How to Find Used Grain Bins
I get many questions over e-mail concerning where and how to find used grain bins. There seems to be two main reasons for acquiring used grain bins. Some folks - primarily farmers - wish to have them for storing grain, and others - contractors or just individuals - for converting into housing.
Below are some of the examples of requests I've had for help in finding used grain bins, and below that, I explain the best ways I know of finding appropriate bins. People have left comments concerning bins they have for sale, as well - so you might find just what you're looking for, at the bottom of this article.
Also, on February 18, 2015, I received this comment:
we here at http;woodysusedgrainbins.com disagree with what was said in this article,i sell 100 bins a year and put 75 percent of them back up with few complaints,so if your lokin for a good used grain bin,please check out our website at woodysusedgrainbins.com or call randy at 810-422-7692,thank you
But first, a word about the bins themselves.
Things You Should Know Before Shopping for Used Grain Bins
1) All grain bins are not created equal. Grain bins are made by many different companies, and vary considerably in quality and workmanship. The price of a new bin does not necessarily reflect its quality. We can divide grain bins into three categories for easy assessment:
a) Low quality. These are typically made with light-grade metal, and tend to bend and crumple easily. Many bins have a tag on the inside of each sheet stating the gauge (thickness of the sheet). Lightweight bins are unsuitable for areas prone to receiving high winds. The hardware which comes with such bins tends to be of a lesser quality, as well; bolts are frequently carelessly threaded, assembly slots or holes and their matching bolts often misalign, roof sheets lap poorly, etc. Sometimes, important hardware is missing altogether, even on new bins straight from the factory. Low quality bins typically have a cheap - if initially shiny - galvanized finish, and many design problems. (The shinier the finish is, the thinner it is, and the faster it will wear away and lose its protective capabilities.) Lower quality bins represent no monetary savings in the long-run, as they frequently need more time to erect than a higher quality bin, and tend to require extra measures to make them weather-tight (blown-in expanding foam insulation, extra sealing tape, etc.)
b) Medium quality. Medium quality grain bins are easier to work with, as the sheets tend to fit more accurately, and the hardware is usually alright. We have had some problems with some of them "belly wrinkling" (buckling slightly in the middles) when loaded quite full with grain, and for this reason we recommend stiffeners (vertical metal bars) be installed on the insides at intervals.
c) High quality. It is possible to sustain wind damge to a high quality grain bin, but it usually takes tornado-force winds. It is possible to hurt high quality grain bins in other ways, as well, but typically only through abuse or poor maintenance, such as allowing sheets to rust out. Sometimes the hardware on a high quality grain bin varies from bolt to bolt (that is, two bolts from the same package may be made from completely different grades of metal), but these bins are constructed in such a way that a few poor-grade bolts won't hurt the bin. A high quality bin has a sturdy finish to the sheets, which will retard rusting and other deterioration. It will come with primarily good hardware, the assembly holes will line up, and will be carefully engineered and designed.
2) Moving a grain bin can be a fairly straight-forward, but not necessarily easy, process. It may require some specialized equipment, and much caution and common sense. For more information on moving used grain bins, see this article and its accompanying comments, which I wrote to show an overview of the process. A more detailed, step-by-step article is in the works, to show you how to move a bin by completely tearing it down into separate components, to be moved on a trailer.
3) Used grain bins are not necessarily cheap. A bin in good shape, with the bottom ring not rusted out, might go for 20-25 cents a bushel (as of 2010). Bin prices are usually calculated by the bushel. This means that a bin that holds 12,000 bushels of grain (such as the one shown in the picture in this article) might be worth $2,400 or more. A new 6-ring, 18' diameter, 5,000 bushel, medium quality bin might go for $1.25 a bushel, without shipping charges. At the current scrap metal price (subject to change anytime), the bin in this hub would be worth $250, but most farmers won't let even a trashed bin go for that, unless it's so trashed you won't be able to use it either...say, one that's been knocked off the cement pad and torn to shreds by a tornado. The price may also be determined by the quality of the bin (see remarks, above).
