How to Use Recycled Tires as Building Insulation

How to Use Recycled Tires as Building Insulation

Using recycled tires as insulation in buildings is an innovative way to repurpose old tires that would otherwise end up in landfills. Tires can make surprisingly effective insulation because they are hollow inside, which traps air and provides insulating properties. Recycled tires are also durable and fire resistant.

While tire insulation has some drawbacks to consider, overall it can be a sustainable and cost-effective insulation option for certain applications. Here is a complete guide on how to use recycled tires for building insulation.

Benefits of Using Recycled Tires as Insulation

Recycled tires offer several benefits that make them well-suited for building insulation:

Environmentally Friendly

  • Using old tires for insulation gives them a new purpose instead of ending up in the landfill. The EPA estimates that 290 million scrap tires were generated in 2017. Tire insulation helps reduce this waste.

Good Insulating Properties

  • The hollow core of tires traps air, giving them insulating properties comparable to other common building insulators. Their R-value ranges from R-2.2 to R-2.9 per inch.

Durable and Long-Lasting

  • Tires are designed to withstand wear and tear. As insulation, recycled tires can last for the lifetime of the building. They won’t compress or degrade over time.

Fire Resistant

  • Rubber is naturally fire resistant. Tire insulation does not easily catch fire or spread flames. This makes it suitable and safe for insulating buildings.

Low Cost

  • Old scrap tires can often be obtained very cheaply or even free. The raw material cost for tire insulation is far less than most types of insulation. Installation costs are also low.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

While recycled tires have appealing properties as insulation, there are also some potential downsides to consider:

  • Not suitable for all climates – Tires can retain moisture, so tire insulation may not work well in colder, damp climates where condensation occurs frequently inside walls.

  • Difficult installation – Fitting irregular shaped tires into tight wall cavities takes time and effort compared to installing uniform insulation boards or blankets.

  • Dense and heavy – Tires are heavier than other insulators, making construction more difficult. Their density also reduces their insulative value compared to lighter materials.

  • Can compress over time – Although they are durable overall, thick stacks of tire insulation inside walls may slowly compress, reducing effectiveness.

  • Not eco-friendly for all buildings – Tire insulation makes the most sense for low-energy buildings. For highly insulated efficient homes, other green options like cellulose may be better.

Suitable Applications for Tire Insulation

Considering the pros and cons, here are the best uses for recycled tire insulation:

Garages

As accessory buildings that don’t require high levels of insulation, garages work well with tire insulation. The tires are durable and fire-resistant – important features for a garage.

Workshops

For the same reasons, workshops, sheds, and other utility buildings suit tire insulation. These structures are often unheated, so extreme insulation isn’t necessary.

Infill Insulation

Adding tire insulation to partially filled wall cavities boosts insulation at low cost. The irregular shapes easily fill gaps around other materials.

Low-Income Housing

For housing projects on tight budgets, the low cost of tire insulation can help improve energy efficiency. This makes housing more affordable for occupants.

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Installing recycled tire insulation is straightforward but labor-intensive. Here is a step-by-step guide:

Gather Materials

  • Recycled tires – as many as needed for the project. Aim for consistent tire sizes for easier installation.
  • Hammer and pry bar – to fit tires into wall cavities
  • Utility knife – to trim and cut tires
  • Fastening bolts – to stack and secure tire layers

Prepare the Tires

  • Clean tires thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or moisture.
  • Use utility knife to remove any exposed steel belts to avoid puncturing vapor barriers.
  • Cut tires to suitable shapes and sizes to fit the wall cavities.

Install Vapor Barrier

  • On inside wall, install 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier and seal seams with tape. This prevents moisture issues.

Insert Tire Insulation

  • Place first layer of tires in bottom of cavity and secure together with bolts.
  • Pack second layer tightly on top of first layer, offsetting seams between tires.
  • Continue stacking tire layers, securing each layer together.
  • Use hammer and pry bar to tighten layers and fill voids.

Seal Exterior Wall

  • Once cavity filled with tires, install exterior sheathing sealed with caulk.
  • Tires can be left exposed in interior wall. Alternatively, install drywall over vapor barrier.

Safety Tips

  • Work safely – tires are awkward, heavy loads requiring proper lifting techniques.
  • Ventilate area and wear protective mask – cutting tires creates rubber dust.

The Verdict on Tire Insulation

Recycled tire insulation offers some clear environmental benefits. When used strategically in buildings like garages or sheds, tires can provide an effective insulation solution on a small budget. However, for more advanced projects like well-insulated homes, traditional insulation materials may be better suited to maximize energy efficiency. With proper installation in suitable buildings, recycled tire insulation can be a handy green building material with key advantages.