How to Build With Used Tires

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Building with tires turns waste into architecture.
Building with tires turns waste into architecture. (Image: stack of old tires image by JoLin from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Conservationists developed the art of building houses from used tires in the 1970s and called them "Earthships." The beauty of building with old tires is that, unlike homes that reduce waste by being frugal and energy efficient, a house built with old tires is actually absorbing waste from other sources, and actively reducing the waste stream. An Earthship epitomizes the philosophy that "waste" is merely a definition applied to things that people don't understand how to use.

Things You'll Need

  • Used tires
  • Soil or sand

Gather and Prepare

Locate a source for a very large number of old tires. You could try dumps, landfills, junkyards, and recycling centers.

Amass a large number of tires at your building site before you begin to build. The number of tires you can gather may affect the size of your building plans.

Fill the tires with soil. This labor-intensive process involves ramming soil into the tire to make it solid. The result is a very heavy, large round object that is used in the same way as a brick.

Building With Tires

Lay the outline of your building with the first row of tires. Curved lines will make stronger walls than straight lines, although curved lines will also make roofing more complicated.

Lay the second row of tires offset from the first row, so that the center of a tire on the second row is directly above the joint between the two tires below it. This staggered design will help to interlock the wall and make it stronger.

Continue to lay rows of tires on top of one another, interrupting the rows of tires for doors and windows by incorporating door and window bucks made of sturdy wood.

Retaining Wall

Lay a row of tires along the line where you want the base of the retaining wall to be.

Stagger the joints in the same way as when building a house, but unlike the house, don't make the retaining wall perfectly vertical.

Move each layer of tires slightly off center in the direction of the area that the wall will be retaining. This will help to counteract the pressure of the earth being retained.

Fill in behind each row of tires as you build. Compact the soil each time you backfill to prevent it from settling over time after the wall has been built.

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