large feed room with industrial kitchen sink.
        Multiple wash racks.
        Tons of bright lighting.
        Ceiling fans.
        Single level, i.e. no hay storage above stalls.
        Hip roof.
        12’ overhang all around.
        Duplex outlets at every stall, two at each wash rack.
        Last edited by mmeqcenter; Jul. 13, 2020, 04:41 PM.


          Put drains throughout the isles. You will not regret it. And make the pipes big, they are 8 inches at the barn I’m in now and literally anything can go down them with no clogs.
          separate tack and feed room. Tack room with a/c, laundry machines, and bathroom
          big storage room attached to the barn for the random big stuff; blankets, vacuums, etc


            Excellent point, Stormy! I'm adding the 8" aisle drains to my list, too. Because being able to powerwash the aisle is wonderful.
            The plural of anecdote is not data.


              Wide aisles with a space dedicated for farrier work, or at least close enough to crossties & electricity for farrier. Space for your bedding storage.
              Crosstie area should be wide enough you can get out of the way of a cranky horse. Nothing like feeling trapped by an upset horse in the ties.

              I really like the aisle drain idea!! Sure would make cleaning the barn easier.


                Originally posted by StormyDay View Post
                Put drains throughout the isles. You will not regret it. And make the pipes big, they are 8 inches at the barn I’m in now and literally anything can go down them with no clogs.
                separate tack and feed room. Tack room with a/c, laundry machines, and bathroom
                big storage room attached to the barn for the random big stuff; blankets, vacuums, etc
                If you (general) are going to put drains in the aisle with big pipes do make sure the big pipes have plenty of slope.
                One of the downsides to larger pipes with less water going down them is the solid matter is not picked up and carried off well. Then it sits and dries and causes a catch point and poof, you have a clog. (A common problem now with super low flow fixtures and older piping with 1/8"/ft slope.)
                Also realize that if you are draining to a dry well or a septic tank you are going to be putting lots of material into it that it was not designed to deal with (shavings for example).

                I think drains would work best if you have a catch basin set up (say at the end of a trench drain) that is deeper than its outlet so you have a place for solids to settle that you can easily clean out (and yes, it will be gross).


                  How big is your budget?
                  Add at least 10% for unexpected overage.
                  20% would be safer.

                  Personal barn?
                  Or will you have boarders?

                  My Plain Vanilla 36X36 center aisle pole barn has been complimented by the Pros (vet, farrier & friend who has a boarding barn) who have seen & worked in it.
                  60X120 indoor attaches at the North end of the barn.

                  A 12' aisle is the very least width you should plan for.
                  A loaded hay wagon can drive down my aisle and not take down the small shelves I have attached to my stalls for brush boxes.

                  Currently I have 3 stalls on one wall: two 12X12 (inside measure) & a 10X12.
                  Two largest have Dutch doors that lead to sacrifice paddock that, in turn, surrounds the front of the barn & leads to pastures on either side.
                  Small stall has a cutout door sized so only the mini it belongs to can enter/exit.

                  I store a year's worth of hay - 300 40-50# squares - on pallets across from the stalls.
                  Bales are stacked to the 10' rafters in a space 12D X 24L.
                  My tack & feed areas take up the remaining 12'.

                  Stalls & aisle are floored with crusher run limestone. When new, it was loose, like beach sand. Now - 16yrs later - compressed so it feels like concrete to me, but horses leave shallow hoofprints in the aisle. Can be swept easily & even hosed as it drains great.
                  Same good drainage in the stalls - no mats & no urine smell. I bed using wood pellets.

                  No washrack.
                  If I bathe horses they stand just outside the front sliding door & hose comes out to them. Sacrifice area has geotextile under 9" of roadbase (rocks from fist-sized down to less than an inch).

                  Frostfree hydrant is inside the barn.
                  No need for heat tape, even in subzero Winter.
                  Heated buckets in the stalls & sinking deicer in the trough (50gal food grade barrel) just outside the front slider.
                  All reachable with a 50' hose.

                  Learn from my Fail & get enclosed light fixtures. LED is best. I have cold-ballast fluorescent that have aged poorly from dust & bird crap so they are now temperamental about going on if it is damp/humid.
                  Install fixtures so stalls are lit well enough a vet can work in them if needed.
                  Same for aisleway.
                  I have 2 banks of 2 fixtures set on separate switches so I can have aisle lit & leave stalls dark.

                  I'm in the Midwest, so snow can be heavy & temps frigid or HOT.
                  Barn is positioned for prevailing winds to ventilate. Only the roof in the barn is insulated (foam board) but it stays at least 10 degrees cooler in Summer & warmer in Winter. Even with stall Dutch doors left open 24/7/365.
                  Added ventilation when the 4 sliding doors in the indoor are open.
                  *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


                    Here are my favorite barn architects Instagram accounts:

                    -Blackburn Architects
                    - LukeJones_c4
                    - McClellan_Architects

                    Go on those & then go down the rabbit hole of barn design...I could sit on Instagram all day just looking at them. They explain a lot of reasons behind certain designs for specific climates/regions. It’s really interesting!

                    congratulations & how exciting!


                      Love this idea (stole it from someone else) --when you lay water pipe or electric or both ---put a second pipe/cable right beside the first. Cap the second pipe/cable. One day, when your pipe bursts or your stable electric is cut ---you can uncap the second pipe and have water again/electric ---that saves you from having to dig up for a whole new pipe or lay a whole new electric cable! And me? I'd make feeder accessible from the aisle so a "non-horse" employee would be able to feed without going into the stall with the horse.


                        I so agree with everything everyone mentioned about but I would add that you should consider your bedding and manure removal before you build. Will you have it hauled away? If so, what's the easiest way to get your manure and bedding into the dumpster? Can you sink the dumpster for yourself but have a ramp down for the truck to pick it up? Are you going to create a manure pile? Take into account whether its up or down hill from your barn, upwind or down wind. is there an easy way to get to it in the snow or will it be a haul? Also fans- closed motor- both from the ceiling and in stalls, air movement makes for happy horses. Finally, bird proof it before the first spring. Its well worth the added attention to detail


                          Ask your farrier how he/she likes their lighting. Most prefer lights on each side of the grooming stall, not overhead.


                            Original Poster

                            Thanks everyone. This is all very helpful. This will just be for personal horses. Likely not more than 2 to 3 horses.