Car Tyre Foundations

car tyre building foundations

car tyre building foundations


Last week I worked on the foundations for the new straw bale building at Preivale Woods. This building is for the Selbourne Society who manage the woods as a nature reserve. It was on an educational course run by Strawworks.

‘Using car tyres for a foundation? Sounds a bit crazy!’ said my mate down the pub. Well, not really.
Consider the use of gabions as a building material. 

These steel baskets filled with rock are load bearing. And are becoming increasingly popular to build with. I noticed that they were used extensively in the construction of the Olympic village in East London.

Well, now think that the weak point in the gabion, the steel that can corrode, is also present in a car tyre. But in the car tyre it’s encased in waterproof rubber. Add to that, the life expectancy of a car tyre is 30,000 years (provided you keep them out of UV light). That makes a long lasting foundation! If that wasn’t enough, they cost garages money to dispose of, which means we can have them delivered to us for free.

Using a car tyre, filled with gravel also eliminates the need to use a plastic damp proof course on top of your foundation. Neither gravel, nor rubber absorb water. The damp proof course is a hangover from concrete foundations – concrete foundations will absorb water, and transfer it to your building. Design your foundation using materials that don’t wick water means no DPC needed!

You may have seen earthships being built from car tyres.

This doesn’t appeal to me, my focus as a builder is to create homes that are healthy to live in, as well as healthy to the earth. I don’t believe that having car tyres in your house will benefit the air quality. They are made from pretty nasty chemicals. But, using them outside the envelope of your home, in the foundations, seems to me like a reasonable option.

 So, how do we make car tyre foundations?

Here is Jan showing us how it’s done.

making foundations for buildings using car tyres
We place our tyre on the stack. If this is your first tyre, make sure it is level and that you have allowed enough depth for your tyres, including tyre expansion.
making foundations for buildings using car tyres
Place a small amount of pea shingle in the tyre and fill under the rim.
making foundations for buildings using car tyres
Now add more gravel and begin to push the gravel out to fill all gaps
making foundations for buildings using car tyres
keep filling
making foundations for buildings using car tyres
When getting near the top, we found it best to get in with your feet. Using your toes to force the gravel under the tyre rim. This also compacts the gravel down to ensure a full tyre.
making foundations for buildings using car tyres
Now comes the physical bit. Using a stick, pry up the rim of the tyre and force gravel under. Sometimes, depending on the tyre, you just need to go around the rim once and the tyre will be rock solid… sometimes we went round 2 or 3 times to get it filled. Different tyres will expand more and will need more stuffing.
Car tyre foundations
And we are done!
Car tyre foundations
You will need some of this….


Car tyre foundations
Lots of this…
car tyre foundations water level
And maybe even a water level, to check your heights.

Going on top of the foundation is a wooden box beam. if there are any discrepancies on the heights of the foundations, we will be using slate to raise the box beam to level.

The foundations are great fun to make. As with most natural building, it is more labour intensive than modern construction. The trade-off is that it’s something you can do yourself, for very little money.



Earthen plaster on drywall

In the home we are building with community rebuilds, we have to use drywall to provide the sheer strength in the building.

Because it’s a manufactured product and can be reproduced to the same tolerance every time, it can be tested and rated for the sheer strength it provides. While an earthen plaster over lathe also provides sheer strength, no two earthen plasters are the same and as such you can’t be sure what it’s strength will be. (just one of the challenges that commercial natural building faces) Continue reading

Alnwick Treehouse

“The enormous and beautifully crafted Treehouse is built from sustainably sourced Canadian cedar, Scandinavian redwood and English and Scots pine. It sits high in the treetops in a copse of mature lime trees and looks as if it’s been there forever.

There are walkways in the sky and wobbly rope bridges for bouncing on, all accessible by wheelchair and buggy. On the Treehouse’s deck there’s the Roost, one of The Garden’s education rooms, which shows films and hosts activities at certain times of the year.

At the heart of the Treehouse is one of the most beautiful and unique restaurants to be found anywhere in the world. There’s a roaring log fire in the centre of the room, trees growing through the floor, handcrafted furniture and screens created from fallen branches. Most importantly, the locally-inspired food is delicious.”

Alnwick Treehouse was designed, and the build managed, by Napper Architects of Newcastle in 2004. Concept drawings were produced by the now-out-of-business The Treehouse Company (then Peartree Treehouses) and the build itself was carried out by Sir Robert McAlpine.

