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Earthship-inspired tire bale home

 
Posts: 67
Location: New Mexico
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[I hesitate to post here because we aren't building an Earthship, but it looks like most posts here aren't about Earthships... maybe the forum should be renamed "Earthship-Inspired building"?]

We have broken ground on the first New Mexico home to get a state permit for building with tire bales!  It's a small passive solar home.

Why did we choose tire bales?  Because we are retirees with a limited budget, and want to build more quickly than we could with, e.g., earthbags (we would totally do an earthbag house if we could rewind our bodies and lifespans 30 years or so back!). There is no way we would ever choose to sledgehammer dirt into hundreds of tires, no matter how much time or youthful energy we had...

We will be sourcing tire bales from a landfill 7 miles away, and will be getting them for free.  We have a local contractor with a forklift who should be able to place the tires in a couple days.  Sounds pretty good to us!

I wrote about the current state of the work on our blog:  https://www.brownkawa.com/post/breaking-new-ground

Then we'll have the hard part -- building the rest of the house.  Our first big challenge after the bales are in will be getting some earthen plaster on them -- we'd like to get the scratch coat on before too long, to cover the bales -- for our own aesthetics during the build, to decrease offgassing/UV degradation as quickly as possible, and diminish fire hazard.  We have zero experience with earthen plaster or earthen floors, and assume that most folks' initial attempts are not finished-home-worthy!  We are trying to find locals with experience who we can hire to help mentor us through the startup -- evaluate our on-site materials, help us figure out how to get a good mix, help get us started, etc.  We've read a bunch, but there's nothing like real experience.

We are in northern New Mexico so figure that our materials should be pretty good (we are in the heart of ancestral Pueblo country), and we ought to be able to find knowledgeable folk nearby too...



Wish us luck!
 
gardener
Posts: 3322
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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This is a cool looking build.
Are you going to put up a roof to protect your earthen plaster?
Are you going to apply metal lathe to the tire bales before plastering?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1515
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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How do you plan to lay the tyres? As they are in the image or vertically?
Pf you can get a roof up sooner than later you will have shade and also a potential water source which will be handy with any earthen mixture you use.
Later of course you can use it in the house and if you have big tanks, 20,000Litre you will not need filters etc.
 
Kimi Iszikala
Posts: 67
Location: New Mexico
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Yes, we will put on a roof... planning that now.  We are hiring most of that work out, since it will be hoisting heavy beams skyward, and we won't be doing that on our own -- our current crew does not do that type of work so we are waiting on that estimate.  We are doing this project each-step-as-it-comes, so I'm not sure the timing of the roof (we have the possibility of salvage materials for posts & beams, so it will partly depend on the timing for getting that).

But yes, we are now heading into the monsoon, so it would make sense to get the roof up before applying any earth to the walls!  And yes, our tanks will go in before the walls go up, so hopefully we'll be able to catch some of that monsoon rain if we get the roof up in time...
 
Kimi Iszikala
Posts: 67
Location: New Mexico
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Oh, also, forgot to answer about the layout -- the walls will be stacked vertically, and stepping down on the wall ends. Our landfill can't make any partial bales, so we had a slight challenge with layout -- we need to stagger the "bricks" so without half bales, we can't have any vertical openings (we therefore nixed a root cellar into the berm through the back wall that we had been hoping for).

So we will have a long back wall that steps down on each side (bottom course with the most bales, fewer bales as you go up).
For the side walls we will be able to turn the brick at right angles every-other-course which will let us intersect with the back wall and front buttresses, and end up with a vertical face at the front.
The front buttresses will also have to step down at the outside edges.

I've attached our layout.  We actually decided to save a tree by cutting the site down to 70' wide by dropping a bale off of each end at the back -- we are using 90 bales, not the 96 shown.

It will be a ~2800 sq ft footprint for ~1000 sq ft living space and ~500 sq ft greenhouse... it's kind of funny looking at our pre-pour layout.  The walls keep looking to us like corridors.  With the wire mesh it looks like a big chicken run!

