Ultimate Guide to Building a Metal Barn – Episode 7: RVing with Joe & Kait

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In this episode of the RVing with Joe & Kait podcast, delve into the specifics of RV barn building, focusing on the construction of a metal barn with Keith Life from Keith and Wi Adventures. Keith shares his firsthand experience of constructing a 50’x 60′, 3,000 square foot multi-use metal barn for his RV and other equipment.

Our discussion includes unexpected complexities and details involved in the RV barn build, from navigating local building codes and regulations to selecting the right materials and design to ensure a spacious and open interior. Keith’s insights extend beyond the construction aspects, touching on the importance of planning, the aesthetic impact of the barn on the property, and the practical benefits of insulation and door choices.

Our conversation also contrasts Keith’s metal barn build with our own considerations for a smaller pole barn to highlight the varied experiences and decisions RV owners might face when undertaking such a project.

This episode is a must listen for anyone interested in building a barn on their property.

Building a Metal Barn

Building a Metal Barn for RV

Where to watch/listen

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Episode Guest

Keith Life and Wiwi are avid travelers. They currently take extended trips in their 4×4 camper van and also travel abroad to Mexico, Asia and Europe. They have recently built a 3,000 sqft metal barn to use as a workshop and to store their vehicles and belongings as they prepare to go full time on the road. The new barn is located on their small ranch located in the wine country of Northern California. They have a zest for life and search for remote places that most travelers don’t go. They have a youtube channel, “Keith and Wi Adventures” where they cover most of their travels.

The decision to spend the money to build a barn was a difficult one to make and the process took over one year to complete. They would like to share some of the decisions needed for determining the type of barn to build, the location where to place the building, some engineering requirements for the grading, foundation and erection of the building and some do’s and don’ts to consider in your process of building a new barn.


Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Key Highlights

  • Comprehensive Guide to Building an RV Barn: Keith shares his journey of creating a 3,000 square foot metal barn, detailing the planning, design, and functionality aspects of the process.
  • Design Decisions for Aesthetics and Utility: Discussion on choosing a visually striking, functional barn layout that enhances property value and supports a variety of uses.
  • Construction Tips for Success: Practical advice on key construction elements such as choosing the right thickness for the concrete pad and optimizing the barn’s spatial layout to prevent future issues.
  • Understanding Project Costs: Keith breaks down the metal barn project costs, highlighting the impact of design choices, regulations, and fluctuating material costs on the budget.
  • Overcoming Permit and Regulation Challenges: Insights into navigating complex local building codes, particularly in a highly regulated area like California’s wine country.


00:00 Introduction and Background
01:53 Benefits of Building a Barn
04:20 Keith’s Number One Tip for Building a Barn
06:22 Preparing and Planning for a Barn Build
09:30 Starting the Barn Build
12:55 Pouring the Concrete and Inspections
15:20 Metal Framing and Roofing
16:36 Doors, Vents and Insulation
20:39 Cost of Building a Metal Barn
23:10 Driveway and Drainage Considerations
25:48 Cost of Building a Pole Barn
27:58 Hiring a General Contractor
29:20 Heating and Cooling a Barn
33:34 Window Placement and Side Wall Height
36:16 Design Considerations and Cost Factors
44:00 Top Tip for Building a Barn

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Joe Russo Have you ever thought of or do you want to build a barn? If so, today’s episode is for you. Kait and I have been considering building a barn for our RV and today we’re gonna talk to our friend Keith who did just that and is gonna walk us through the entire process.

Keith, how’s it going?

Keith Life It’s so good to see you guys. It’s been a little while since we’ve actually had a chance to talk so it’s wonderful to see you guys.

Joe Russo The last time we saw you and the reason we wanted you on this podcast is because when we came out to visit you, you had your new barn workshop all just, it had just been finished. I remember getting to walk through it and I was in complete awe. Absolutely loved it. And when we bought this property, I told Kait, we need something like that.

So we wanted to get you on the podcast today to kind of talk through that because I know you went through a lot to get it built and done. We’re currently in the process of going through budgeting, getting quotes and talking to people and we’d love to compare and contrast the experience you had and what we’re going through.

Keith Life I would say that it was one of the most significant projects that we’ve done on our property. It’s got such a long lasting value and impact on the aesthetics of your property.

It was a learning process as I started to go through the process, WiWi and I, and we found out that there was a lot more detail. In order to put this together, there was a lot more detail than I really ever expected to happen. And I’d be glad to share, you know, part of the process and part of the learning experiences that we had and hopefully it’ll help others if they want to go through the same process that it gives them a little head start.