For more info see their website


Ianto Evans from Cob Cottage Company

I just stumbled across ‘dirt between lightbulbs’ – a couple of guys traveling across the states making short films about sustainable living and natural building. It’s a shame I didn’t find them earlier as they could have stopped by while they were in Moab, Utah!

“Our mission is to meet interesting luminaries – those visionaries who lead the way in sustainable living, who have etched out a way of life that brings joy to their soul. We hope to meet wise men and women who live sustainably in houses made from affordable materials – such as mud, straw, earth bags, old tyres and retired shipping containers.

Some homes will be rectangular, some geodesic, and others might resemble a bee hive – but they all have something to teach us about how we can live with nature. They might generate their own electricity, capture their own water, and/or grow their own food supply – but they will most definitely have interesting stories and philosophies to share.”
They recorded this interesting interview with Ianto Evans from Cob Cottage Company.



Ianto cob cottages from dirtbetweenlightbulbs on Vimeo.

It looks like they will be bringing new videos from their travels soon, so check out the website:

Community Rebuilds Straw Bale house update

It’s been a hectic few weeks since the last house update, big changes have happened.
As well, we have been very busy with extra curricular activities that I will endeavor to update you this week!

The exterior plaster coat (scratched to allow the next layer of plaster, lime this time, to key into the first layer) dried up nicely, with only a few, acceptable, cracks.

We framed the interior walls, this really changed how we view and use the space. no longer is it one large room.

On the outside of the house, we applied a lime plaster. Kelly Ray Mathews came to share his expert knowledge, a large amount of sass and occasional epic laughs. We are using lime on the outside as it is a much tougher material than earth. It will stand up to more physical abuse while still staying moisture permeable. This is essential when using strawbales so that any trapped moisture in the bales will escape and not cause rot. We flew around the building in a record breaking single day!

Some of our walls are lathe and plaster, while others provide sheer strength to the building, so must be drywall. The lathe took a long time and nearly drove Dorte insane. The gaps between the lathe provide a space to push the mud into, this creates a tight fit and holds the plaster to the wall.

Drywall was screwed to the sheer walls and the ceiling. It was incredible that a wall the same size, took a few hours to lathe and 10 minutes to drywall. We want to use as little drywall as possible, it is a manufactured product made from gypsum that takes quite a lot of energy to produce. The lathe was beetle kill pine.
I thought the room would feel much smaller when we put the ceiling drywall up, but it wasn’t the case. I think because it’s white it bounces a lot of light around giving the feeling of a larger space.

The seams were taped, then mudded over to make the ceailing one whole piece. we spent a long time making sure there were no sharp joins that would be visible to the eye.

Next in was windows! Our house has eyes, or glasses now perhaps?
Our shiney new windows arrived and were installed in a day. We had a long discussion on the pros and cons of U value (insulation) verses E value (Emmitance – how much light comes through). When shopping for windows on a budget, we have to balance many options for the best possible result, having higher insulating windows usually wont let as much sunlight through. Meaning that while they won’t lose heat so quickly, they also don’t allow as much solar gain to be collected from the abundant sun.

Work continues on the house at a blistering pace, we have our schedule set for the next month and there isn’t much time to spare.
It’s an exciting month though, many changes to bring the nearly complete house into a liveable home!

Bamboo heaven

More from Green Village.

BALI, Indonesia (February 14, 2010) – Set within a river valley landscape along Bali’s sacred Ayung River, a master-planned community located within walking distance to the Green School is being designed and constructed based on the architectural concepts of sustainable principles and artisan craftsmanship that helped create the world famous campus.
According to Elora Hardy, CEO and lead designer for the Bali-based bamboo design and construction company honored as a finalist of the 2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, “Even sustainable timber can’t begin to compare with bamboo as a conscientious building material. With very few resources or attention a bamboo shoot can become a structural column within three years, and that house could stand strong for a lifetime.”
Born in Bali and educated in the U.S., Hardy honed her design skills as sole print designer for fashion icon, Donna Karan, in New York City before moving back home in 2010.
“We are committed to changing people’s perspective on the infinite potential of bamboo,” she says. “Creating spaces where people can feel connected to nature without disrupting it is a thrilling design challenge for me.”
Located twenty-five minutes to Bali’s cultural center of Ubud, 35 minutes to Bali’s surfing beaches and within walking distance to the Green School campus, currently home to 280 day and boarding students, the Green Village community has attracted homeowners from all over the world including South America, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia as well as prominent visitors including entrepreneur, Richard Branson, and former Prime Minister of England, Tony Blair’s family.
Claire Burgess, a New Zealand native who is based in Vietnam as Regional Director of a Swiss-based corporation, says she found Green Village while in the market for a property in Ubud. “I fell in love with Green School and the concept of living in a home totally made out of bamboo.”
Burgess customized her villa with design accents and finishes created by Elora and her team including naturally black bamboo flooring, hand hammered copper bath fixtures, custom pieces from Ibuku’s home furnishings line and a lagoon shaped plunge pool set against the backdrop of the coconut grove and river below.
“Our homes are designed and built without disturbing the natural integrity of the land, therefore each home is truly unique. Our homeowners enjoy a global environment within a culturally rich Balinese community with access to world-class amenities including home delivery of some of the best organic products available on the planet from Big Tree Farms, owned by a Green School family, as well as events including  the Ubud Readers & Writers Festival and restaurants like Mozaic; one of Southeast Asia’s most notable culinary destinations.”
“Our view on being green comes out of being logical, doing no harm and being conscientious,” says Hardy. “By utilizing sustainable materials and artisan craftsmanship mixed with social responsibility, we have created a unique development concept.
A percentage of every villa sold is contributed to Green School’s Balinese Student Scholarship Fund that has already provided 15% of our current student body with a tuition free education. ”
Full info is available here

