Five Uses For Old Tires Around Your Retreat

by M.D. Creekmore on February 28, 2011 · 55 comments

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, drivers in the United States generate nearly 300 million used tires each year. I think you would agree letting such a mountain of a resource go to waste would be a bad thing and since I love using “free stuff” around the retreat, I’ve been brainstorming ideas on how I can put them to use around my place.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve come up with…

1. Old tires work great for building cheap raised be gardens – I posted about this several years ago here and here. Aside from my posts on using old tires in the garden Charles Sanders has an excellent post over at Backwoods Home Magazine and here is another one by Kurt Saxon.

2. Old tires work great for building a bullet proof wall – all you have to do is fill each tire with earth as you stack them into a wall. This type of wall will stop anything that you’re likely to face, and it costs very little of nothing if you have a source of free tires and earth.

Start by filling the tires with dirt and compacting with a sledgehammer. This process is refered to as “pounding the tires”  a 15-in. tire will take nearly 300 lbs of earth and a lot of work and sweat to fill. The wall is built using staggered courses, just like a block wall to make all hold together without falling over without having to use mortar or reinforcing steel.

For a wealth of info about building with tires I suggest you get a copy of Earthship Volume 1, How to Build Your Own. I would like to have my trailer surrounded with this type of wall, leaving space for the door and windows of course.

3. Build a “goat gym” if you keep goats you know how funny and playful they are – bury a large truck tire perpendicular and half way into the dirt in your goat lot and watch them jump on, crawl through, headbutt and rub themselves in all kinds of strange and funny ways.

4. Old tires are also great for keeping livestock feed buckets upright. I have a billy-goat that loves to push and paw his feed bucket over, dumping his feed on the ground wasting a large part of it. My solution was to use a 13 inch car tire that fits his bucket snuggly and place his bucket in the center opening of the tire. Problem solved.

5. You can build a great composter using old tires. Start by using a jig saw or sharp knife to cut out both side-walls around the tread of four to six tires that are the same size. Find a level spot put the first tire down on the ground and cover the bottom with 4 to six inches of sawdust or hay and star adding your composting material and cover with a layer of sawdust, hay or both.

When the first tire is full put anther one on top and repeat untill all the tires are full. Now let it stand for at least two months, now remove the top tire and lay it beside the stack, shovel what was in that tire off the top and into the tire that is now on the ground, add the next tire and repeat.

After you have finished turning your compost let it stand for one year or more before adding it to your garden.

I’m sure you have other ideas for using old tires around the retreat – please feel free to share those with use in the comments below…

54 comments

David February 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Splitting Wood With A Tire
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRuk_jd1f8M

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm

David, the title of the video was a little misleading, but the tire on the chopping block is a great idea. I wondered why he kept calling his splitting maul an axe, but maybe there is no distinction made between the two tools in Nova Scotia? Anyhow, thanks for posting the video.

David February 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I just used the title from YouTube :)

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I wasn’t faulting you, just making an observation.

GardenMom March 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

LintPicker – Thanks so much for your previous post about your binder. I really appreciate your help. I had one small notebook for my food inventory, but now I have a new project :)

BadVooDooDaddy February 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Excellent post M.D. Both the raised bed idea and the pounded earth idea are great. Being able to reuse something that is discarded is a great way to recycle.

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Very timely topic for me, MD. I plan to get a new set of tires for my BOV whenever my tax refund arrives. Maybe I should keep the old tires for some practical use around the old homestead – aka, the city lot.

People around here make houses and cabins with old tires. They fill the tires with dirt as MD described and build them up until they have a wall of standard height. I guess they must put up some type of sheetrock or masonry on the inside to make them look less like tires, I don’t know. The insulation factor is supposed to be off the charts.

Old Tire Catfish Trap: In my younger years, I’d row my little boat into the lake and then partially submerge several tires upright into the shallow muddy bottom and leave them to stand there. Each tire would have a hank of rope tied to it and that rope would be situated on the top of the tire where it could be grabbed easily. Then I’d come back a couple of months later and haul up each tire by the rope – real fast. Many times a catfish would be sitting inside the tire. Cheap and easy way to catch dinner, and the catfish were always a nice size for frying up. Reposition the tires and do it all over again in another couple of months. That’s the way a country boy lived off the land back in the day. Now I’m sure it’s illegal to put tires in the lake or to catch catfish that way around here.

