How to Upcycle Old Tires into Affordable Housing Materials

How to Upcycle Old Tires into Affordable Housing Materials

Upcycling old tires into affordable housing materials is an innovative way to reuse discarded tires and create sustainable, durable and cost-effective housing. As the world’s population grows, demand for affordable housing rises. Using recycled tires for construction can provide a viable option for eco-friendly and economical shelter.

Why Upcycle Tires for Housing?

There are several compelling reasons to upcycle old tires into housing materials:

  • Environmental benefits – Reusing old tires reduces waste and the need to manufacture new building materials. Tires in landfills can also leach toxins into the soil and groundwater. Upcycling keeps tires out of landfills.

  • Cost savings – Tires are inexpensive or free, providing major cost savings compared to traditional building materials. This helps lower the overall cost of affordable housing projects.

  • Durability – Tires are extremely durable against weather, pests, and wear. Tire homes can last for decades with little maintenance.

  • Energy efficiency – The thick rubber of tires provides excellent insulation. Tire walls are efficient at retaining heat in cold climates and cooling in hot areas.

  • Noise reduction – The soundproofing qualities of rubber absorb noise and enhance quietness inside tire homes.

  • Fire resistance – Rubber tire walls are naturally fire resistant and retardant.

  • Flood resilience – Tires float and can act as natural flotation devices in flood prone areas.

Clearly, reusing tires for housing offers many benefits for affordability, sustainability, and resilience.

Types of Tires for Housing Construction

There are a few main types of tires suitable for upcycling into housing:

  • Car and light truck tires – These standard tires work well for compact homes and tiny houses. Their smaller size makes them easy to handle.

  • Large truck tires – Oversized tires from trucks can be repurposed for larger buildings and multi-story structures. Their thickness is ideal for soundproofing and insulation.

  • Off-road tires – Tires for tractors, excavators, skidders, etc. are well-suited for home foundations and retaining walls, thanks to their durability.

  • Earthmover tires – Tires from earthmovers, mining trucks, and other heavy equipment are massive in size but great for sizable load-bearing walls.

The most common source for recycled tires is junkyards, auto salvagers, and tire dealers. Coordinate pickup of bulk tires for large-scale construction projects.

Design and Construction Methods

There are a variety of techniques for designing and building with recycled tires:


  • Rammed earth tire walls – Compact shredded tires with earthfill into forms to create thick, insulated walls. Rebars can be added for structural reinforcement.

  • Compressed earth block walls – Shredded tires can be mixed with dirt and compressed into interlocking blocks. This Lego-like system assembles easily.

  • Stacked tire walls – Whole tires stacked and bolted together make durable exterior and interior walls. Curved walls are possible by angling tires.

  • Straw bale and tire walls – Alternating rows of stacked straw bales and tires creates unique thermal mass walls up to R-35 insulation value.

  • Tire wattle walls – Bands of hand-tamped tires filled with earth can form sturdy monolithic walls suitable for rammed earth homes.


  • Tire stem wall foundations – Securing stacked tires in a stem wall pattern around the perimeter forms a reinforced concrete foundation.

  • Earth-rammed tire foundations – Compacted shredded tires used as backfill for foundation trenches and as retaining walls create a resilient base.

  • Tire flat pad foundations – Layering flattened whole tires forms a stable slab-style foundation for small structures and cabins.


  • Tire shingle roofs – Split tires nailed in overlapping rows like shingles make durable, waterproof roof coverings. They can be layered over conventional roofs too.

  • Living roofs – Old tires filled with soil provide drainage layers for vegetated green roofs. Plants help insulate buildings and manage stormwater runoff.

  • Tire beams – Sturdy beams cut from large tires support rafters and roofing materials while contributing to open span designs.


  • Tire ring flooring – Linked tire rings make flexible, cushioned flooring. They can be left open or filled with gravel, sand or concrete.

  • Brick pattern floors – Split tires nailed tightly together in a brickwork pattern create finished floor surfaces. They are softened with sand infill.

  • Earth-rammed tire floors – Compacted earth and shredded tires produce finished earthen floors with thermal mass.

Benefits of Tire Homes

Building with upcycled tires offers many advantages:

  • Affordability – Tire homes can be up to 50% cheaper than conventional building costs. This helps make housing affordable for lower income families.

  • R-value – Tests show insulated tire wall systems with an R-value between R-25 to R-35, reducing heating and cooling costs.

  • Mold resistance – Tires resist mold growth, which improves indoor air quality and reduces maintenance.

  • Weatherproofing – Rubber tires are unaffected by rain, wind and humidity, preventing drafts or leaks.

  • Fire safety – The fire resistance of tires gives added protection and can lower insurance costs.

  • Pest resistance – Rubber tire walls discourage termites and other pests without toxic treatments.

  • Noise barriers – Sound waves have trouble penetrating thick tire walls, which buffer exterior noise.

  • Low emissions – Tire homes produce fewer overall emissions than concrete or lumber construction.

In summary, upcycling used tires into housing materials makes safe, sustainable and economical building possible. With creativity and proper construction techniques, tires can be transformed into remarkably livable and affordable homes.