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Moving a Grain Bin: Is it Necessary to Completely Disassemble?

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

Passing Under Power Lines

This is one of the tallest bins we've ever moved on a trailer. It was a wild move, as the bin didn't quite clear the power lines. Also notice that the lower sheets include stiffeners to prevent buckling.

This is one of the tallest bins we've ever moved on a trailer. It was a wild move, as the bin didn't quite clear the power lines. Also notice that the lower sheets include stiffeners to prevent buckling.

Grain Bin Moving Overview

There is no simple answer to the question, "Do I need to tear down my bin in order to move it?"

  • But in this article we will discuss such issues as:
  • Road restrictions and conditions
  • Size and weight of your bin and trailer
  • Available moving crew
  • Trailer style and other equipment
  • Tools list
  • Mistakes to avoid

Hopefully by the time you have read this discussion, you will know whether you have the tools, expertise, and personel to undertake this project, and how far you need to go in disassembling your grain bin.

This is What Can Happen if You Don't Take Precautions With Highline Wires!

The black coloration in tires is actually an electric conductor, so just because you have rubber tires doesn't mean you are properly insulated or totally protected from overhead wires.

The black coloration in tires is actually an electric conductor, so just because you have rubber tires doesn't mean you are properly insulated or totally protected from overhead wires.

Road Restictions and Power Lines

You are not going to clear power lines without dismantling at least two rings on most bins. You can see in the picture that we had six rings left together on our bin, and didn't quite clear the lines. Though we had made calculations, we didn't take into account the slight change in measurement from one side of the road to the other. Don't risk this. Dismantle one more ring than you think is necessary.

In the picture you can see a special fiberglass pole with a secure hook, provided by our local power company, which we used to lift the lines. We would recommend that you see about having someone from your local electric company come with you when you move the bin. Our friend here, Les, has a special relationship with our local electric company, but play it safe.

Furthermore, people won't appreciate having their cable lines or other low lines torn out, so avoid going through towns.

If you expect to meet any traffic at all while moving your bins, have two escort cars accompany you--one in front a half mile, and one behind a half mile, with cell phones or other communication devices, to warn the bin driver of impending traffic. We usually try to choose a time of day without traffic--say, very early in the morning. Sundays might be good, if it is legal to move buildings, etc. on Sunday in your area. Check this before proceeding.

Tools You Will Need

  • Proper grain bin jacks--must rent or buy these from a reputable grain bin tools source, or manufacture a set yourself if you're exceptionally handy with a welder
  • Alternate way to lift the bin, if desired--crane, boom truck, or large forklift (forklift for small bins only!)
  • Lifting ring or large truck rim, or bin halo (if using a crane)
  • A trailer suitable to the weight and dimensions of your bin, or its parts
  • An impact wrench with the correct size socket (most grain bin bolts are 1/2" or 9/16")--High quality, as you will give it a work-out
  • Box-end wrenches (2) the correct size, with long handles
  • Vice grips, high quality
  • Drift punches, medium length (10 inches at least)--1 minimum for each crew member (for aligning bolt holes, and dragging sheets)
  • Spray paint, for marking sheets and rings
  • Tape measure, standard
  • Coffee cans/buckets for hardware
  • Tie-down straps, for securing the bin during placement
  • 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
  • A way to block wind from swaying or sliding the bin during work (we often use a semi truck and trailer)


You May Also Need:

  • Wonder bar (flat crowbar)
  • Hammer
  • Wrecking bar
  • 10-lb. sledgehammer
  • Torch
  • Grinder
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Screw gun with the appropriate size bit(s)

Sheet Weight and Size

Grain bin sheets may weigh as little as 40 pounds for those near the top of a bin. Conversely, we have built bins where the bottom ring sheets each weighed more than 600 pounds, and took six people to set each sheet.

On average, a small to medium bin will have sheets that way between 40 and 70 pounds.

Many bins have a tag on the inside of each sheet stating the gauge or thickness of the sheet.

Securing a Sectioned Bin to Trailer

We typically secure the bin to the trailer in one of two ways:

Anchor Plates

Take the anchor plates off, move them up a couple rings, and secure the bin through these with come-alongs. Make sure the bin edges are sitting on planks on the trailer, or you will have bent sheets.

Bolts Through Bin Walls

If you can't use anchor plates, simply remove one bolt per sheet or wherever convenient, and replace the bolt with a longer one which also going through a piece of chain. Hook come-alongs or straps to the piece of chain and secure the bin to the trailer.

Angle Iron Stiffeners

If you are really concerned about bin wall support to the trailer, you can use three-foot sections of angle iron, bolted to the bin wall even with the bottom of the sheet. Two or three bolts are sufficient for each stiffener. These are installed vertically, and would only be useful where the bin sits on the trailer. Out on the sides where there is nothing, they would have no use.

Extra Supports on the Trailer Sides

Iron supports were added to the sides of this trailer to stabilize this bin. For a bin which is much wider than your trailer and which you can haul safely in other respects, consider doing this.

Iron supports were added to the sides of this trailer to stabilize this bin. For a bin which is much wider than your trailer and which you can haul safely in other respects, consider doing this.

Need a Disassembly Tutorial?

