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Moving a Used Grain Bin: A Day in the Life of a Rural Contractor

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

There's something magical about staring up at the roof of a grain bin . . . almost like a cathedral. That's the lifting ring in the center, almost like a chandelier—an old truck rim, a bit bigger than the hole.

There's something magical about staring up at the roof of a grain bin . . . almost like a cathedral. That's the lifting ring in the center, almost like a chandelier—an old truck rim, a bit bigger than the hole.

How to Move a Grain Bin

As a contractor's wife, I've helped move, dismantle, and rebuild several grain bins in the last seven years . . . not always in that order.

Most of the time, it goes pretty well. There are those occasions where it doesn't go well . . . like the time my husband took out street after street of cable TV lines with a grain bin on a big trailer, streaking through a nearby town, because he was on a deadline for his now-out-of-business boss.

But, most of the time, it's a straightforward endeavor.

Grain bins represent the life of many rural communities.

You see, every so often, farmers swap, bid or buy someone else's equipment and such when they change directions, or an old farmer dies and has an estate sale, or are just plain forced out of business by hailed crops, failed wells, or other calamities. Sometimes, a man can afford to buy new bins outright, and these are the good, easy jobs for us . . . the ones my man and I prefer to take.

Grain bins are a way of telling how good a farmer thinks the future of agriculture is likely to be. If he's letting them go to pot, he reckons he won't be in business much longer. If he's getting more or taking good care of those he has and keeping them full, he thinks the future looks bright. I guess the locals thought 2009 was a good year . . . it's probably just the extra rain that turned the pastures green that went to their heads and made them feel it was worth buying good seed for planting and worth feeding replacement heifers.

And buying grain bins.

Hubby hard at work on stiffeners, which are bars that help the bin hold up against the thousands of pounds of grain without buckling.

Hubby hard at work on stiffeners, which are bars that help the bin hold up against the thousands of pounds of grain without buckling.

A nearly completed bin. This one lacks a ring of sheets, and is being held down by the boomtruck, as it's not anchored to the cement. Ever watched a kite take off in the wind? A grain bin will do the same thing.

A nearly completed bin. This one lacks a ring of sheets, and is being held down by the boomtruck, as it's not anchored to the cement. Ever watched a kite take off in the wind? A grain bin will do the same thing.

Phase One: Dismantling the Lower Half of the Bin

We began with a crew of three: My husband, his friend and co-worker Les, and myself. (Perhaps I should include my children, too, as they prompted us when to take breaks and brought strange plants and rocks, bits of rubbish, and other curiosities to us for identification or amusement.) Our goal was to make the bin short enough to be safely loaded onto a trailer and hauled without incident from one farm to another. This meant we had to dismantle the first three rings, or tiers, of sheets, from the bottom up.

We made record time on this part. All of us knew what we were doing, and none of the bolts were rusted badly enough to require torching. There had been no pigeons roosting inside, and there were but traces of sunflower seeds scattered throughout. An impact wrench, some vice grips, a good box-end wrench, and a boomtruck were the primary tools. We cheated and left the rings in three pieces of two sheets each, plus one lone sheet, instead of taking them clear apart. Within two and a half hours, we had the bin ready to load.

The kids, meanwhile, played nearby in the fields and farmyard. The farmer's widow lived there still and provided them with a little wagon full of playthings. They preferred the wagon itself and dragged it about in the mud puddles, occasionally pausing to raid a windfall of immature crab apples on the lawn.

A convoy: First went our friend Les, with the shortened bin on a big trailer. Next came my husband, in the boomtruck, which we used to load and unload the bin. Last, came the kids and I, in the car.

A convoy: First went our friend Les, with the shortened bin on a big trailer. Next came my husband, in the boomtruck, which we used to load and unload the bin. Last, came the kids and I, in the car.

Beginning to round the corner. Les misjudged how close he was to the power lines. Oops.

Beginning to round the corner. Les misjudged how close he was to the power lines. Oops.

Rectifying the situation, with a fiberglass pole. Les is lifting the lines out of the way, while Hubby drives under them.

Rectifying the situation, with a fiberglass pole. Les is lifting the lines out of the way, while Hubby drives under them.

Phase Two: Moving the Bin

All started out well once the bin was safely on a huge trailer. We continued in caravan style for a few miles, idling along, completely without incident.

Then came a corner with highline wires crossing over it.

