How to Disassemble a Grain Bin: Picture Tutorial
Just for Example...
I have had many e-mail requests from people all over the U.S. on how to dismantle a used grain bin in order to move it to a new site. Here is the step-by-step tutorial I've promised you all.
A Note on Weather
Weather can easily make or break your grain-bin moving day. The slightest breeze can turn a bin hung from a crane into a wrecking ball... or a mashed up piece of trash. A slight shift in a bin, hung six inches from the ground, can cut off a foot or crush steel-toed boots right into your toes. Therefore, we recommend that you use extreme caution when deciding whether this is the day to get your bin moved. If you should start disassembly, and the breeze comes up, the safest thing to do is to set the bin firmly on the ground, put the crane or boom truck arm on top of it, and drive 4' metal fence posts into the ground at intervals close around it. How many you'll need and how deep to drive them depends on the size of the bin, and on how soft your ground is (or isn't). This will hopefully keep your bin from blowing away (and maybe taking your boom truck with it) until you can return when the weather is nicer.
Besides all this, you should consider humidity. A grain bin is shaped much like a water bottle, and acts much like one, with condensation forming easily, and water vapor finding it hard to exit. Even fairly dry weather outside can mean a sweltering atmosphere inside a bin. If you are doing your bin-moving project in the summer, we recommend trying to work in the early morning(s) as much as you can, before the sun hits the bin full-force.
The Tools You Will Need for Grain Bin Disassembly
- An impact wrench with the correct size socket (most grain bin bolts are 1/2" or 9/16")
- Box-end wrenches (2) the correct size
- Vice Grips
- Boom truck, or crane
- Lifting ring (see Step Three, below, for images and details)
- A trailer suitable to the weight and dimensions of your bin, or its parts
You May Also Need:
- Wonder bar (flat crowbar)
- Wrecking bar
- 10-lb. sledgehammer
- SawzAll/reciprocating saw
- Screw gun with the appropriate sized bit(s)
About Lifting Rings
There is such a thing as a "professional" lifting ring. But they seem to be scarce, so unless you care to weld your own, you're probably out of luck.
Most often we use an old semi-tractor wheel with the tire still attached. On the semi wheel, we used a round plate that is placed under the wheel and is of a size that it cannot fit through the center hole of the wheel. On that, we have welded a large-diameter rod in a semi-circle, to which we attach the boom truck hook.
You can also make a lifting ring out of a large-diameter spoked iron wheel. Just wrap a length of log chain around it where it will stay level on its own, and be easy to hook up.
Step One: The Foundation and Accessories
Separating Ring From Foundation
If the bottom ring is heavily cemented or is rusted severely, cut it off with a torch, grinder, or plasma cutter in an appropriate place to bolt on a new base angle.
Step Two: The Door
Step Three: Position Lifting Ring
Step Four: First Sheets Off
Step Five: Removing Most of the Sheets
It takes two experienced people only about 20 minutes to disassemble a ring on an 18' diameter grain bin. If you use your head about stacking sheets, you can use a tractor or forklift to load them onto a trailer, in the order needed to re-assemble.
About hardware: Do not try to re-use the hardware! The water-resistant washers on the bolts may not be good anymore. Bolts and nuts are cheap compared to a bin full of wheat or other grain—or a leaky cottage—if you plan to use the bin for a residence. Trash the used nuts too, as they are frequently rusty and a bit rounded.
Step Six: Reposition Roof
Roof Disassembly Cautions: Outline of Process
Disassembly of grain bin roofs can be tricky. Some common-sense precautions must be observed. Let's start with scaffolding.
Scaffolding is recommended if the diameter of your bin is more than 18 feet (6 meters). You will want to figure out the height at which to set your scaffolding before you get it in place. It is a good idea to put in the scaffolding as soon in the disassembly process as possible, as it will normally fit through the door of the bin, but not through the roof manhole.
Next, even if you don't need scaffolding to work safely, place a ladder inside the bin before starting disassembly, for a potential escape route through the roof manhole, should you need to stop bin disassembly unexpectedly (weather comes up, etc.)