Simply stated, a used bin may not be your best bet. Count the cost carefully before you buy. Getting a used bin for $.20 a bushel will barely allow you to buy new hardware (a must), erect the bin, and do it right, while leaving a bit extra over a new bin. This does not include the cost of a cement pad, but does include the potential cost for you to hire a contractor to erect the bin for you.
Whether to go with a new bin, or try to scrounge for something used, all depends on what you need, and whether or not you have the expertise to fix bent sheets and such, which old bins frequently have.
4) Grain bins, whether used or new, tend to be either very cold or very hot inside, according to the weather. The summers where I live usually fluctuate between 90* F. and 115* F., with low humidity (13% is average). In temperatures like these, the air inside a grain bin can easily be 120* F. or more...in some cases, hot enough to cook a fair sized beef roast hung from a string. (My husband's done it.) My husband and I try to avoid building grain bins anytime past May, because of the heat factor. We've done them in July, but it's torture. So count the cost of insulating the structure, too.
Note: Pleae do not ask my advice on turning a grain bin into an office or home, as I have never done so.
Example #1 -
I'm looking for a couple of used bin to make into cottages. Do you know any good places to look for used bins?
Example #2 -
I am a builder/farmer interested in building round houses using grain bin roofs. If you have any ideas or suggestions as to where I could come across a 30' -50' diameter roof that is in usable condition I would greatly appreciate it. I live in Southeastern Ohio, and the hills here make it difficult to grow grain. There are only a few farmers that store enough to actually have a large bin like the one I am looking for. Thank you for your help!
Where to Look
As far as I am aware, there are no official old grain bin rest homes. There is no centralized grain bin distribution center, nor a union or similar organization designed to connect grain bin contractors or sellers.
So, these are your options:
- Check out local farms. The best places to look for used grain bins are old farmsteads, whether occupied or abandoned. (Just be sure you get the owner's permission before setting foot on the property, even if it looks like nobody would mind.) However, many of the unused bins you're likely to find in such places have major structural issues; there are often reasons why they're empty, and not being used anymore. Sometimes, however, they simply are not needed, or perhaps there are economic reasons why a bin might not be in use. So ask around for leads as to likely properties, or drive around and take notes of what you think you see, and visit or call the land owners.
- Advertise your need in local and regional papers and magazines, especially those aimed at farmers and ranchers. Be specific as to what you want, as "grain bin" means different things to different people.
- Check farm auctions and sales. Make friends with the auctioneer(s), and he may lead you right to what you want.
- Ask local contractors for leads, whether or not they are into grain bin moving. If they don't have good advice for you, they may know someone who does.
- Advertise your need by word of mouth to local farmers, ranchers, hired hands, etc. Eventually, if a used grain bin which suits your needs is available, it will turn up.
If you cannot find a used grain bin locally, I recommend that you consider buying a new grain bin, rather than trying to move a used one long distances. I have listed some decent suppliers below.
Grain Bin Suppliers [To HP Editors: Please don't "snip" this links capsule, as these comparisons are important for anyone grain bin shopping!]
Below are several grain bin manufacturers, listed in descending order of quality, according to my husband's and my experiences over the last 20 years working with and building grain bins. Just like other companies, grain bin manufacturers don't stay around forever, and some popular ones of years ago are no longer in business. For instance, we see a lot of Butler grain bins on old homesteads, and have moved a few, but cannot recommend Butler as a company, because they combined with Brock. If a company you know about isn't on this list, we either cannot recommend it, or we haven't worked with it enough to have an opinion.
York (not to be confused with other Grand Island, NE manufacturers)
Good grain bin hunting!
Tools, Hardware, Jacks, etc. - Grain Bin Supplies [To HP Ed: This link is also very useful for grain bin people. Supplies can be hard to get for non-suppliers.]
- Simes Grain Bin Jacks, Centerpoles, Bin Jacking Tools
Grain bin jacks or jacking systems for sale or rent. Farm bin A-frame jacks, Commercial mechanical Simes Grain Bin Jacks and Hydraulic lifting jacks.
Houses Built From Grain Bins
© 2011 Joy At Home