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Using a Building to Hold Grain? You May Need to Reinforce Walls

If lack of storage in grain bins has you casting an eye toward farm buildings to hold corn, be doubly sure to reinforce sidewalls, if needed.

Do this by estimating the amount of force that grain will exert on a wall, advises Ken Hellevang. Multiply the expected depth of the grain on walls by the grain's equivalent fluid density (EFD), the North Dakota State University engineer explains.

For example, the force pushing against the base of a 6-foot wall would be about 204 pounds per linear foot of the wall (6 feet x 34 pounds per cubic foot).

The total force per linear foot on the wall is the force at the base multiplied by 1.31 times the wall grain depth divided by two. For this example, the total force is 802 pounds per linear foot (204 x 1.31 x 6 ÷ 2).

In a pole building with poles spaced 8 feet apart, the force against each pole would be 6,416 pounds (802 x 8). Typically, you'll need additional poles and a grain wall to support the grain force in a pole building. Hellevang strongly advises hiring an engineer to complete a structural design or analysis, or contact the building company for guidance to prevent a structural failure.

Also, before using a building that had previously been used for grain storage, look for anything out of alignment, such as the wall bowing, Hellevang adds. Check the roofline for bowing or bending that would indicate the load on the building exceeds or has exceeded the load for which it was designed and built. Examine connections for separation or movement. A connector failure can lead to a building failure. You may need to reinforce the connection by adding a gusset or splice.

You can contact Hellevang at

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