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Grain Bin Building Tools, Techniques, and Cautions: An Illustrated Guide

Updated on May 19, 2020
Joy At Home profile image

Joy worked in construction for 7 years alongside her husband (25+ yrs. experience)—working on pole barns, grain bins, and barn repairs.

Grain Bins in Morning Mist

My husband and I erected all of the bins in this row. I look forward to the serenity of an early-morning job site, and count grain bins among our happiest projects.
My husband and I erected all of the bins in this row. I look forward to the serenity of an early-morning job site, and count grain bins among our happiest projects.

Requirements

Erecting a grain bin is typically not a job for construction weekend warriors. It requires specialized tools and a great deal of common sense. Mistakes are expensive and possibly fatal.

A knowledge of tools and applied physics is a requirement, especially if you are not working alongside an experienced person. Do not put your wellbeing, or the lives or limbs of others, at risk through ignorance.

To do this job safely and efficiently, you will need equipment which is typically only available to grain bin contractors. You will either need to rent this equipment, or make your own.

Above all, you need to have abundant common sense. Many serious errors have been made by those who lacked sufficient sense to understand the building process.

Never allow anyone onto the jobsite who has a reputation for not paying attention. Doing so may result in serious injury.

Make sure that all equipment is properly serviced and in good working order prior to beginning.

A Big Project

This bin is 18 feet tall (walls only), and 18 feet in diameter. It holds over 4,000 bushels of wheat, or more than 100 tons.
This bin is 18 feet tall (walls only), and 18 feet in diameter. It holds over 4,000 bushels of wheat, or more than 100 tons.

Time Estimates

A bin 18 feet tall (6 rings), and 18 feet in diameter, takes an experienced crew of 2 men about 2 hours to erect with a boom truck, or 5 hours with jacks. This does not include site preparation, pit construction or hopper construction and installation, anchoring and sealing the bin, or adding components such as sweep augers or drying floors.

A medium-large bin may take 2 to 3 days, especially if other regular jobs must be maintained meanwhile.

Early morning is often the best time to build bins in warm weather, and is usually one of the safest as far as wind patterns are concerned. My husband and I have often started before sunup, and worked until mid-morning or perhaps 11 am.

Tools List

  • A bin and all components from a reputable dealer
  • Site preparation equipment and abilities, including concrete working skills
  • 6 sack concrete mix or better, with appropriate reinforcements
  • Proper grain bin jacks--must rent or buy these from a reputable grain bin tools source, or manufacture a set yourself if you're exceptionally handy with a welder
  • Alternate way to lift the bin, if desired--crane, boom truck, or large forklift (forklift for small bins only!)
  • Lifting ring, large truck rim, or bin halo--if using a crane
  • Lighting for working at night
  • Drift punches, medium length (10 inches at least)--1 minimum for each crew member
  • 9/16-inch box-end wrenches (2 at least), with long handles
  • High quality impact wrench, as you will give it a work-out
  • Hearing protection--preferably ear-muff or electronic type
  • Drill and appropriate metal bits, for correcting potential manufacturing errors on bolt holes
  • Scrap lumber for placing under parts to be drilled
  • Permanent marker, black wide tip
  • Work gloves which allow for dexterity (optional)
  • Comfortable work boots with decent tread, hard toes optional
  • Work clothes which will not snag or allow you to get hurt easily
  • Vice grips, high quality
  • Slipjoint pliers (optional, but can be handy)
  • Tape measure, standard
  • Tape measure--100' on a reel, for site preparation (optional but will increase accuracy)
  • Ladders, 6 foot and 8 foot tall minimum, depending on the size of the bin--for building the roof
  • Scaffolding--an alternative to ladders
  • Tool pouch/apron, or coffee cans/small buckets for hardware (a small pouch is annoying as it must be refilled often, and is hard to reach into)
  • Mastic (a sealant for between sheets).

    Mastic can be found using the search words: Single Bead Tape Roof Sealant Metal Sales

  • Silicone for hopper seams
  • Spray type sealant and/or tar pad.

