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Checkout the thermo infrared images of our home

January 10, 2010

Hopefully, the thermo infrared images of our home taken in Dec. 2009 when it was 11 degrees outside will stir up some discussion of how our tire bale home performs in the winter.  (go to  Wonder how these compare to a conventional stick home?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 7:47 pm

    Thanks for posting these interesting IR shots. Of course, windows are the main leakage of heat, so the challenge becomes keeping overnite what they gain during the day. There’s nothing surprising there, tho I was interested to see heat leaking thru the tire bale at a couple spots. This is further proof that the bales act as thermal mass, not insulators, and just as they’re supposed to act.

    • January 25, 2010 4:07 pm

      Hi Mikey, We noticed that too. We are thinking of adding a layer of insulation (blue foam) to thermally isolate the mass from the outside. Thoughts on this? Wondered if you saw our email on the crack in the tire bale wall and if what your thoughts are on this? We don’t think it is serious.

      • January 27, 2010 7:18 pm

        I wouldn’t worry about it. The windows lose so much more heat, and it would be a pain to do “nicely”. I did see the crack and agreed, it should be of no concern whatsoever, seems to me.

  2. jeff permalink
    January 25, 2010 4:39 am

    like the name is jeff viands.i live in wife and i were going to buy a house then i saw the movie garbage warrior.start searching the enternet about it.then thought about it.told my wife, she at first did not like the idea. so i sat her down to watch a video so she would understand.she love it now.i am not working now she is a teacher.i have gone around to tire places and they will pay me .50cents a tire to pick them up.crazy thought people paying me to pick up the stuff i am going to build my house out of.we found land for 10,000$ just enough to build on.4 miles from the school she works at.we are on a tight budget.we are going to put down 1 to 2000$ on the land from our taxes.the rest we will buy a camper to live in on the land so then we are not paying rent of 575$that will buy 1 battery plus we will not have a 160 electric bill. i hv a truck so i can pick up the tires as i need them so that way we do not hv the tires on sit.we will be buying the land in feb.the first thing i am going to do is the drive way so that the camper will go on that.the soil is soft so i figure i will dig down just a little then put 1 layer of packed tires down then grave then cementand i will put metal shavibf from a machineshop in the cement to make it very strong.then i will build a 40by 25ft garage over part of my house my camper.and the last 10 ft of the garage i will build a room to put in a bathroom,and bedroomthe ceiling of the garage i will make 14ft high. so that way in the room i will make a loft on both sides for my 2 children.then we will on cook in the camper and take on the south side of the garage will be part on my back wall to my houseplus i will make the ceiling in my house 14ft high so i can put in lofts in different places in my house.the garage i will bury the north and east wall get insulated garage doors to help out.i was think for the roof us sip board but not sure.i am going to do everything my self because of not having much money to work with.and money we owe on the land by 2011 we will just pay of in full when we do our taxes for 2010,no 30yr mortgage. wwwwwwwwwwooooooooooo loving phone number is 3365776596 if u or anyone u know can help with ideas would be is the only set back.but i can do everything my self and want to.we will cute our bills in 1/2 when we move into the camper.that way we will hv about 1000$ a month to save and buy stuff like cement,batteries,solar panels,and so onso even if it take us 2 yrs.or even longer it is all worth it.thank you

    • January 25, 2010 4:05 pm

      Hello Jeff,

      I saw your comment on our blog about building a house using tire bales or used tires.
      I hope that you totally understand what you’re getting you and your family into.
      This is not a decision to be taken lightly.

      If you have not read Michael Reynolds’ books on building earthships–houses from trash (i.e., tires, recyclables, etc.), you should do this. You should be able to find these books at your local library or on Amazon (look for used copies on Amazon). Also do some research on building with straw bales. There are good concepts that can be shared between the two types of structures.
      Search in Google for Michael Reynolds, earthship, building with tires.
      Also, you might want to talk to Michael Shealy, who helped us design our house…you can Google him or try this link as a starting point
      Kelly Hart is another resource you might ask some questions of before you begin any building.
      There are a number of other people but too numerous to list here. Google is your best friend in this regard….use it for all kinds of research.

