Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world of perfect spring days? Unfortunately, no matter where you live, the weather has a huge impact on your way of life and the way you keep your horses. A barn’s design will be fundamentally the same regardless of your location, but you need to take precautions depending on the natural hazards common to your area.
Codes, Codes, Codes
Building to code has been a recurring theme in this series, and it reigns supreme when it comes to designing your barn to handle the elements.
“Every area has different codes for things like snow load and high winds,” said Lorri Hayward of Hayward Designs. “There are often special requirements you have to adhere to.”
Not only must you construct to code so your buildings will pass inspection, but it will also play in your favor if your building is damaged.
“Plan for worse than the specifications require,” advised Connie McRill, Woodbine, Md., who lost her riding arena during the recent snowstorms in the mid-Atlantic region. “You can’t predict disasters, so try to make it one step stronger. Do all your building legally. It’ll pay off in the long run.”
Where To Go For Codes
- National: The Uniform Building Code is the most commonly used code, followed by the Building Officials Conference of America (used in the Northeast and Great Lakes region), Southern Building Code Congress International and the National Building Code
- County: Clerk, Council or Commission
- City or Town: Clerk or Council, Building and Zoning Department, Housing Department
- Other Helpful Resources: Your local cooperative-extension office holds a wealth of information about your local climate, geography and agricultural codes.
Making An Entrance
No matter what weather conditions you may battle, having a safe and accessible entrance is the first step to keeping your barn functioning.
“I prefer swinging doors over sliding doors,” said Hayward. “But if they aren’t protected, you can’t get in and out of the barn.”
Hayward recommended utilizing porches, rooflines or recessed entries to protect your access points. She also mentioned that installing Dutch doors on your stalls will help with fire protection, as well as providing additional access points in case of emergencies.
While some farm owners may want to incorporate heating/cooling systems into their facilities to protect against extreme temperatures, similar results can be achieved by simply designing an effective ventilation system.
“I am a firm advocate for insulation regardless of where you are,” said Hayward. “It can help keep your barn cool as well as keeping it from being damp and cold in the winter.”
Many barn designers require a geotechinical report before digging the pad and foundation for your barn. This report can also help you determine what kind of fencing you need, based on your farm’s soil.
In some areas of the country, the ground is simply too rocky to set fence posts, so alternative fencing, like buck and rail fencing, is necessary to keep your horses contained.
If you live in a very wet climate, you will want to reconsider using straight wood for your fencing, because over time it will rot. Remember, while pressure-treated wood is designed to withstand the elements, it should never be used where a horse has access to it, because the chemicals used to treat the wood could potentially poison a horse if ingested.
Another concern when it comes to soil is landslides, but, fortunately, a geotechnical report can help you prevent one.
- Don’t: Build near steep slopes, mountain edges, near drainage ways or natural erosion valleys.
- Do: Get a geotechnical report of your property.
- Do: Contact local officials or departments about identifiable hazard locations.
- Do: Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.
- Don’t: Ignore changes in the topography of your farm.
- Don’t: Ignore cracks in your building materials or newly jamming windows and doors.
Movers And Shakers
In addition to a solid foundation, barns located in earthquake prone areas need to have a sturdy wall construction.