Joe Russo Why don’t you explain to people what it is you built, how big it is and what you had done?

Keith Life It’s a bright red barn. I wanted it something that would stand out on the property.

It’s a monitor style where it has two different roofs. It’s 50 feet across and 60 feet deep. So it’s a 3,000 square foot barn. It’s a cement floor and it’s a metal barn. I decided to go with a metal barn with metal framing.

One of the key aspects that I really wanted to make sure was many barns that you look at or shops, buildings, whatever you want to call them have support that go to the floor from the roof in the middle of the barn. So they section off the barn in order to support the roof. And I wanted a big open floor plan. So I had all options open, a clean slate for being able to build or do what I want inside. So that was very important to us.

Joe Russo And if I remember correctly, one of the impetuses for you building this barn is the fact that you have a very cool 4×4 camper van and you wanted a place to securely park that as well as put other things, correct?

Keith Life A big reason we built the barn was to store the camper van inside and I started thinking with a property like we have or others may have, you really want to be able to have something that you can put your equipment inside too. If you’ve got a tractor, if you’ve got some implements, anything like this, it’s really nice to store inside. They last longer. The weather doesn’t deteriorate them.

You’ve got the possibility of building a shop so you can work there. If you have a weekend car you want to keep clean and work on, anything like this, it’s a perfect idea. The barn gives you so many options. One of the things I’m looking at, we’ve got olive trees. So I’m going to buy olive oil making equipment and set up a shop inside to be able to make olive oil. So there’s just endless possibilities once you have something like this on your property.

Joe Russo We’re looking at putting up a 40×50, a 2 ,000 square foot building. What I’m really curious from you is, you know, from a small building that is just made to fit, let’s say an RV or a boat all the way up to what you built. What are some things that you’ve learned that you can pass on to everybody else?

Keith Life I can pass on the best word of advice that I have found to be true over and over. I have several friends in the area here who have built a barn similar to this, and every single one of them separately told me to build it bigger than you thought you needed. And I built 50×60 and as soon as I started putting equipment in, you would be amazed at how fast it fills up.

If I had it to do over again, I would have built it even bigger. I thought the 3 ,000 square feet would be so much space, I’d never ever fill it up, I’d never be able to use that much space, and it’s not true. It became apparent within the first couple of weeks.

So if you’re thinking about building a barn and you have the space or the budget or the possibility to make it bigger, make it bigger because you will not regret it. Because once you build it, it’s very difficult to go back and justify that you’re going to take down the back side of the barn, rebuild an extension on the outside. And it can be very difficult to do that.

That’s the best word of advice I can give to anyone that’s thinking about getting a barn. Build it bigger. As big as you can, you won’t regret it. You just won’t regret it once the barn is built.

Kait Russo I remember watching your four part series on your metal barn build. And in one of the videos, I think WiWi was walking through and you only had the support beams up. The walls weren’t even up yet. And she says something to the effect of, it’s a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be.

Keith Life That’s exactly right. She even saw it. She walked in and said, Oh, this looks small. I’m like, oh my

Joe Russo I could hear the disappointment in your voice when she said that. Let’s hear the story of what it took you to go through this.

Keith Life I believe it took me approximately five years to get myself in a position that I could build a barn. I had hoped for this and dreamed for this for the property we’re on for a very long time.

I thought, well, maybe I’ll just build the slab first and then that will give me a little bit more leeway and really an emphasis for building the rest of the barn. But I started talking to the local building departments and they wouldn’t allow me to do that.

I have to preface all this I’m going to go through with I do, just like Joe said, I live in wine country in California and it’s a highly regulated area and the permits and the regulations required are much higher than they are in other areas. My brother lives in Texas, for instance, and once you’re outside into the county line, there is no requirement for even a permit to put up a barn. So it’s different in the places you live. Where I live, it was a very difficult process as far as what was required.

My property has a little bit of a hillside, and the area I selected, I thought it looked level. When you go out there and you start looking at where you’re going to put your property, oh, this would be great because it’s nice and level. Well, you start running a few lines and putting a level to them. You’ll find out many times it’s not level at all.

So my property ended up, what I thought was level, ended up having to have six feet of fill in the back, compacted fill just to make the pad. We also had to take down a big hillside that came down to the pad and use that as fill to be able to fill out the flat part of the pad.

