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The First Steps in Building Our Tire Bale Home

April 2, 2005

We bought 13 acres at about 8,200 feet in elevation outside of Granby, Colorado in early 2004. A perfect place with no covenants and few neighbors. We met Michael Shealy and discussed having him help us design an active solar home for the site. Michael has designed several “earthship” type homes and even built one for himself. He is also the one that introduced us to the tire bale concept.

We came up with a proposed floor plan for the house, and then Michael did the finished drawings for us using tire bales instead of single tires. Michael has been great to work with and has provided many helpful suggestions and even helped us get a Professional Engineer (Leonard Jones from Littleton, CO) to approve our plans prior to taking the plans before the Grand County Building Department. Having the PE sign the plans, we believe, helped us achieve a quick approval of our tire bale project. If you’d like to know more about building with tire bales, visit Michael Shealy’s site, as well as Leonard Jones’ web site and read his pdf file thoroughly.

We had some friends over in the Fall 2004 to help us clear a small driveway. In the fall of 2005, we began site excavation.

We bought a skid steer with forks and bucket to help lift and set the tire bales. It is capable of lifting about 2,700 lbs.

We obtained 170 tons of tire bales (about 17,000 tires) from Front Range Tire Recycling based in Sedalia, Colorado. Then, arranged to have the bales delivered by Renewable Fiber a trucking firm out of Longmont, Colorado.

The bales were delivered in eight 75-foot semi-truck/trailer loads over a period of 5 days. The trailers had “walking” (moving) floors. We quickly figured out how to get the tire bales out of the back of the trucks by using a static bale just out the back of the truck and then allowing 2-to-3 bales at a time to fall on top of the static bale. This prevented the bales from breaking any of the five wires, which hold the bales together. This static bale idea was actually a sugggestion from Rich, one of the truckers who delivered a few loads of tire bales for us.

It took about 1.5 hours to unload the bales from the first truck. The truckers worked with us to get the time down to half an hour to unload all of the tire bales (20-23 bales per truck) and get them stacked beside the highway. We used our skid steer to load the bales onto our small trailer and then hauled them (4 at a time) about a mile and a half back to our property. One of our new neighbors came by, asked a few questions, then came back with a truck and trailer and hauled a few loads of tire bales up to our property for us (watch the movie on the gallery page). We were quite the site with a caravan of trucks and trailers with tire bales, skid steer, and small Subaru station wagon going up and down the dirt road for 5 whole days!

The days were long and the work was fairly difficult working through rain, snow, sleet, and hot sun. With the help of a few friends and our new neighbors, we moved all 170 tons of tire bales in less than 5 days from the delivery point at the highway up to our property.

If you would you like to see how a tire bale is made visit tire bale making from Tough the Earth Ranch.

One of the most common questions people ask is what happens if the wires around the tire bales break. We’re told that it takes about 150,000 lbs. of pressure to break the wires. We had four bales break at least one wire as they were dropped out of the back of the truck (not onto the static bale). But when we looked closer at the wires that broke, they all appeared to have a nick next to the knot, which most probably caused the wire to break. Rick Welle at Front Range Tire confirmed this.

At this point, we are seriously considering using stained or polished concrete for the floors. This will help with the thermal mass. Noteworthy is that our house design does not have a basement. While basements may be right for stick houses, they would defeat our goal of the thermal mass.

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