People often ask us whether it is possible or necessary to get a permit for an alternative building project like ours.

The answer is, it depends!

We did apply for a permit and actually received one… although we did not mention tires or papercrete.

On the application, we said we have a mobile home (we do) and said we wanted to build a metal roof over the top and add two, 6 feet X 55 feet covered additions, supported by ten 4 foot X 4 foot posts, along the sides (which we did).

In reality, we probably did not need to have a permit in the first place since no one from the county came to inspect our work — prior to or after completion.

The county tax assessor does visit us once a year, and, since the onset of our construction, he has been observing our progress, taking a tour of the property, etc., with nary a peep about our alternative building techniques.

Although our papercrete walls are load-bearing, we do not rely on solely on those walls to hold up the roof. We installed 4X4 posts, 8′ apart, along each 55′ wall, all of them embedded inside the 12″ thick papercrete.

And, of course, all of this is situated on top of the tire wall — a structure that consist of massive tire “blocks” (30 inches in diameter by 8 inches high) and more substantial than a traditional block wall (8 inches X 8 inches X 16 inches).

All in all, it strikes us as very strange that there may be structural concerns about tire and papercrete construction — especially considering our mobile home is so shoddily constructed!

The trailer walls are made of 1 X 3’s and are covered with tin on one side and cheap paneling on the other. In between there is a scanty layer of fiberglass insulation. The floors are literally made of particle board which, when wet, dissolves!

It seems really hypocritical for building inspectors to allow a family to live in such a flimsy structure while at the same time denying permits for tire and papercrete construction.

If you are not as fortunate as we are (to live in an area that is not as concerned about building techniques), you will need to follow the building codes for your particular locality.

Keep in mind that you may be able to find creative ways to incorporate alternative methods and materials into your plans in order to obtain a legitimate permit.

For example, if you find a code-approved building technique — like post and beam construction — you may be able to persuade your inspector that the papercrete blocks or slip forms will be used as infill — which is essentially what we did.

Another possible work-around would be to describe the papercrete blocks as adobe or some other construction material that the inspector knows and understands.