Beginner’s guide to barn conversions

An old barn can provide the perfect shell to create your ideal home. These large and often very solid structures give the opportunity to create a house with huge expanses of space and high ceilings. Most importantly, by retaining the original form, materials or structure, it adds character, charm and history to your otherwise modern and light-filled home.

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1. Where can I find barns for sale?

The most comprehensive search engines for old or derelict barns for conversions:

On the market has a good list of barns for sale, both completed conversions and barns ready to be converted.

Barnsetc is a site dedicated to help you find your perfect barn or barn conversion.


3. How much does a barn conversion cost?

It’s almost impossible to put a ballpark cost to this, as it depends on so many factors. However, barn conversions are typically more expensive than new builds per square metre, so expect to pay upwards of £1500 per square metre. Retaining and carefully upgrading the existing structure and fabric of the building can be a costly exercise. However, the character and history it preserves can be priceless.

See our article on how much it costs to build a new house here:

How much does it cost to build a house?


4. How do I get building regs approval for a barn conversion?

Ultimately, there are three routes to obtaining building regulations approval for your barn conversion.

  1. A ‘building notice’ is where you or your builder gives notice to the council that works are about to start. This makes things much quicker, but there is more of a risk that you will be asked to change aspects of the design as you go. Also, there is less scope for appealing their decisions. This route is common for small extensions, but for a barn conversion, I’d recommend considering the other approaches below…
  2. A ‘full plans’ application to the council means that you submit plans and details for approval before work starts. This information is usually much more detailed than a set of planning drawings. Once submitted, the decision takes a minimum of five weeks. Once work starts on site, regular inspections will be made.
  3. Using an ‘approved inspector’. An approved inspector is a private individual or organisation employed by you to ensure that your project complies with the building regulations. They will check and inspect the work instead of the local council. Using an approved inspector can be invaluable, particularly if your proposals are out-of-the-ordinary, or push the boundaries of the ‘approved documents’. Your approved inspector will be on your side to make sure your proposals ultimately comply with regulations.


4. Do I need planning permission for a barn conversion?

In 2014, permitted development rights were extended to allow agricultural buildings (e.g. barns) to be converted into homes (Class Q). Before this, it was necessary to apply for full planning permission. However, this concession in planning policy should not be viewed as a sure thing for every barn conversion project. There are certain rules, restrictions and hoops to jump through in every case, and there’s a possibility that permitted development rights won’t apply to your project at all.

Is it really a conversion or a ‘re-build’?

One issue is that a ‘re-build’ requires planning permission and a true barn ‘conversion’ may not.

Be aware that the local planning authority may classify the development as a re-build, even if much of the existing building remains. It’s worth having a look at this legal case here, but ultimately you will need to seek approval from the Local Planning Authority before starting work in any case.

Prior notification

One condition of permitted development for barn conversions is that prior notification should be given to the local planning authority before work starts. The council has the right to refuse the proposals if certain criteria are not met and can impose conditions on the development. It could be argued that this ‘prior notification’ procedure is essentially a planning application with another name!

We’d advise discussing your particular case with an architect, perhaps even before purchasing the plot. A good architect will help you navigate the complexities of the planning process during the design and development phase of the project. Here at Design for Me, we can help you find the right architect for your particular needs. Find out more…

5. How to stay in control of your barn conversion

As you’ve probably concluded, a barn conversion is not the easiest or cheapest route to creating your dream home. With this in mind, the most important decision you make as a client is to hire the right architect, preferably one with barn conversion experience. They can help you navigate the planning process, keep costs under control and design you a home that you’ll want to stay in for lifetime. Here at Design for Me, we specialise in matching clients with the best architect for your requirements.


Conversion and restoration architects

Below are just a few of the best conversion and restoration architects on Design for Me, where you can find and be matched with 100s more (and it’s free!):

  • quickly see who’s interested in your job
  • create a shortlist
  • invite up to three for a no-obligation consultation



Conversion and restoration architect in the Cotswolds, South-West

(click on her name above to view her full profile and shortlist her for your project)

Lydia is the design director of an award-winning, innovative architecture practice based in the South West. Inspired by the unique context of each project, she enjoys creating thoughtful, site-specific designs and developments that enhance the urban or rural environment.

conversion architect

barn architect



Barn conversion architect in Litchfield, West Midlands

(click on her name above to view her full profile and shortlist her for your project)

“We aim to provide good quality design and a full RIBA service at a reasonable cost. We guide throughout the whole process from planning, building control to site works and completion.”

barn conversion architect Litchfield

Barn conversion architect West midlands



Barn conversion architect in Leeds, Yorkshire

(click on his name above to view his full profile and shortlist him for your project)

Working closely with the client and their brief, we aim to create extensions, internal remodels and new build dwellings which surpass the client’s aspirations. Working throughout the residential sector, we have particular experience in working with existing properties, creating homes which meet both the functional and design needs of the client and brief.

barn conversion leeds

Barn conversion architect leeds



Barn conversion architect in Leeds, Yorkshire

(click on his name above to view his full profile and shortlist him for your project)

“We are a creative practice with a reputation for quality and imaginative architecture, interior and structural design. We have an open studio approach in Leeds and London that ensures each individual project receives thorough investigation and analysis, resulting in a bespoke solution specifically tailored to each scheme. Our ethos and attitude remains the same no matter the size or scale: to create exciting and interesting buildings and spaces that please, on budget and on time.”

Barn yorkshire

barn conversion ideas



Conversion architect in Manchester

(click on his name above to view his full profile and shortlist him for your project)

“I am lucky enough to design houses and house interiors as my job. I am deeply passionate about residential architecture and interiors and enjoy the process of helping clients to realise their dream project.”

conversion architecture

Albert Mill Location: Manchester, Greater Manchester Client: Scott Donald Architect: Scott Donald


Conversion architect in Camden, London

(click on her name above to view her full profile and shortlist her for your project)

I’ve been working as an interior designer for 35 years, mainly on private home projects. I’m very interested in sustainability and organic or reclaimed materials. I’m originally from Barcelona, recently moved to London and now share a studio with architects and engineers at Ecos Maclean. I’m very experienced with managing projects and working with architects or builders. I don’t have a fixed style – I will work with the client and design to their tastes. Ultimately, it’s your house so I’ll adapt!

barn conversion ideas


If you are looking for a conversion or restoration architect for your project, we can match you with the best for your requirements. It’s completely free to use – just tell us what you’re looking for by clicking the link below:

  • quickly see who’s interested in your job
  • create a shortlist
  • invite up to three for a no-obligation consultation

Emily  Design for Me


Find your perfect design pro within minutes…

Here at Design for Me we match you with the right design professional, from thousands all over the UK. Get quotes & arrange up to three no obligation consultations. And it’s all completely free! Find out more here or get started below…



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