Re-assembly Tips

Impact Wrench Use

With a high quality electric impact, you should be able to tighten 3 nuts per second or more during reassembly. Have a person on the outside with TWO box-end wrenches holding the heads of the bolts as you tighten the nuts. 5/16 nuts should only be tightened around 22 foot pounds, and I normally go a little more. 3/8 nuts should be tightened around 38 to 42 foot pounds. Even though Jepson impact wrenches out-perform any other similar wrench on the market. They do not overheat, and they take the abuse. On a 48' diameter bin, the black impact socket will often turn cherry red by the time a ring is completely tightened.

Remember, tighten the nuts, not the bolts. You may need good gloves and rags to hold on to the impact after a while, as the gun will get hotter than your wife on P.M.S.

Also, on the ring above the split (with a bin split into two or more sections), loosen at least 1/4th of the vertical bolts and remove them to allow for expansion to put the upper half of the bin on.

Sealants for Sheets and Base

Also make sure you have new mastic tape between the sheets while re-assembling.

Tar or hot rubber sealant is good enough for the bottom, to seal it to the new slab.

Anchor Bolts

After the bin is set down, use a hammer drill and drill in long wedge anchor bolts (available at most hardware stores) and anchor it down. For a bin six to eight rings tall, I would use ⅝-inch by 8-inch anchors, as where we live it is often windy. Make sure it is well anchored or it will blow away. I've seen it happen.

Hardware Supplies

The bolts that go through the seams normally come with rubber or neoprene washers. Replace with the same thing. Many companies in your area will sell these. Look in the yellow pages under Grain Bin Erectors or the like. Or, try buying from one of the factories in Nebraska, such as York, M.F.S, Chief, Golden Grain, Behlen, Brock, Stor-More, etc. The washers are already on the bolts, no assembly required.

Assembling Grain Bin Walls

A Method Using Grain Bin Jacks

Below we outline a way to tear down and move a bin without taking the roof to bits. This may not work with all jack types. A-frame jacks generally allow you to use this procedure.

This method must be used with SMALL BINS ONLY:

Use grain bin jacks as stated in the previous paragraph. If possible, use one per wall sheet for most of the tear-down, unless they are rated for very heavy loads. MANY ARE NOT.

For doing a partial tear-down on a small or medium-small bin, use six grain bin jacks on your last ring dismantle. Dismantle most of the rings, until you have the roof attached to one to three rings, depending on the total height of your bin. Plan for safe hauling, taking into account highline wires and other obstructions. (The jacks must be able to lift the bin above the height of the trailer on which it will sit.)

Disassemble the last ring which must be torn down, then remove all but four jacks, so you have a space either side-to-side or front-to-back. Back the trailer under the bin into this space, then lower the remaining jacks.

Remember, the fewer jacks you have, the less safe the procedure will be. Keep the bin level at all times when using only four jacks. Normally people use one jack per sheet when going up or down with a bin. Four jacks would be sufficient for a small bin if you use common sense and keep it level. (Small means 18-foot diameter or less.)

We choose to use a boom truck most often because less labour is involved, and we have experienced help. Jacks are more work, but in theory are safer.

Trailers and Permits

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.

60-Foot Diameter Grain Bin Being Trailered Whole (Trailer Structure Shown at 7:00)

Q and A

Below are a few topics we've discussed with customers and other curious people.

Can I Split a Bin in Two?

No. Good luck trying to move a bin which is split in two equal halves! I'd bet money you will collapse the bottom half while trying to lift it, regardless of the number of straps used to stabilize it. If you need to lower the bin to accommodate power lines etc., disassemble the main rings and use spray paint on the inside of the sheets to mark which ring is which.

Weak or Damaged Roof

You can avoid using either a boom truck or crane by using grain bin jacks.

This is best if you have any doubt as to whether the bin roof can handle lifting the rest of the wall weight. If possible, rent 6 grain bin jacks for even a small bin. This is safer than a crane anyway, as a 10 m.p.h. wind won't bother you with jacks. However, using a boom truck with the same amount of wind can result in the bin being a kite. It would be easy to lose a foot, etc. if the bin starts swinging. See above for how to load a bin on a trailer using jacks.

Narrow Roads and Bridges

Quote from another contractor: "Been there, done that. Once moved a 24-foot bin through a 24-foot bridge, and got stuck in the middle. Had to pull the bin egg shaped to get off the bridge. Retired bin contractor now. Had fun doing it at the time, but wouldn't want to do it today. Good luck and enjoy!"

Biggest Bin We've Moved?

Question: "What is the largest bin you have moved without completely disassembling it?"

Answer: The largest bin we've ever moved was 36 feet in diameter . . . but it was a highly dangerous move, and we don't recommend it.

A Specialized Grain Bin Mover (for Small Diameter Bins)

Re-Erection with the Same Equipment

Hudson's Grain Bin Moving Services Specialized Trailer

Moving a Bin With a Big Bud Grain Bin Mover

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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

Have Any Great Grain Bin Hauling Ideas? Comment Below!

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from United States on April 26, 2020:

I attempted to figure that last week, Eugene. Supposing the wall sheets are a minimum of 40 lbs. a piece, and there are 8 sheets in a ring X 6 rings, + roof...that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,600 to 3,000 pounds. Nearer 3,000 I think. I was unable to get a closer estimate. BTW, the caption issues will be fixed as soon as lockdown ends, and I can get somewhere to borrow a computer. Thanks for stopping by!

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on April 26, 2020:

Out of curiosity what would these bins weigh, a couple of tons for the one in the photo.?

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