The Tires are Done!
And we ALMOST met our goal of finishing
before the end of March. As we neared the
end of the tires, it was apparent that we had
allowed the engineer to mess up the roof
design badly. He made the top two layers of
tires filled with concrete. He was afraid that
the way the roof was originally drawn
wouldn't be strong enough to actually hold
the roof on. To compensate, he wanted two
layers of concrete filled tires with 24 inch
anchor bolts running up through them and
connecting to the bond beam. Goodness!
Furthermore, as the roof steps back and to
the north, the original plans had stacks of
2X12's to elevate the trusses. The engineer
wanted all of these stacks to be continuous
lengths of 2X12. Ridiculous. The extra cost
would have been ridiculous too.
I couldn't imagine trying to level a course
of tires that were completely filled with
concrete. Not to mention, how would I get
anchor bolts into the tire below? Dumb.
Yeah, the engineer was dumb, but mostly
ME for letting him make such DUMB
changes! I paid him to make the job more
difficult! Then we had a chance meeting
with an Earthship owner/builder/designer.
We showed him our engineering disaster
and he came up with a fantastic roof
design. Not only does it look like it will be
much easier than the original blueprints,
but it saved us pounding about 50 tires too!
Our big plastic cisterns are still giving us fits. I'm currently fretting about how to roof over
them. As you can see in the pictures, the tops of the cisterns are taller than the tirework. We
could do another row of tires on the cisterns, but I think I will try to find a way to put domes
over the tops. Earthship Biotecture puts a dome roof on their "Huts" that might work.
In retrospect, we had a very good
winter for building a house. Most of the
weekends were decent building
weather...but not ALL of them!! The
problem with a big snow is that the
"U's" make for great snow drifts,
burying all of our tools. Then the snow
melts and turns the whole place to a
muddy lake. Thank heavens for
spring---although we could still get
snow. In Colorado, you just never know.
Back to the Earthship Index
This is going to be an interesting
detail. Building code requires an exit
from the middle bedroom. The other
two rooms are fine because you can
exit the building through both the east
and the west. We could have fought
the building department and might
have found a way around this. I've
heard of other projects that have
gotten around it but this will someday
be our children's bedroom and the
window will make it more safe. More
of a pain now, but more safe.
The biggest problem is that in order to have a window here, there can't be dirt on the other
side. Therefore, the room doesn't get the same thermal mass. Furthermore, the window on
the north side will radiate cold into the room, but not sunlight (heat). This has been done
before, of course, but I don't know how warm or cold the room will end up being. I may stub a
propane line into the room for backup heat. We'll see!
Right now we are doing a little plumbing. Usually folks wait for a roof before plumbing, I
suppose, but we will need water to mix concrete. I thought we could do the first rough in,
have some water delivered and go from there. As soon as the water is delivered, we'll put up
the bond beam then frame the roof. Can't WAIT to have a roof!
What I Would Do Differently
In retrospect, we didn't do TOO bad getting the tires pounded. We spent more money
than we had hoped to, and it took us longer than we wanted it too. There are several
things that we could have and should have done to reduce the amount of time and money
spent on the tires. No big surprises here, but we won't spend too much time kicking
ourselves over these mistakes....there's too much else to do! (4/09: While I love the round
rooms, I would seriously consider using tire bales if I were doing it now. Check out
Sheally's website: http:www.touchtheearthranch.com)
1. Earthship Volume I clearly tells you where to put the dirt around the tires. Yep. They
were right. I cringe when I think about the amount of time and money it cost us to
wheelbarrow dirt from one big pile to the tires. Next time I'll pile the dirt right into the
U's, very near the tires and worry about digging out the extra dirt later.
2. In choosing tires, it is shown on the plans as well as in the books that one should use
16" tires on the bottom, 15" tires in the middle, and 14's on top. Tire sizes are much more
complicated than this. I read about how someone had used all 235 75R 15's and it worked
well. I didn't realize that person had a tall earth cliff and used half as many tires as we
did! A 235 is a light truck/SUV tire, and is much more volumous than you might think!
We did the top course in 205's and 215's. These tires went more than twice as fast.
Furthermore, the "How to" video says that a tire will swell up about an inch and a half.
We could get the 235's to swell twice that. Next time I'll use 235's for the lower four or
five courses then switch to 225's, then 215's then 205's.
3. We've probably paid 100 different people at different times to pound tires and move
dirt. It was pretty challenging to find people that were willing to work AND do a good job.
We've had all kinds of workers too. We had a crew of stone workers that couldn't lay
stone because it was too cold. They didn't speak English and they worked CRAZY hard.
They were too expensive to keep, and then it warmed up. We hired a crew of high school
kids that we didn't know, and they screwed around more than they worked. Plus we'd get
a different set of kids each weekend, so we were constantly training people. So much so
that we'd forget who we told what to and inevitably someone would screw something up.
Definitely not worth the money. Finally we hired the daughter of a co-worker. She
brought out three of her friends, we trained them well and we finally had a crew that
rocked. Next time I'll carefully select my employee's and look for qualifications like:
Taking 5 Advanced Placement classes, Plays two different instruments in the school band,
Involved in church youth group, Built homes on a Mission in Mexico, etc. (Huh, the
"Honor" in "Honor Student" actually means hard working and dedicated....WHO
KNEW! Thanks Melissa!!)
If you are still reading, I suppose you are wondering what we did well...
What We Did Right
1. We got all the same size tires. WE didn't really do this one, we asked Dave at the Tire
Broker to save them and he did. They were fantastic. They loaded the tires too, which
probably saved us five trips. Lacing tires is an art. Having the same size tires made
leveling pretty easy because they would swell to just about the same height. In the cases
when a stray 225 would get stuck in between the 235's it was pretty clear that we had
made a good choice. It was much easier to push the 225 off and start over than to try to
pound it up to level. Even if you had to spend a week sorting and gathering tires, I think it
would be worth the time.
GET ALL THE SAME SIZE TIRES
2. We knew that we wouldn't be able to do all the tires ourselves, and I'm glad we knew
that. I haven't pounded a tire in two weeks and my shoulders and elbows are still aching.
There is no way around it: this is hard work.
BE REALISTIC, KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS
3. Our original plan would have had us pounding tires last summer. We didn't really
consciously do this one either, but BOY are we glad we did this during the winter. On
overcast days at 45 degrees, we'd work in a long sleeve shirt and be comfortable. When
the sun came out, so did the T shirts. (Of course when we stopped working we froze and
put all the layers back on!) It would have been miserable in the July/August heat. Lucky
for us, it was a pretty mild winter and most of the weekends were perfect.
TIME YOUR TIRES SEASONALLY
4. Get as many FREE people involved as possible. We had several "work parties" and
invited everyone we know and a bunch of people that we didn't know. Not only did we get
a lot of work done this way, but we might have influenced people to think about the
problems with conventional housing. We even had some fun!
I'm sure there's more, I'll include it later!
His name is Mike Sheally. He has done a lot of tire house design and is pretty reasonable in
his costs. He is now doing mostly tire-bale house designs. Walls up in a weekend! Shoot! If
you want plans for such a thing check him out at http://www.touchtheearthranch.com .