    Keywords for looking up tar pad are: AST HI-acrylic Ash, ASH 50-25-04 Exterior Sealant Tape

  • Ropes or straps, for guiding the bin during placement
  • A way to block wind from swaying or sliding the bin during work (we often use a semi truck and trailer)
  • T-posts for driving in around the partially built bin during off-hours, or a suitable way to weigh the bin down at the peak (i.e. the boom of a boomtruck or crane)
  • Forklift, ATV, or another way to move the sheets and other materials on and off the jobsite
  • Storage building for bin components, if they must sit between building sessions

Notes on Site Preparation

A concrete pad which must hold the weight of a filled grain bin, home, or business is not the place to experiment with learning concrete skills. Hire a professional, or at least someone experienced, to see that the pad is poured and finished correctly.

If you have sufficient experience with concrete and understand what is at stake, by all means, make this part of your project.

If you are mounting the bin on a hopper, proper reinforcements must be made beneath the place where each leg will rest, or your pad will fail--cracking, buckling, and perhaps allowing your bin to topple or be seriously damaged. Ground water and run-off patterns must also be understood and considered.

Correct preparation of the site must be done prior to pouring concrete. This includes levelling the ground, removing dirt which will make a poor bed, and bringing in a sand mix. If you have neither the earth moving equipment nor the expertise to handle this, hire it done.

Above all, keep in mind that wheat (for example) weighs at least 50 pounds per bushel. A 4,000 bushel bin, such as those pictured below, will hold over 200,000 pounds, or 100 tons. This does not include the weight of the bin or hopper. You can see how this puts extreme pressure on the concrete slab.

Site Considerations

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You can see why with so much weight involved, both the construction of the bin and preparation of the concrete slab demand vigilance and caution. A professional cement crew assisted with this pour, after much planning went into the forming and reinforcements.It is by no means perfect, but the slab is essentially level and very sturdy. The site was prepared by scraping dirt and rocks away, and bringing in sand.Our crew was fortunate to have at hand good earth moving equipment, such as this loader.
You can see why with so much weight involved, both the construction of the bin and preparation of the concrete slab demand vigilance and caution.
You can see why with so much weight involved, both the construction of the bin and preparation of the concrete slab demand vigilance and caution.
A professional cement crew assisted with this pour, after much planning went into the forming and reinforcements.
A professional cement crew assisted with this pour, after much planning went into the forming and reinforcements.
It is by no means perfect, but the slab is essentially level and very sturdy. The site was prepared by scraping dirt and rocks away, and bringing in sand.
It is by no means perfect, but the slab is essentially level and very sturdy. The site was prepared by scraping dirt and rocks away, and bringing in sand.
Our crew was fortunate to have at hand good earth moving equipment, such as this loader.
Our crew was fortunate to have at hand good earth moving equipment, such as this loader.

Lighting for Nightime Work

Very hot weather, wind patterns, or nosy neighbors may make it desirable to work at night. If this is the case for you, good lighting is a requirement. Flood lights or similar are recommended. Lights designed to draw fewer insects are also helpful.


Lighting Options

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This is a strong light with a 360 degree lighting design, and covers a wide area with a non-irritating glow. Due to the weighted base, the light will not tip over in the wind.You can see how good a job it does in the pre-dawn darkness, making the job site safer and more convenient.Wherever more light was wanted, truck headlights were used.
This is a strong light with a 360 degree lighting design, and covers a wide area with a non-irritating glow. Due to the weighted base, the light will not tip over in the wind.
This is a strong light with a 360 degree lighting design, and covers a wide area with a non-irritating glow. Due to the weighted base, the light will not tip over in the wind.
You can see how good a job it does in the pre-dawn darkness, making the job site safer and more convenient.
You can see how good a job it does in the pre-dawn darkness, making the job site safer and more convenient.
Wherever more light was wanted, truck headlights were used.
Wherever more light was wanted, truck headlights were used.

Keeping Sheets Dry

It is necessary to keep sheets and all components indoors to avoid rust. During off-hours and any breaks of more than a few hours during construction, sheets must be kept inside. If possible, keep them near the jobsite so that minimum time and effort are spent during set-up and cleanup each day.