Tree Protectors: When you’ve got some real young trees and you want to keep the goats or the wildlife from chewing on their trunks, slip some tires over the tree tops and stack them up around the tree trunk until they are up to the first branches. The trunk will get enough air and moisture, but the bark can’t be injured by the animals. Beats putting up wire barricades or tying up the goats.

chemman March 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Re the inside walls of a tire house: they usually make an adobe mixture and cover the tires. It takes awhile but makes for a nice wall. And yes the insulation factor is out of this world. I ran into a person with an Earthship and asked them about it. At the time there was 2 feet of snow on the ground and the temperature was -9 F. They said the inside of the building was 65 F and they only needed to run the wood stove a little to raise the temp to a toasty 70 F

Spook45 February 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

You covered almost all of my ideas. there was only one I didnt see and its one of my favorites. The 3rd world smoke pot!! Lots of smelly black sutty blinding smoke! This is a very useful thing when you are trying to fend off enemies that may have a size or number advantage over you, or if you are trying to extract and escape A bit of fore with a lot of smoke between you and the bad guy makes for great cover on your backside while you run away!

Tomthetinker February 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Spook45: They also used the tire and a ‘necklace’ for the folks they didn’t care for. Tied them up put the tire around their shoulders and lit it off… hard way to go!

Spook45 March 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm

yes, they refer to that as a Columbian necktie. They also fill the hollow of the tire with gas.

Dean in Michigan February 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Unfortunately, smoking tires also let the indigenous population aware of an incoming air assault.

75th Leads The Way…………..!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kyle March 1, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Ok stop typing and go watch more Blackhawk down. Semper FI

GA Mom February 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

The rubber might make a good shoe sole if the shtf – but your feet might develop an odd curve to them – ha-ha.

I live in a neighborhood & can’t even plant a tree without written approval. Looking to change that but couldn’t sell the house if I wanted to (& probably couldn’t rent it either in this crappy economy).

GA Mom February 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Forgot to add to use it as a swing for kids. We always had one when I was growing up.

Tomthetinker February 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm

HOOCHEEs……..

Crrrock March 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm

My brother in law used to work in a milk processing plant. He used tyre treads for re-soleing the wet boots worn in the wet areas. The “wet weather tread” was so much better than the standard boot tread. Made some money on the side, selling them to the workmates. I have about 300 tyres stacked here, ready for wall building. Free for the asking here in Oz.

OhioPrepper February 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm

A variation on #2 is a backstop for a range. Takes a lot less dirt than using just a large pile of dirt with no containment.

M.D. Creekmore February 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm

OhioPrepper,

Great idea.

chemman March 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Nice Idea once I finish the north and partial side walls for a greenhouse out of rammed earth tires I’ll move on the a gun range.

Lint Picker (Northern California) February 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Then there’s this: http://www.touchtheearthranch.com/tirebales.htm
Compressed tire blocks weighing 2,000lbs. No need for rammed earth in this technique.

herbalpagan February 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I use them to plant my invasive herbs in…keeps them from getting into things and spreading too much. I wonder if they would made a good back stop for archery practice?

richard Muszynski March 1, 2011 at 2:07 pm

greetings. hitting the tires with a arrow would soon wreck the arrow. no give to a tire. I use one of the white woven plastic sacks that grains come in. stuff it full of used plastic shopping bags from the stores. keep stuffing them in until you can’t force anymore in and you have one hell of a arrow stopper. I shoot a 80 pound Onida compound with field points and it stops them everytime and doesn’t hurt the arrows. last until you woven plastic bag gets shot up and you transfer the plastic store bags to another one. costs nothing and gets rid of another ecological disaster, the plastic shopping bags.

Bonnie February 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm

We build a retaining wall with old tires. In the hilly area where we lived it gave us more usable yard.

God bless,
Bonnie
Opportunity Farm

Luddite Jean February 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I’d love to do some of these ideas, but Nanny State Britannia doesn’t allow tyre-fitting companies to sell or give away old tyres. EU regulations say that all tyres removed have to be accounted for and turned in for recycling. They get fined if so much as one tyre goes missing.

I tried to get some a couple of years ago, to make a potato stack, and couldn’t get any.

AZGuy March 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

Wow, Jean, that’s crazy! You can’t get an old tire to work with? That’s really sort of scary. It’s funny that what we might accept in one country, would drive people to riot in others. I remember when I lived in Canada, back about 6 years ago, that the price of gas would change at least 3 times a day. I ‘d see it at 86.9 per liter in the morning, then maybe 93.9 at lunch, then maybe 91.9 on the way home, all at the same gas station. It was like a monkey was playing with a keyboard and setting the price. If Americans ever saw the price PER GALLON jump 10 cents in one day, there would be riots, I think.

