Leveling the First Tire Row for an Earthship

Sighting and Trenching a Level Foundation for the First Row of Tires:

Sighting a level first row of tires at the Michael Reynolds BC Earthship build, image by Monica Holyleveling the first row of tires at Michael Reynolds BC Earthship build

The hole is dug, the dirt is piled off to the side and you are ready to lay down your first course of tires, right? Psych! No not yet. One small but infinitely important step is to ‘sight’ your foundation from the east side wall all the way across to the right side to make sure the ground that you are about to put your course on is level. It would really suck if you started pounding away only to discover there was a foot difference between one end of the building to the other. The sighting tool is called an Optical Level and it allows you to measure the height all the way along the foundation so that you can scrape away and thereby level the trench that the first course will lay in. This must be done before pounding your first tire.

Sighting and leveling the first tire row at the Michael Reynolds BC Earthship build using an optical level, image by Monica HolyOf course if you don’t have an Optical Level (or an automated one such as a Laser), there is a low tech method of figuring out how to make the foundation ‘level’ from one end of the building site to the other called ‘the Egyptian water level’ method’.

Outlining first tire row on foundation at Eco Ark Saskatchewan Earthship build, image by Monica Holy

Thanks go out to Mr. Ed Wishart for showing us ‘kids’ this ancient yet effective means of leveling the site at the Eco Ark Saskatchewan build in 2009.

Egyptian Water level being used at Eco Ark Saskatchewan's Earthship buildEgyptian Water level being used by Nicole Chayka at Eco Ark Saskatchewan's Earthship build

Drive two stakes into the ground at each end. Now unravel a translucent water hose and cap it at one end. Add just enough water to almost fill it from the other end and wait until the water travels through the hose and stabilizes itself. As water will always seek its own level the height of the water mark in the hose is recorded on the wooden stakes at both ends and now you know how far to hill up or scrape down the earth to make the trench for the first row of tires.

Chuck Potter leveling the trench for first tire row at Eco Ark Saskatchewan Earthship build

Low tech – High tech. Whatever gets you there!

Image credits: Monica Holy

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