      I’d also say BEFORE you start digging, you need to understand 1) local building codes, 2) your soil and 3) the travels of the sun for your region as well as the orientation for the property you are looking to buy, 5) try to locate anyone in your state who has built an earth/trash home there and what their experiences are & have been. There a million different questions to ask up front. TAKE GOOD NOTES! REFER back to your NOTES when building. You’d be surprised what you’ll miss.
      If you haven’t ever built a house before, there is much to know and understand.
      So, don’t get all wrapped up in the money savings until you understand how you can really mess with your life by building something that may not be sustainable. In other words, you should really understand what you’re getting you and your family into.

      We chose “tire bales” to build with because it was less work than building an earthship. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life pounding dirt into tires! That doesn’t mean that we got ourselves into any less work. Building a house is HARD WORK!!
      We spent 3 years working on our house. Yes, we overspent in many ways but that is because we wanted to showcase what “could” be done for others and to try to encourage others to look at alternative building techniques before just going for a conventional stick house.

      I don’t want to discourage you but, I do think you should understand fully what you’re in for.
      It is a total labor of love in the long term.

      Best of luck
      Laura Hagar

    • February 4, 2010 5:52 pm

      Laura & jeff Vianda fr N.C.: It’s interesting to see the Hagar pictures. I’ve traveled thru Gramby to Steamboat where Eliese pivarnik does realestate big time. Eliese is our daughter, her son Austin is 2nd yr Colorado Mines. Laura has had CSM students there to help with some studies of the structure.

      I produce tire bales. We usually install the cement to the bale at the cement plant. from there the block can be moved from the plant to the build site. Th bales are stacked. tire bale-blocks measure 3′ X 8′ X 40″ . they weigth 5000#. they are unloaded and stacked with a forklift or loader. 3/8″ re-bars are used to encase the cement. 1.25 ” hi-tension steel banding(4) is used to bind the tires in the bale. bales are valued $150 to 200 each.

      to construct bales in your state one should contact the state agency that requlates scrap tires. A permit may be required. we are hired to do tire clean-ups and are paid for this service. encasing tires into bales require a number of machines, including tire derimming machine, tire cutting machine and a baling machine. we find that bales with out the concrete are good for fill and cattle feed areas and other uses. we’d be happy to hear from people interesting in scape tire removal and tire bale construction. chas tanner butler, PA 724-283-5251 laura, please forward to jeff vianda, NC

  3. March 19, 2010 10:14 pm

    Hi guys,

    Refinanced our ship spring of 2008. Got no where with our primary lender(Countrywide) but did have success working with our local bank in Fairplay. Alot has changed since then and I have no hope of selling the house unless Mr. money bags shows up looking for mountain bunker. Oh well, didn’t want to sell it anyway as I imagine it would prove about as painful as cutting off an appendage. Big anchor to drag but so be it. Good luck and I hope you are able to maintain living in the best mountain architecture going.


  4. Christopher Fausz permalink
    April 18, 2010 8:50 pm

    I have been looking into building some type of green home. I have looked at yurts,earth ships and now tire bales looking for info on where i can get house plans for free u see im on a limited budget but at the same time i want to go green also did you have any trouble getting building permits and on the inside of your house (inner walls) did you use tire bales or wood frame method any information would be very helpfull (870) 834-8181 thanks everyone chris from Batesville Arkansas

