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How to Build a Grain Bin with a Hopper--Lifting and Securing Bin to Hopper: An Illustrated Guide

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

Medium-Small Grain Bin Lifted by Boom Truck

This skilled boom truck operator lifts this 4,000 bushel bin slowly in place while a ground crew helps guide it with ropes.

This skilled boom truck operator lifts this 4,000 bushel bin slowly in place while a ground crew helps guide it with ropes.

Overview of How to Set a Bin Onto a Hopper

Unless your bin is very small, you will need a crane or boom truck to set it up on the hopper. A very skilled operator is a necessity.

Bolts on the bottom ring of sheets are left loose to allow the bin to expand enough to fit over the hopper rim.

Once the bin is approximately in place, you can use pitchforks or garden forks to nudge it exactly into place. Guide ropes are used both to stabilize and align the bin.

Once the bin is exactly in place, you will install hardware, and seal the hopper rim where it meets the bin. Silicone may be used, or spray foam or tar/hot rubber sealant.

Components such as augers and fans are usually installed and sealed last.

Busy Job Site

This job site has two completed bins on hoppers, plus one bin ready to be set, and another under construction.

This job site has two completed bins on hoppers, plus one bin ready to be set, and another under construction.

Tools and Supplies

  • Crane or boom truck for lifting the bin
  • Ropes or straps, for guiding the bin during placement
  • Potato forks or pitchforks, for sliding and nudging the bin exactly into place on the hopper
  • Drift punches, medium length (10 inches at least)--1 minimum for each crew member
  • 9/16-inch box-end wrenches (2 at least), with long handles
  • High quality impact wrench
  • Hearing protection--preferably ear-muff or electronic type
  • Work gloves which allow for dexterity (optional)
  • Comfortable work boots with decent tread, hard toes optional
  • Work clothes which will not snag or allow you to get hurt easily
  • Ladders, 6 foot or 8 foot tall minimum, depending on the size of the hopper--2 at least
  • Tool pouch/apron, or coffee cans/small buckets for hardware (a small pouch is annoying as it must be refilled often, and is hard to reach into)
  • Silicone sealant for hopper seams
  • Spray foam and/or hot rubber sealant, and maybe tar pad, optional (keywords for looking up tar pad are: AST HI-acrylic Ash, ASH 50-25-04 Exterior Sealant Tape)

Delays

Because we were unready to finish and install the bin on the hopper, we set it out of the way overnight. Meanwhile, the hopper was placed on the concrete and securely anchored using foot-long anchor bolts through each of the feet. Next morning after the crane arrived, the last ring of the bin was built, and the crane proceeded to set the bin onto the hopper. The process went smoothly.

Actual Installation

During the building of the bin, some of the bolts in the bottom ring need to be left loose. This is so that the bin's bottom edge can expand slightly to fit over the hopper rim.

How many of the bolts need to be loose varies. Usually the bottom foot or two is enough. Occasionally a wall panel will need to be taken out while the bin is mounted, and reinstalled after the bin is on the hopper.

Safely Using a Crane

A crane is generally the easiest, safest way to go for this job, with a boom truck being the second choice. A crane has a wider range of secure motion, and usually can accomplish the task with fewer adjustments.

Whichever option you have available, the operator must understand the risks and wind influences on a heavy, hollow structure. Also he must take all available precautions to ensure his truck or crane is stable and in good working order. Leaky hydraulics, for example, can be a real menace with a task this delicate. Be sure all outriggers, as well as the boom, are stable and operating correctly.

Don't employ an operator who is careless or known for taking undue risks, such as failing to position the cab in a stable position relative to the hopper, or failing to set outriggers.

Below is an example of a crane operator who, in our opinion, should not be in business.

Unsafe Crane Operating--What NOT to Do!

A Move Rather Better Handled--

Final Tasks

Hardware

Bolts and nuts are installed in a similar way to those in the bin wall. As before, one person inside and one outside work as a team. This process will be slow, as ladders will need to be moved frequently. A large tool pouch is a benefit during this job.

Nuts are tightened to correct specifactions for your size and grade of bolts. See below for torquing hints.

Sealing

Once all hardware is in, seams and bolt holes may be sealed. Which sealant you use is up to you, but we generally find that caulk or silicone does a good job and is easy to apply. Spray foam or tar in either a tube or tar pad are other options.

Hardware Tightening Specifications

How much to tighten the nuts is determined by the size and grade of bolts, as well as their position. Please refer to your manual for torque specifications.

⅜-inch grade 5 bolts for walls=38 foot pounds.

In general, you want to tighten the nuts until they are singing soprano.

Listening carefully will soon allow you to determine by sound how much is just-enough versus too much torque. Try not to strip bolts, but don't under-tighten them, and so give yourself problems in the future. Leaks are no fun to fix, and nobody wants spoilt grain (or a leaky grain bin home).

Big Bud Moving Bins, Mounting on Hoppers

Crane Operator Hand Signals

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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

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