I can’t imagine the commotion there would be here if the government tried to outlaw owning old tires! People here would be up in arms, which might be something you’d find it hard to imagine in the UK, where arms are so less prevalent.

Government…. seems to suck no matter where you are.
Never stop prepping.

Richard Muszynski March 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Greetings. our gas price here in Maine went up 20 cents yesterday. no sheepies rioting over it here. I doubt if you could get Americans in the streets rioting if you raised it $2 overnight.

AZGuy March 2, 2011 at 10:27 am

The pricing bullsh*t in Canada was happening every day, all the time, for no reason. Now, I guess the sheeple point to the talking heads on TV, murmuring Egypt… baaaaahhd. Liby…. baaaaahd, Yemen…. baaaaaaahhhhd. Ouch, my SUV hurts… baaaaahhhhhh.
My car gets 34 mpg. My problem is that everything I buy has to be transported to a store, and farmers need diesel to run their machinery. I sure hope the garden I planted is productive.

chemman March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I live in Apache County Arizona-technically we are required to get a permit from the county to have tires on the premises. Since I live well off the beaten path I am ignoring that and just getting the tires and using them. Since the local sheriff’s office won’t patrol the area I don’t think any code enforcement critter is going to come out this way.

Crrrock March 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm

CRAZY….. as the tyres wear away on the roads, the talcum sized particles are ok to wash into the environment, but a big chunk of tyre in your yard as a raised garden is environmentally hazardous … ~”Boffin Crap”!!

Gnasher from England March 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Don’t forget L.J we are also charged a fee to dispose of them.

SoDak Prepper February 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

if you got young children you can chop the tires up and lay the “mulch” around the swing-set, it works out pretty well. i have also seen tires used on the reservation to keep roofs from blowing away on junk houses. the uses for junk tires are endless

Dee March 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

I’ve seen tires on roofs in the long desert stretch between Las Vegas and Reno.
My neighbors home has a foot path along his back yard. He put up a tire wall for privacy complete w/rammed earth in the tires. He then covered it w/ chicken wire and stuccoed the wall. It looks great and his privacy is back..

kanprep March 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I would be wary of using tires for play areas for kids, and as a garden – many tires contain cadmium and other nasty chemicals that are generally bad. This is why many former uses of old tires are no longer being done.

Tomthetinker February 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

MD: I’m gonna do tomatos, potatos, onions, and two melons this spring. Got no room except on the brick or pavement! Would ‘two’ high give enough ‘root’ room for the tatos and melons? I was gonna go nuts and get lumber and stuff but heck….. I can get alllllll the tires I need doing this fridays prep loop.

R February 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Stack them 3 or 4 high they make a great potatoe patch, in the fall pull them apart to “dig” the taters. Uses less water too, especially if you put them under a downspout.

farmgal March 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

I’m in zone 5 but these are the numbers that work for me in my area.

I always go two high for melons and tomoto’s but four high for potato’s, one works great for peppers plants.

REB March 1, 2011 at 12:37 am

Tom/All…..Been planting in old tires for years…fill first tire up with earth,plant potatoes or tomatoes then as they grow add more tires …you can go 3-4 on average with taters and a couple with maters.
Large diameter tires work great one high for lettuce and greens (on one high uses I cut the one sidewall out ),they warm up faster and they are indestructable,for the taters just knock them over in the fall and save your dirt for next year,makes picking taters easier,personally Ive used tires for all (except the “necklace idea”,although I think about it when certain politicians show up)the uses folks have mentioned above and a few more, they burn good too!

John March 1, 2011 at 4:43 am

Stacked up to grow potatoes is a good standard one.

If you have a good slope at your shooting range, screw a scrap piece of plywood to the sidewalls and attach a target to that. One of shooting party rolls the tire down the hill and once it reaches a safe distance and angle, you have a moving target for your range session.

Granny Miller March 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Good for growing potatoes and starting brush fires in the rain.
My personal favorite is a swing for the kids :-)

Richard Muszynski March 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm

greetings. here i have used tires to plant in. but we have witch grass here. put the tire on the ground and at the end of the season tip the tire over and it is chock full of witch grass roots. found that if i place the tire on a chunk of tarp so it doesn’t contact the ground then fill it with dirt, no problem. contact with the ground and nothing but witch grass grows in it. you do have to be fussy about watering the tire garden though. dry out very fast because they are so shallow.

chemman March 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Thanks for the tip. I have a similar problem with witch grass.

