Convert a Used Grain Bin to a New House

http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/grain-bin-building.aspx

Anywhere farmers are growing corn, soybeans or wheat, you’re likely to see empty, used steel grain bins. Those grain bins are durable, and steel is recyclable when the building has served its purpose. Why not convert a used grain bin or two into a usable building — maybe even a house or getaway? Check out the photos below of nifty grain bin conversions.

You can probably pick up a small used bin for a few hundred dollars (or even free). Used bins are frequently available on craigslist or ebay. You could also put an ad in a local newspaper or on your local farm co-op bulletin board. There are companies that can move the bins to new sites — ask around at farm stores to find them.

Prices of new steel grain bins depend on the diameter, height and region of the country, but costs start at about $7,000 for an 18-foot-diameter bin, not including the cement foundation slab or assembly.

Basic carpentry and mechanical skills are required to convert a grain bin to another use. The number of doors and windows will be limited, as too many can weaken the structure. So plan ahead and check with an engineer if you have any doubts.

Readers, we’d like to see more reports and photos of grain bins that have been converted for other uses. Send them to us at Letters@MotherEarthNews.com.

grain bin storage shed
   PHOTO BY MARK CLIPSHAM
   Mark Clipsham of Architecture By Synthesis in Ames, Iowa, converted this bin
   into ground-level storage space with a playhouse above, using mostly salvaged
   and recycled materials. It was a test project. 

New steel bins create low-maintenance structures, such as this office and apartment on a farm in western Kansas. If the steel is recycled metal, it’s even more eco-friendly. Owners Louise and Vance Ehmke say, “Our grain-bin office/scalehouse/residence is just cool. It turned out far better than our expectations. Everybody who comes here (including the governor) says it is one of the neatest things they have ever seen. The structure itself is clearly unique, but the rustic, high-tech interior takes it off the charts!”

grain bin scale house
   PHOTO COURTESY VANCE EHMKE
grain bin scale house 2
   PHOTO COURTESY VANCE EHMKE
 grain bin interior 
    PHOTO COURTESY VANCE EHMKE
grain bin stairs
    PHOTO COURTESY VANCE EHMKE

Dancing Rabbit Grain Bin Apartments

The grain bin below contains two one-room apartments. It’s insulated with straw bales on the inside and has been in use since 2003.

Brian Liloia, one of the residents, says, “Living in a grain bin is a pretty novel experience, and a novel residence, too. For the most part, it works pretty well, but careful consideration is needed around designing windows and doors. Overall, it's great living in a round structure, and telling people you live in a grain bin makes for some great reactions.”

straw insulated grain bin
    PHOTO COURTESY DANCING RABBIT ECOVILLAGE

The entire grain bin doesn’t need to be used, of course. The little earthbag building shown below, by Kenton Knowles of Global Homes Design, utilizes a grain-bin roof that fits perfectly onto the round structure.

grain bin roof
   PHOTO COURTESY KENTON KNOWLES/GLOBAL HOMES DESIGN

More Ideas for Using Grain Bins

There’s a small village of grain bins in Montana. Inhabitable grain bins have their advantages tells of how grain bins were used to create a tearoom, workshop and church.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom matching grain-bin houses described in What To Do With an Old Grain Bin? are more noticeable with red roofs and trim.

The grain bin featured in The Classic Box, Well Rounded was combined with a shed to create a charming weekend home.

Have you used a grain bin to create a unique home or building? Tell us about it in the comments section below.