Concrete is on its way now, so I'm off...
Tire-Bale-Layout.png
Here's how the bales will be placed
Here's how the bales will be placed
 
John C Daley
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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You may be able to have a root cellar by building a steel frame to hold the tyre bundle up.
I think getting a quote before you have the roof material may not work They will be guessing everything.
Sometimes a commercial roof is worth looking at, because they buy bulk and are clever with the designs
 
Kimi Iszikala
Posts: 67
Location: New Mexico
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Thanks for those ideas, John.  

Unfortunately we are in a state that requires engineering plans for "alternate materials" builds, and it would cost a couple thousand more to get the engineering done to modify the root cellar... our inspector was willing to redline the root cellar without an engineering mod, since it would only make the structure stronger.

We were actually OK with killing the root cellar, and weren't sure how effective it would be anyway, since it would be attached to our house and not fully bermed either.  Plus it just added complication which means adding cost, and we will likely be over budget on the build anyway.  We can always build a more traditional root cellar separate from the house.

I wish we had done a compaction test in the first place, before going to the engineers... I think our house will be over-built because they had to engineer it for an unknown site.  Hindsight.  We hadn't moved here yet and were too much chomping at the bit to get all the paper stuff done before moving so we could get a house structure up before winter.  Now it's a year later and we're finally starting... we probably could have saved over $10,000 if we had waited until we were living here, and had picked a specific site before getting engineering plans.
 
John C Daley
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Patience is a virtue!
 
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My name is Michael Otten. I don't know if this is helpful to you, I work with the Earthship inspired non-profit Foxhole Homes in Alamogordo NM, about 6 hours south of Taos.

We've been able to arrange for half bales with the La Luz Convenience Center, by buying custom length wires for them to use. And I did the drawings for our next build an 80 bale workshop. I am soon going to be working on a floorplan for a bale version of the Encounter Earthship model. I've stacked bales for two projects so far personally.

I would be very interested in following your project and being in touch! Tire bales are still pretty unknown as a building material and we plan on working with it much more in the future.
 
Kimi Iszikala
Posts: 67
Location: New Mexico
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Michael Ot wrote:My name is Michael Otten. I don't know if this is helpful to you, I work with the Earthship inspired non-profit Foxhole Homes in Alamogordo NM, about 6 hours south of Taos.

We've been able to arrange for half bales with the La Luz Convenience Center, by buying custom length wires for them to use. And I did the drawings for our next build an 80 bale workshop. I am soon going to be working on a floorplan for a bale version of the Encounter Earthship model. I've stacked bales for two projects so far personally.

I would be very interested in following your project and being in touch! Tire bales are still pretty unknown as a building material and we plan on working with it much more in the future.



Hi Michael,

I think maybe we met you last year!  My husband Chip and I visited Foxhole and talked with Ted and Michael, who was doing the drawings -- must have been you, no?  We've been looking into tire bales for a couple years now, and it was Bill Myers in the tire recycling program that told us about Foxhole -- the greatest project!  We're excited to see you moving forward.  Would love to be in touch.  Ted has my email address, or you can PM me here.  I am guessing you guys didn't need a concrete foundation down there?  We sorta jumped the gun by getting engineering plans before we even moved to NM so didn't have info on our dirt.  We probably would have needed a concrete foundation anyway (there is nothing level here, and tons of arroyos), but you have that great level area.  That's great that they were able to make custom bales!  simplifies the design for sure.  Thanks for your message!

Kimi
 
Kimi Iszikala
Posts: 67
Location: New Mexico
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Our tire bale walls are in!  It took 4+ days and a total of less than $2500 to install the 3 tire walls (east, south, west) of our small (1000 sq ft living space, 2800 sq ft footprint not including greenhouse) earthship-type home.  
A big chunk of the $$ was forklift rental, and a big chunk of the time was getting the bales from the landfill onto our build site. Really, i can't imagine why anyone would want to pound dirt into tires!

