How an old grain elevator in north NB became a man’s dream vacation
Has the cost of a new home or cabin let you down? Maybe consider building one out of an old grain elevator.
That’s what a man from upstate New Brunswick did. And he loves it.
“It was my dream and I made the choice to do it,” said Steven Lord, who has converted an old silo into a two-story cottage.
It has a kitchen, living room, loft bedroom and bathroom and is fully equipped with running water and electricity.
Lord’s Dream began with a desire to do something – anything – with a property on the Green River in Saint-Basile, about a 20-minute drive northeast of Edmundston.
The land had been in Lord’s family for generations and 80 years ago this was his great grandfather’s cottage.
Lord has only seen this cabin in photographs. It was demolished due to decay before he was even born.
“But my father came earlier [there] a lot when he was younger,” Lord said, adding that his father had always planned to build another cabin in its place but never found the time.
Then the pandemic struck.
Lord said COVID-19 really put things into perspective for him, and he decided to finally rebuild the family cabin. But he wanted it to be noticed.
After scouring social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration, he decided to repurpose an old grain silo and turn it into an ideal getaway.
“My wife was born on a farm and to her a silo was a grain silo,” Lord said. “She couldn’t imagine staying in one or sleeping in one, so she told me, ‘You’re never going to make me sleep in a silo.'”
“A promise I had to keep”
Lord began searching the area for an abandoned silo on nearby farms. He found one 30 kilometers away in the parish of Saint-Leonard. But it was not for sale.
He told the farmer about his plans for the abandoned building and eventually the farmer contacted him with a suggestion.
“‘If you promise me to build something to live on, I’ll give it to you,'” Lord said of the pawn’s only condition.
“So that’s a promise I had to keep.”
In the summer of 2020, Lord dismantled the silo and transported it to the exact site of his great-grandfather’s cabin in Saint-Basile.
He poured a 32-by-20-foot concrete slab over the base of the old cabin and rebuilt his newly acquired grain elevator.
But in a world where most buildings are cubes, Lord has had to adjust to working in a cylinder.
This meant windows and doors that would normally be installed on a flat surface had to be built on a curve. And it meant custom shelving and countertops.
When you lie in bed you can see the stars. – Steven Lord
Lord also built a screened porch leading into the silo to enjoy the outdoors without bugs.
You may be wondering how warm it can get in a galvanized steel barrel in northern New Brunswick in mid-February.
But one step inside and a blast of heat hits you in the face from the combined power of a wood stove and heat pump.
“You must open windows and doors,” Lord said. “It’s getting really warm.”
A thermostat on the wall indicates that it is 0C outside and 27.5C inside.
The inside of the silo is deceptive. Parts of galvanized steel are exposed on the inner wall, giving the impression that the building is not insulated.
It’s almost like we’re on vacation every weekend. – Steven Lord
But in fact, Lord installed 4.5 inches of urethane insulation on the walls and 6 inches on the ceiling. Then he covered everything up by installing the walls of a second silo inside the first.
And the port where the grain was pumped in from the top of the silo? This is now a round skylight.
“When you lie in bed you can see the stars,” Lord said.
A second-hand sanctuary
Like the silo itself, most of the materials Lord used to build the interior were second hand.
The iron spiral staircase that led to the attic only cost a few hundred dollars because a friend he knew let them run around his yard.
The footrests of his table are made from old industrial chains and his kitchen lamps hang from pulleys that he was given as a gift.
In all, Lord estimates he spent around $60,000 converting the silo into his sanctuary.
Lord said he saved a lot of money on labor costs but he wasn’t a carpenter. He works as a Reliability Engineer for JD Irving Limited with a primary focus on industrial maintenance.
He thanks his 84-year-old father for carpentry advice and his best friend and neighbor, who works with sheet metal, for much-needed help with the steel.
After two years, Lord said he finally installed the final panel on New Year’s Eve.
Now that it’s finished, he says he has no desire to ever rent out his getaway – it’s just to himself, his family, friends and most importantly his wife.
“My wife is coming now, even though she said she never sleeps in the silo, but she’s here every weekend,” Lord said. “It’s almost like we’re on vacation every weekend.”
Lord’s finishing touch is a nod to the past.
Next to the door is a small grain bucket – a tribute to the history of the walls that surround it.