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What are the Different Types of Barns?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Barns are buildings most often used to house grain, farm equipment, and livestock. They may also be used as a dwelling or workshop, retaining the same distinct architectural properties a "working" barn has. In the United States, they are traditionally painted red, because of the historically low price of red paint.

There are many different types of barns, depending on the era they were constructed in, the scarcity of materials in the region, and the purpose for which they were intended. Metal structures are often seen in wet regions, as wood tends to rot quickly and require extensive upkeep. Large, lumber-intensive barns are common in regions where wood is plentiful, while more bare-bones wooden versions are seen more in areas where lumber is a scarce commodity.

One classic type of which few examples still remain is the Dutch style. Dutch barns are some of the earliest American styles, brought over by Dutch settlers in the north-east section of the country. It has a long gabled roof, which occasionally has gables extending nearly to the ground. Dutch barns have extensive internal framework, often compared to that of church interiors of the era. This is similar to many European styles, which also have many beams, ideal for hanging pulleys from and lending great structural support to these buildings.

Crib barns are another historic type, and one which continues to see much use in the present day. They are so named because they contain a number of small "cribs" which can be used as pens for livestock or to house hay. Crib barns are of log construction, which gives them a rustic feel many people appreciate aesthetically.

The round barn was popularized in the late 19th century and flourished for a number of decades after, enjoying some popularity to this day. They have the benefit of an improved volume for every wall-foot that needs to be erected, offering a practical edge over rectangular shaped structures. In later years, a silo was added to the center of the round barn to store grain, sometimes extending well beyond the roof level.

The most well-known style of American barn is probably the prairie, or Western, barn. These have the classic peaked roof on a two-storied structure. The upper level is a hayloft, or mow, with a large access door on one side. Prairie barns directly descend from the Dutch style of an earlier era, though they tend to be much larger, and their gables are comparably quite small.

These are only a few of the many, many different styles that have cropped up throughout the years and which may still be seen with relative frequency throughout the United States and Europe. Other distinctive styles include bank barns, which are built into the side of a hill so that the top level has a ground-level access as well, the enormous log barns of the Finns, heavy basalt barns, those constructed entirely from adobe in the American Southeast, and structures which reach well over two-stories, offering multiple levels of equipment and feed storage.

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Discussion Comments

By TrogJoe19 — On Jan 13, 2011

Many barns are now in woods, because where there was once a farm, trees have grown up over the years. Much of New England is now completely forested in areas which were all farmland a hundred years ago. Massive industrialization and globalization has vastly decreased the number of farms in the world.

By dbuckley212 — On Jan 11, 2011

Remodeled barns can make great houses, particularly large barns. I remember visiting a friend's house who had a house made out of a barn with a very large central room and a large chandelier. It was beautiful, and very good for a large family. Bedrooms were along the edges and different floors had an outer walkway along the inner room.

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