It required that I first had to go through the building department and get a soil analysis done where I had to bring out a drilling rig and they had to drill down and take soil samples as deep as they could. And this gave a compaction number. This compaction number was sent back to a lab in Kansas City to be able to determine what level of compaction the contractor needed to do in order to hold the building pad, the amount of weight, the building, the pad, the equipment, everything that would go on the site.

So that was the first thing I had to do. Just prior to that, you couldn’t even get started without a site plan. So you had to come in and have a surveyor come in and do a topographical map so that you understood the slopes in the area. Part of that is to design and show where the building goes and also to design the driveways and the drainage for all the water when it rains. This type of detail had to go into the plan.

So after I got the soil compaction and I got the detailed site plan and the grading plan that was also included, I was able to hire a contractor that came out and they brought out some pretty heavy equipment and it was just amazing to watch.

You don’t get much better feeling than watching your property when that equipment shows up for the first time for a project that you’ve waited for for so many years and they start to dig and they start to move soil. They’re spraying water to keep down the dust and you’re just starting to see it come to shape right in front of you. You go out and you inspect and you see what things do. And I put all this in that four part series that you mentioned, Kait. It’s just a great feeling.

Once the pad was built, I had to get an engineering calculations done for the pad itself, the concrete pad that the building goes on. So it needed to be thick enough to support the building. The column footings had to be deep enough. The rebar had to be designed, adequate to be able to hold the columns. This was done by a local engineering company a separate engineering company from the grading and from the soil compaction company.

They put that together that wasn’t a whole lot of cost, but I got it done and submitted it to the county. They came back and said the plans were okay. I ended up with a six inch deep pad I believe it was 45,000 pounds per square concrete, which is pretty average. That’s the normal mix for the concrete.

I had to find a contractor that was separate from all the other contractors to put the concrete in. So I was being my own general contractor. So I was the guy pulling everything together versus hiring a company to come in and do everything. So that’s a decision that people need to make for themselves also.

I had a lot to coordinate. I brought in the concrete contractor. I had three different bids and they were all very similar, but I went with one that I liked. They went through and they framed it all up.

The first thing we did, we had an inspection. They had dug all the footing around the pad because it’s got a two foot footing. The engineer that came out from the county said, oh, it’s not deep enough. You don’t have your pit deep enough. So they had to go back, take down all the forms, go back and re -dig it another foot deep around the concrete pad, then put all the forms back up before we started putting in the rebar.

So the rebar was all done on site. They molded up the footings. It was actually quite complicated what went down in the footing holes. And then they put the 18 inch squares across the entire pad for the rebar and made it look just like the plans. Then I was able to bring out the inspector to look at it.

One of the things that I learned about this was you need to ground your pad in case of a lightning strike or in case of a ground fault from your equipment inside. But there’s a copper wire that needs to be grounded to the rebar that comes out and is grounded to the panel where your electricity comes in. And this was something we had to adjust during one of the inspections.

Once we got through all the inspections, I had about eight or nine dump trucks come. And this was fun because they’re starting to pour and you got five or six people out there in rubber boots and you’re pouring in the concrete, you’re filling it in, another truck comes, another truck comes, another truck comes and it just starts to grow and it really starts to look like man i’m making some progress here I’m actually getting a building i can see this.

One thing it’s really important as an owner to go out and watch this stuff be done because contractors are contractors and I saw that some of them were standing on the rebar as they were pouring the concrete. The rebar should be in the middle of the concrete and they were standing on the rebar and putting it way down here as the concrete would be filled.

So I’m like, hey, hey, hey. So they’re lifting the rebar up to where it needs to be when the concrete’s being filled. Had I not been there, it would have not been the way I really wanted it. So it’s a really good idea to watch and make sure that either you have somebody doing it for you that knows what they’re doing and you trust, or you’re down there looking at it yourself every day.

So once the concrete pad was poured, one of the things that I would say is very important if you’re getting a metal building. It’ll be a little bit different if you’re doing a wooden frame or a pole building. But with a metal building, the bolts that come out of the concrete have to match perfectly the pad of the columns, the bolt holes of the column.

The owner of the company that supplied me the building, it was really important to get him out and measure the distances for every one of the bolts for the column before we poured the concrete. That way, once concrete is poured, there’s no moving those bolts. It’s very difficult.

He measured those just to make sure, and I thought that was a really good thing that we did because it assured that when the separate contractor that comes with the building itself and they start putting up the framing, that those bolt holes line up and match perfectly. And in our case they did. I was a little nervous but they did match up and that really helped.

