Colorado Earthship Build: Day 8 (Tires, packout and concrete)

It was back to the tire grind today, though we decided to stick with the east side wing wall today, instead of the west. It was a really good day too because it was cloudy for the most part, keeping the blazing sun off us.

Having a week under our belts already, we’re becoming a bit more acclimatized to the constant physical labour.

This is what we started with this morning.


A tire wall that was in need of some serious packout. For those who are not familiar with the term, packout refers to filling the gaps between the tires so you can make a smooth wall out of it. Often they use an adobe mud type of mixture for this, but we were using mortar. If you’re going to do packout with a cement based mixture, you’re better off using concrete, as it is cheaper. I’m not really sure why we used mortar, we were just doing what we were told.

(If you’re wondering what the difference between concrete and mortar is, concrete has aggregate – or gravel – in it, mortar does not.)

Anyway, after we were done, the wall looked like this.


Yup, we stuff old aluminum cans in there too, as that saves on concrete/mortar as well. We also had to pour a few more filler blocks, which is what the lath is holding up.

This next picture was taken a bit late, as there are already two courses at the far end where where Helena is pounding dirt into a tire. Those courses weren’t there when we got there in the morning. That was around 11:20 in the morning. You can also see the box that we put on the cooling tube.


Here is Kat showing us her awesomeness.


Here is a closer look at the box that covers the end of the cooling tube. The box is made of Trex, a plastic composite wood – and it weighs a tonne. I know, I had to carry the second one up the hill.


Here you can see our progress. Yeah, we added four courses to that wing all so far. Between this wall and the larger tire wall behind it will be a stairwell that will go up to a patio.


Now we have boxes on both cooling tubes, though the second one sticks out a bit too far. The box is only sitting there, it’s not actually attached yet, which is good because we will be cutting that cooling tube a bit shorter.


This is pretty much where we ended up at our section by the end of the day: we added five courses, including all of that concrete block work, packout and cooling tube boxes. We had a really good productive day and it was very satisfying. I lost count, again, of how many tires I pounded. I did about six in the morning, along with doing the packout. I was digging dirt for a while in the afternoon then went back to pounding tires. I probably finished the day with 8 to 10 tires pounded. It can be difficult to keep track if you come in and finish a tire that someone else started, or someone does that with one you started. It’s all a team effort, so it doesn’t really matter.


Meanwhile, while we were doing our thing, others have been working on other areas. Remember that door frame that Kat helped to build on the second day? Well, they started filling in the bottle work beside it. It’s really nice looking too.


I also mentioned on Saturday that the WoM had been installed. Well, they actually have two WoMs. Here is a closer picture of them.


A WoM, or water organization module, takes the water from the cisterns and filters it for the house. There are several stages of filters of increasing refinement to make sure the water is suitable for washing your dishes and human consumption.

Remember that bond beam (well, several actually) that we talked about a number of times? Well, they filled the central one today just by mixing the concrete by hand. That’s an interesting task because you have to pour the whole thing all at once to make sure it all sets together. Here is the aftermath of that.


They were anxious to get that one done as there is more tire work to be done on top of it. The other bond beam on the back and the footings will be filled by cement trucks with the long boom hose, or so I have been told. These things have a tendency to change.


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