Now, Les has loads of experience moving bins, but this day he misjudged how close he could get to those wires. Ever seen burnt gravel? I got my chance that afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't have the leisure to get a picture for your benefit.

As he crept around the corner, he must have thought he could barely slip under without touching the wires. Bad call. Suddenly, Hubby ran yelling toward Les's truck, waving his arms. Immediately, Les backed the rig up and got out to survey the damage. Everything looked okay (including Les), save for a dark patch on the road.

We proceeded with more caution while Les held the wires aloft with a fiberglass pole.

The Tires

A bit down the road, we met with more wires but refrained from tangling with them and their power-hungry ways. A lesson learned the first time!

Still, clouds and poofs of dust rose rhythmically up from the driver's side of the trailer. As Les got out, I raced to the examination site and captured this priceless photo:

Blown truck tires from the highline incident

Blown truck tires from the highline incident

. . . amid yells from Les . . .

"You quit takin' pictures!"

I have yet to decide if he was really upset. He doesn't yell often. I'd risk it again, however, for such a photo.

It appears that the power from the highlines managed to ground from the bin, through the trailer, through the axels, through the steel belts which were already showing in the tires . . . and left a mark of carbon from the tires on the road (the burnt spot).

So Les limped the truck along on the blown tires, and less than two miles later, we arrived at the farm where we needed to deliver the bin, and the adventure for the day was done . . .

. . . saving that the company specializing in bin hardware didn't send any anchor bolts. Instead, they provided us with a box full of nothing.

Drat.

Wonder who paid the shipping on that one?

Would I Do It Again?

Yes!

It's my life . . . it keeps me close to the people among whom I was raised . . . to the land, and cattle, and crops, and wild plains and fields where jack rabbits bound and arrowheads may still be found.

More than this, though, it makes for a pretty day:

You can't move such a bin down a muddy dirt road at more than an idle. The day was warm but not severe, and the wheat was still green and fresh smelling. Wild flowers grew in the ditches, and our caravan was moving slowly enough to allow me to examine, enjoy, and identify some of them.

I found a bushy growth of wild vetch at one corner and heard meadowlarks on the fenceposts. I saw tracks of raccoons and snakes near the ditches and had time to think.

Yeah, even the flops in this business make for a good life.

Same Trip, Different Bin

The next bin we moved along that route went well. Les solved the high-line problem by moving four feet over in the road, clearing the line completely.

One of these days, I'll get some pictures of how we actually build a grain bin from scratch and also how we tear down an old one completely.

Thanks for reading.

Important Grain Bin Tools and Hardware

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: When you move the grain bins that you had to disassemble on the round bins that do not have support poles, how did you take the roof apart? It is held together by a ring in the middle and the bolts to each other. Do you use special equipment? And I noticed in your pictures there was a man unbolting the bottom rings and he was on the inside of the bin. It doesn’t fold under the weight of the standing bin?

Answer: I can only answer very briefly, but have articles about to go up which will explain more. For roof--using impact wrench, unbolt upper collar (center ring) if there is one. Next unbolt one sheet and slide it out. Do another one opposite. Remove sheets in opposites (spoke formation), until there are only 4 left. You will need to support the center ring throughout process. On a small bin, the bin walls are unlikely to collapse under their own weight.

© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen

Comments

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on February 12, 2018:

Debbie,

Air-powered systems are available online under various company names...a simple Google search should give you the latest. These are expensive, however. The A-frame winch kind are harder to find, though simpler and more affordable, and the best set I ever saw were homemade.

Grain bin jacks can sometimes be rented from a local equipment rental store...the kind that rents everything from power tools to carpet shampooers. Other than that, there aren't always a lot of options, unless you can find a contractor who happens to have some he's willing to rent.

If this were an email, I could attach pics....

Sorry I cannot be more specific.

Debbie on February 11, 2018:

Where do you get grain bin jacks? Do you know of any bin moving companies in Kansas?

Jack G on January 14, 2017:

I am looking to buy a used grain silo that is between 50 - 60 feet in diameter. I would also like to hire someone to dismantle, move and set up on my farm. I am located in northern AL. My email is etzchaim613@gmail.com

Steve on July 29, 2016:

This works amazing to move bins. Binhalo.com

Kevin Cady on July 18, 2015:

Sold 6 smaller bins last two years! Some went for sheds others gazebo ideas! Got one left a butler 2,000 bushel big walk in door steel floor $500 is what I been getting Lamberton Minnesota 507-995-9296

Gracye on February 17, 2015:

That's way the betsest answer so far!