Once that was in. The building came, they unloaded it and it was just phenomenal to me how fast the framing goes up. And I’m sure this is the same whether it’s wood or metal but you will just be amazed how fast the skeleton of the building goes up.

Our metal building took two days. If you can believe that, it’s just two days to put up all the metal. And it was just phenomenal to watch those guys work. Some of the 50 foot long joists being put up on top of the vertical columns is really something to watch.

Then the next step is they started to put the shell around the building, the metal. At that point you start to see, man, this looks like a barn. I’m starting to see the color. I’m starting to see it close in. I’m starting to see the roof close in. Now I understand what this thing is really truly going to look like. That took a lot longer. That took about six weeks for the guys to put all the metal around the outside, the metal on the roof.

I had the entire building insulated. So, I had the whole inside insulated.

I also had to get doors. I’ve got three doors. The center door is 14 feet high and 12 feet wide. I did that so that I could get just about any RV in there if I ever wanted to get an RV inside. I also built two doors equidistant from the center door. They’re 12 feet high and 12 feet wide.

I started to go down the path of electrifying them, basically putting electric motors on them so I could push a button and they would go up and down. But I decided because of cost just to go with the center door, the big door with electric motor. But it’s been a very long time for getting electricity to the barn and I’ve found that manually it’s no problem at all. In retrospect, I probably would have just gone with manual for raising and lowering the doors.

I talked about a vent on the peak of the roof with the contractor and he gave me some good advice there. He said that you can put a vent in but you’re going to be chasing leak problems the rest of your time after you build it. So I said, well, what do you do for yours? He said, I didn’t put a vent at all. There’s no need for a vent at the top. And I’m like, well, doesn’t that trap heat? He goes when your ceiling is tall enough, you’re not gonna feel any heat down at the bottom.

So we did not put a vent on the roof and I’ve not seen a bit of problem with it I think it was the right call for our barn, especially with insulation. You do not want to leak behind the insulation.

One thing that I want to step back just a second and and mention to everybody that if if you’re building a barn on your property the aesthetics is extremely important.

If you think about it, you come out of your house or your property and you’ve got a certain view that you’ve grown accustomed to and you really like, otherwise you wouldn’t have the property. It will forever change once you build that building. So when you pick a spot, you have to visualize, now what is my property going to look like with this building on it?

So it becomes very important how you angle that building. Are you going to look at the front of it? The side of it? Is the side going to have the doors? Are you going to have windows? What color is the roof? What color is the building? Because you will change your landscape forever once you build this. And it can add value and it can add beauty to your property if you do it right.

So I would say take some time. The way I did it, it took me quite a few months to really determine where I wanted it, the style I wanted. I used string lines and stakes to move it around in the area so I got it exactly where I thought was the best location to put it. And I even stood some PVC up really high so I could see corners where the roof was going to be to try and visualize.

I wasn’t able to find a program and I’m sure someone else could do this, but there are programs where you can take a picture and place a building onto your property and look at it. That might be something somebody might want to consider.

But if you build the barn and it’s at a wrong angle or it’s the wrong side of the barn you want to look at for the rest of your life, you’ll probably go out and think of that every time you look at it.

So I can’t emphasize enough. Make sure that where you place this building, it adds beauty and aesthetics to your building. And it’s something that you really like to look at every day.

Joe Russo That is a great point. The one question I want to ask you that I bet is burning on everyone’s mind is how much did you spend for the barn?

Keith Life It was a very expensive project. When I totaled everything up, I was actually quite surprised. It took me five years to prepare and get ready for this and I just happened to have a situation in my life that allowed me to build this.

I spent a total of $380,000 for this project. It’s a very nice barn, but a lot of it had to do with the regulations and the requirements that I had to go through. One, I started it right during COVID. So the price of metal skyrocketed at that time. And I had a lot of permit costs. I had a lot of regulations I had to go through.

For instance, if it was my brother who lives in Texas, if he was out in the country, he wouldn’t even need a permit. He could hire somebody just to come in and build it as a package deal and get done for much less of a price.

But I kind of went over the top. The style of the building, the monitor style barn that I got is a very expensive style. There’s a lot of framing and a lot of engineering that goes into the truss and the joist in order to support that big of an open space.

The pad alone was about $85 ,000 just for the concrete pad. It wasn’t because the concrete was super expensive, but by the time you got the footings dug, the permits, the rebar, and the finishing off. I wanted a smooth finish versus a rough finish. And then I went through and I epoxied the floor. And epoxying a floor that big is not cheap either.