I give a lot of info on the whole process in our blog post https://www.brownkawa.com/post/getting-tired

Next steps:
  • cover bales with wire mesh
  • install concrete bond beam around top
  • put in post foundations
  • build post & beam roof supports and install roof
  • earthen plaster walls inside and out
  • install earthen floors


  • ugh, it's daunting!  The walls are such a huge milestone... but really it means we have scratched the surface of this project. Step by step!  And we are excited to have this step behind us!
    14-walls-done.jpg
    The finished tire bale walls
    The finished tire bale walls
     
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    Hello Kimi,
    Just out of curiosity was there a specific reason you stacked the tire bales horizontally, short ends inside, versus horizontally, long ends inside?
    Will try to include a pic of our bales stacked and have been standing for over 12 years. I doubt that it makes a difference structurally. Mike Shealy and Leonard Jones are not around anymore for me to ask.
    Mike and Leonard helped us with our design and build. Both have since died.

    Good decision on the concrete under the bales.  Bales should never be stacked on disturbed soil. Where you live is very disturbed soil.  This should give you structural integrity over the years.

    Next thing, DO NOT SCRIMP ON THE ROOF.   We went with a standing seam metal roof. It was worth the expense and less maintenance. It is more like a commercial roof. Also, the vendor we chose allowed us to pick a color--we chose a lighter color to reflect heat off the structure in the summer since the sun is almost straight overhead. You may wish to do the same given your location.
    Have you done your insolation values yet to know where the sun is at what times of the year? Before getting too much further along, that would be a good thing to know.

    Couple of notes on the roof.  We live in the Rocky Mountains so we get about 55-70 lbs psi snow load so our roof may be a bit overengineered compared to yours.
    What is your snowload per County Building codes?  Advice: Build for just over that to be safe and sure.

    Also, use Glue-lam beams (for more strength) NO MORE THAN 30' length (inside) back to front.  Our roof is 12-pitch. We have 2 load-bearing 20ft walls that are actually just short walls since they sit near the back (north side) where the mechanical room and storage areas are located. Those walls are about 20ft in length (east to west). Our overall house length is 150ft inside. Those load-bearing walls are framed 6"x6" double-stud drywall walls.  We chose not to insulate them to allow convention heating and cooling.

    Also, our roof is a cold roof design--that design comes from Europe. There was a 2" gap around the top part of the roof just below the plywood. The gap was screened to keep out bugs etc. However, we found that design to be less energy efficient since we get high winds (we didn't plan on 20, 30, 40, 50 mph winds--didn't do our site planning well enough), the wind sucks out the heat in the winter! So we closed off the gaps over most of both north and south side of the roof to be more energy efficient, leaving only about 3ft gap open to allow ventilation (near the center back and west side).

    This kind of house holds humidity.   If you are planning a water catchment system, with an inside water treatment trough (like in Earthships), and plan to use slanted windows, we would advise against that.
    Our windows are straight up and down. We get ice buildup in the winter due to condensation. Even though our house exchanges outside air about 3 times per hour, that is mostly enough given high radon levels.  But when humidity is 30% or more, it isn't near enough.  Yes, we have a lot of plants (6 full sized trees plus other assorted air cleaning houseplants.)  When the air is so terribly dry like it has been over the last few years, you will cherish that humidity. Depending on what kind of coating you use on the tire bales, you may regret choosing slanted windows that constantly leak condensation. Mikey learned that lesson the hard way.
    Our shot-crete is covered with clay on the inside of the house. The living room/great room has clay on the ceiling and walls. Our east and west rooms have beetle-killed wood on the ceilings, which looks really nice!  If you check out our web site or blog you can see a view of the roof and windows.  We do NOT have an HVAC system. If we want fresh air, we open windows--except when we have wildfires around us, as we did this past October. We kept windows closed and turned on air filters and humidifiers to keep down on the smoke and particulates.

    Plumbing: pay someone to design the plumbing so it is only IN the tire bale wall or the floor.  We had a drunk plumber that didn't understand what we were doing or why and he put pipes in the ceiling!!!
    We have had to redo plumbing many times due to his ignorance.

    Radon: Radon IS EVERYWHERE.  PLAN FOR IT before closing in your structure!  

    I could go on with lesson after lesson, but it's late. I will try to attach a couple of files. If you cannot see any attachments, email me lmhagar at yahoo

    Hope you find this info helpful. Check out our blog https://hagartirebales.wordpress.com or our website www.hagartirebales.com
    There is some good info there. I don't get to post often enough.

    Best of luck with your tire bale house!





     
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