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Building Storm-Resistant Grain Bins: What You Need to Know

As a farmer, you know the critical role grain bins play in your operation’s success. Protecting your grain from damaging elements like moisture and pests allows you to market it when you want to.

But not all grain bins are the same. We saw that after two derechos hit South Dakota the summer of 2022.

“We were fortunate to have all Summit-built grain bins withstand those storms,” says Jerad Hutchens, President at Summit Contracting in Platte, SD. “The difference with our bins is that we always build a stiffened bin.”

Building storm-resistant grain bins

Stiffened grains bins are built using vertical stiffeners on the outside of the bin. This transfers the bin’s vertical load directly to the foundation, which results in less stress on the sidewalls.

“Structurally, stiffened bins are proven to stand against 105 mph winds,” Hutchens says. “But we have actually seen them withstand past that.”

Hutchens explains that Summit Contracting also builds their concrete pads with extra thickness and wider footings to ensure their anchor bolts are secured in the strongest place.

Summit Contracting has built stiffened bins throughout South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota.

“To date, we have not lost a complete structure,” Hutchens says.

A farmer’s first-hand experience

Tom Bannwarth has personally experienced this. When a storm hit his farm in May of 2022, one of his main wet bins went down.

“The GSI bins Summit put up were all standing,” Bannwarth shared. “The one that wasn’t GSI and not built by Summit Contracting blew over.”

Bannwarth immediately called Summit Contracting after the storm.

“I told them what was going on and that we normally start harvest first of September,” Bannwarth explained. “They came up with a game plan. Just like that a bin was back up and done.”

Some farmers in the area have a different story to tell. “I know a few guys working with other contractors,” Bannwarth commented. “They still don’t have their bins done.”

That is why Bannwarth has happily worked with Summit Contracting since 2014. “They’re a good company to deal with. If they say they will do it, they will do it.”

Inspecting grain bins after a storm

If your farm is hit by a storm, you will need to inspect your grain system for damage. Hutchens advises always using caution around storm-struck bins.

“Bins can be fairly unstable after storms. Watch for bins starting to lean. If there is any question at all, call us to help with the inspection.” Leaning bins, especially ones filled with grain, can shift and go down in a moment’s notice.

If your bins look safe to approach, inspect them for the following:

  • Dents in the roof or side walls

  • Secure anchor bolts

  • Secure attachment to the concrete pad

  • Damage to the roof ring clips or pipes

  • Gaps or anything pulling apart

  • Change in shape

When a bin loses its original shape, it often takes on an egg-like shape. To check for this, Hutchens says, “See if there are any gaps between the side wall sheets and the door. Another place to check for gaps is under the roof eve.”

Cleaning up grain structures after a severe storm

When dealing with clean up after a severe storm, Hutchens again advises exercising caution. Especially if it involves a damaged grain bin or grain system.

“These are big, heavy structures that have been engineered to stand straight up. If things are tipped or out of round, it is a high risk situation.”

According to Hutchens, for this type of clean up it is best to call Summit Contracting: “We have the right equipment to safely pull damaged structures down. We have cranes, excavators, heavy loaders, side dumps, and we have operators who are experienced in that field.”

Additional grain bin safety tips

Whether a bin is damaged or not, it can be dangerous regardless. For grain bin safety, Hutchens says to:

  • Teach children to stay away from bins.

  • Never enter a bin that has grain in it.

  • If you must enter, have a spotter.

  • Practice lockout tagout procedures.

Summit Contracting previously shared about grain bin safety during Grain Bin Safety Week. Read their Safe Practices Save Lives article here.

Protecting your grain is crucial to your farming success, and building strong grain bins is a key part of that. At Summit Contracting, we believe using stiffened grain bins and reinforced concrete pads can help withstand severe storms and prevent damage.

But, it’s important to remember that grain bins can be unstable after a storm. Always use caution when inspecting or cleaning them up. By keeping these tips in mind and prioritizing safety, you can market your grain when you want to while also ensuring the well-being of those on your farm. Stay safe out there!