    • April 18, 2010 9:37 pm

      Happy Spring Chris! You ask some good questions. A couple of notes of interest about plans. You will get what you pay for…and if you don’t pay, you won’t get much of anything. We scribbled on paper many designs of a house that we wanted. We bought a cheap house drawing package for the computer and put the design into that, which helped us to think about the space in many regards. We refined and then, we made paper cutouts of things, laid out lines to delineate rooms and how rooms would be laid out, measured furniture and talked about where we wanted things to rest in our “new home”. All of these took us 1-2 years. Then, when we felt we were ready, we printed out our “concept” of our home–which originally was an Earthship, and then we went to see Michael Shealy. At our first visit with Mikey, I told him I didn’t want to pound dirt into tires in my retirement years. He said, “Why not use tire bales instead? You can stack them like bricks and have walls up in about a week.” That sold us! From that point, we changed our house plans to make it a tire bale house and Mikey drew up the plans for us. While Mikey is not an architect, he is a former Aeronautical engineer. Plus he referred us to a Professional Engineer (P.E.) who reviewed our plans and signed off on them. Having both engineers behind us, and being engineers ourselves (we’re both software engineers), plus having a contractor (for the first 6 months) and later on a building consultant is what helped us gain Grand County Build Department approval of our tire bale house. Having some creative craftsmen (carpenters, electrician, etc.) also helped. Anytime there was a question from the County, our P.E. Leonard Jones answered their concern. If our contractor or building consultant or even us had questions, Leonard or Mikey answered–yes we had to pay for that council, but it was worth it.
      So, there is a whole wealth of knowledge wrapped up in a few people that are WELL WORTH what we paid them.
      Believe me…..we have a structure that will last for centuries…and it is because we took great pain to ensure things were done right. OK, that doesn’t mean things are perfect. There are always lessons to be learned and mistakes to be made (ours is the first completed tire bale house), which I won’t go into here. I will say this….for the few thousand dollars we paid Mikey, Leonard, our building consultant, it was well worth it. Now, would I advise using an architect and spending thousands of dollars on one person….I don’t think so. I do NOT mean to say that everyone doing a project like ours should or should not use an architect. There are many architects out there with years of experience in building “unique” homes and they are certainly worth the money they get paid for the knowledge that they have learned–Michael Reynolds, founder of Earthships is a great example. There is no way that average, busy John Q.Public can possibly know what it has taken Reynolds or any other architect years to learn.
      Our building consultant had been building houses for over 8 years but he had never built a house like ours before. However, he did use a lot of his knowledge of building codes, carpentry, structural engineering, electrical and plumbing, safety and process to help us get our structure completed so it passed all inspections and made us happy.
      I hope that all of what I have said helps you to make an informed decision about plans.
      Now, as for framing. The tire bale walls are approximately 7.5 feet high on 3 sides of our house (each bale is ~5’x5’x2’5″ 2′.5″*3 bales=7.5′). We have double framed walls above the tire bales that actually slope (in the same direction as the hillside)–so the back wall (double framed 2×4) is 54″ tall above the tire bale wall (including sil), the side walls are 54″ tall at the back joiner but are about 18″ at the front joiner. (Yes, our roof slopes down (14×1 pitch) toward the front or south side of the house.) The entire south wall (front) is double framed (2×6) and the majority of the windows are in this wall. The south wall also sits on top of a bed of a single layer of tire bales, however, there is a bond beam and regular sil on top of the tire bales for this wall.
      There are a couple of reasons to use tire bales for the walls, but you don’t have to use the method we used.
      Tire bales, as they sit in our walls, form a thermal mass–just like the surrounding hillside. (Google can give you a good definition for “thermal mass”. ) There is, however, a house in southern Colorado ( I think Mikey designed it too) that uses post and steel beam construction but tire bales as the insulation of the walls. This is another way to use tire bales in a home structure. The exterior of both theirs and our house is stucco. If we lived in New Mexico, we would have used Adobe for the exterior due to its insulative properties. Depending on where you choose to build your structure, you are going to want to take advantage of the knowledge of a “green” or “natural” builder for that area. They should be most familiar with the materials that will hold up to the environment in your region–remember you want green and sustainable (long lasting).
      Use caution when choosing a builder. I watch Mike Holmes on HGTV. Mike talks a LOT about doing things right and how to choose a good builder. Heed his words and guard your bank account carefully–no one gets any money until you’re happy.

      OK, some resources to get you started. These places have great references and can be of great inspiration as you begin planning.
      Natural Home magazine (great inspiration, great references, etc.)
      Mother Earth News (they have plans for all kinds of great homes) (Kelly Hart has some great advice) (don’t overlook a different building method, find one that will ultimately have the look you will feel most comfortable in) I like this site. Looks like fun people who know about natural building and other good stuff. A reference from them to

      Review our site and our blog for other good sources.
      Take care and good luck with your dream structure.

    • October 6, 2010 6:34 pm

      So Chris have you found what you were looking for yet…plans for homes or homes already built that you can alter?

  5. Mike permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:01 pm

    I’m trying to find the infrared images on your website:
    I must be staring at them but can’t find them. Can you direct me where to click to get to the pics from your main webpage?

    • October 20, 2011 2:52 am

      Did you find those infra-red images of our home yet?
      If not, ping me here and I’ll send you a pdf file.

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