Lastly, once you start removing pieces of a grain bin roof, it becomes extremely unstable. The roof as a whole is relatively strong - but as soon as you take it to bits it's nothing but some pieces of easily crumpled, easily bent metal. For this reason, it is important to work in a specific pattern while removing roof sheets. You will remove the sheets in opposite pairs, to maintain the integrity and balance of the roof as long as possible. When you get down to just a few sheets, it is extremely helpful to have a third, strong person, even if you have managed the rest of the bin with just two workers.
First, assess the hardware and accessories. If there are support irons bolted and/or hanging from the bottom of the roof sheets - i.e. under the roof ladder - remove the hardware and support irons in a manner that won't give you injuries.
Next, leaving the top (collar) and bottom bolts intact, remove the rest of the bolts and nuts from the roof. From the top side, using an electric impact wrench, you should be able to reach about three roof sheets at a time.
After all bolts except for the top and bottom have been removed, the person on the ground removes the bottom bolts from a sheet (do ladder sheet first). Then, the person on the ladder removes the top bolt and assists in sliding the roof sheet down. Do this in a pattern of 12:00, then 6:00, then 3:00, then 9:00, until there are only 4 or so sheets left. You must remove the sheets in opposites, so the roof doesn't collapse. Use extreme caution on the last four or five, using a stepladder or scaffolding as a platform. You will need a moderate amount of strength and leverage in order to safely handle these last sheets.
Step Seven: Disassembly of Roof Sheets
Step Nine: Remove Foundation Sheets
Notes on Trailers and Roads
We have been asked what kind of trailer we use most for grain bin moving, especially when we don't completely disassemble a bin. It is basically an iron framework...and it is too big to be legal in most areas, being 16' wide. Be aware that, on any interstate, you cannot legally move anything over 8'2" inches wide without over-wide permits. But, if you have completely disassembled your bin, as shown in this article, this shouldn't generally be a problem. We have hauled bins larger than the one shown in a pickup box trailer. However, be sure your trailer and towing vehicle can handle the weight and size of your bin.
Check width restrictions on the highway(s) along which you will be moving. Check your State's agricultural equipment highway laws, too. It is perfectly legal in many states to pull practically anything down the road with a tractor, or with a truck that has "Farm" plates on it. If your State is this way, you won't need overwide permits, provided you can use farm equipment or a truck with farm plates.
Grain Bin Tear Down Process
I've done my best to make this guide clear and intelligible enough to work from, but if you have further questions or remarks, the Comments section is open at the bottom!
Note: My husband I and live in Colorado, and usually do not work out of area. So we are generally unavailable to help you move your own grain bins. I do not know other contractors out of our area who do this kind of work. Sorry.
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
I just bought an 18 foot diameter grain bin, which I'm going to disassemble using a small crane, taking off the lid first, setting it on the ground, then ladders to take each section down, until the bottom circle. Then bust out the concrete it sits in. My question for reassembling--I was going to put up one circle on concrete blocks--get the forms ready--rebar etc.--then stone, do one concrete pour with the inside 2 inches higher than the outside to keep water from getting in. Does this plan for reassembly of my grain bin make sense?Helpful 7
How much does each panel on the wall weigh? I have a 21x20 7 ring to tear down.
There is no logical way to answer this question because sheet weight will vary depending on brand. Also, weight increases toward the bottom and sheets may weigh 40-70 lbs. on a smaller bin, depending on their placement. So, mark your sheets during tear down, so you can put them up in the same order. Otherwise, your bin may collapse, if you put lighter-weight sheets toward the bottom.Helpful 5
Have you had to repaint any of your bins? I have some rust spots on mine and want to make sure I use the correct kind of paint.
Unfortunately, I have no personal experience repainting bins. But many people use any high-quality outdoor paint which will mimic the original galvanized coating. I expect this is a matter of choice and aesthetics, and probably any paint suitable for metal could be used.
© 2011 Joilene Rasmussen