Georgia man creates new home in old corn bins

Thursday, March 21, 2002

PARROTT, Ga. -- One man's corn bin has become another man's castle.

In need of a new home in the midst of a divorce, Gary Buford transformed a galvanized steel grain bin into a cozy, comfortable one-bedroom house with sparkling white kitchen cabinets, modern appliances and a king-size bed.

"In any divorce, the man gets his underwear and toothbrush and hits the road," said Buford, 47. "There was no doubt I would need a place to live. I thought, 'It might as well be here.' I never liked to rent anything."

Buford acquired the bin when he bought some farm property, but he hadn't used it previously.

The bin, a steel cylinder 27 feet wide by 21 feet high, is topped by a cone-shaped metal roof. Except for the white front door, the new windows on the first and second floor and the satellite dish bolted to the side, his house resembles all the other grain bins in rural south Georgia.

Grain bins have a short, squat appearance and aren't to be confused with the taller silos often found on dairy farms. With a decline in corn production in Georgia, many of the bins sit empty.

In cleaning out the bins, Buford first had to haul off several loads of weevil-eaten corn left by the farmer who sold him the land.

Buford said he plans to add to bedrooms in an adjoining grain bin. Then he'll connect the two bins with a passageway and build a carport out front, topped by a porch and hot tub.

Some of Buford's neighbors in this town of 165 people were skeptical when he started the project. Now, they bring visitors to see it.

"I thought there wasn't going to be enough room," said Mary Sue Alston. "I thought it would be damp. But it's wonderful inside."

Buford, a carpenter and welder, said it's in his nature to "look at things and see how I can make them better." And the grain bins were too well built to tear down, he said.

He got the idea for converting them when he ducked into one of the bins to dodge a rain shower. "I thought, 'There's more room in here than you think,'" he said.

After buying a building permit, he and his father built a wooden frame inside the circular bin, covered the framework with wallboard and insulated the structure. Buford wired the house and installed the plumbing, but hired contractors to install the carpet and dig a septic tank.

Living in a round house with 21 flat facets around the interior requires some adjustments. For example, he had to build the bathroom vanity himself so that it would fit the wall's contours.

Buford said the conversion cost about $14,000 and the land $8,000. He figures it would have cost him $105,000 to pay contractors for the work. He said his utility bill is no higher than that for a regular house.

Buford said his two sons, Parker, 8, and Forest, 6, enjoy weekend visits. They sleep on a bunk bed upstairs in the master bedroom, and Buford cooks a turkey for them on an outdoor grill.

"They love it," he said. "They can't wait to get here."

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