How to Build a Home From Recycled Car Tires

How to Build a Home From Recycled Car Tires

How to Build a Home From Recycled Car Tires

Introduction

Building a home from recycled materials like used car tires can be an eco-friendly and cost-effective option. With some planning and effort, old tires that would otherwise end up in a landfill can be repurposed into a unique and sustainable home. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk through all the key steps I took to construct my own tire home.

Choosing a Design

The first step is deciding on the size and layout of your tire home. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Intended use – Will this be a primary residence, vacation getaway, or rental property? The intended use will inform size and amenities.

  • Climate – Consider your climate zone when orienting windows and incorporating passive solar design.

  • Number of occupants – Make sure to allow enough space for all occupants to live comfortably.

  • Aesthetic – Decide if you want a round structure made entirely of tires or a more traditional rectangular layout using tires as infill within a timber frame.

  • Budget – Using recycled tires is inexpensive but other equipment and materials can add cost. Set a realistic budget.

I opted to build a small round structure as a writing retreat and guest house using approximately 800 tires. The round design allowed me to utilize the curved shape of the tire stacks naturally.

Obtaining Tires

Sourcing a large quantity of used tires can be challenging. Here are some of my recommended approaches:

  • Check with local tire shops and auto garages to see if they want to get rid of old tires. Offer to haul them away for free.

  • Search online classified ads and websites like Craigslist for free tires. Lots of people need to get rid of old tires.

  • Approach junkyards and recycling centers in your area. They often have tire stockpiles and may let you haul away tires for free or a small fee.

Safety tip: Always wear thick gloves when handling used tires to avoid exposing skin to chemicals or sharp wires. I collected about 800 tires within 2 months by checking frequently with local shops and scouring online ads.

Site Preparation

Before assembling tire stacks, proper site preparation is crucial:

  • Clear and level the build area of all vegetation, rocks and debris.

  • Plan for drainage around the structure to prevent water damage.

  • Dig trenches around the perimeter to anchor the first course of tires in place. The trenches should be 12-18 inches deep.

  • Compact and gravel the soil within the building footprint. This will prevent settling issues.

  • Determine door and window openings and frame them out with timber posts.

Proper site prep took me about 3-4 full work days with a small excavator, but this foundation is key to building on tires long-term.

Stacking and Securing Tires

Now the fun part – start stacking those tires! Here are some techniques I learned:

  • Overlap – Each successive course should overlap the one below it like bricks to provide stability.

  • Alternate direction – Point tire treads in opposite directions between courses to lock everything together.

  • Reinforced rebar – Use rebar driven vertically through the center of tire stacks every 3-4 feet for added structural strength.

  • Adhesive foam – Apply construction adhesive foam between courses to prevent shifting.

  • Exterior stabilization – Use angled timber braces on the exterior to further secure stacks.

I was able to assemble basic 4-5 foot high stacks solo before recruiting friends to help stack higher courses. Take it slow and focus on stability.

Wall Openings and Windows

Once the base structure is assembled, the next step is creating wall openings:

  • Doors – Frame out the rough opening with timber and reinforce with extra rebar before cutting an opening.

  • Windows – Smaller openings can be cut out of tire stacks and framed like regular windows.

  • Tip: Stabilize and reinforce stacks extremely well around any openings. Consider framing openings with timber or cob/adobe for added support.

For my retreat, I installed two standard exterior doors and eight repurposed windows in various sizes. Wood framed openings maintain structural integrity.

Roof

Several roofing options work well for tire homes:

  • Living roof – Installing a planted green roof helps the structure blend into nature. Be sure to waterproof first.

  • Corrugated metal – Metal roofing panels are lightweight and install easily. Seal any fastener penetrations.

  • Poured adobe – An adobe roof is fireproof and provides thermal mass. However, it is quite heavy.

I decided on a simple corrugated metal roof treated for corrosion resistance. It sheds rainwater effectively while keeping weight manageable.

Plastering and Finishing

For an attractive and durable finish, the exterior walls should be plastered:

  • Wire mesh – Secure galvanized wire mesh over the tires to provide a bond point for plaster.

  • Adobe plaster – Mix clay, sand, straw, and water to create traditional adobe and hand apply in layers.

  • Cement stucco – A cement-based stucco can also be troweled on for a smoother finish.

I used an adobe plaster recipe for an all-natural breathable wall finish. Multiple plaster coats were required to fully cover the exterior tires. This protects from UV damage.

Interior Finishes

For the interior, here are some quick and effective finish options:

  • Wood paneling – Affix plywood or old barn wood planks directly to the tire walls. This adds rustic style.

  • Fabric – Stretch fabric like canvas over the tires and secure with adhesive. Provides simple texture.

  • Cob – Sculpt an earthen plaster over the tires made from clay, sand, and straw. Offers a rounded organic look.

I combined paneling on the lower half of walls and fabric on upper walls for an eclectic, cozy feel. The thick earthen walls provide natural insulation.

Completing Construction

The last steps involved completing construction:

  • Electrical – I hired an electrician to wire the retreat to code and install LED lighting.

  • Plumbing – A septic tank, water heater, sink, and composting toilet were added for basic off-grid plumbing.

  • Insulation – I stuffed porous insulation between interior tire walls prior to adding finishes to boost energy efficiency.

With the major systems installed, my DIY tire home was complete! The final product maintains comfort year-round despite extreme temperatures.

Conclusion

Building a home from recycled tires requires significant labor but can offer a unique sustainable dwelling at minimal cost. With proper planning for design, tire procurement, site preparation, and construction techniques, an earth-friendly getaway or full-time residence is achievable using wasted tires. I’m thrilled with the cozy energy-efficient retreat I built and hope these tips help guide your own tire home project! Let me know if you have any other questions.