Q: "I’m building a barn in cold, northern New England …
What type of barn would you suggest and why?
A: Cold Climate Barns
Georgia Hickey, Equine Facilities Design
King Construction Company, LLC
While the primary considerations of siting, natural light and good ventilation apply
to all barns, they’re even more important in a location where winter comes earlier,
stays longer and Nor’easters are not uncommon.
Barns should always be sited with attention to prevailing winds and sun patterns.
In cold country, I prefer to face the gable ends north and south – the worst of the
winter winds will hit the narrow end and blow past the long sides of the barn.
In the summer, your aisle end doors will open toward the prevailing breezes.
Horse stalls on the east-facing side of the barn will be warmed by the rising sun
and better sheltered from the heat of the summer sun past mid-day. With Dutch
doors and windows facing east and west, you’ll bring more natural light into the barn.
Reduce winter condensation problems by installing a small venting window in
addition to the Dutch door windows.
This stall features a Dutch door and a small window
for ventilation in cold weather
Wood is a natural insulator, so a wood barn will be warmer in winter and cooler in
summer than a metal barn. If budget permits, insulate the outer walls on the main
level; if you can’t insulate and finish the main floor ceilings, fully load the hay loft
to retain more heat over the winter. I don’t recommend heating a horse barn unless
with radiant floor heat in the aisles.
Other types of heating systems can create bacteria, mold and respiratory problems,
so horses are better off with a blanket. Stall floors should be insulated against the
cold -- stall mattresses are best, or use tightly-fitted rubber mats under the bedding.
Automatic waterers with built-in heaters and a consumption gauge will eliminate
frozen buckets and allow you to monitor how much each horse is drinking. Since
most barns have well water, always plan for a generator in case of a power outage.
A metal roof will release its snow load more quickly than a shingle roof, so it’s a
good choice in areas with snowy winters. Metal roofs should always be insulated
to control condensation, or you can install it over plywood. All roofing should
include ridge venting, and barns should have eave venting; venting cupolas will
also improve air exchange.
Barn with wood siding, metal roofing, full ridge venting and venting cupola -- the porches
also provide additional protection from snow, rain and summer sun.
With proper planning and good materials, a barn in the coldest climate can
provide a comfortable and healthy home for your horses.
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