When you think of barns, you probably picture a red building with a peaked roof, outside silo, and big doors. But the term barn actually originated from two Old English terms: bereærn (barley house) and beretun (barley enclosure).
Indeed, barns were originally used for storing barley and other grains before expanding into use as livestock housing.
Barns have evolved a lot since then and there are well over a dozen types, some of which are still meant for storing goods. Here are 13 examples of different barn types and what they’re used for.
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Types of Barns
1. Bank Barn
Sometimes also referred to as a banked barn, these aren’t as common in the US as they are in the UK, mainly because of the bank. These two-story barns get their name because the lower level is partially buried in the side of a hill or bank.
Traditionally, the bottom floor was used for threshing and the upper floor for storage. However, it’s common these days for livestock to be kept on the bottom floor and hay or other grains on the upper floor.
Due to the partial submerging, bank barns keep a more steady temperature throughout the year. Farmers have easy access to both floors and can drive equipment or goods right up to either floor without having to resort to pulley systems.
2. Circular Barn
Popular between 1880 and 1920, these barns were cheap and efficient. Because they were rounded, they needed far fewer resources to build and were more resilient against the elements.
The walls could be completely circular, octagonal, or polygonal. Monitor-style roofs were a common feature and these barns were especially popular among dairy farmers. Today, this style is more obscure but can still be found throughout the midwest.
3. Corn Crib Barn
As the name suggests, this style of barn was developed to store and dry corn. They’re well-ventilated and usually lack doors. Instead, one or more corn cribs were set up to either side of an open-ended aisle big enough to fit a wagon.
After the corn had fully dried, it wasn’t uncommon in the old days for families to set up tables in the aisle to shell the corn. A true corn crib barn only has one crib, while those with a crib to either side of the aisle are known as double corn crib barns.
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4. English A-Frame Gabled Barn
These simple barns were very popular during the early days of America. They have square bases and a simple A-frame roof, which could be built and hoisted onto the base.
Because they were made with whatever was on-hand, these barns usually only measured around 30 feet by 40 feet. Unlike most barns, the door was placed on the long side.
Some barns were made using stone for part or all of the construction, and any stonework had loophole slits added for ventilation. They became popular among dairy farmers, although you don’t see as many of these anymore.
However, they remain a simple and cheap design that is just as functional now as it was two hundred years ago.
5. Gambrel Roof Barn
Gambrel roofs are an innovation which changed how many buildings were built, including barns. Unlike the straight-angled roofs traditionally used, the gambrel features a steep pitch that switches to a shallower pitch near the top.
Sometimes also referred to as a Dutch colonial roof, the shape of these roofs create a large amount of extra storage. This led many farmers to replace their existing gabled roofs with gambrels.
Not only does the gambrel roof create more space on the inside, the roof itself is more structurally sound, allowing for much larger barns to be built.
Today, many gambrel barns are made of metal and include multiple doors and windows, allowing light, ventilation, and easy access. They’re popular among all types of farming, from livestock housing to grain storage.
6. Modular Barn
Modular barns are a great way to set up your barn quickly and are often inexpensive. You can purchase complete-built modular barns or partially built modular barns. Shedrows are often purchased as modular barns, although other barn types can also be purchased in this manner. In many cases, the barns are custom-made.
The big difference between a partially and completely built modular barn is in how much on-site assembly is required. Completely built barns tend to be small and are delivered in a single piece on the back of a flatbed truck. Meanwhile, partially bullet modular barns can be much larger and can be shipped in multiple sections.
In some cases, the partial construction will consist of the box portions of the barn, with the roof being shipped partially complete or built on-site.
7. Monitor Barn
Monitor barns are a curious, yet very functional design. The central aisle has a raised roof, improving air circulation and allowing for additional grain storage if a floor is added. In some cases, livestock farmers add chutes from the loft, allowing them to quickly feed their livestock.
Monitor-style roofs can be integrated with many other barn types and are a common sight on circular barns.
8. New World Dutch Barn
Sadly, this type of barn fell out of popularity in the US and there are less than 600 believed to still exist. The design can be dated back to the 11th century, and was in use in the New World from approximately 1620 until 1820.
The base and supports consist of stone piers, anchor beam posts, and purlin plates. Beams were pegged together in H-shaped units, leaving lots of room while making the barn quite sturdy.
The overall design was square with a gabled roof and usually only had one to two doors with no other openings. However, because of how simple the design was, it wasn’t uncommon for portions of the walls to be knocked out to create windows, ventilation, or other forms of access.
These barns may have been simple, but they could be used for everything from threshing and storing grain to livestock and were even known to house guests.
9. Peaked Prairie Barn (AKA Western Barn)
These large barns are no longer as common as they used to be, thanks to the advent of the roomier gambrel barn. However, many are still in use to this day.
One historic example is the T.A. Moulton barn, located in the Antelope Flats of Grand Teton National Park. The barns are rather large, with long, tall roofs and were popular among settlers because they could store large amounts of hay, grain, and other cattle feed.
The ground level generally includes rows of stalls with a wide central aisle. Its distinctive peaked roof began close to ground level, allowing for a large loft space. This loft was commonly filled to the brim with grain sacks and hay bales.
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10. Pole Barn
The term pole barn refers to a construction method and can overlap with other barn types. The term originated in the 1930s when farmers began using old telephone poles in barn construction to save money.
Today, the term refers to any barn in which the primary construction uses wooden posts which are embedded either into concrete or directly into the ground.
Pole barns often lack a foundation and are roomier than many other construction methods allow. They’re also extremely versatile, allowing for everything from livestock to equipment. Not all barns are pole barns, with some modern barns being built with steel frames or other materials.
11. Shedrow Barn
This is an especially popular type of barn for people with only a few horses. They can be purchased as prebuilt modules in up to three pieces, adding convenience and low cost to those in need of a new barn. They tend to lack hay storage or wash racks but provide easy access to feed storage, supplies, horse saddles, and other tack.
Shedrows have three or four sides, as well as a posted overhang porch over each stall entrance. It’s not uncommon for horse owners to leave the stalls open, allowing their horses free access. While mainly used by horse owners, it’s not unheard of for shedrow barns to be used for cattle as well.
12. Tobacco Barn
These are an older style of barn that may look different today but is still popular among tobacco farmers. They traditionally used post-frame construction with a gabled roof, although modern tobacco barns are often made of metal.
Ventilation is the single most important aspect of these barns, in which tobacco leaves are hung in rows to properly dry and cure.
13. Trailside Barn
These small barns are very popular among horse owners and tend to be quite cheap. The average trailside barn measures 30 feet square with a pitched roof. The only real drawback to this type of barn is that it isn’t designed to handle heavy snow and ice conditions, so it’s more popular in the southern states.
However, the low cost and ability to house more horses than a shedrow barn makes this a popular design. As the name suggests, these barns are often used by businesses offering horseback trail rides.