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Earthbag Building & Other Natural Building Methods

Grain Bin Homes

Sukup SafeT Home galvanized steel manufactured home

Sukup SafeT Home galvanized steel manufactured home


The most interesting thing about this product is it has already been designed and fabricated as a home. Some people have converted grain bins into homes by cutting door and window openings, etc. You can even buy plans for grain bin homes. But this is the first company to my knowledge that offers a complete home building kit that’s ready for assembly. This particular model sells for $5,700. It can be easily assembled with a few hand tools, although I would definitely use a cordless drill. And yes, it’s made with steel, an energy intensive material, but the extra environmental toll may be justified, for instance, where hurricanes and tornadoes routinely wreck havoc. Its virtually maintenance free 70-year life span is certainly a big plus. I’m impressed with the double, continuously vented roof that prevents overheating. So this design has some good features going for it. It would benefit from insulation. Some might find it practical as safe, temporary shelter while their permanent home is being built or as a cabin or storage building. I wonder if they sell the roof separately so it can be used on an earthbag roundouse?

Source: Sukup
Special thanks to Cliff for this tip.

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21 Responses to “Grain Bin Homes”

  1. Jim Snider says:

    I have found a plot of land that has a 25 ft grain storage all ready on it. And it is in a area I want to retire in. Would bolting 2x6s on the inside and filling with insulation then paneling be a fairly easy way to insulate. This will be a 2 story place and will be adding a deck .

  2. bob says:

    I am interested in getting pricing on storage containers new or used/refurbished in both 20′ and 40′ length with shipping costs. I’m in the Denver, CO area.

    Thanks,
    Bob

  3. Owen Geiger says:

    Stacking scoria bags around the outside would provide plenty of insulation and possibly be less expensive than buying a second layer of metal or second grain bin. This wouldn’t take long. You would need to order wider roof overhangs. Check availability from manufacturer. Please leave a comment here if you hear from Sukup.

    And I really like the idea of combining a systems container with all the mechanical systems with one of these grain bins.
    http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/10-container-for-mechanical-systems/

    Sukup could use the systems container concept with their grain bin medical clinics, etc.

  4. r_w says:

    Bins normally are bolted together with the nut to the inside. It would not be too hard to add a fender washer to a few of them to hold the mesh in place. A sprayed insulating plaster would be great soundproofing as well.

    I can also see this as the first roundhouse of a multi roundhouse plan, build the others from earthbag around it while you live in the bin. That will allow you to get the first house up quick and live onsite while building the rest.

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Very good ideas. Thanks for sharing. No need for temporary shelter such as buying a tent.

      So to be clear, you would use longer bolts and come back later after the bin was erected and add a washer and nut to the bolts to hold the mesh? Otherwise it seems too awkward to line up the bolts, nuts, washers and mesh all at one time.

      The perlited plaster mentioned earlier is the same as insulating plaster.

      • r_w says:

        Usually all the bolts are long enough to fit a second nut. But if they won’t hold the mesh tight enough, you can remove a few nuts and add fender washers to hold the mesh down tight. You can see it closer in these videos:

  5. I have been fascinated by these things for several decades now; it is great to see the increased interest in this alternative housing. Steel is definitely “energy intense” on the front end but if one truly measures its longevity coupled with the fact it will still be 100% recyclable on the back end… then its worthy of consideration. I love the fact that these components can be efficiently stacked and transported to more challenging building locations too. Would both walls have to be constructed simultaneously during the initial build is my question?

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Most people would likely build these in remote areas so ease of transport is another big plus.

      Not sure about when the second layer is added on this design. Maybe the company rep can respond.

      You can build a second grain bin of a different size — one inside the other. But then you’re faced with all the custom cutting and metal work. I hope Sukup has a plan to easily add the second layer.

  6. Owen Geiger says:

    Reader comment: “OK, I can get perlite. Does it need to be compacted or prepared in some way?

    I would like to use the earth plaster but I came up with the same issue on the mesh. Even I get the mesh to stick to the steel will the plaster adhere to the mesh good enough.”

    Owen: Loose perlite is best. Just pour it in. Is the price reasonable? I’ve recommended it in the past and people almost always say it’s too expensive. But that’s one big advantage of building small — you can use real good materials and it’s still affordable.

    Here’s my suggestion for plaster. Attach vertical 1x2s spaced about 12″-16″ apart. Too far apart and it will be difficult to maintain a smooth curve. Predrill through the wood and attach to the metal with self tapping screws. Then attach mesh to the 1x2s.

