2007 - Volume #31, Issue #6, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Fargo Couple Built Their Own Grain Bin Home
"We're both interested in being off the grid," Gilbertson says, explaining that they have always been inspired by publications such as Mother Earth News and FARM SHOW. They use a propane refrigerator and stove and they heat with wood. A 12-volt pump supplies "running water" from a 150-gal. tank.
Gilbertson, 68, is an artist and suggested the grain bin idea since she has always been fascinated with round homes. She was surprised when Beckett, 78, and a retired master electrician and farmer went along with the idea. There were plenty of challenges, he says, but the Fargo couple appreciates the features of their unusual second home, which they've worked on for about five years.
They built the foundation forms and had a cement floor poured, then put in two rungs of grain bin steel to create 7-ft. basement walls. They backfilled it carefully to maintain the 24-ft. diameter round shape. After Rudy Braseth of Ulen, Minnesota, put up the upper part of the Brock Bin and another contractor sprayed the interior with 4-in. polyurethane foam, the couple did most of the rest of the work themselves.
Beckett layered rings of plywood to maintain the bin's round shape and support two floors - a living room, kitchen and bathroom on the main floor and two bedrooms on the top floor. Beckett attached furring strips to the walls on the main floor and covered them with plywood. He built a jig to make steps that hug the round walls to go upstairs and to the basement.
The couple purchased carpeting pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and laid tile on the floors. After trial and error they learned that Milwaukee blades worked the best for cutting metal. The home includes window shutters made of the same metal, which can be closed and locked inside the building.
"Dick is very creative," Gilbertson says. "He always manages to make things work."
One of his biggest challenges was raising the 75-ft. three-phase AC wind generator with a small tractor. Beckett also installed two 45-watt, 12-volt DC solar panels and has two wiring systems - one is DC and one is AC, with a 2000-watt converter.
Adding a 12 by 14-ft. sunroom off the living room brings outside light in. "When the sun is out it heats up the whole place," Gilbertson says. It also offers a great view of the Master Gardener's five flower and vegetable gardens.
When it's hot, the couple opens the grain bin's top to let heat out.
Because they did much of the work themselves, the couple says they spent only about $22,000 for the grain bin home. They still have work to do upstairs, but Gilbertson is already thinking about other projects.
"I would like to put up another one for an art studio or maybe a corn crib for a gazebo," she says of her future dreams. "And we're thinking about making a pond."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dick Beckett and Judy Gilbertson (ph 701 235-6739).
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