Tires are made for the road. However, even with structural steel wire, vulcanization (a fancy term for the chemical hardening of rubber), and modern-day asphalt, tires generally only last between three and five years on the road before they are worn out and need to be replaced. According to the global tire recycling market analysis by Goldstein Research, “every year over 1.6 billion new tires are generated, and around 1 billion waste tires are generated.”
Worn-out tires end up in many different places. Some are still put in landfills and left on the sides of the road, where they cause negative impacts on the environment. Many recyclers burn tires as a substitute for fossil fuels. Others recycle them into rubber products and artificial turfs. One of the more inventive ways to use old tires is in constructing buildings, like homes and shelters.
How are tires used to build?
This is the most common way tires are used in construction. By packing the tires with clay and earth, they become an extremely durable, large (and heavy) brick. Overlaying many earth-packed tires results in a wall that is sturdier than most wooden or brick walls.
If you’re really trying to use up old tires or the tires at your disposal have lost their structural integrity, you can compact the rubber from tires to form bricks. These bricks use many more tires than earth-packed tires. They also allow you to mold the size of the final brick rather than making walls as thick as the diameter of a tire.
Tire Rubber Insulation
Rubber is one of the best and most widely used insulators. Many construction projects use crumb rubber machinery to create rubber crumb to fill in gaps and insulate a building from extreme temperatures.
You can make tires into art installations for your home. Painted tires add color and make fantastic hanging plant boxes. Tires used in the architecture of buildings give the final build a homegrown and sustainable appearance.
What can you build with tires?
All of these different ways of incorporating tires into construction naturally lend themselves to certain types of homes. These include:
Earthships – Homes made entirely from sustainable materials such as tires, recycled cans, and clay.
Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) – Since tires are so cheap, they can be a great material to build extra living space on your property without going over budget.
Smaller Structures – Tire bricks provide the foundation for backyard playgrounds, compost bins, dog houses, and volleyball nets.
If you’re open to the idea, you can use tires in any structure or home. If you are not building a full-blown earthship or a decked-out pool house, don’t let that discourage you from upcycling tires. They are well-suited resources for all kinds of builds and projects.
Of course, building with tires isn’t generally the go-to option for most people, or else you’d see it all around you. This may be because people don’t know it is an option. Now you know it is a possibility, it’s worth unpacking the main advantages and disadvantages of using tires in construction, so you can make an educated decision when you build.
● Sustainable – Building a house can be one of the most unsustainable and environmentally damaging things we can do. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Using waste tires as bricks reduces your consumption of natural resources and decreases the carbon footprint of your house or structure significantly.
● Affordable – Most people see a worn-out tire as an annoying piece of waste. You can often get tires for construction at an absolute minimum cost and, if you’re lucky, for free.
● Long-lasting – Although tires only last on the road for three to five years in most cases, they will last in a build for decades, especially if they are covered with plaster in a dry environment.
● Insulating – As mentioned earlier, rubber is the perfect insulator for your home. Building with tires is trendy in desert areas since the rubber can act as a sink for hot air, keeping the interior cool even in the middle of summer.
● Heavy – It can be a big effort to move tires around, especially earth-packed ones. Using a forklift or calling on a bunch of friends to help out is a great idea. Tires are used as a weight in many gyms for a reason.
● Unprotected Tires Release Gases – You can easily take care of this with proper coatings and tire placement.
● Safety and Regulation – Any build requires strict adherence to many protocols and safety measures. Since tires are relatively flammable, people who build with tires need to be especially careful to follow these guidelines. The exact requirements vary depending on your location.
Millions of waste tires are created every year. You can use old tires by packing them with dirt as well as a variety of other formats. Using some of these tire-based materials in construction is a great way to build a sustainable home with cheap materials. Although they may not be as easy to transport as wood or regular bricks, tires provide excellent insulation and are an affordable alternative to standard building materials.