  7. Owen Geiger says:

    The standard price is $5700.00 (US). I would very much consider pricing incentives on full shipping containers. The shipping weight is 3200 lbs. per unit. We ship 13 – 14 units per 40′ shipping container.

    I Just looked at your web page. Very nice. I would note that the steel, although energy intense, is >95% recycled material. It helps a little.

    Thank you for showing interest.

    Brett A. Nelson
    Safety Director
    Sukup Manufacturing Co.
    641 892 4222

  8. Owen Geiger says:

    Reader comment: “I talked to Brett Nelson at Sukup. He was very helpful. His original interest came from building a grain bin home for himself. They are working on a 1,000 sq ft model to be used as a health care clinic.

    I talked a bit about you and told him your post would generate a lot of inquiries at Sukup so be prepared. He said a double full wall could be done and would add about 40% to the price. No official quote just ball parking. He said this is not their primary business but I said “you are in the business of making money”.”

  9. Owen Geiger says:

    Reader question: “If a had a grain bin home and it had a double wall. What would be the best thing to fill it with for insulation? Sand, scoria, wool, rammed earth? I would like to have something that is fireproof.

    What would be a good way to coat/line the inside walls?

    Just looking for things to ponder. I like these better than a container. I can see myself living in a round tin can but not a square tin box. OK, I admit it, i’m weird.”

    Owen: This blog post shot way up above normal ones (roughly double). Judging by the number of hits, I’m guessing these units will sell. So if other people are buying them, then it’s okay and you’re not strange. Ha ha. (Just wait a little while so they get called weird and you are considered trendy.)

    Can you get perlite? That has a very high R-value (R 2.7/inch). That’s what you want, high insulation value. Choose something that won’t rot or attract pests. You could probably order the second layer a certain size larger than the first layer so you get the appropriate amount of insulation for your area. What’s shown may be overkill for many. 12″ walls filled with perlite would give you about R-27. That would be perfect. And as you know, use what you have locally. But since scoria has lower R-value then you would probably want thicker walls at around 15-18″. Both scoria and perlite are fireproof.

    Coat the inside: Perlited gypsum plaster and earth plaster would be good choices. Both could be sprayed on. You’d have to figure out how to attach plaster mesh.

  10. Owen Geiger says:

    Some people aren’t strong enough to do earthbag, adobe, concrete work and other labor intensive building methods. Grain bin houses would be one viable option.

    And, of course, these units could be joined in clusters like my earthbag roundhouse plans, added one at a time as you can afford.

    Some recycled brick, stone, etc. would really help improve the exterior appearance — even a little around the entrance or base would help a lot.

    The labor saving feature on this is huge. Sure it costs more, but people have to decide what their time is worth. Not everyone has months of extra time to build their home.

  11. Patrick says:

    Would it be possible to use the entire thing as a second story to a earthbag round house? That would double the floor space, just using it as a loft. And it would already have a roof. Roofs are the scary part of building for me.

    Love your site. I always check in on it from time to time. First time post.

    patrick

    • Owen Geiger says:

      That’s a great idea, thanks! The higher the walls go, the more difficult it is to move the earth. This would add a second story or loft and roof very quickly. And yes, the roof is often the most difficult part. Thanks for sharing.

      This comment illustrates how many times it’s not a black/white, either/or solution. That’s one reason we’ve started publishing a broader range of building ideas.

  12. Nick says:

    This is a very nice idea for people who need shelter relatively quickly. Pole barn kits will also give you more room, for the same price, but probably won’t be as sturdy as this grain silo.

    Glenna – you can absolutely buy just the roof, separately. I’ve thought of that as a topper for an earthbag building, and checked it out last year.

  13. r_w says:

    Normal grain bin roofs are single-layer. The double roof is something special. And yes, you can buy just the roof from most manufacturers (find one local if you can).

    If you really wanted full coverave ballast boxes for insulation, you could do that with any 2 bins you could find with the right sizes (the larger being 2-4 foot larger diameter). You would have to find used bins off craigslist or farm auction. The good thing is the smaller bins have little value to the modern farmer so they often sell for scrap metal prices.

  14. Glenna says:

    I am also wondering about the roof maybe being sold separate. May have to check into that end of it. g

  15. Owen Geiger says:

    Reader comment: “You could use their ballast box as as second skin and fill it with scoria for insulation. I am sure you could get them taller to go up the whole outside wall. Without something to insulate the critter it would be a freezer in the winter.”

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