So my expenses are probably much more than it would be anywhere else in the United States, except maybe portions of Manhattan in New York. So I definitely don’t want the cost to drive people away from thinking that they could do this.

You absolutely can do this for a much, much cheaper price. I mean, completely different ballpark. But for where I live, what I had to go through, that’s how much it cost.

Kait Russo That cost includes your, I think you said 25 foot wide driveway going to the barn and exiting the barn and you also built a driveway around the barn.

Keith Life My driveway is the entryway coming off my main driveway. The driveway to the barn is 25 feet wide and about 200 feet long. The cement driveway that you’re talking about is the entryway to the building, which was 50 feet by 25 feet, sloped at a 2% slope so that the water ran away from the barn. That had to be put in.

I’ve got a 20 foot space behind the barn and another 15 foot space on another side of the barn and another 25 foot wide driveway for 200 feet.

Now that brings up another point you need to consider. Once you find out where it’s located, how are you going to get the road to it or the driveway to it? And the way my house is situated, I’ve got a long driveway and the barn was originally, I placed it really close to the driveway.

Eventually, because I realized how tall it was gonna be, it was just too overwhelming to be that close to the driveway. So I moved it back away from the driveway. So aesthetically, when you put your barn, if you can look at it from a distance, there’s a not too far, not too close. There’s a distance that feels right for your property that you want to set that barn because if it’s too close, it’s just right up in your face. If it’s too far, it’s a little dot.

When you do the location, think about where that goes. And because I set it back, it added a lot more cost because of the driveway and the excavating and the grading that had to be done to make it work.

I had to put in some drain pipes and some drainage ditches because of the hillside that we took down and bring it all off the property. Because once you have a roof it collects, you know, it takes a lot of water, concentrates it and pushes it out in the gutters and all of a sudden you’ve got a little stream you have to take care of. So I had some underground piping and culverts and such that need to be put in, which also added to the cost of the building.

Joe Russo Yeah, to give people a little comparison. So we’ve been getting some quotes on our side and the quotes I’ve gotten so far for a 40×50 building with a 10 foot overhang on one side, windows and door openings. This does not include the roll up doors, which we can get to in a minute. But that quote for the building alone I think was $32,000 and then to have these guys come out, build it, do the pad and everything, total for the building was gonna be $45,000 which includes the pad. And this is for wood-framed metal building.

Electricity quote was about $18,000. So I would say all in would probably be $65,000 to $70,000, which is kind of a drop in the bucket compared to what you had to go through. And I think for us, when we were talking to the guy who puts the buildings together, he said for the permitting process, basically all we have to do is he takes a drawing, a basic drawing of the building, the framing of it, and we walk into our county permit office, show that to them, pay a small fee, and we have our permit, and all is done.

Kait Russo Keith mentioned something that we haven’t priced out, which is the entrance and exit driveway to our barn that we wanna build. And also, are we gonna need drainage ditches and things like that?

Joe Russo I don’t think so. I mean, we’re in a completely separate environment. And that’s the thing that’s kind of scary about this process is when we bought this property like two years ago, the first thing I wanted to do was build a barn. And once you start going down that rabbit hole of prices, options, and realizing all of the things you don’t know, it’s kind of a very, it’s a difficult process.

Kait Russo Yeah, and my question for you, Keith, is since you decided to be the general contractor for this project, are you glad that you were the one who handled it or looking back if you were to do it again, would you hire someone to manage the project?

Keith Life For the price that I ended up paying without a general contractor, I would definitely do it myself to save a little bit of money. But in the situation, for instance, where you guys are in Indiana, it may justify it. If you’re not comfortable with doing it yourself, it may justify, for $65,000 for the entire barn to bring in a contractor that might charge 10 or 15% to be able to manage it for you.

Joe Russo Yeah, we’ve we looked at it and we talked to someone, a general contractor, about getting it built and his general range was $60,000 to $80,000 to have a similar style building built. So I would say it’s probably gonna be an extra like $10,000 to $15,000 to have him come in and manage the whole project and do that.

When we came out and saw you and you said build bigger than what you want is are we building big enough? And one of the things we have to consider is, the bigger the building we go with, especially in the winter is actually, heating that building if we have to.

We’re not planning on putting any sort of water to the building because we’d be on septic and that’s a whole nother cost. But I was actually thinking about building myself within that, within the building is a smaller garage workshop area.

So I would heat and cool that and not the building itself, which kind of brings me to a question for you. You live in a much more mild climate, but have you thought about heating or cooling the building at all?