Indoor Storage for Bin Components

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Proper storage of your bin components is essential, as white rust and other problems can develop quickly. This building is big enough to make use of a skid loader convenient.This Quonset building is next to our work site, and is used to house farm equipment. It is dry and well-tended.
Proper storage of your bin components is essential, as white rust and other problems can develop quickly. This building is big enough to make use of a skid loader convenient.
Proper storage of your bin components is essential, as white rust and other problems can develop quickly. This building is big enough to make use of a skid loader convenient.
This Quonset building is next to our work site, and is used to house farm equipment. It is dry and well-tended.
This Quonset building is next to our work site, and is used to house farm equipment. It is dry and well-tended.

Transportation of Sheets Onto Site

What you need to move sheets will depend on the distance to be moved, and the size of your worksite.

A skid loader, forklift, or tractor with front forks is ideal for lifting whole bunks of sheets, and transporting them to a convenient spot on your building site. You can then lift individual sheets and place them where wanted.

After you have a stack of sheets handy, you can probably use drift punches inserted through bolt holes as handles to drag each sheet into position. If the sheets are enormously heavy and this is impractical, use an ATV to drag them.

Hauling Sheets

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A skid loader makes transportation of bunks of sheets easy and fast. Please allow only experienced skid loader drivers to haul sheets.A stack of roof sheets is ready to be used, kept conveniently off the wet ground by the loader forks. Whenever you must place sheets in a stack outside, always set them up on blocks, away from dampness. Think ahead and make it easy to reload the sheets onto the forks, in case you need to pause your bin construction earlier than planned.Once the sheets are near the job site, those to be installed next are dragged into approximate position.From here, they can be set up and installed with a minimum of fuss. Typically, one person can drag a wall sheet.
A skid loader makes transportation of bunks of sheets easy and fast. Please allow only experienced skid loader drivers to haul sheets.
A skid loader makes transportation of bunks of sheets easy and fast. Please allow only experienced skid loader drivers to haul sheets.
A stack of roof sheets is ready to be used, kept conveniently off the wet ground by the loader forks.
A stack of roof sheets is ready to be used, kept conveniently off the wet ground by the loader forks.
Whenever you must place sheets in a stack outside, always set them up on blocks, away from dampness. Think ahead and make it easy to reload the sheets onto the forks, in case you need to pause your bin construction earlier than planned.
Whenever you must place sheets in a stack outside, always set them up on blocks, away from dampness. Think ahead and make it easy to reload the sheets onto the forks, in case you need to pause your bin construction earlier than planned.
Once the sheets are near the job site, those to be installed next are dragged into approximate position.
Once the sheets are near the job site, those to be installed next are dragged into approximate position.
From here, they can be set up and installed with a minimum of fuss. Typically, one person can drag a wall sheet.
From here, they can be set up and installed with a minimum of fuss. Typically, one person can drag a wall sheet.

Jacks

One requirement is a way to lift the bin during construction. In a following article is a discussion of different kinds of grain bin jacks, but for now please understand that you will need either a boom truck, crane, large forklift (small bins only!), or jacks designed for building grain bins. These jacks come in different styles, and may be hydraulic or mechanical. Depending on the size of the bin, you will need a minimum of 4 to 6 jacks. They are designed to make the process as foolproof and safe as possible. Other types of jacks, such as hydraulic floor jacks, must not be substituted, as their potential for failure is high.

Jacks make the building process slower than other lifting methods, but are safer in most conditions.

Types of Grain Bin Jacks

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These are A-frame grain bin jacks with electric winches. Hand-crank models are sometimes used.This is a hydraulic grain bin jack. This style is slow to operate, but considered to be among the safest options.
These are A-frame grain bin jacks with electric winches. Hand-crank models are sometimes used.
These are A-frame grain bin jacks with electric winches. Hand-crank models are sometimes used.
This is a hydraulic grain bin jack. This style is slow to operate, but considered to be among the safest options.
This is a hydraulic grain bin jack. This style is slow to operate, but considered to be among the safest options.

