How to Build a Grain Bin House

These simple metal structures can be used as houses, backyard retreats, storage sheds and more!


| August/September 2010



grain bin house

This energy-efficient grain bin house uses foam and fiberglass insulation, plus computer-assisted passive solar heating.


PHOTO: DESIGNBUILDBLUFF

On thousands of farms across the continent, round metal grain bins (called “grain silos” in some regions) are standing empty or being torn down and sold for scrap because they’re no longer in use. Architects and builders have started to use these durable, inexpensive structures to construct grain bin homes, storage buildings, offices and barns. After the bin is in place, it requires virtually no maintenance.

There are all sorts of interesting ways to use individual bins or group them together to make an attractive, comfortable home. We encourage readers to explore unique uses for metal grain bins — especially used bins — and we talked with several people who live in these structures to learn more about why they like their grain bin houses.

Earl Stein, of Summit County, Utah, says, “My grain bin home, ‘Montesilo’ (inspired by Monticello), is designed to be energy efficient. After ‘talling’ (raising) the silos, we cut our way in and framed the interior with 2-by-6s on 1-foot centers. To insulate, we sprayed 2 inches of low- VOC foam against the metal and followed that with blown-in fiberglass insulation. Montesilo is easily one of the strongest and tightest buildings in the county.” (See photos in the Image Gallery. — MOTHER) 

Stein’s structure utilizes passive solar heat that’s assisted with computer technology. The windows allow winter sun to warm the rubber-covered concrete floor. A computer controls draperies to retain the heat at night. For added comfort, Stein installed electric radiant heat in the floors. “Even when indulging myself with warm morning floors, my heating bills have been a fraction of what it would cost to heat an 1,800-squarefoot house in this harsh Utah environment at 7,100 feet,” he says. “Experimentally, when no extra heat is applied, the lowest recorded interior temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit in midwinter.”

Stein chose steel because it’s unique, eco-friendly and low maintenance. “My main motivation in building a house from a galvanized steel bin was that I never wanted to pick up a paintbrush again,” he says. “In 50 years, my shiny steel home will only mellow to a gray patina, but I won’t have to paint it.” After moving in, he realized there were also advantages to living in a round structure. “There’s a certain non-empirical value,” he says. “It does something to your head — it’s soothing and inspirational. We’ve had incredible brainstorming and musical jam sessions in the house.”

And building the house, even using new steel bins, turned out to be a good financial decision. “Even with all the custom work, Montesilo came in below $200 per square foot — well below average building costs for the area,” Stein says.

roberta
1/24/2016 7:15:57 PM

How do you find financing for a home like this that probably has no comparables in your real estate market? I built an underground home and had a terrible time finding financing because the banks had no idea how to value it. (The property tax people had no problem however.) Bobbi McCanse robertamcc8@gmail.com


michel khan
2/6/2013 9:52:45 PM

Hi Jackie, I am in the 'Peg also and am wondering how well it withstood the cold. Considering the last few weeks have been quite amazing for temperature, I wonder what kind of insulation he used and is it still standing/used. I can be reached at michelkhan@hotmail.com. Hopefully the weather improves for Festival du Voyageur...Thanks...michel


dale kaskey
2/3/2013 3:40:00 PM

I would be concerned with soundness of these structures. I have seen a lot of these structures taken out by straight-line winds that were approx. 80 mph. I'm not sure I would want one of these structures unless they can find a better way of anchoring them to withstand high winds.


jackie klassen
2/1/2013 7:44:26 PM

It was interesting to see this article! My dad built a home from a grain bin with attached garage and office in the 70's! Just outside of Winnipeg Manitoba. It was quite a new concept. Made the newspaper twice :)


brian white
6/20/2012 8:39:32 PM

We have a Grain bin room as our dining room. We found two grain bins on craigslist for $300 (the price for scrap) We boom trucked the silo whole used it as the form for the stamped and stained radiant concrete floor, added 7 windows, Steel studs to fir it in,sprayfoam insulation for r21 walls and r52 at the peak of the roof and plaster on the walls. We cut a 7'8 x 7' opening in our house and silo and married them together. The final build cost is less than $30 pe sq ft. And the room is amazing! Everyone that comes over is blowen away. I would recomend this form of building to anyone in a rural area with limited construction skils, it was easier than I thought. If anyone is interested in the things I would change they can contact me at bdub406@gmail.com.


kevin_1
7/28/2010 10:06:38 AM

This looks like a great idea for a home addition too. This would fit in with the complex roof lines of many newer houses.






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