Richard Muszynski March 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

greetings. here in Maine they charge you $2 to dispose of your old tires when you buy new. but no charge if you take them with you. and another use for old tires is to build retaining walls with them stuffed full of dirt and rocks. simply stagger the layers and lean the pile slightly up hill as you go. they hold very well and cost only time.

Crrrock March 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

@Richard … same here in Oz. $2.00 “removal” fee, because the tyre store has to pay the $2 to the guy hauling away. But when I collected the 300 odd tyres that I have, the tyre store wouldnt pay me the $2/tyre, because I wasn’t a registered recycler. $600 in hand would have been a nice win :(

chemman March 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I made a deal with a local tire gent. I have him haul a load of about 200 tire at a time out to me. I use them for a myriad of purposes. Cost to him is about 2 hours time and 6 bucks in gas. He makes lots of profit on his $2 recycling fee that way.

Elissa March 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm
Lint Picker (Northern California) March 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Yeah, I remember those sandals. Hippies used to wear similar ones during the 1960s & 1970s. They left skid marks on the floors. No, not the sandals – the hippies! ROLAMJ

chemman March 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I’ve mentioned this as one of my preps. I live in an extremely rural North Eastern Arizona area. It gets cold during the winter. Currently I have a 4 season green house I paid lots of dollars for. I am in the process of building 2 green houses of similar size using rammed earth tires for the north wall and 3/4 th of the side walls. I will berm them with earth all the way to the roof. This will work as energy mass for keeping temperatures stable year round. The only cost is my labor, the roof and south facing wall. I expect to bring these green houses on line for about 1/10th the price of the purchased one.

Lint Picker (Northern California) March 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I’ve seen some rural residences with old tractor tires buried about half way into the dirt in front of their property to serve as a sort of fence. I think they would work pretty well to keep vehicles off the place.

SrvivlSally March 3, 2011 at 2:12 am

I really like the “bullet proof wall” idea. Don’t forget that sunshine heats things up and I wonder if tires surrounding a building might make it so warm that it could become suffocatingly hot during the right time of the year. I think that old tires are ideal when used for games. When the electric is out, it’s dark and the guys are really bored, they can play “Nighttime Giant Ring Toss.” They can quickly spray paint the tires with glow-in-the-dark, plant a good painted steel post into the ground, and enjoy. The winner could get a six pack of their favorite drink. For ladies, they can stand tires on their sides, put some styrofoam in the centers with paper targets attached and get together for a shoot out. The winner could win a gallon of low fat frozen yogurt of their favorite choice. There’s even something for kids. Attach several hundred tires together and make them into tunnels going here and there, exiting off into other tunnels, fill them with lots of well packed wet sand and give the kids some padded knee protectors. When finished, sit back while on your porch and watch as the children play hide and seek, chase and whatever else their wonderful little brains can come up with. Tires, stacked two or three high, can be used to hold a few items and sand or dirt can be thrown in until it reaches the top to hide everything. A few stacks of tires can be used to conceal things and made to look like a potting shelf by using a piece of plywood as the shelf, planters and hand tools set on it. All that would be needed is to make sure that whatever is stored in the containers is not going to get “wet” or ruined. Four stacks of tires placed as if they are forming the shape of an invisible square and a canvas or plastic tarp attached to each stack would make for a nicely shaded area out of the sun or quick, rain-stopping carport when the car or truck has to be worked on unexpectedly. Should there be wind, a bit of tying off a few of the side grommets to opposite corner stacks might suffice. If not, paving stones, nicely weighted rocks or additional tires may help to keep the tarp in place. For gardening comfort, a short stack of tires filled with sand and a portable seat cushion placed on top would work great for sitting when you are old or have back problems and need a rest. Tires can be used for creating outdoor areas for showering, relieving yourself, cooking, sleeping and an area with a camouflage tarp can be used for concealment of plastic cache buckets, water and other survival items provided there is ample natural overhead and ground cover. A nice, deep dug out can be lined with weighted tires for all sorts of survival and theft prevention. A few tires should be saved for use as backups in case yours gets a nail in it or the inner threads break. A huge pile of tires can be used as a disguise for an underground space for living and hiding if trouble comes, as long as no one knows about it. Most people just have to hope that someone is not using night vision and might spot them going in and out of their hidden castle. I used to own night vision equipment which had nice sighting distances. Great stuff to have. The rechargeable batteries usally did a pretty good job of holding up and it’s waterproof qualities were great. A stack of tires can be used as a natural water heater. Set in a sunny location they can be lined with a plastic tarp, a second layer of black plastic topping that, the makeshift heater filled with water, short 2×4′s placed around the top and a clear sheet of 6-mil plastic for a cover for times when the sun is only mildly warm or not hot enough to do a good job. The 2×4′s are intended to keep the 6-mill off of heated surfaces which, when very hot, can melt and ruin it. When your house’s roof has a leak and you have to tarp it for a while because you do not have the money to have it worked upon, provided you have a solid roof, the cover can be placed over it and the tires used as weights to keep it in place. Care must be taken when using tires because those portions that are lowest to the ground always take on and hold water which will add more weight and make them very heavy not to mention that stagnant water, especially during warm summer months, may harbor mosquitoes and other insects and could draw some animals such as raccoons, possums and other unwanted’s. The best thing to do is to empty them every few months or once a season until they are no longer needed. For a swimming pool for the kids, stacks of tires can be placed in the shape of circle, their centers filled with sand or another sort of weight, pieces of rebar cut, set and tied around the outer edges of the stacks, the tire-edged pool lined with a good tarp and filled with water and children.

