Joy worked in construction for 7 years alongside her husband (25+ yrs. experience)—working on pole barns, grain bins, and barn repairs.
Grain Bin Jacks Overview
Something you'll have to do when building a grain bin is lift the bin during construction. You will, therefore, need either a boom truck, crane, large forklift (small bins only!), or jacks designed for building grain bins. Jacks are my tool of choice for lifting grain bins; read on and I'll tell you why!
Jacks come in different styles and may be hydraulic, pneumatic, or mechanical.
Depending on the size of your bin, you will need a minimum of four to six jacks. These are unlike floor jacks or automobile jacks and are designed to make the process as foolproof and safe as possible. Hydraulic floor jacks or other types of jacks must not be substituted in this process. Jacks make the building process slower than other lifting methods but are safer under most conditions.
Where to Get Grain Bin Jacks
Grain bin jacks can sometimes be rented from a local equipment rental store. Look for the kind of store that rents everything from power tools to carpet shampooers. Other than that, there aren't too many options for renting grain bin jacks unless you can find a contractor who happens to have several he's willing to rent.
There are several outlets where you can buy used jacks online, including Big Iron.
You probably won't want to buy jacks unless you have several grain bin projects in your immediate future, as they represent a sizable investment.
Precautions to Take Underground
Some jacks, such as the A-frame type, have stakes that pound into the ground to help stabilize them. When you pound in these stakes from the jacks' back arms, know where any underground power lines or water lines are located. These stakes must be driven into the ground entirely to prevent bin and jack movement, so it is imperative that you have the appropriate professionals mark all lines. It's important for your safety and the efficacy of your power and water lines that you do what is necessary to properly install the jacks prior to use every time.
How to Attach Jacks
How many jacks you need and how to attach them will depend on the style of jacks, and the diameter and weight of your bin.
A-frame styles bolt into the vertical seams, and raise the bin a bit at a time. Crew members must walk around and around the bin, adjusting each jack incrementally to keep the bin level. Once the bin is raised enough, a new ring of wall sheets is added, then the bin is raised again. Especially with hand-cranked jacks, the process can be a real workout, as typically one jack is required per sheet.
The automatic styles raise the bin as a team, keeping it level. Some can be electronically programmed to achieve the best results for the weight each jack is carrying.
Hydraulic Jack Spacing and Attachment
Hydraulic styles typically bolt into the horizontal seams and do not necessarily need to be matched on a vertical seam. A spacing of every other sheet seems to be normal for most of these.
Over the years we have seen a few unusual methods of lifting a grain bin for construction. We understand that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and that safe options are not available.
Before embarking on a DIY adventure, please ask yourself if the project is worth your life or limbs (or those of a friend or family member). Should something go wrong with your homemade design, is the cash savings worth that much risk? At least talk over your ideas with an experienced handyman or fabricator with a good reputation.
Better DIY Grain Bin Jacks
The video "How to Make a Grain Bin Jack" is a demonstration of how to build your own jacks. Under some circumstances, these would work. Under others, they would be a frustration and a hazard. I've included the idea here because I am convinced someone handy with a welder could use this video as a springboard for designing a safer, bigger, better jack.
Here are the improvements we would make to the jacks built by this enterprising young man:
- The clip or C-clamp shown toward the top of the frame at the 4-minute mark is not very sturdy. We recommend heavier duty hardware.
- The tripod-type pipe or stand used to stabilize the frame needs to have a metal stake at the end which can be driven into the ground. Without this, wind can blow over your jacks and damage your bin or injure your crew.
- Finally, the feet themselves need to be welded to plates that will keep them from sinking into the ground, as it is not always possible to set your jacks on concrete.
Which Jacks Are Best?
The best jacks are those which are available to you.
For Us, the Behlen Jack Was the Right Choice
If you have your choice between an A-frame winch- or a hand-cranked style jack, go with Behlen. You will need three strong people to move each jack, but especially for big jobs, they are worth it.
Our Limited Experience
My husband and I are old-school and have not had the privilege of using many of the newer types, such as the hydraulic jacks shown in this article. They seem to be fairly fast and efficient, as long as a sufficient number of them are used on each bin.
In observing the pneumatic style in action, I found them to be depressingly slow. But they are surely better than hand-cranked jacks, should you have a small crew and long days!
Your Experiences, Please!
If you have experiences you would like to share with any form of grain bin jacks, please comment below, so all readers may benefit!
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.
© 2020 Joilene Rasmussen