The Poosh!


Get yourself registered on this site, find a sustainable build to join or add one to get some excited volunteers!
I will definitely be adding my future projects on here.


“ is the unique hospitality site for virtually anyone, anywhere in the world wishing to participate in or start their own sustainable self-build project.” links people. There are two types of membership available, POOSHers (volunteers) and build project hosts, who can communicate via internal messaging system. operates without borders. has created a global database of sustainable self-build projects and volunteers. The intention is to encourage its members to share more sustainable ways of building and living. is an exchange. In return for volunteer help, self-build project hosts are encouraged to offer food, accommodation and opportunities to share sustainable self-build techniques.

Cae Mabon, Snowdonia, Wales

I have been researching eco villages, co housing and transition towns in my homeland. I shall be posting the interesting ones here. If you have any suggestions of places to feature, please contact me!

 “Cae Mabon nestles at the foot of Elidir Fawr in an oak forest clearing by a little river that cascades down to the nearby lake. The summit of Snowdon lies just five miles to the southwest as the crow flies.

At the heart of Cae Mabon is a thatched Celtic Roundhouse. With a fire in its hearth and smoke rising from the thatch it’s been the home of many convivial evenings of song, story and chat. Continue reading

Community Rebuilds – Bales!

I just posted this over on the Community Rebuilds site.- It’s been a fun and exciting week!


This week we finally did what we all came here for, we installed the straw bale walls!

The process was fairly straight forward…

  1. Square up the bales using a mallet, body weight, or a chainsaw
  2. Using a chainsaw remove any sections of the bale that need to fit round framing
  3. Install bale
  4. Compact bales down and flush with outside framing (this means ‘hit it’)

This video shows the first 2 days of bale install condensed down to just over a minute!

Community Rebuilds – Straw Bale Installation from Jeffrey Hart on Vimeo.

The next two days were spent wedging bales into the top gaps, hanging bales over the windows, straightening the walls, meshing then stuffing above the doors and finally stuffing the cracks in the bales with light straw clay (straw coated in wet clay).
This final step means that it will be easier to plaster as we have a flatter more uniform surface.

Working with straw bales is a bit of a journey.
At first they are fantastic giant building blocks, you get to play with chainsaws (always fun) and progress is fast.
Then you get down and dirty with the details. Every space you want to fill involves restringing a bale, cutting a notch from it, cutting the string by accident, a 3 minute four-letter-word-fest, bale repair, then making yourself feel better by beating the bale into submission with a monster wooden mallet named ‘Woody’.
By the end of the week, you are tired, covered in mud from the light straw clay… and people point and laugh at you in the grocery store, when you go to pay and dump a pocket full of straw shavings onto the checkout.

But with all that safely behind you… Oh my goodness it feels good!
We have walls and insulation in the house. All done in a week!

Judging by the amount of people that stop by to see what is happening we are not the only ones excited by this building technique. Today alone I spoke to 3 separate visitors all of whom were looking for tips and ideas for their own straw bale build!

So now, we are ready for the base coat of earthen plaster…. after we get back from the International Straw Balers’ Conference!
(Doing a happy dance)

Just a few more bales to go
The window headers
For now the building is a no smoking zone, once the bales are sealed in plaster you can smoke like a chimney, if you want.
Julia straightens the walls, Thor style
Ta Da!
The triumphant team… can you spot ‘Woody 2′ ?