What is a Silo House?


You’ve seen them in use and left to rust all over the countryside, silos. In the midwestern United States, farming is still big business, and most silos are in use, but they need to be replaced over time. Old grain silos can be used for many things other than storing grain, such as storing water, turning it into a wind turbine, or in the case of alternative housing… a nice tiny house. 

A silo house is a home that is built using a grain silo. Silos come in many sizes. A smaller version could hold two floors, with the upper being a loft-type bedroom and bathroom. The lower can be built out to house the kitchen, dining, and living space. But if you’re lucky or creative and place two or three silos next to each other, you can create extra square footage with a bit of ingenuity. 

Before we dive into the specifics of building a silo house let’s look at what a silo or grain bin is and how it has been used as a structure.

What is a silo or grain bin? 

To clarify, a silo is a cylindrical structure used on a farm or ranch to store grain, fermented feed (called silage, powders, and animal slurry. Silos are also used in other industries for bulk storage of wood chips, sand, coal, metal waste, food products, and grain for animals. A grain bin is not the same, even though many use the names interchangeably. A grain bin is just for storing different types of grain.

This couple took three silos and framed out the inside for walls, electrical, plumbing, stairs, windows, and doors. They insulated and finished the walls and installed all the cabinets, plumbing, and light fixtures. They created an amazing house by finishing off the inside walls, painting and adding siding between the silos on the outside, and adding on a large living room. 

Pros of building with a grain silo

  • Strength – Silos are made of steel, which gives them a strong, durable structure capable of standing on its own better than traditional stick construction.
  • Eco-friendly – Repurposing an old grain silo is an environmentally conscious choice that doesn’t require new lumber to build. It is also unique because it can be recycled on both ends of the building process. 
  • Energy efficient – With proper insulation, a silo house will save you tremendously on heating costs, which is better for you and the environment.
  • Economical – Silo houses are also less costly, especially when starting with a used one. Silos can cost as little as $30 per square foot. There are not many building materials in that price range. 
  • Low maintenance – A silo home requires virtually no maintenance once it’s built. Other than a sealant coating to prevent rust, the steel requires very little upkeep once built. 

Cons of building with a grain silo

  • Pesticides – The silo may have been exposed to fumigants and pesticides to keep the grain from being destroyed by pests. You will want to thoroughly clean and dry the inside of the silo before building.
  • Reinforcement – Before cutting into the structure for windows and doors, you’ll want to reinforce the opening. Wind can cause the structure to collapse if it is empty and you cut into the sidewall. 
  • Support – Before adding a second story, you will need to install traditional footings to support the structure. This may require wood or steel beams in addition to your silo. 

How to find used grain bins or silos for building a home

Check Craigslist, or talk to a local grain bin dealer or silo erector. You can find “government bins.” They are 18 feet in diameter and about 18 feet tall at the eaves. These silos are no longer considered for commercial use and are often scrapped.

Companies that sell and install silos can move them. Silos up to 36 feet in diameter can be moved in two pieces and reassembled on-site. Larger bins require a more extensive teardown and transport. You can also disassemble a silo to move it, but when you reassemble the silo, it is recommended that you use new bolts.

Cost to build a grain build silo house

A silo home will cost approximately $200 per square foot, and one has even been constructed for as low as $9,000. This is a dramatic difference compared to real estate prices and stick-built construction costs.

Sukup Manufacturing is a family-owned company in Iowa that manufactures silos. They first began producing silo homes in 2010 in response to the earthquake in Haiti. The silo homes were used as emergency shelters and called Safe T Homes. Prices start at just $5,700 for non-profits that plan to use the homes for humanitarian purposes.

You can buy two or three and build them into one structure or build a living area in the middle of two or three to create an even larger home. Costs for building materials will, of course, increase. Depending on the home aesthetics, like types of tile, countertop, fixtures, and appliances, you can pay for the best name brands and have a $320,000 house like the Monte Silo designed by Gigaplex Architects or be frugal. The choice is yours. 

How to calculate the area of your silo

Before you buy a silo, you’ll need to know how big of a bin to buy or whether you’ll need to purchase two or three for the square footage you want in your house. 

To calculate the area, use the following equation: Area = 3.14 x (radius x radius). The radius is half the diameter. So a grain silo with a 30-foot diameter would have a 15-foot radius. The equation is: 

Area = 3.14 x (15 x 15)

For this size silo, the area would be 706.5 sq. ft.

This size would be fine for a couple with the living area, kitchen, and bathroom on the main level and a master bedroom and bathroom in the loft. 

Check out these great plans from DreamGreenHomes.

Can I DIY the build-out of my grain silo house? 

The answer to that is that it depends. If you are handy and knowledgeable in building codes and construction applications, you could build a silo house. For those of us not handy, me included, the most I have built is a jewelry box in art class when I was young and a rudimentary bridge for my kids with 2 x 10s. If you lack handyman or handywoman skills, hiring professional contractors for your build would be best. They will know how to modify the silo safely and know building codes to ensure the house meets all standards. 

Why would anyone use a grain bin or silo as a house? 

Steel silos are strong, inexpensive, and can be recycled when you’re done using them.

What kind of foundation should you use for a silo house?

You can pour a concrete slab to secure your footings, but you can also use a bearing plate of galvanized steel or treated wood on compacted, crushed stone.

With the rising costs of home prices and interest rates, single-family housing in the United States is unaffordable for many people. However, if you consider alternative forms of housing, like a Silo house, you could own your home outright for less than the cost of a used car. Silo homes are intriguing at the cost of a complete build-out ranging from $9000 – $320,000, depending on your style and budget. 

Check out other forms of alternative housing in “What Alternative Housing Options Are There? (25 Ideas).”


Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva's love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.

Recent Posts