Boom Trucks, Cranes, and Forklifts

If you are not using grain bin jacks, you will need to lift your bin in some other way. Cranes and boom trucks are good, safe options for most bins. You can probably hire one of these with an operator through a local contractor. (Most owners are not going to allow you to try to run their crane or boom truck--the operator is part of the package deal.)

A third option may be using a large forklift--but only for small to medium size bins. Forklift masts or booms cannot lift high enough to complete larger bins, or to set smaller ones on large hoppers. The forklift pictured below has over a 30 foot reach, but was still insufficient to complete and lift an 18 foot tall bin.

Lifting Arms (Boom Trucks, Cranes, Forklifts)

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This is at a site where we have built well over one dozen bins, we often use a large forklift for the main construction stages.Previously, we used a boom truck, with a boom long enough to perform all tasks from building the roof to weighting the bin during off-hours, to lifting it onto a hopper.A boom truck is generally a fast, simple way to go, as long as you have a reliable operator.Cranes can be expensive to hire, but are usually fast and efficient. This bin required a crane to lift it onto the hopper, as we no longer had access to a good boom truck. The forklift has too short a reach for this task, as well as the installation of the last ring of 6.
This is at a site where we have built well over one dozen bins, we often use a large forklift for the main construction stages.
This is at a site where we have built well over one dozen bins, we often use a large forklift for the main construction stages.
Previously, we used a boom truck, with a boom long enough to perform all tasks from building the roof to weighting the bin during off-hours, to lifting it onto a hopper.
Previously, we used a boom truck, with a boom long enough to perform all tasks from building the roof to weighting the bin during off-hours, to lifting it onto a hopper.
A boom truck is generally a fast, simple way to go, as long as you have a reliable operator.
A boom truck is generally a fast, simple way to go, as long as you have a reliable operator.
Cranes can be expensive to hire, but are usually fast and efficient.
Cranes can be expensive to hire, but are usually fast and efficient.
This bin required a crane to lift it onto the hopper, as we no longer had access to a good boom truck. The forklift has too short a reach for this task, as well as the installation of the last ring of 6.
This bin required a crane to lift it onto the hopper, as we no longer had access to a good boom truck. The forklift has too short a reach for this task, as well as the installation of the last ring of 6.

Lifting Rings

Lifting rings are designed to support the weight of the bin during construction, while it is lifted by a boomtruck or crane.

There are a few professionally designed and manufactured models on the market, but it will probably not be worth your while to invest in a lifting ring for one or two jobs. Instead, consider using a large truck rim, as shown below.

Lifting Ring Styles

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This is a homemade lifting ring, which is nothing more than an old-fashioned truck rim. It is not necessary to remove the tire from a usual truck rim, as it will help cushion the bin during lifting. Note how the chain is arranged.The boomtruck hook is lowered carefully through the hole at the peak, and centered in the rim with sturdy chain.This lifting ring is a professionally manufactured design.It folds for storage, and is heavy but not monstrous.It spreads to brace against the underside of the roof where the collar fits.You can see how simple it is to position, though care must be taken to keep it dead center until the bin is off the ground. From there, the wight should keep it in place.Dimensions between the lifting arms are shown here, being 3 feet on center.
This is a homemade lifting ring, which is nothing more than an old-fashioned truck rim.
This is a homemade lifting ring, which is nothing more than an old-fashioned truck rim.
It is not necessary to remove the tire from a usual truck rim, as it will help cushion the bin during lifting. Note how the chain is arranged.
It is not necessary to remove the tire from a usual truck rim, as it will help cushion the bin during lifting. Note how the chain is arranged.
The boomtruck hook is lowered carefully through the hole at the peak, and centered in the rim with sturdy chain.
The boomtruck hook is lowered carefully through the hole at the peak, and centered in the rim with sturdy chain.
This lifting ring is a professionally manufactured design.
This lifting ring is a professionally manufactured design.
It folds for storage, and is heavy but not monstrous.
It folds for storage, and is heavy but not monstrous.
It spreads to brace against the underside of the roof where the collar fits.
It spreads to brace against the underside of the roof where the collar fits.
You can see how simple it is to position, though care must be taken to keep it dead center until the bin is off the ground. From there, the wight should keep it in place.
You can see how simple it is to position, though care must be taken to keep it dead center until the bin is off the ground. From there, the wight should keep it in place.
Dimensions between the lifting arms are shown here, being 3 feet on center.
Dimensions between the lifting arms are shown here, being 3 feet on center.

