Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review - Building a Tire Foundation (Blue Rock Station Style)

One of the books we picked up during our recent visit to Blue Rock Station was Building a Tire Foundation (Blue Rock Station Style) by Jay Warmke. I was very interested in this book because I would like to use earth-rammed tires for the foundation of some of the small buildings we have planned. I actually considered ordering the book from the website, but decided it made more sense to just pick it up when we visited, because I knew we would do so eventually.

The book is relatively short, at 36 pages. This doesn't mean, however, that it is short on information. The book provides step by step information for building a tire foundation for a 12' x 8' rectangular structure, although, it should be relatively easy to adjust for various dimensions. Topics covered by the author include site preparation, tire selection, laying out and leveling the tires, filling the tires, construction concrete half-tires for the corners, installing a wooden sill plate, and creating a french drain around the structure.

I learned several things from the book which I expect to really help when I attempt my first tire foundation. The first thing that I learned, which I probably would have done differently, is to lay out the first course of tires, and then make sure each is level, and that they are all level with each other. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, yet I'm not certain I would have thought of it. The next, and probably biggest, thing from the book I think will be helpful is Jay's approach to filling the tires. I always wondered what the best way to pound the dirt into the sides of the tires was. Jay's suggestion is to push the dirt into the sides of the tires by hand. Then, when you begin pounding the dirt in the center of the tire with a sledge hammer, it also compacts the dirt in the sides as well. Lastly, the tips for constructing the corner half-tires were very helpful. This may not be applicable for our buildings, as we are considering round or oval shapes, rather than the traditional rectangle shape, primarily to avoid corners. Knowing how to handle the corners, however, in case we decide to build a rectangular foundation will certainly be helpful.

This book was well worth the cost to me. However, it is very specific and is going to be of little benefit to anyone not planning on building a foundation from earth-rammed tires. Also, I expect that much of the information presented in the book can be found online, although I like having it combined into a single source. I also like knowing that the information comes from first hand experience. I know that Jay has a lot of experience with earth-rammed tires, from the construction of their Earthship home and the many small straw bale buildings constructed on their farm using tire foundations. I have seen the results of Jay's process first-hand and have confidence that it works.

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