This is Why Earthships Use Tires


Rammed Earth Tire Wall that is the foundation for an Earthship.

An earthship is a type of house that tries to use recycled materials to build a practical, functioning house. They are designed to be as energy-efficient as possible, using things like natural light, running water, and heat-storing technologies to create an eco-friendly, low-cost home.

Earthships use tires because it is a great way to find a new purpose for old tires, and because they work well for building the base of the house. They are durable and great sources of thermal mass when filled with compacted dirt, they also weigh a lot so they will stay in place and not shift around. 

Earthships are houses built with sustainability in mind, so using tires that would otherwise remain in landfills for years is a great way to upcycle a material that is considered to be waste.

Over the years, the design and practicality of earth houses has improved, and now we know the best materials to use to create an eco-friendly house that also runs well and will stand the test of time.

How Are Tires Used in an Earthship?

There are many ways to build a home and many materials that are often used. Some common examples include:

  • Concrete
  • Stone
  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Tin

An earthship, however, is made out of a collection of eco-friendly building options, and the materials can get quite creative as people try to find a new use for upcycled and old materials. Earthships are made out of recycled and upcycled materials like:

  • Cardboard
  • Tires
  • Plastic trash 
  • Aluminum

While a lot of different materials go into building an earthship, tires are the most predominant. There is a specific packing method that is used to stabilize the inner hollow tube part of the tire, and this process is what makes it suitable for building an earthship.

 To build an earthship, you take the old recycled tire, and you fill it with compacted earth. Each tire holds about two to three wagon fills on dirt or compacted earth. The tire simply acts as a container for the earth. 

Not only does this make it so they won’t collapse inward and are more stable for building blocks, but it also makes them weigh significantly more, which is a great plus for this type of house building.

Much like how we would use bricks or cement blocks to build a house, these earthships are built by layering the upcycled tires packed full of dirt on top of one another like one would lay bricks.

Earthship Floorplan
Earthship Floorplan. Image by Felix Müller is licensed under CC AS-A U 3.0

 After this process has been completed, they are then covered in adobe mud, and this creates the houses foundation. Because the tires are used to make the foundation of the house, which the whole rest of the house will be built on, it is important for the tires to be heavy and unmoving in nature.

This process ends up being labor-intensive and usually has to be completed slowly because of this. Once the dirt has been packed securely into the tires, they become extremely heavy, and so moving them can be quite the chore. If you are planning to build your earthship, it is recommended that you gather a large crew of workers and plan on taking a lot of breaks in between all that heavy lifting!.

Why Would You Use Tires to Build your Earthship

Everything about the design of an earthship comes down to two factors: being eco friendly and practical. Taking this into consideration when examining the data surrounding earthships, it only makes sense that one of the main materials used, and perhaps the most important material used, would be tires. Most earthships are built in a hotter, desert climate in places like:

  • Colorado 
  • New Mexico
  • Arizona 
  • California 

These places tend to have a lot of earthquakes, and having the foundation on your house be built out of stabilized rubber tires can be useful when it comes to this.

That covers the practical factor, but then there is also the other factor that is just as important when it comes to earthships; How eco friendly can you make it?.

The answer to this question is friendly, starting with the tires. There are close to millions of old tires just lying around in landfills. It only makes sense that a project like earthships would try and reuse these old tires and find a new purpose for them.

The average earthship is constructed using over 1400 tires. This information being taken into consideration; it is a great way to recycle lots and lots of old tires that would otherwise be lest in a landfill for years to come.

Is it Legal to use Materials Like Recycled Tires in Earthships?

When it comes to building a house, or any time of shelter that would be habitable, there are a lot of rules and regulations put in place. Even with something like a tiny house, there’s a variety of rules that comes along with the building process and placement of the house, and these rules and regulations can vary from state to state and even by region.

The same thing is true with earthships. When you are looking to use old tires as a part of the house you are building; you might wonder if there’s any rules or guidelines for this process. 

The simple answer is that there are rules put in place, but it varies from state to state. For example, in Ohio, if you are planning on using more than 100 tires, you have to contact the EPA or the “Environmental Protection Agency.”

To be safe, just look up either the rules for your state or the rules of the area you are, because in some cases, they differ from the rules of the state as a whole. 

What is the Rest of the House Made of?

So now we know all about the process of using upcycled tires for constructing an earthship, but you may be wondering, what is the rest of the house made of?

The tires are filled with lots of compacted dirt and then layered like bricks to form the base foundation of the house. This is an important process, but only a fraction of what the whole house is made of. 

Earthships usually incorporate a lot of glass and windows into their design. In doing this, it allows the sunlight to enter through the glass during the day and warm up the whole house.

The walls and floors are usually made out of a heat-storing material that will capture the sun’s warmth and release it in the nighttime when the temperature drops, or during the day if the earthship is built in a more harsh climate that has a change of seasons and goes through winters. 

These houses Have a natural cooling system for the summer that includes many tubes and vents throughout the house that can be opened and closed at will. This allows for a good airflow and ventilation that keeps the space at a comfortable and cool temperature. 

One of the primary functions of an earthship is to forgo electricity and use solar-powered energy sources instead to run everything.

If you are looking to make your own earthship, there is a great reason to do so. Earthships are one of the most affordable houses to make, and one of the most affordable to run. If built correctly, your yearly utility bill should hover somewhere around $200 dollars.

Header Image by Dominic Alve is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Rasmus

Hi, my name is Rasmus. I'm a huge fan of alternative living arrangements and the many ways people are escaping the 9 to 5 grind. Whether it's van dwelling or homesteading, if it allows for more freedom in your life then I'm all ears! I've been exploring different aspects of this lifestyle for over three years now and have learned so much. From solar power to worm farming, if there's something out there that helps us live differently - I want to know about it!

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