Keeping animals comfortable and hay dry are what barns are built for. To make your structure as safe as it is useful, check out these three tips.
1. Ventilate With Fresh Air
It might make us feel better when our animals are warm and snug in a closed-up barn, but it can make them sick. Between dust, mold, ammonia gasses, and other pollutants, the air quality in a barn can quickly become stagnant. Animals can get sick if there isn't enough ventilation to get rid of the pollutants and bring in fresh air.
The ideal ventilation system will uniformly distribute fresh air throughout the building. Barns with sliding doors and Dutch doors usually have enough gap on the edges to allow adequate air exchange. But make sure the doors fit well; you don't want it too drafty, either.
Bob McBride, director of construction management for Sand Creek Post and Beam, says, “Most of your ventilation occurs in the top portion of your barn, and you need to create a negative draft flow coming through your barn. When the wind blows, it naturally draws out and creates negative airflow out of your barn, so fresh air can flow in.”
He suggests installing gable vents in each end of the barn. If this isn't possible, there are mechanical vents that can be hooked up with timers that will draw the air out, creating the needed negative airflow. Installing commercial-grade ceiling fans with 3- to 4-foot blades every 10 feet also works very well.
“Typically, if you set them in the center of the barn in the peak, just creating that air movement will move air up the wall and stir it. Or if you reverse the fan, it'll actually draw the air up,” he says.
2. Select Proper Lighting
If you're remodeling an old barn, do not underestimate the value of good lighting. If you store hay in your barn or keep animals, you need to be very careful with anything that conducts heat.
McBride says the best type of lighting depends on what your needs are.
“They make some very good lights now — the T-5 and T-8 fluorescents. If you're going to turn them on, you want to leave them on. You don't want to be flipping them on and off,” he says. “If you're going in your barn and you're turning the light on at 6:00 a.m. and you're going to have that light on for four to five hours, it's better to use a T-5 light.”
A hanging fixture with a covered bulb and a pan over the top to reflect the light works very well. Always place the lights high enough so they're not radiating heat onto the animals or the hay. It's also a good idea to choose fixtures that protect the lights from dust, dirt, and moisture.
McBride suggests considering costs, design, codes, and also the neighbors if you're installing outside lights.
3. Choose The Right Fire Extinguisher
If your barn were to catch fire, would you know where the fire extinguisher is? Or if it would even work? Not all fire extinguishers are the same, but they do require maintenance to be effective should you need them.