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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.


                              Original Poster

                              Well. The more I think about it. The more I think it needs to have a well stocked bar.


                                Originally posted by Mukluk View Post
                                Well. The more I think about it. The more I think it needs to have a well stocked bar.

                                I had a mini-fridge in mine for years.
                                Kept bottled water & drinks for shoer, vet, myself & in the tiny freezer compartment frozen peas for icing a leg.
                                It lasted a good 10yrs & was probably done in by dust, as it sat out in the open - no closed off rooms in my barn.
                                I kind of miss it, but my house is just 250' from the barn, so no hurry to replace.
                                *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


                                  Originally posted by Mukluk View Post
                                  Well. The more I think about it. The more I think it needs to have a well stocked bar.
                                  I mean, in terms of #goals I heard Sheryl Crow has a nice little set-up (Guiness on tap!) in her barn...

                                  Anyway, back to reality...tons of good advice already. Having worked a lot of places and visited a few more I have quite the dream list. Knowing that this is just for you personally I think "ease of use" is the number one priority, then build up your dream vision of aesthetics and intended use around that. I say that because it's YOUR barn...especially if you are starting from ground up, make it what YOU want, as much as you can. So if you dream of drinking wine with your horses, go ahead and build that bar if you want.

                                  [In the old days pre-insta and pinterest, I used to get magazines. Horse & Rider used to do a lot of articles profiling small, personal use barns. They would talk about why the designs were chosen, from practical issues of climate and what activities were done with the horses, to the owners' vision. It was interesting to see the ranges from very utilitarian, to ones built up with cute porches and patios, and everything in between].

                                  So think hard about how you want your time in the barn spent, both recreationally and from a chores standpoint. Do you love grooming and pampering? Then set up a super-sweet grooming area. Will you be running to feed and turn horses out in your office clothes? Doors to the outside might be ideal. Will cousin Sally who went to horse camp that one time be feeding for you on occasion? Maybe those feed doors are a good idea. Clean freak who rides a lot? Make the big sink and laundry machines happen.

                                  Going back to my general ease of use/wish list (or is it the anti-frustration list?), here are a few things that pop to mind.
                                  - Easy access to hay/feed/bedding from inside and out. The ideal for me is a big (garage) door on the outside of a dedicated hay/shavings room, and ample sliding door on this room inside. But even if you go with something simpler like 2dogs stacked against one wall, make sure it's near - and a straight shot to - a (big) door. If you're putting in the hay yourself, you'll be forever thankful. So will anyone who does your feed and bedding deliveries (and maybe it's less likely they will forget you in a snowstorm).
                                  - Ample driveway space with good turnarounds. While you don't need "parking space" per se on a private facility, there will still be farriers, feed trucks, trailers. Make it easy on them.
                                  - Sacrifice area. If you're somewhere with snow, it means it must melt sometime, which means mud. Assuming your acreage is limited, you'll want to protect the pasture. It also makes it easier if the need for a dry lot or rehab paddock ever comes up.
                                  - Multiple paddocks/cross fencing. Even if all your horses go out together, I want extra grass turnouts so they can be grazed on rotation. Saves you putting out hay early and makes the property look a lot better (no weedy, overgrazed fields).
                                  - Separate feed and tack rooms. While many small facilities successfully combine them.... well, mice.
                                  - If you can swing it, an indoor washrack (or even just the floor drains) is very nice. Even if you don't plan on giving many baths in winter, it is still nice in case of first aid emergencies and just being able to wash stuff (buckets, blankets, etc). If the indoor isn't feasible definitely make an outdoor one. They are simple to build and cross-tying is much easier than following a horse in circles with the hose making mud.
                                  - As someone else said, never too much storage! Also, if you plan on having 2-3 horses, make sure there are at least 4 stalls

                                  Good luck and have fun!


                                    All good ideas - I would want an area to store some hay and shavings but not all the hay shavings as it's better/safer to have them stored in another building that doesn't contain livestock.

