4 Things to Know About Living in a Grain Silo House, According to Someone Who Built One

published Nov 20, 2020
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Credit: Photo by Shelby Moore

Christoph Kaiser first decided to live in a silo when he bought one to use as a shed.

“Even before I finished assembling it, I was enamored with the idea of if you can fashion something out of this unique form and small footprint that feels like home,” says the principal at Phoenix-based design firm Kaiserworks.

That curiosity solidified into action, and he set out to build a grain silo home—one that he lived in for just under two years and now offers as a long-term rental. He learned some important things on that journey. If you want to live in a grain silo house, here are the things Kaiser wants you to know.

Credit: Photo by Christoph Kaiser

Grain silo houses are small—really small

Grain silo kits come in different sizes, but no matter what, living in one is an exercise in minimalism. Kaiser’s grain silo came from Long Manufacturing, a company that’s no longer in business, which produced kits for silos up to 40 feet wide—but the usable square footage is still pretty small. In order to fit everything into the 330-square-foot space of his silo, Kaiser really had to pare down his belongings.

“It’s a liberating experience, because we have too much junk,” he says. “You don’t need twelve pairs of jeans. You only need two. It was a big part of the process, paring down so you can fit everything into the small space.”

Credit: Photo by Shelby Moore

It’s best to tackle a silo house as a DIY project

Don’t be fooled by the size of the house—unless you’re doing everything yourself, cost can easily get out of hand. Kaiser initially sent out for estimates to do the work, and the lowest one he received was for about $45,000. So he built all the interiors himself, including making custom furniture, lighting, and appliances.

Credit: Photo by Christoph Kaiser

Kaiser noted that structurally, most municipalities won’t consider a freestanding grain silo a permanent structure, so if you plan to live in it, you’ll basically have to build a smaller house within the silo—which you should do anyway if you’re going to use insulation.

“We built a two-by-four frame wall that followed the radius, and we shot the interior with insulation,” he says. “We did half-inch drywall [that we got wet and flexed into place]. The interior is basically a white cylinder of drywall. It’s a tight little project.”

Credit: Photo by Shelby Moore
Kaiser in his silo's kitchen

You’ll need to hunt for miniature appliances

Due to the fact that you’re living in a tiny home, expect your appliances to be the same. For example, Kaiser’s fridge is tall and narrow at 24 square inches around, and 96 inches tall. To save extra space, you can opt to skip a microwave or a dishwasher, or even just install a kitchenette instead of a fully furnished kitchen.

Credit: Photo by Christoph Kaiser

Living in a silo house is like living inside a work of art

Kaiser described living in the silo house as being a peaceful, womb-like experience that feels nestled and secure.

“[It’s like] if you’re in a massive pop can,” he says. “You sit in that pop can and the only light that comes into the space is through the hole in the top that you drink through. It’s a constantly changing thing and it makes the pop can feel like it’s alive in a way, and that’s very much true of the experience of living in the silo. I turned the vent into a skylight, and the way the light would come in and project an ellipse onto the cylindrical vertical surface of the wall was beautiful to watch track across the space.”