More Grain Bin Homes — 11 Comments

  1. I apologize if this has been a standard topic, but why not attach vertical 2 x 6’s around the inner perimeter and then insulate with regular insulation batts, cover with a vapor barrier and then sheet rock with 2 layers of flexible 1/4 in. sheet rock? You would have to work out your O.C. dimensions to align with the seams. Using 2 x 6’s with larger support beams imbedded in the walls would make adding lofts and second stories, plumbing and electrical much easier.

  2. The highway dept is ‘improving’ the rural route a couple miles down the road from me. A property owner there has two grain bins that he is not going to relocate further away from the road, tear down and scrap or sell. He’s letting the road dept just doze them down and haul the debris.
    People may want to consider thinking about finding out about road expansions for scheduled demolitions. Everyone wins.
    Also, posting craigslist ‘want ads’ in my experience produces better results for obscure/specific items.

  3. Reader recommended link showing how grain bins can be built in stages while working at ground height. The bin is raised with hydraulic jacks and another layer added below. In other words, it’s built from the top down starting with the top layer and roof so workers don’t have to work high on the wall.
    Note, you can speed through 90% of the video where the walls are being raised.

  4. The first picture gives a good idea how my house should look like. The balcony will be 360 degrees around the house. The overhang of the roof might cover the whole balcony which is maybe 1m wide. Due to its size (12m diameter and 2 stories), I’ll build it based on a wooden frame (as already suggested by Owen) with mesh tubes (hyperadobe). Meanwhile, I’ve got the taste of having pallet walls between the rooms in the ground floor.
    While looking at this pictures and dreaming a bit, some questions came into my mind:
    1) would it be good to extend the outer columns up to the roof (in order to support the roof as well)?
    2) would a gravel foundation do its job or might a concrete foundation be the better choice?
    3) should the posts located at the earthbags be within the curve (earthbags within the frame) or on the inner side of the earthbags? The former would hide the posts but interrupt the earthbag structure (and it might be easier to curve the walls) while the latter allows a more stabile earthbag structure but has the posts visible inside of the house (and I don’t have any idea how to get a nice curve and keep the wall on 90 degrees).

    If I build the wooden frame including balcony and roof first, it would give pretty good rain protection and shade during building the earthbag walls. Moreover, the balcony would ease to build the earthbag wall of the upper floor.

    • The roof poles can go all the way up. Most carpenters would build in two steps: one pole up to the porch, one pole on top of the porch. This way you use shorter length poles.

      Also note, the roof can extend over just the porch.

      Use the concrete foundation recommended by the grain bin manufacturer so it doesn’t blow over, etc.

      You can put posts outside or inside the wall. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

      It’s easy to make a roundhouse with vertical walls. See my Earthbag Roundhouse Instructable:

  5. Hey Owen, it just dawned on me that these things come in some fairly large diameters. The discussion on placing insulative material on the outside… covering up material that has a 70+ year life span with something that is more labor intensive, more challenging due to the shape to install and definitely requiring more maintenance… Plus you’re still going to need to deal with the inside for aesthetics, function, electrical/plumbing etc…. Just a thought, put your straw/earth-scoria bags/pallet walls on the inside of the steel. This will also help eliminate the echo chamber affect more quickly too.

  6. Question:
    Definitely recycling or finding a used container is a win-win. More cost effective and a lot greener way to build. I was thinking double bin wall but now pondering a single bin wall but going the next larger diameter and using straw bales for the insulation. I will net out about the same usable space but will for sure have excellent insulation. No issues with mesh just standard straw bale building with a few exceptions. I would french dip the bales to get a coating on the wall side of the bale. Two fold ,one is to get fie protection as once in place I can no longer get to the wall side of the bale to plaster it.

    I researched and found I would spend less money on the bin by going up 1 diameter size larger than using a double silo wall. It also keeps building methods more standard. This is not a new method and has been used on many silo conversions previously. I am just coming to the same realization others before me have already come to. I will have transportation and disassemble charges but that would be less than buying a new silo which is always an option. I will need to be flexible on the diameter size for a used silo.

    The first thing to do is check your local building regulations and see if they allow used grain bins for housing. Most every home now needs an engineer’s stamp, and there’s a decent chance engineer’s won’t work with recycled bins because of increased risk. The house photos you see on the Internet were most likely built where there are few building codes or they built with new bins. New bins will come pre-engineered and so the process will likely to be much easier.

    Sometimes bales can be tricky bending into curves. Some bend no problem. Others spring back into their original shape. You definitely need to locate good bales and then test one before buying a full load. Place one end of the bale on a 10″-12″ diameter log or something comparable. Use your foot to gradually stomp the bale into a curve of the desired radius (= size of bin). Roll it over, pick it up with the strings (twine is preferred over wire ties) and see how it behaves. Undesirable bales will immediately start straightening out. And make sure the bales have never been rained on. They should have a bright color, good smell, and be tightly compacted. Stack the bales tightly together. Stuff any gaps with straw/clay.

    Make wood anchors for attaching electrical boxes. Embed the anchors, attach boxes with screws and run the wire as you stack the bales. Leave 12″ or so of wire sticking out. This is another thing to ask building inspectors. See what type of wire they’ll require and other details. Some code officials are fine with it, others aren’t.

  7. Recycling grain bins is a great if you can find them in your area. A quick search on Craigslist showed that there were none available at all along the West Coast, AZ, New Mexico and Texas. Colorado and Kansas had maybe 6 between them. The best states seem to be Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Some in pretty good shape can be had for less then a $1000. Ebay is currently showing 6 large government bins in Illinois for about 10 grand. Of course unless your local, transport could cost you more then the bin.

  8. How about adding an enclosed greenhouse to the home in the top photo? Plus a little earth berm around the back.

    I think kids would like these houses, especially those who’ve lived on farms.

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