Keith Life That’s a great question. The first thing I did, because it actually can get quite hot here in the summer to be able to keep it cooler and it’s uncomfortably cold. You know, it might get down in the low 50s. And it can be chilly at night. You know, we can get down in the 40s and I’ve even seen 30s sometimes maybe once or twice a year.

I put insulation. So when I built the building, I insulated it. One advice that a friend of mine that built his barn down the street, he works in his barn every day. He insulated it, but he did not insulate his doors. And he said, Keith, that’s the biggest thing that I probably missed was not insulating the doors on my barn.

Because he says, when it’s cold outside, he can walk right up. The rest of the building is fairly comfortable, but as you get close to the doors, it’s just thin metal, so you can imagine the heat transfer is quite great there. You’re losing a lot of heat at those doors. And he says it’s freezing cold over by the doors. So I insulated my doors, which added a little bit more cost on the doors.

The doors for my building, the three doors, were $16,000. That’s what it costs to have them brought in insulated. I got the roll up kind. They’re not the folding kind. They actually roll up and they’re insulated and they’re easy to do manually with a chain.

So I looked at how I’m going to heat it, Joe, and I put a fan up in the peak. So I’ve a ceiling fan that I can in hot days I can turn on and that will suck air through the building through the windows and evacuate anything that’s hot. We’re fortunate in this area that it cools down at night. So what people usually do with this type of fan is they’ll turn it on at night for a little bit, pull all the hot air out for the day and then just turn it off and everything’s sealed and it keeps the cool in quite well.

I’ve noticed the insulation is actually really good. It can be hot outside and cool inside the building or it can be cold outside and still warm in the building.

I just got back from a trip from Tennessee and a friend of mine out there has built a barn, 3,000 square foot barn. And we were building a small apartment. I was helping him build a little apartment inside his barn, which is really a great option and he was going to use it as an apartment office. He had one of these torpedo propane heaters and it was a 3,000 square foot barn insulated and he fired it up and it warmed that place up very quickly.

So if you wanted to warm it up quickly you could use something like that. But if you wanted to warm it up all day long I would suggest get a wood stove or a pellet stove and perhaps even a ceiling fan if you have a high ceiling that could help bring some of the heat back down. But the insulation is the number one thing that will keep that building cooler or hot.

Kait Russo Could you talk through how many windows you put into your barn and anything you might do differently?

Keith Life That also brings up a question of the height of your sidewalls. The neighbor down the street has 12 foot walls before his roof starts. And I started looking at what I’m going to use the barn for. And one day, if God willing, if I’m able to get a really nice weekend car or something I could work on, I’d like to have a car rack. And car racks actually lift quite high.

So I started looking at the 12 foot side and I even drove our van, which is just under 10 feet over to the, you know, and looked at it and said, well that, gosh, I’ve only got two foot difference from the top of my van to the edge of the sidewall. So if I had the van parked over on the side and I wanted to stand up, I really couldn’t stand up on top of the van. Or if I had a car lift, I’d may be in danger of hitting the roof with a 12 foot sidewall.

So I went back to the design board and had to redraw the plans before I built a building for 14 foot sidewalls. So the sidewall and whatever the slope of your roof is, is very important because you can easily hit that roof.

So you might think about what your use is and is it possible that I would ever have trouble if I had a 10 foot wall or a 12 foot wall and maybe go up to a higher wall because the cost is not that much to add to the building. You never could do it later. So you might think about it.

My guy even said, well, why don’t you go with an 18 foot? And I said, well, gosh. In retrospect, he might have been right because you can build a second story. So if you want to put lofts or you want to put additional storage or you wanted to build, say you built a little tiny home inside one, I think they call them shouses, shed house. And if you want a big high ceiling in there, that would be a wonderful thing to be able to have it in an apartment or like I said, more storage, a second floor.

That’s something you may want to consider. If you’ve only got eight foot for your side walls, I think it will restrict you.

Joe Russo When you’re going through the design of this building, what are, like you mentioned that if you go up those extra two feet, it doesn’t really make much of a difference in the price. What I’m curious about is like, if we went from 40×50 to what you have like a 50×60, is there a threshold you cross where the price, there’s minimal price increase and then a huge price increase? Or are there other things in a design consideration that you can do that are kind of minimal price or other things you do like add another door that are gonna skyrocket the price of your building?

Keith Life I’m assuming you want an open floor plan. Not with it sectioned off where you’ve got joists or beams coming down to the floor within your barn.

Joe Russo From what we’ve seen, the style of these barns, they’re pretty much open floor plans.