Impact Wrench Tips

With a high quality electric impact, you should be able to tighten 3 nuts per second or more during re-assembly. Have a person on the outside with 2 box-end wrenches holding the heads of the bolts as you tighten the nuts. 5/16 nuts should only be tightened around 22 foot pounds, and I normally go a little more. 3/8 nuts should be tightened around 38 to 42 foot pounds. On a 48' diameter bin, the black impact socket will often turn cherry red by the time a ring is completely tightened. Remember, tighten the nuts, not the bolts. You may need good gloves and rags to hold on to the impact after a while, as the gun will get extremely hot.


Brands

Jepson impacts (now out of business), are my favorite brand. Their impact wrenches out-perform any other gun on the market. They do not seriously over-heat, and they take the abuse.

If you cannot find a Jepson, a DeWalt or Milwaukee are your second best options.


Electric vs. Pneumatic

On a big bin, both types of impact guns give problems. If you are working fast, a pneumatic wrench will get very cold or freeze up. This is extremely uncomfortable to hold, even if the gun still works.

Also on a big project, an electric impact will overheat and possibly fry. You may continue to use a hot gun by wearing gloves and wrapping the handle in rags so you don't burn your hands.

There is no good solution to these problems if you want to work fast.

Additionally, a pneumatic gun will not keep up with the demands of an experienced builder even with a decently big air compressor. The compressor will need to refill frequently, forcing the crew member to stand idle waiting for it.

Impact Wrench Options

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An electric impact wrench will get hot with incessant use, but you don't need to wait for an air compressor to refill.A pneumatic impact wrench will stay cool--even getting cold--but is slower to use.
An electric impact wrench will get hot with incessant use, but you don't need to wait for an air compressor to refill.
An electric impact wrench will get hot with incessant use, but you don't need to wait for an air compressor to refill.
A pneumatic impact wrench will stay cool--even getting cold--but is slower to use.
A pneumatic impact wrench will stay cool--even getting cold--but is slower to use.

Impact Wrench Buying Guide

Drift Punches

Drift punches are used for aligning panels by inserting them into the bolt holes and leveraging the sheets into place.

They are also used for handles while carrying individual sheets short distances.

We recommend having at least one 10" punch per crew member, like the one shown below next to my hand. Also shown is a longer punch with a handle/hook on one end. This kind comes in handy during especially ugly situations, when more leverage and reach are required.

Drift Punch Uses

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This is a 10-inch drift punch. You will want at least one punch per crew member. Two or three are required to align a stubborn sheet.Drift punches are used as handles to drag wall sheets from the pile to the bin perimeter.Having several handy will speed up your work and keep you happier.Punches are inserted at eight end of a wall sheet when fitting it into place, both to hold it and to provide leverage to align bolt holes.Punches are also used to keep a seam open for inserting the following sheet.This is a specially long punch with a hook/handle combination on one end. It is handy for ugly jobs where uncommon leverage is required.
This is a 10-inch drift punch. You will want at least one punch per crew member. Two or three are required to align a stubborn sheet.
This is a 10-inch drift punch. You will want at least one punch per crew member. Two or three are required to align a stubborn sheet.
Drift punches are used as handles to drag wall sheets from the pile to the bin perimeter.
Drift punches are used as handles to drag wall sheets from the pile to the bin perimeter.
Having several handy will speed up your work and keep you happier.
Having several handy will speed up your work and keep you happier.
Punches are inserted at eight end of a wall sheet when fitting it into place, both to hold it and to provide leverage to align bolt holes.
Punches are inserted at eight end of a wall sheet when fitting it into place, both to hold it and to provide leverage to align bolt holes.
Punches are also used to keep a seam open for inserting the following sheet.
Punches are also used to keep a seam open for inserting the following sheet.
This is a specially long punch with a hook/handle combination on one end. It is handy for ugly jobs where uncommon leverage is required.
This is a specially long punch with a hook/handle combination on one end. It is handy for ugly jobs where uncommon leverage is required.

