Biehls enjoy life inside a grain bin
Everyone knows about the old woman who lives in a shoe. But have you heard about the family who lives in a grain bin?
A few years ago, Jeff Biehl, wife Renee and daughters Wynter and Lexus lived in a farmhouse on Jeff’s boyhood family farm, just down the road from his vet practice in Urbana. A round house appealed to them, but their research indicated building one would be pricey.
“I remember looking out the window and seeing a grain bin, and saying, ‘I’ll bet we could build a house cheaper out of one of those,’” recalls Jeff.
Jeff began experimenting with various designs. In September 2006, the Biehls began their adventure.
• Local veterinarian opts for a home that’s unique.
• The Biehl family designed and decorated their home themselves.
• The cost wound up about the same as conventional construction.
Jeff approached an old friend, Mike Reiff, a Warsaw contractor. “Sounds like fun,” Reiff replied.
Initial construction was similar to any other 50,000-bushel, 48-foot, nine-ring Brock bin, except the plumbing had to be laid in the concrete first. The Biehls consulted with a few architects, but found most of them too conventional and elected to do the design features themselves. However, the subcontractors who elected to participate took it as a challenge.
“The guy who did our counters said, ‘Not square? Cool! I’m in!’” laughs Renee.
Multiple layers of insulation were crammed between 2-by-6 studs attached on-end to the bin walls. Twelve-foot sections of drywall adapted readily to the curved walls.
The biggest challenge was connecting two stick-built wings for the master bedroom and garage. A local metal fabricator assisted them. “We haven’t had to get a bucket out yet,” says Renee.
The Biehls say they wish they’d installed the spiral staircase before erecting the bin. “When it finally got here, it was 6 feet in diameter, and the doors were only five-and-a-half feet,” Jeff recalls. “We used a skid-steer and corkscrewed it through the door.”
The Biehls moved in just before Christmas 2006. Although they hoped to save money, final cost was similar to conventional construction.
Upon entering the Biehl residence, which includes 4,600 feet of living space, first-time visitors are typically so taken by the beautiful, spacious and unique features that they forget about being in a grain bin. The home is located on 12 acres of Jeff’s family farmstead.
Highlights include the spiral staircase, leading to a second-floor balcony overlooking the two-story living area. A game room occupies the cone. They barely hear wind or rain, and Web reception is good. Geothermal heating and cooling is effective and efficient.
Jeff and Renee say they have no regrets and are very happy in their home. Some people think their house is “cool,” while others think it’s strange. But Renee states that perhaps the most candid reaction came from a little neighbor boy.
“How do they live in there with the corn?” he asked.
Boone writes from Wabash.
This article published in the March, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.