Penny Pincher March 3, 2011 at 2:22 am

A retired real estate investor I know built a dome home in a woodsy rural setting for himself out of old tires, railroad ties, and earth, and covered it with cement. This guy had started out as a janitor and had gotten rich investing in rentals. A real no-nonsense guy. His house was beautiful on the inside. The outside looked like cement with the ends of railroad ties sticking out of it here and there. I think he would just re-tar the railroad ties now and then to keep them from rotting.

One good thing about that kind of construction is I think if anyone tried to demolish it they would eventually give up in despair. Also, if your roof is made of cement, there really is nothing (except making sure it can handle the weight) keeping you from putting sod on top of it and planting stuff on your roof.

You’ll never get a bank to take a mortgage on such a house, but the whole point is not to need one. However if you ever need to sell such a house, you may need to take a mortgage from your buyer (unless they can pay cash), and you probably won’t be able to sell the note, because of the strange collateral.

Keep this in mind too when doing your estate planning. Don’t leave your heirs some house made of tires directly so they each own a fractional share of it and their names are all on the deed. That scenario is enough of a nightmare under normal circumstances but it’s made much worse by the house being made of tires and therefore impossible to finance and hard to sell. I would also assume if you are building with tires that you live in a rural area, and your grown children might not stay in the area, so they’ll be dealing with trying to sell/maintain a hard to sell house that is far from their homes.

Instead, if you have little enough debt that the house doesn’t have to be sold on your death to pay the debt, stick it in a trust, and leave them the beneficial interest in the trust; also include some way to fund taxes, insurance and repairs so they can enjoy it as a retreat and not squabble over who has to pay for that stuff. The proper use of a trust means the house bypasses probate, and keeps your name and your heirs’ names off the deed too, if you like privacy.

To be clear, I’m not a lawyer and so please don’t construe this as “legal advice”. Get a lawyer and figure out what’s best for you.

I have, however, looked up the title of a house that was owned by 30 different people in varying fractions and had gone through 5 dead people’s estates, two men of the heirs had the same exact name and one woman got married and thus went by two different names, one of which was also the same as someone else; and I’ve tried to buy houses that were in estates where the heirs were squabbling. I’ve also as a mortgage loan officer tried to help people get loans on unusual buildings. I know what a mess it can be. The banks won’t touch them. Yuck, right? So if you’re going to have an unusual house, at least try to avoid probate with it.

farmgal March 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

I like the list and thoughts for everyone else, I like my tires in the garden but I also use them as tie outs for my goats, they wear a big old dog collar, and they get a six foot light chain that goes to the tire, and they can eat around the whole tire and if they really want to, they can move it a few feet and its easy enough to move ten feet to the next graze, not all my farm is fenced, and this allows me to use the four footer grazers without having to worry about them doing a walk-about.

I do spend some time with them training them to collar and leash, and being tided out, I would not recommend this with a untrained/wild goat, but works really well for a well trained one. Also do it with sheep sometimes.

bigfootjunior March 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm

There is one thing my kids and I are trying out, with old tires is making shoes, we found a website where they show you how, to cut shape and all.

shellback May 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

I live in NW Utah and built a shoothouse on my property out of earth filled tires. It is a great training area we train with AR’s, AK’s and handguns, bot daytime and at night with our NV gear. The kids love it too. It’s also lots of fun for paintball wars.

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