Box End Wrenches

9/16 inch box end wrenches are used on all standard grain bin bolts.

They are used for holding the bolts still during the tightening process, in which an impact wrench is used to achieve proper torque.

Bolt Tightening Process

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While a person with an impact wrench works inside, one outside the bin keeps just ahead of him with two box-end wrenches, usually beginning at the top of the seam.Excellent dexterity and strength is needed to keep up with a good impact gun user.5/8-inch bolts and nuts are provided with new bins.
While a person with an impact wrench works inside, one outside the bin keeps just ahead of him with two box-end wrenches, usually beginning at the top of the seam.
While a person with an impact wrench works inside, one outside the bin keeps just ahead of him with two box-end wrenches, usually beginning at the top of the seam.
Excellent dexterity and strength is needed to keep up with a good impact gun user.
Excellent dexterity and strength is needed to keep up with a good impact gun user.
5/8-inch bolts and nuts are provided with new bins.
5/8-inch bolts and nuts are provided with new bins.

Drills

During new construction, a drill should only be needed for drilling holes in components that were not marked correctly at the factory.

More than once, we have been delivered the wrong wind ring, for example.

Usually an 11/32-inch bit will be needed, as the bolts are normally 5/8-inch. This makes holes only 1 size bigger than the bolts, providing a snug fit.

Electric Drills (Hopefully Optional)

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Electric drills are sometimes needed when there are manufacturing errors in sheets or other components.In this case, bolt holes were out of place, as the wrong wind ring was sent.
Electric drills are sometimes needed when there are manufacturing errors in sheets or other components.
Electric drills are sometimes needed when there are manufacturing errors in sheets or other components.
In this case, bolt holes were out of place, as the wrong wind ring was sent.
In this case, bolt holes were out of place, as the wrong wind ring was sent.

Ladders

Step ladders or scaffolding will be required to build the roof.

We often use one 6-foot ladder, and one 8-foot ladder in a medium-sized bin. Obviously, the bigger the bin, the taller you will need your ladders to be.

Scaffolding is often considered safer than ladders, but can be expensive and is not so mobile as ladders.

Do what you can with what materials you have, while maintaining relative safety. The main object is that you be able to build and work with roof components, without breaking your neck.

Step Ladders

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Sturdy step-ladders will be needed to work on the underside of the roof, if you are not using scaffolding.
Sturdy step-ladders will be needed to work on the underside of the roof, if you are not using scaffolding.
Sturdy step-ladders will be needed to work on the underside of the roof, if you are not using scaffolding.

Guide Ropes

Guide ropes are used to help persuade a bin into position on a hopper, or to help keep it from swinging in the wind during transport short distances with a crane, etc.

Straps are bolted in or secured near the bottom if the bin, at whatever angle is most strategic to the job at hand. Wind direction and strength will most influence this.

Guide Ropes and Straps

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A strap for helping to guide the bin into place on the hopper is bolted in near the bottom.Here a temporary crew member fights a breeze while the bin is moved across the yard.Two or more straps should be used whenever caution demands it,such as in shifting wind conditions.Three straps and a potato fork with which to pry were used to align this bin with the hopper.
A strap for helping to guide the bin into place on the hopper is bolted in near the bottom.
A strap for helping to guide the bin into place on the hopper is bolted in near the bottom.
Here a temporary crew member fights a breeze while the bin is moved across the yard.
Here a temporary crew member fights a breeze while the bin is moved across the yard.
Two or more straps should be used whenever caution demands it,such as in shifting wind conditions.
Two or more straps should be used whenever caution demands it,such as in shifting wind conditions.
Three straps and a potato fork with which to pry were used to align this bin with the hopper.
Three straps and a potato fork with which to pry were used to align this bin with the hopper.