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on May 24, 2013:

Yes, you can. Unhook anchors after securing and hooking up a way to lift it safely from the top. Lift off of anchors. Set back down on legs away from anchors. Without allowing chain(s) to top to get much slack, swing top of bin to get it tilting in the right direction and lower it on its side onto trailer.

mnbeef on May 24, 2013:

Joy, my hubby and i need to move a used hopper bottom bin. Corrugated, 12'dia, 25'tall, 1500 bu. Called a bin moving outfit, they wanted more than the bin is worth to move it. Any suggestions would be helpful, we want to diy. Have access to a lull telehandler and a low boy semi trailer. Is it possible to move in one piece?

Nick on March 23, 2013:

Hi Joy, I'm in north Texas and looking for a used grain bin.

Nick@PrepCabin.com

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on October 03, 2012:

Spudleland,

I've continued thinking about your question, and whether or not you choose to use a crane to place a new roof on your grain bin, will depend chiefly on your common sense and building experience, and on the appropriateness of your equipment.

For instance, you need good scaffolding (or a bin nearly full of grain) to safely work on a bin roof which is not on the ground. If you choose to try this, remove the other roof with the top ring of sheets attached to it (you'll take the top ring off your bin). You can use pitchforks as leverage to safely fit the top two rings together, begin to align holes, etc. If you tear the bin down first, you'll need to replace hardware. Good luck!

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on October 03, 2012:

Spudleland,

I would definitely tear the bin down and start building from the roof downwards. It is more time and money involved, but infinitely safer and saner, and likely to be more successful.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on October 03, 2012:

Vgabriele,

If you look through the above comments, you will see that, every now and then, there is someone who wishes to purchase a used silo, for various purposes. So, yes, it might be worth your time to advertise your silos.

Spudleland on September 29, 2012:

I have a 36' bin24,000 Bu, with the top caved in. Three miles away a neighbor

has a top that would fit. The question is should I take it apart or try to

put on the other top with a crain? Thanks

vgabriele on September 29, 2012:

Do you know if there is a market for use silos. I looking to purchase a barn a would like to use the sale of the silos to help pay for the barn.

topcop5673 on July 05, 2012:

Have 3 smaller 18 foot grain bins for sale 3,300 bushel or so 16 feet tall can email or text pictures $500 a bin southwest Minnesota 507-995-9296

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on February 09, 2011:

Mason,

Yes, you can take the bin to bits, and I've actually got an article in progress right now showing exactly how to do that. I am planning (and hoping) to have the article up in about a week. I have most of it worked out, and just need to get my husband to write a couple paragraphs to finish it off - some tips and tricks, and cautions.

mason on February 07, 2011:

Really cool hub. I am getting ready to move a 14'w X 14h (not sure if thats the exact size just a guess) grain bin and am wondering if I can take it apart piece by piece from the top down? or if I can at least take the roof off piece by piece and maybe take the rings apart in quarter sections? also I am located in Idaho and have no idea where to get the special bolts with the rubber to replace the ones I take out, any ideas?

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on September 23, 2010:

Deb,

I'm glad you found this post interesting.

I like the looks of your site. If I ever need anything in your line of work, I'll remember you. Horse people unite! ;-)

Deb Dahlberg Rowland on September 22, 2010:

Great post on moving the bin. Wondered how it was done.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on September 16, 2010:

Albert,

I confess I'm having some trouble visualizing your problem. I'm thinking if they are the same roof panels that were on the bin when it was dismantled, why wouldn't they go back on and fit relatively the same way? Perhaps, if you were to send me an e-mail (you'll have to send a short one at first through Hubpages), I could arrange to see what you mean through some photos.

Albert on September 14, 2010:

Just read your article, very interesting.

I have bought 3 bins they range from 13,-16 ft in dia. of course 2 of them I dismantled, 1 I bought at auct

already dismantled. I have a problem with the 1 that was dismantled as the roof panels don't complete the roof as the diameter appears too large.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on August 27, 2010:

Pam,

It's hard to say, as grain bins come in so many different qualities. If you take two bins of similar sizes, but different brands, you may wind up with completely different weights. With some makes, the heaviest panels, on the bottom ring, are 18 gauge...which is the lightest gauge used in other brands, in the ring nearest the roof.

I'm sorry, but it is really hard to give an estimate from the information you've given.

PAM on August 27, 2010:

We are looking at moving a 15ft diameter grain bin,