Kait Russo But I’m sure at a certain size.

Joe Russo Yeah, that changes.

Keith Life At a certain size, there becomes more engineering to be able to support the roof with no beams coming down. But they build barns that are, you know, 200 feet wide and 200 feet long or longer with no beams coming down to the floor. If you have beams coming down, I just figured it would be much more of a problem if I’m trying to turn my van around or I’m trying to move a piece of equipment inside. You’re always trying to get around this beam.

So I definitely wanted it built to be able to support the entire roof with nothing coming down the floor. So it’s an open floor plan. So talk to your builder or designer for the building and say, is there a point that I go so wide that it’s going to cost me more for the engineering or that I require some support beams coming down.

Mine is 50 wide and 60 long, so if I would have gone 50 wide and 80 long, it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. You know, just the added cost for the extra square footage, but engineering wise, it wouldn’t have changed anything the way it’s designed right now.

Joe Russo Besides the height consideration, what other consideration should someone take into account for an RV, especially if they have something like, let’s say, a 45 foot Class A motorhome that might weigh 30,000 pounds?

Keith Life There are certain things when you’re building your barn that you only get one shot at. You’re not going to be able to come back and change it. And that would be like the height. It would be like the thickness of your concrete floor.

The engineering calculations for what I wanted. I wanted something that would be able to hold a class A style RV, tractors and vans. I wanted it so a semi truck could drive onto it. And the calculations actually came out that it would be okay with a five inch pad. But most contractors don’t go in five inch thick pads they go in 6 inch or 8 inch or 12 inch.

8 inch would have cost a whole lot more money and the 5 inch calculations said it was going to be okay so I went with 6 inch just to make sure. So that’s one thing that I would recommend is you make your floor as strong as you can because it’s you know you spend this much money and you make an investment like this you don’t want cracks running down the middle of your floor. You don’t want a water problem if you’re in an area where the ground is quite wet in the winter. Sometimes you can get water pushing up through the floor.

So I think going with a reasonably thick pad for home use, I think a six inch pad would be really good. Don’t go less than that. That’s something you have no point of return on.

The style of the building, Joe, will make the cost. The more complicated the roofing and the building itself is, the more it’s going to cost you. So if you go with a simple style, some straight sidewalls and a straight peaked roof, it’s going to be much less expensive than it will with the style that I went for. Or if you went for a traditional barn that’s kind of hexagon shaped roof it’s going to cost you a lot more.

Kait Russo Did you have to do a separate insurance policy for the structure or was it part of your main home insurance policy?

Keith Life I incorporated it into my main insurance for my property. So there’s a section in it for outbuildings or additional buildings and I was able to insure it through that. If you can do that, that’s a great way to do it.

If you have a lot of workers coming to your house, you might consider an umbrella policy. Nn umbrella policy is a second policy that covers liability for damage or someone getting injured on your property. And that’s another thing that’s actually a really good point for the homeowner being the general contractor.

So when you hire people to come in as a general contractor, you need to make sure that they are aware and they have their own insurance to be able to cover any of their workers being hurt on your property. That still doesn’t stop them from having the ability from suing you because in the United States, that’s the way it is. Anyone can sue anyone for almost anything.

But if you have a general contractor, he’d be able to make sure that all the companies that you have are insured properly for bringing people on the job. But if you’re out there with a bunch of buddies or have some workers that you’ve picked up somewhere to come in and do the work on your house, it does put you in a situation of liability if they get hurt.

Joe Russo Speaking of which, I’ve been trying to YouTube certify myself in barn building and looking at people that are building it themselves and wondering if me and a buddy could just put the whole thing up ourselves. And the more we get into it, the more I’m just like, no, I’m happy to pay someone the money to do it.

Kait Russo Hire a professional.

Joe Russo Yes, hire a professional. I can sit in the house or on the lawn watching them with my cup of coffee. And what’s interesting about our area and the person that we’re looking at using is they hire the Amish to come in. So they have a lumber yard and get all the lumber, have it delivered, and the Amish will show up and just get to work. From friends of ours who have had them build the building for them, they say their work is fantastic and there’s no messing around. Those guys just walk in, they get to work, when they’re done, they leave.

Keith Life The Amish are world renowned for craftsmanship and quality in what they do. My chicken coop that I have were built by the Amish. So I bought a pre-made chicken coop. It was built by the Amish. It’s perfect quality. It’s really good. I think it’s wonderful. If you can get an Amish group out there, they know what they’re doing. They’re going to get that done for you very quick.