Sealants

Types of sealants which may be used on grain bins include:

  • Tar
  • Tube silicone sealant
  • Spray foam

Tar/hit rubber sealant is used on foundations and bases, to waterproof between the metal and concrete.

Silicone is used between parts of hoppers and wherever loose hardware may present a problem.

Spray foam may be used inside bins to ensure that an imperfect fit between bin and hopper is rectified.

Also used is mastic a thick tape-like sealant which is applied on the overlap between each grain bin sheet. Occasionally a builder will use silicone instead.

Types of Sealants

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Window caulk or tube silicone were used on all seams of this hopper.The tar on this older bin is still doing a fine job.Here is a roll of mastik, ready to roll out and press to wall sheet seams.The paper backing is left in place until the sheet is ready to be set.Two lines are used where prudent.
Window caulk or tube silicone were used on all seams of this hopper.
Window caulk or tube silicone were used on all seams of this hopper.
The tar on this older bin is still doing a fine job.
The tar on this older bin is still doing a fine job.
Here is a roll of mastik, ready to roll out and press to wall sheet seams.
Here is a roll of mastik, ready to roll out and press to wall sheet seams.
The paper backing is left in place until the sheet is ready to be set.
The paper backing is left in place until the sheet is ready to be set.
Two lines are used where prudent.
Two lines are used where prudent.

Weather Safety

Weather will strongly affect your grain bin building experience. Even a 10 mph wind will make it difficult to safely lift or move the bin. Heat will make you miserable, transforming the bin interior into a solar oven. Please consider taking extra potassium when working in the heat. Extreme cold or needing to work with insulated gloves will make handling hardware almost impossible and very tedious.

Cold weather will make tools and engines work extra hard, and materials may be brittle.

Wind Blockers

Buildings, semi trucks, and windbreaks make good wind blockers both during construction and off-hours.

Be careful not to put a bin between two buildings or blocks in any position that may create a wind tunnel.

Trucks and trailers may be repositioned as needed, and can be parked close on either side of a bin to hold it still during off-hours.


Trucks as Wind Blockers

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A truck with a livestock trailer made a handy wind block while this bin was under construction.A truck can be moved as necessary throughout the day.Two were used to block in this bin during off-hours. The bins in the background helped block the wind from the worst direction.A boom can be extended over the peak of a bin if desired, weighting it against the ground.
A truck with a livestock trailer made a handy wind block while this bin was under construction.
A truck with a livestock trailer made a handy wind block while this bin was under construction.
A truck can be moved as necessary throughout the day.
A truck can be moved as necessary throughout the day.
Two were used to block in this bin during off-hours. The bins in the background helped block the wind from the worst direction.
Two were used to block in this bin during off-hours. The bins in the background helped block the wind from the worst direction.
A boom can be extended over the peak of a bin if desired, weighting it against the ground.
A boom can be extended over the peak of a bin if desired, weighting it against the ground.

Securing a Bin During Off-Hours Using T-Posts

T-posts driven in around a bin whenever it is not being worked on can serve as anchors against wind. Without this precaution, you may be liable for an expensive, dangerous kite.

T-posts may be used at almost any stage of construction, and are a suitable solution whenever you cannot hold down the bin with machinery.

How many posts you will need is determined by the size of your bin and the anticipated wind speeds. 4 to 6 posts spaced around a small to medium-size bin is recommended.

The depth to which you drive them will be determined by hardness of the ground, wind speeds, and how many you have. In very hard ground you may be able to drive the posts in less than 2 feet, and this may be sufficient. In softer ground, which will allow for more shifting, aim for at least 3 feet.

After setting the posts, wire the bin to them using tough wire inserted through empty bolt holes.


Alternatives to Posts

  1. If you are using a crane or boom truck, lower the boom on to the hole at the peak, if possible leaving the bin in a position in which it cannot be much affected by wind.
  2. If you are using A-frame grain bin jacks which are bolted onto the bin, lower the bin to the ground and secure it using the jacks.

