“What the hell. Is this normal to you?” Anthony Goins is a career builder with all the skills he needs to create a fine house. He also has tires. A lot of tires.
Here is a quote from George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and social reformer: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Here is a quote from Anthony Goins, a Dade County builder and environmentalist: “I can only imagine what my dumb ass is going to take on tomorrow.”
Let’s be clear: Anthony Goins is not dumb. Behind his long face and mirror shades he has the kind of quick, mercurial smarts that can produce a building plan and a string of one-liners within a second or two, then offer you a beer before you’ve finished getting the joke.
Nor, for that matter, is he unreasonable, though he expects some accusations along that line. “I’ll get made fun of a lot,” he predicted.
Which doesn’t bother him one bit, because he’s the progressive kind of guy Mr. Shaw was talking about, eccentric or independent or possibly both, who calls the shots in his own life without reference to what the neighbors think.
Which is just as well, because Anthony Goins is fixin’ to do something that has never been done on Sand Mountain before: Build a house from used tires. And if that’s not progress, what is?
Here’s another quote from Anthony Goins: “I usually build odd things.”
Such as? inquired The Planet.
“This is odd,” said Goins. “What the hell. Is this normal to you?”
The this he referred to was an estimated 500 tires in various shapes, sizes and conditions of repair, the first step toward the new abode that Goins has vowed to build at an unspecified location on one of his Dade County properties.
Here is how it all started:
Anthony Goins is a builder. He can’t seem to help it. “I’ve always enjoyed building since I was super-young and smelled a two-by-four getting cut from my dad building our house,” he said. At 42, he’s worked in Idaho building log cabins and in Trenton renovating old houses, and has built several houses from the ground up.
Somewhere along in there he completed his degree to be a registered nurse, worked a couple of years in nursing—“Worst job I ever had, hands down”—qualified as a massage therapist, did that another couple of years and didn’t like it much more. “I’ve got this and I’ve got that, multiple pieces of paper, and I still keep coming back to construction,” he said. So in the end he accepted building as his fate, and right now he’s working on four or five renovation projects around the county as a day job.
Meanwhile, Goins is also an eco-enthusiast who recycles and repurposes and wants to save the earth. “I’ve just always believed in taking care of it,” he said. “This is what we’ve been given.”
One day, watching a nature program on television, Goins saw a show about “Earthships,” the self-sufficient, energy-efficient, eco-friendly homes people have begun building out in the western deserts. They use beer cans and Coke bottles and hay bales as construction materials. They also use old tires.
“I saw that one show and it just intrigued me, and I’ve wanted to do it ever since,” he said.
So when a neighbor bought property that was littered with piles of used tires, Goins said sure, bring ‘em on. He lives on about 16 acres atop Sand Mountain, and he staged the tires in an area he’d cleared not far from his home.
Then, while working on one of his renovation houses in Trenton, Goins saw “Your Dade Helper” John Huffman (left) mowing the lawn of a nearby home. Goins didn’t have a lawnmower at the worksite and offered to pay Huffman to cut the lawn of the house he was working on.
Huffman explained his YDH mission: A retired Navy man who is good at a variety of tasks, he is spending his retirement as a volunteer Mr. Fixit, doing anything anyone needs done from computer repair to yardwork. He does this for free or for whatever the helpee insists on giving him toward gas or future YDH projects.
As such, Huffman gets asked to haul away a surprising number of tires. Also as such, he has spearheaded efforts to bring a “tire amnesty day” to Dade, a grant-financed day on which the county transfer station accepts tires for free. The county is now promising such a day but has not yet set a date, and in any case when the amnesty does finally come to pass it is not expected to cure Dade’s tire problem: a limit has already been set of 20 tires per household. So Huffman spends a lot of time thinking about tires.
So does Goins, and when he and Huffman got to talking, the subject naturally arose. Result: Huffman soon had another big YDH project and as for Goins: “I have a lot of tires,” he understated, flapping a hand at the piles and piles of black rubber.
Among the aforementioned variety of tasks that John Huffman is good at is Facebook communication, and he posted a description of Goins’ plan. Result: Yet more truckloads of tires, and interest from the Local Press. Goins agreed to an interview when The Planet called but pointed out he’s not ready to start construction by a long shot.
“Right now I’m just sorting the tires out shape by shape so that I can stand back and see what size they are,” said Goins.
What he’s learned so far is that not all old tires are created equal. But it’s not the bald ones that are bad, he explained; it’s the ones that, off the rim, close up so they can’t feasibly be filled and sealed. (See photo below.) That, said Goins, is the basic construction method he observed on his nature show:
“They were packing the tires full of dirt, trying to get all the air pockets out, using a three-pound sledge, just packing it, packing it, packing it, so that it would be super-insulated,” he said. “Then they would stagger them back and forth, make them a wall, and fill it all up with more dirt.”
The result, said Goins, is stable, solid, soundproof walls, the basic components of an Earthship house.
Goins was quick to add that he’s no expert on building tire houses just yet—“I do not really know the process”—and that he hadn’t even chosen a design: The photo posted by Huffman on FB (below) was just an example of a tire house he’d found on the internet. “That is a square and that’s going to be the most simple, but with tires you can make circles,” he said.
He’s thinking of making shingles for his house with tire rubber but has no clue yet whether that’s feasible. He’s also still up in the air about a foundation. “That is what I’m going to be figuring out, what will drain well and what I can cap it with,” said Goins. “I don’t know if I’ll go with epoxy mixed with tire rubber, smooth that down, or just go with plain-Jane concrete.”
But he read somewhere that children’s playground flooring had been made out of old tires, so why not his? “I always like to see if my ideas work,” said Goins. “If they work, that’s great; if not, let’s back up and punt.”
And that’s pretty much where matters stand now. It’s good weather for it, with air cool, sun warm and mosquitoes low, so Goins has been trying to get home from work an hour or two earlier on weekday afternoons to sort through his tires and consider his possibilities. He’ll organize and plan through the winner and—maybe—begin building in the spring.
“I can’t promise a date, but I know I’ll be working my tail off intermittently on it,” said Goins.
His immediate goal with the house is to move into it with his long-suffering wife, Jessica, who Goins says has put up with him faithfully through his career changes and five-projects-at-a-time working habits. “She doesn’t know what the hell I’m going to do tomorrow,” said Goins.
He doesn’t know if he wants, after the first tire house is built, to build any more for others. “We’ll see what it costs, or how long it takes,” he said. “I mean, I have no idea.”
Goins promised to share periodic updates of his tire house after he begins construction. The Planet will duly pass any such on to its readers.
Meanwhile, Goins is grateful to Huffman for bringing him all the tires but has told him enough is enough for right now, and The Planet will repeat that moratorium for the sake of readers who might also have a few truckloads to spare.
“I have a lot of tires,” repeated Goins. “I need to get this figured out before I take any more.”