Of all of the projects at the new farm, I don’t think there has been one as exciting for us as converting an old, existing lean-to barn into a new indoor / outdoor party barn – complete with a grilling kitchen and outdoor eating space!
One of the reasons that prompted our move to the new farm was space. As in having more space to have larger garden and farm events. That, of course, includes our free garden classes (which we can’t wait to do again!), and one of our favorites of all, farm to table dinners!
Even more exciting is the fact that we will be hosting one of our children’s weddings at the farm this fall. As I write this, I chuckle at the word exciting – because I could also put terrified. As in terrified that everything will go as planned!
But one thing is for sure, to host events on a somewhat regular basis, and especially a wedding, you certainly need a protected space. And that is exactly where the idea of creating a party barn from an old, dilapidated lean-to barn on the new property came from. With that in mind, here is a look at the project from start to finish!
The Inspiration – How To Convert A Barn Into A Party Barn
One of the things we miss most about our old farm and homestead was our original barn and outdoor kitchen area. In fact, we both knew as soon as we decided to move we would have to recreate a similar feature at the new property.
The old barn had so much history and character. We built the original by combining the beams and boards from two, 100 year old barns. I still remember us tearing them down and moving them piece by piece to the property. It was a long but rewarding process!
When we purchased the new farm, one of the things we were most excited about was the property had an existing but very old lean-to barn already on the land. It was certainly worn a bit. And quite hard to even get to through the overgrown brush.
The good news is that it was still structurally sound. The beams were strong, and the wood siding was in great shape minus some missing nails and screws. That alone made the project worthwhile. After all, you just can’t beat or replicate an old barn feel with new wood.
So we set about thinking of a way to salvage the barn and make it work as our event space. And that all started with trying to create a vision for what the space would be used for, and how we wanted it to look and feel.
How To Convert An Old Barn Into A Party Barn
Every good project has to start with a vision. It is something we believe in more than anything else. If you don’t know what you want to end up with, it’s hard to get there. It doesn’t mean things can’t and won’t change, but for us, it definitely all starts with that initial dream.
For us, the vision for the space was to create a wide open space for entertaining. Both with some under cover space, and some out in the open. We knew if we could clear out the old lean-to and add a covered front and a back entertaining space, there would be plenty of room.
For the main area in front, we had plenty of open space to add a courtyard for even more entertaining area. One that could also be tented for even more covered space. Finally, more than anything else, we wanted to rebuild our outdoor kitchen space, with a fireplace, grill area and a pizza oven for feeding our friends, family and guests.
We figured if we could check off all of those boxes, we could cover all types of weather. And even more, still keep the feel of the party barn open and airy. Once that vision was set – the work began!
Clearing The Old Barn
It took an entire large dumpster to hold the contents of the old horse barn. In addition to clearing old metal, feed bags and broken glass, we removed old horse mats, rabbit cages, and an attached hog pen in the back.
Then it was time for a little excavating. We took the existing dirt floor down 12 inches to make enough room for a gravel base and concrete floor. We rented a small mini excavator to do most of the work. It made it fast, easy, and most importantly, saved a lot on our backs!
Installing Lean-To Additions – How To Convert A Barn Into A Party Barn
The original barn had a 36′ x 18′ main area, and an additional side lean-to that measured 10′ x 18′. To create enough space for a larger event, we knew we would need to add more covered space, and lean-to’s were the perfect option.
Not only are lean-to structures fairly simple to install, they are also extremely economical. Even better, they keep spaces connected but still open.
For the project, we installed two more lean-to’s off the front and back, each measuring 36′ long and 12′ deep. To make the back lean-to accessible, we cut in space for two sliding barn doors. We did the same for the existing side lean-to, which we turned into the kitchen area & bar.
Next it was time to pour the floors. With future events planned, we decided to use concrete for the entire floor. In our old barn, we had originally put down reclaimed brick and gravel. Both were cost effective, but just too dangerous as tripping hazards.
Outdoor Kitchen Area
I think, by far, our favorite part of the project was creating the outdoor kitchen, fireplace and entertaining area in the back of the barn. We both love to grill. We both love to enjoy time with people. This space allows us to each of those and to also enjoy the outdoors while doing it.
The main grill, pizza oven and fireplace space all started with a cement block base. Using cement block gives the structure amazing strength. It also happens to be fireproof and easy to cover with stone or brick to stand up to nearly anything Mother Nature can throw at it.
The main grill in the set up is what is known as an Argentinian grill. It can be fired up with charcoal or wood, and has the ability to be lowered or raised to adjust the heat level. It is wonderful for cooking for large crowds and can handle a lot of food at once.
We finished out the cooking area with a pizza oven and outdoor fireplace. We love wood fired pizzas, and they are great for feeding a lot of people fast. It can cook three pizzas at once in about two minutes – and is so much fun to use. The fireplace will also have a grate installed to be able to cook soups as well, and will certainly be nice to light on cool nights.
The Courtyard – How To Turn An Old Barn Into A Party Barn
In order to keep the space open and with an outdoor feel, we wanted to add a courtyard for folks that just want to be outside and enjoy the fresh air. The ground in front of the old barn was considerably lower, so to start, we brought in nearly 80 tons of fill dirt to level it up.
We wanted the courtyard to feel like the center space of the area. At it’s edges are two of our converted shed cabins that face into the courtyard. It makes it nice for people who are staying the night to simply walk to the cabin. See: How To Turn A Backyard Shed Into A DIY Cabin – Simple Living At Its Best!
At one corner of the courtyard we built a homemade fire pit from the local stone we found on the property. We then finished the space with a limestone base and pea gravel to make it durable and yet easy to walk on.
Off of the main area, we also added a walkway to a small bathroom / shower house that has two full bathrooms to handle any visitors. All of the structures can be accessed via walkways and connect to the main courtyard.
Electrical / Lighting – How To Turn An Old Barn Into A Party Barn
We really wanted to keep the lighting and electrical system simple. We brought in power from the main power pole to a small sub-panel, and then put everything in galvanized electrical conduit. Not only does it weather well, the galvanized look is perfect for the barn. It also keeps it all looking neat without a bunch of wires everywhere.
We installed multiple outlets all around the interior walls and along the back kitchen wall. These will be good for accommodating crock pots, hot plates and more.
For lighting, we used LED string lights. They provide plenty of light for events without being overpowering. Add in that they use little electricity and they are a win-win for adding ambiance at little cost. We even created a barn wood chandelier from them for the centerpiece from old beams from the barn. Product Link – Outdoor Heavy Duty String Lights
The new party barn will have its inaugural event this fall with the wedding of one of our children. I can’t think of a better way to break it in – and hopefully it will be the first of many incredible memories for the new space!
To say we are anxious, nervous and excited for it all would be the understatement of the year! Here is to saving old barns and giving them a new life! Happy Living, Jim and Mary.
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