Used tires can be repurposed and recycled into innovative and affordable housing materials. With over 290 million scrap tires generated annually in the United States alone, repurposing them reduces waste and provides eco-friendly housing solutions.
I will discuss the benefits of repurposing used tires, examine different techniques to reuse them as housing materials, review case studies where used tires have been successfully incorporated into homes, and provide actionable steps you can take to repurpose tires for your own affordable housing project.
Benefits of Repurposing Used Tires
Repurposing used tires as housing materials offers many advantages:
Sustainability – Reusing tires reduces waste and the need to manufacture new building materials. This supports circular economy principles.
Affordability – Used tires are often free or very inexpensive to acquire. This helps lower housing construction costs.
Durability – Tires are designed to withstand years of wear and tear from vehicles. They are extremely durable as building materials.
Insulation – The rubber in tires is an effective insulator. Tire housing materials can regulate indoor temperatures.
Noise Reduction – Rubber absorbs sound vibrations. Tire walls help block outdoor noise from entering homes.
Fire Resistance – Tires are difficult to ignite and burn slowly. They act as fire barriers when incorporated into housing.
Customization – Tires can be cut, stacked, compressed into different forms to meet specific housing needs.
Techniques for Repurposing Used Tires
Several techniques exist for transforming used tires into housing construction materials:
- Entire tires are compressed and bundled into dense bricks measuring 4 feet x 4 feet x 2 feet.
- Bales interlock like LEGO blocks and can be used to build walls.
- Provides structure, insulation, and noise absorption.
- Tires are shredded into nugget-sized rubber pieces 3/4 inches or less.
- Chips are filled into bags and stacked like masonry blocks for wall construction.
- Offers insulation and drainage when mixed with other aggregates.
- Shredded tire rubber is blended with clay soil, straw, and water to create reinforced adobe bricks.
- Adobe tires bricks provide thermal mass for energy efficiency.
- Mix ratios are typically 70% clay soil, 20% sand, 5% straw, and 5% tire chips.
Tire Pressed Earth Bricks
- Shredded tires are mixed with soils and compressed into earth block bricks.
- Can build load-bearing walls while reusing local earthen materials.
- Less fragile than regular earth bricks.
- Compacted tires used as gravel replacements for home foundations and subfloors.
- Creates a stable base and insulating layer to build on top of.
- Avoid moisture wicking into structure.
- Finely shredded tires mixed with lime-based plaster to apply as interior or exterior stucco.
- Improves crack resistance and insulation capacity.
- Mix ratios around 90% plaster to 10% tire chips.
Case Studies of Used Tires in Housing
Several real world examples showcase the viability of recycling tires into housing:
This off-grid home in New Mexico uses tire bales as load-bearing walls. Inner passive solar walls painted black absorb and distribute heat. The earth-sheltered north side is built from tire bales buried under soil.
This Alabama chapel was built in the 1990s entirely from compressed and interlocked tire bales. It has withstood decades of use and weather with outstanding thermal performance.
Adobe Tire Test Walls
Researchers at the University of Texas built experimental adobe tire walls in different proportions. All mixtures outperformed standard adobe bricks in strength, insulation, and moisture resistance tests.
This model home in California has tire chip-based plastered straw bale walls. Tire chips replaced a quarter of the usual sand aggregate. The insulative plaster helps regulate indoor temperatures.
Straw House with Tire Foundation
The nonprofit Unation Foundation built eco-homes in Nicaragua on gravel foundations replaced with compacted tires. This affordable base supported elevated buildings resilient to flooding.
How to Repurpose Tires into Housing Materials
Here are actionable steps you can follow to reuse tires for your own housing project:
Gather Used Tires
- Check with local tire shops, mechanics, junkyards for scrap tire sources.
- Avoid tires with extensive damage or repairs. Prioritize decent used tires.
- Calculate the tire quantity needed for your project plans.
Prepare Work Area
- Clear a safe workspace with room to maneuver materials and equipment.
- Have sturdy tables for assembling materials.
- Use eye and ear protection when cutting tires.
Cut, Shred, and Process Tires
- Cut tires to standard widths suitable for wall construction.
- Use a shredder or chopper to break tires into different sized pieces based on intended use.
- Add shredded rubber to soil, plaster, straw mixes in desired proportions.
Build Forms and Molds
- Construct molds and bricks forms matched to your design plans.
- Prepare tire press modules for compressed earth blocks.
- Leave space between forms for bale walls.
Compress, Fill, and Assemble Materials
- Fill molds and press bricks using soil-tire mixtures.
- Stack interlocking bales and chips bags as wall structures.
- Use tire foundation layers as building bases.
- Follow blueprints and allow materials to cure as needed.
Repurposing used tires into housing materials diverts waste, reduces costs, and encourages sustainable construction. With proper preparation and technique, tires can be transformed into insulating walls, sturdy foundations, durable finishes, and other building components. Following the steps outlined, you can reuse scrap tires to create affordable, eco-friendly housing solutions.