                                    Stalls that open front and back - better ventilation, and would also have at least one stall with small paddock attached for rehab etc. .
                                    Stall doors that are easy to open - the doors at my current barn have a bar up top that you slide up - no latches to fumble with much easier in case of emergency

                                    Wash stall - dairy cow type feeder to use as a big sink - great for rinsing/washing wraps boots etc. Saw this in a barn and dreamed of it ever since.

                                    Electrical - make sure wattage is good for all appliances, maybe have overhead fans instead box fans

                                    Storage - plan on plenty of space for blankets..


                                      I have known 3 friends that set up their farm in such a way you need to back the trailer in from the road. On the one with the shorter driveway it was from a very quiet road but that road is narrow so you need to be really good at backing up to make the swing and not take out the mailbox across the street.
                                      The second one is a busier road. If you are getting to that farm at the wrong time it can be difficult to find a break to back in. You have to wave traffic from behind you so that you can back up. Make sure you can easily get a decent sized truck/trailer in and out without having to back off the road. People are stupid and will pull right up behind the trailer even when stopped with flashers on. I added the reflective tape all down the sides of the trailer for higher visibility one I had made the turn into the driveway.

                                      I was at one barn that had a great wash stall set up. The front of the wash stall was 3 inches higher than the aisle. It was sloped to the back which was the same height as the aisle. the whole back 4 inches was a trough that drained the whole wash. The whole wash stall was matted. It drained really well. No center small drain to get clogged. It also had lights on the sides of the wash stall and the middle was a heat lamp/solarium. If you get a wash stall with the center small drain make sure wash stall has enough slope down to the drain. Current barn there isn't enough slope so the water will pool in the back corners or run into the aisle some.

                                      I prefer all the stalls to also have doors that open to the outside just in case of fire or a horse getting cast against the aisle door. Have a decent overhang along the outside to prevent rain from coming in the windows. I have been at one too many barns that it is one of those hot humid summer days with thunderstorms in the forecast. You don't want to leave the windows open if you aren't there since if it starts to blow and rain you ruin a ton of bedding in the stall. But if you leave it closed you lose ventilation. Due to changes in weather patterns in the last 18 years at this house we now get storms in from directions we didn't used to as often. I think with climate change prevailing winds may change over time.

                                      We have a small freezer at the barn. We keep ice boots and bags of ice for emergencies and freeze pops for people and horses. Commercial barn not a private one so you may not need it if you have a chest freezer at a house on the property.

                                      Even if you have hay and bedding in the loft consider an area that you can store a week's worth of hay/bedding. I find that it can be a pain to have to go in the loft daily especially if you don't have hay drops into the individual stalls.

                                      Make sure you have good storage spot for brooms, rakes, manure fork, muck tub, wheel barrow. For the summer consider an area outside the tack room to hang saddle pads, leg boots, girths and towels to dry. Keeps them from smelling up the tack room.

                                      WiFi if possible.

                                      My friend has a barn that is really easy. 3 stalls that open directly to a sacrifice paddock. Lots of stone dust right outside the doors. Outside automatic waterer. To feed she never had to handle the horses. Dump feed, open doors, they go in. Let out when done. The sacrifice paddock had gates at either end. One to the front pasture and one to the back top pasture. Easy to close off one or both depending on rotating fields or keeping them off both in the winter if necessary. Her barn is a bank barn with hay in the loft and drop downs to the stalls. Feed is kept in metal trashcans in the loft. She is another one that did not plan trailer access to the barn well. Can only get hay to barn in a pick-up. The bridge across the creek is too narrow for a trailer that is at all wider than the truck plus not enough room to turn a truck/trailer around by the barn. It is hard to turn a truck around especially in the winter or mud as you are on grass to turn around.

                                      Make sure you have plenty of outdoor lighting. Preferably on an automatic timer or motion sensor.

                                      Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                                        I built my dream barn last year at my new farm in Florida. Of course my budget was not endless but my favorite feature is the 12’ overhangs over their dutch doors. No rain or sun comes in during bad weather. Insulated metal roof too.
                                        if you are building where there is snow as much insulation as you can afford. It will keep the warmth in and reduce frozen bucket issues.
                                        min 12’ aisle. I skipped pavers because I wasn’t sure how to keep them clean. I guess one of those fancy vacuums would work but that is another expense.