How much does a barn conversion cost? Part 3

Here I’ll consider the actual costs of converting your barn and making it habitable.

The Conversion
So we’ve safely purchased our pile of stone, slate and wood and it’s quietly decaying away in the corner of a farm-yard somewhere, how much will it cost to convert it to a place a person (rather than a pig) could live in?

When I started out on my project I shied away from those cost-per-square metre charts that building books such as The Housebuilder’s Bible Eighth Edition (8th Edition) and Building Your Own Home are so fond of. To my inexperienced mind averaging the cost of the roof, floors and other works across the whole of the building made very little sense. I preferred a schedule of works, with each individual item costed and an overall total. I could then grapple with these and manage the individual components. To be honest usually finding that when the bills came in I’d under-estimated so needed to juggle the books or put other things off until later.

I can now see the value of a per-square-metre costing as an additional tool in managing costs. A per-square-metre cost provides an easy rule of thumb to see just what you’re getting for your money – and perhaps question it. Let me try and explain…

A total cost is a big budget and directs you to the question how much money do I need and where can I find it? Your thinking becomes goal oriented, you look for ways to achieve that goal and value for money can quickly become neglected and your flexibility compromised in pursuit of your budgetary target (…and of course, if you can find the money somewhere you probably will and therefore your budget becomes an (upward) moving feast – a far from ideal way to manage your finances).

Per-square-metre costs make you ask different questions, both when looking at the project as a whole and also at parts of the project. It helps address the over-riding big question of is it worth paying that much per square metre? … when I could have a new build / self build / existing house for less? (We could be optimistic and say perhaps more but the one thing most convertors discover quite quickly is that conversion is one of the most expensive ways to get a place to live). Also helping with the smaller questions – when you think in terms of per-square-metre costs the effect of the £200sqm marble flooring on your budget is pretty obvious.

So whilst a total cost is essential and individual costing of scheduled items of work is necessary, I think the per-square-metre cost is a handy yard stick for day-to-day practical purposes and decision making.

Once my conversion is completed I’ll calculate my own per-square-metre cost and see how that comes out (gulp). (Don’t be surprised if I chicken out on that one).

There are many factors to bear in mind when considering costs. Not all conversion projects are created equal. There is a scale of complexity and costs with conversions, at the hard and more costly end those conversions that need under-pinning, a new roof, rebuilding of unsound walls, have no utilities on site etc. and at the easier (never easy) and less costly (never cheap) end those that are structurally sound, have a workable roof and pre-existing utilities etc.

scale of complexity
scale of complexity

Back to answering the question at hand, how much will it cost me to carry out the conversion:

You can’t really put an upper limit on costs, but I’ll chance my arm here and give a range of per-square-metre costs. I think as a minimum, for a project at the lower end of my ‘scale of complexity’, with decent finishes and materials, some work undertaken by the owner and no major headaches along the way, there’s a minimum per-square-metre cost of £800. Further along that scale you soon get in excess of £1000 and I’ll put a more complex project with better finishes at £1500, with the sky being the limit at the top end.

So, my neck on the line, per-square-metre cost, Summer 2010 is: £800 – £1500+ …and you need to add a further premium to that in the more expensive, southern parts of the UK.

In summary I think the cost of a barn conversion is currently (Summer 2010) going to break down, as a minimum, something like:

  • Barn with permission – £150,000 to £200,000.
  • Plans and planning (no architect, self project managed) – £3,000+
  • Conversion work – for 100 square meters – £80-100,000

So, in answer to:

I am thinking of buying a barn for myself … could [someone] give me a ballpark figure as to how much this is lik[e]ly to cost?

My answer is basically, £250,000+

Please feel free to agree, disagree or discuss further…

Part 1: the building, Part 2: architects & plans