T-Posts as Anchors

This T-post has been driven in at a slight angle to wedge against the base of the sheets. Others are spaced out around the bin. The ground was excessively hard. We refrained from wiring the posts to the roof sheets.
This T-post has been driven in at a slight angle to wedge against the base of the sheets. Others are spaced out around the bin. The ground was excessively hard. We refrained from wiring the posts to the roof sheets.

Bins Under Construction Must Be Anchored

Never leave a grain bin unanchored during off-hours. The risk is not worth any amount of convenience. For these reasons, plan how you will anchor or hold down your bin prior to construction, and plan the building site accordingly.

Tips for Tearing Down Old Bins

Old grain bins may come with a plethora of problems you wouldn't normally encounter while building a new bin. The tear-down process may be slowed by rusted panels and hardware, filth and vermin, rotten grain, crowding trees, or pigeons.

Be prepared to use both brains and brawn to overcome these and other problems.

Depending on the age of the bin, hardware may not be uniform. Particularly those bins manufactured during the 1940s, or which use hardware from that era, may have bolts of several different grades and head types. Square, hexagonal, and slotted pan-head bolts may be found all in the same bin.

Hardware which is seized by rust may need to be cut or ground off, using an angle grinder or reciprocating saw.

Additional Tools for Bin Tear-Downs

  • 4" angle grinder with a cut-off wheel (a thinner wheel than a standard grinding wheel, being 1/16-inch thick)
  • Reciprocating saw with carbide fine-tooth metal-cutting blade(s)
  • Spade-end pry bar or wrecking bar
  • Screwdriver, large straight blade
  • Electric drill/screw driver with suitable bits
  • Vice grips (good ones!)
  • Box end wrenches, 9/16-inch and maybe others

Tools for Use With Old Bins

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An angle grinder is used to remove stubborn bolt heads on this 1940s era grain bin which is to be moved.In other situations, a reciprocating saw may be a better choice.Keep a set of standard box-end wrenches handy on old bins, as not all bolts may be the same.A pair of vice grips is used to hold this nut while the bolt is removed. Square-head bolts are often found on older bins.Panhead bolts were used in this roof. Some were able to be removed with a power drill fitted with a wide flat blade driver.Others had to be painstakingly removed by hand, from both the inside and out.
An angle grinder is used to remove stubborn bolt heads on this 1940s era grain bin which is to be moved.
An angle grinder is used to remove stubborn bolt heads on this 1940s era grain bin which is to be moved.
In other situations, a reciprocating saw may be a better choice.
In other situations, a reciprocating saw may be a better choice.
Keep a set of standard box-end wrenches handy on old bins, as not all bolts may be the same.
Keep a set of standard box-end wrenches handy on old bins, as not all bolts may be the same.
A pair of vice grips is used to hold this nut while the bolt is removed.
A pair of vice grips is used to hold this nut while the bolt is removed.
Square-head bolts are often found on older bins.
Square-head bolts are often found on older bins.
Panhead bolts were used in this roof. Some were able to be removed with a power drill fitted with a wide flat blade driver.
Panhead bolts were used in this roof. Some were able to be removed with a power drill fitted with a wide flat blade driver.
Others had to be painstakingly removed by hand, from both the inside and out.
Others had to be painstakingly removed by hand, from both the inside and out.

Spade-End Pry Bar

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This pry bar is a homemade tool with a variety of uses.It can be used with great leverage to pry stubborn sheets apart.It can be used to whack and bang sheets loose where rust or bits of tar inhibit less agressive methods.
This pry bar is a homemade tool with a variety of uses.
This pry bar is a homemade tool with a variety of uses.
It can be used with great leverage to pry stubborn sheets apart.
It can be used with great leverage to pry stubborn sheets apart.
It can be used to whack and bang sheets loose where rust or bits of tar inhibit less agressive methods.
It can be used to whack and bang sheets loose where rust or bits of tar inhibit less agressive methods.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Joilene Rasmussen

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