Land for construction is in high demand, but many people still dream of designing a custom home. If a complete self-build is off the cards, you may be considering a barn conversion as an alternative.
Not only are barns large and solid structures with plenty of space inside, but they also offer a unique rustic charm. It doesn’t hurt that barns are usually surrounded by countryside greenery, providing beautiful views and supporting an idyllic lifestyle away from the bustle and pollution of major cities.
If the simple life appeals to you and you’re on the hunt for a convertible barn, be sure to consider financial protection. Don’t get swept away imagining your new barn home – look into getting a special structural warranty. This blog explains why this policy is so important for barn conversions.
What is a barn conversion?
A barn conversion is exactly what it sounds like – a converted barn. A barn is an agricultural structure, normally located on a farm. These structures were traditionally used for storing farm equipment and animal feed, and housing livestock like horses and cattle. It’s becoming increasingly popular for developers to adapt disused barns into residential dwellings or commercial premises.
Just as urban buildings such as churches, pubs, and warehouses are often converted into private residences, so are rural barns. A barn conversion can be anything from a family home to an office, an art studio or accommodation, or even a restaurant or shop. Rather than starting from scratch like a new build or self-build, the conversion uses the existing walls and roof, and retains features like:
- Exposed beams
- Vaulted ceiling
- Open-plan layout
- Double-height rooms
- Plenty of windows
- Mezzanine floors
- Rustic exterior
- Double doors
Both spacious and cosy, combining traditional exterior aesthetics with ultra-modern interior conveniences, a converted barn is prime real estate. However, a barn conversion project can take a lot of work, depending on the barn’s age, the materials it’s made of, and its level of deterioration.
Whether it’s a timber barn or stone barn, it’s likely to be draughty with limited electrical wiring or plumbing, if any. This obviously isn’t ideal for human habitation, so updating and reinforcing the structure to modern standards can be expensive. The three main architectural barn types are:
- Box construction barn – four walls support the entire structure
- Cruck frame barn – internal A-frames support the roof as well as the walls
- Post and truss barn – internal frames support the roof’s weight via adjoining vertical posts
Whichever type of structure it may be, a barn conversion takes money, time, and patience. You have to consider planning permissions, building regulations, energy efficiency, and historical preservation on top of designing your dream converted barn home. It would make sense to protect such a big investment by putting a barn structural warranty in place from the very beginning of your project.
What is a barn conversion warranty?
There are many different types of structural warranties available for a variety of properties, from new build and self-build to build-to-rent and commercial. Since a barn conversion is a very specific and typically large-scale development, it can be difficult to obtain a standard structural warranty.
While this is usually a 10-year warranty protecting the property owner against the costs of repairing structural defects, many warranty providers consider barn conversions to be too high-risk. There is a smaller market for barn conversion insurance and it requires a more intensive risk assessment, resulting in higher premiums if the provider offers a structural warranty quote and contract at all.
In some cases, it may be easier to get a 6-year Professional Consultants Certificate for a barn conversion instead, but this is a different level of cover that doesn’t guarantee compensation for latent structural defects. It depends entirely on the consultant’s professional indemnity insurance. Whether you want a PCC or the increased protection of a barn conversion warranty, you should look for a specialist provider who can offer the right level of cover for your barn conversion project.
In the best-case scenario, a barn conversion warranty should follow a similar arrangement to the standard version. Namely, 2 years of defects insurance, where the builder or developer is legally obligated to fix any structural issues that arise, followed by 8 years of structural insurance, when the warranty provider becomes responsible for paying repair costs in the event of a successful claim.
After the first 2 years, the warranty will only cover major structural elements, and these can be very different in a converted barn than in a traditional house or converted commercial space. This is why you need a structural warranty that’s tailored to the unique specifications of your barn conversion.
Why do barn conversions need structural warranties?
Structural building warranties aren’t compulsory by law, even for barn conversions. You might think this policy is an unnecessary expense and decide to skip it – but what will happen if you discover a structural defect later? You’ll have to either pay for repairs yourself, or pay to take the responsible party to court and attempt to prove their liability and negligence – neither of which will be cheap.
Investing in a barn conversion warranty will give you the peace of mind that you have several years of cover for latent structural defects. You shouldn’t have to worry about the expense of structural repairs as a result of poor design, construction, or materials. Nobody needs the hassle of taking a builder or developer to court, either. It’s much faster and less stressful to make a warranty claim.
Additionally, if you intend to take out a loan to fund your barn conversion project, you might find it hard to get a mortgage without a suitable structural warranty. Even if you’re converting a barn as a developer and intend to rent it or sell it on once it’s complete, having a structural defects warranty is more attractive to potential tenants or buyers – and it’ll help buyers to secure a mortgage, too.
How to get a barn conversion warranty
To improve your chances of successfully applying for a barn conversion warranty quote, you should gather the relevant information beforehand to prepare your file. This will help you with mortgage applications, too. Not only will you need the values of the existing structure, building contract for new works, and gross development completion, but you should also provide the information below:
- Detailed site plans – showing the whole site, including its location and ground levels, with a full set of specifications for the planned works
- Structural report – detailing the structure’s condition and suitability for conversion
- Photographic evidence – full-colour photos of both the interior and exterior showing every side of the building, roof, and ground, including any unusual features
- Waterproof envelope – existing and proposed materials and method for waterproofing and damp-proofing the structure (e.g. tanking membrane)
- Ground investigation report – including test results for soil strength and contamination
Collecting this documentation should help you to get a better quote. All reports must be carried out by a qualified professional such as a chartered surveyor or structural engineer. When you apply for a warranty or mortgage, the provider might prefer to carry out their own inspections and reports, too.
The best time to apply for a barn conversion warranty is around 4-6 weeks before any construction work begins on the site. While it may be possible to get a retrospective structural warranty, your chances will decrease and premiums will increase the longer you wait – so start preparing now!