Joe Russo That’s what I’m hoping. So as we kind of close this out, are there any other learnings or tips that you want to pass on that you haven’t already?

Keith Life I really want to emphasize the location and the style of your barn and how it’s going to change the aesthetics forever of your property. It will add value, it will add joy to your life. You just need to be confident that what you’re picking is exactly what you want. And you’ve got time to do that.

So I would suggest going out looking at different buildings, looking at different barns, and looking at your property and the location, how it’s positioned, how the sun, the angle of the sun is going to affect it. If you are going to be spending a lot of time in the front of the barn and that’s where the sun bakes it all day long. You may want to consider the position of the building to make sure that it’s not going to cause a problem with heat or cold, based if it’s in the shadow all the time or if it’s in the sun all the time.

You will be very pleased if you build your barn. It’s one of the most wonderful experiences that I’ve had since we’ve owned the property. It’s been just great. And I went into it as a complete novice, complete novice on building a barn. And you’ll learn things along the way. But if you take some of the points that we mentioned in this podcast, you’ll go a long way from having to learn them yourself. And you’ll be much happier.

But, the number one advice I’ve gotten from people is, if you can build it bigger, build it bigger. Go as big as you can.

Kait Russo I’m gonna wake up tomorrow and Joe’s gonna tell me he’s doubled the size of our barn.

Keith Life Well, you won’t regret it.

Kait Russo So one question we are asking all of our guests is, what is something that you wish you had known about RVing before you got started?

Keith Life The thing that really shocked me about RVing was advice that a person that I worked with who bought a small RV van, a camper van. I told her, gosh, I want something just like you have, and I really would like to have that in about five years because I’m hoping to retire in five years and then I’ll get my RV and we’ll be able to travel all over the place. And she looked at me and goes, why are you waiting five years? You should get your RV as fast as you can get it because you’re going to miss out on five years of travel and enjoyment that you could have done had you not gotten it earlier. And she was right.

We ended up buying our first van maybe a year after she had given me that advice. And I would have missed so many years of meeting you guys, going to the expos, the Overland Expos, going to all the different van expos, going to camping all over the United States and down to Baja, all which we did before I retired.

So it was something that I wish I had known even earlier to be able to know the sooner I got started.

The other thing is that whatever you end up with, and you guys certainly know this. Whatever you start with is not the vehicle that you end up with. So once you get started, it’ll just open your life to this freedom, this just where you leave your entire troubles behind you.

That’s the way it happens for me. I leave everything, my work, everything behind me and take off on the road. And I don’t think there’s anything better than looking ahead and just seeing a road that comes to a point in front of you with no other traffic and just heading out somewhere, knowing that you’re going to find a place to go and camp tonight and just enjoy life.

And had I known all this a little earlier, I probably would have even started doing it earlier. So that’s the thing I think I wish I would have known more about RV. It’s been one of the most life changing, wonderful things that we’ve done is living the RV life.

Joe Russo I would agree with you completely. And for people who want to follow your RV life and everything that you and WiWI have been doing, where can they find you?

Keith Life We have a YouTube channel and it’s called Keith and Wi Adventures. My wife is WiWi, it’s an Indonesian name and it’s spelled W-I. So Keith and Wi Adventures on YouTube.

You can find us and you can also find us on Kiwi Ranch on Instagram. That’s just like it sounds, Kiwi Ranch. My wife came up with it where Keith and we so she calls it Kiwi Ranch. So that’s where it comes from.

Joe Russo and I will say the whole build process you have on the barn is fantastic. So if anyone actually wants to see all the stuff that you were talking about head over to their channel and you can watch the four-part series.

Well Keith, thank you so much for being on it was great to talk to you.

Keith Life It was really great to talk to you guys and We’ll hopefully see you guys soon.

Joe Russo I don’t know about you, but I think we might have to go bigger on our barn. It’s just going to be a matter of talking Kait into it. That 40×50 we were thinking about just doesn’t sound big enough anymore.

If you’re interested in any of the resources that we mentioned in today’s episode, check out the show notes below where you’ll also find links for my two books, Take Risks and Tales from the Open Road, along with a link to my coaching services where I now offer a one-on-one call with you to go over what your perfect RV might be, the buying process, RV life, or any other questions you might need answered.

I hope you enjoyed watching or listening to the RVing with Joe and Kait podcast.

If you haven’t done so already, please leave us a review of this podcast on whatever platform you’re on. And if you’re on YouTube, make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you thought.

Anyway, that’s it, and we’ll talk to you next time.


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