A Grain Bin As a Weekend Home

Bob Quinn (WHO, Des Moines, IA) covers farming for a living, but now he’s taken living in agriculture to a new level. Bob has built a home in the spirit of Iowa agriculture out of a grain bin. He got the idea after Sukup Manufacturing built small grain bins to be taken to Haiti to use for housing after the devastating earthquakes hit that country. “We wanted to have a house here on the farm that was characteristic of a farm.” He considered a cabin, but after covering the Sukup grain bin story, Bob got the idea to try a grain bin as a house. So, a huge 20,000-bushel grain bin was assembled on Bob’s acreage west of St. Charles, IA. The structure is built like a Thermos bottle, he said. A second steel roof is built under the top roof, and two feet of insulation was put in. Another interior wall was put inside the outer wall and filled with insulation. The grain bin home has a loft, which covers half the structure’s inside. Overall, it has a very high ceiling over the living room. Grain bin steps used to get to the outside of a grain bin, are installed as a way to get to the loft. The round structure also offers interesting living dynamics. Bob said the light bounces around from an exterior yard light, through  the window and off the walls, illuminating the inside at night. “If you’re having a conversation on one side close to the wall, the person on the opposite side can hear just like he’s standing next to you,” he said. Bob credits his wife, Ann, for going along with the idea. “She’s been a pretty good sport about it. Everything we’ve done here is kind of an experiment.” Bob and Ann spend weekends in the bin house, but hope to be living there after retirement.  

IN HIS OWN WORDS—“Now I know what a kernel of corn feels like. It's funny, a square guy living in a round house. My wife would say that it's a little difficult trying to set furniture because there are no room dividers.  It is more of a weekend, or family cabin escape than a full time home. So, in that respect it works great. It’s wide open. Everybody can be together around the bar or table.  The bedroom is a little different. It’s the entire loft, which holds four double beds in a dorm-type arrangement. So there is no privacy, but at our age that is not a HUGE concern. Ha! Ha! The double wall construction makes it ‘snug.’ The double roof keeps the heat in and cool in as well. It was—and still is a learning experience—so I have a pretty good ‘what to do and what not to do’ manual on grain bin houses. It’s 1,500 square feet with the option of adding another 300 by adding more loft. We love it. It looks way-cool, and fits in with our personality—and the surroundings!”