How to make rubber shingles out of old tires Green Building Canada

One day I saw a bunch of old tires used as a retaining wall and that got me thinking about what other uses old tires are good for. I had a few thoughts about what to make but I liked the idea of tire shingles the best. The fact that they would be malleable really hooked me. I couldnt wait to get started!

About tires

The fabric of the tire is steel, nylon, aramid fibre, rayon, fibreglass, or polyester combination. The rubber is natural and synthetic (hundreds of polymer types). There are plenty of chemicals such as reinforcing chemicals. anti-degradants, adhesion promoters, curatives and processing aids such as oil. During my research I also found the typical percentages of the (synthetic rubber and natural rubber) rubber mix in various types of tires. Passenger car tires are 55 to 45 per cent, light truck tires are 50 to 50 per cent, race tires are 65 to 35 per cent, and off-highway tires 20 to 80 per cent.

Next I wanted to know what other environmental problems tires cause other than those related to their composition. I hadnt thought about this but it makes perfect sense. I discovered that tires make the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. With all the diseases mosquitoes carry today tires are causing a potential threat to public health  and safety.

Finally, I wanted to know what other methods of tire recycling are out there. I found a company called Rubbur Concepts that uses a compression mould to turn used tires into replica cedar and slate shingles. I also found that old tires are shredded and used in combination with asphalt to pave roads.

Materials for shingles

  1. 36 race car tires
  2. Sharp razor blades

Materials for roof

  1. (3) 3/4 Plywood sheets
  2. (2) 8ft 2×4
  3. Screws
  4. Miscellaneous wood that I had


As you can see these are my clients. The owners of the chickens wanted the run of the coop covered. I discussed my idea with them and they agreed to let me build it. Little did I know.

Trial and error

As with any project there are always mistakes, or learning curves as some might say. So here is where I tell you about what didn’t work (for me). The initial tire concept was based on utilizing radial tires and that changed very quickly. The first tire I tried to cut was, to say the least, very smelly. I tried using a cutting wheel on the end of a drill (spinning at about 30,000RPM) and I found that while it would cut through the bead of the tire and all of the steel belts it wouldn’t cut the rubber, it just melted it. After breathing a cloud of burning rubber and trying it again wearing a breathing mask, I decided that it may not be the most appropriate method.

That particular method took about an hour and a half with only 8 small shingles being produced. The next method I tried was a jigsaw; it didn’t even cut through the rubber. The tire was too flimsy and would shake, so the jigsaw couldn’t cut it if the tire didn’t stay still. I didnt even get one shingle out of that attempt. The last method I used on the radial tires was a hacksaw and let’s just say that it would have taken more than a year to cut the shingles that I needed. I then learned that theres only one part of a radial tire that doesnt have steel belts and thats the side wall between the tread and bead. I did try to use a utility blade (box cutter) and cut just the side wall but it was harder to cut curves and keep them somewhat straight edged.

The method used

After several failed attempts with radial tires, I spoke with a local tire dealer and found that racing tires only have steel belts in the side walls, not in the tread. He happened to have an old tire so I took it home to see what I could do. I drilled a hole in the tread and used a key hole saw to start cutting. It went rather smoothly but it did take two people and still took about 45 minutes to make 12 to 14 shingles. I knew these were the type of tires I needed but I needed a lot of them, it turns out the guy at the local tire dealer knew someone who had a ton of old racing tires. Before I went to the store to buy brand new hole saws, I tried a utility blade (box cutter) (just for laughs actually) and found that it cut through the tire like a hot knife through butter (image 1). This method cut the time down to minutes. After cutting the side walls off, I had a round thin circle of rubber (image 2). Then cut it so it was a long flat sheet about 8” x 80” (image 3).

image 1

image 2

The roof

As mentioned in the Clients/site section, I ended with little did I know. . Well, I didnt think ahead with the weight factor. The run that was already built for the coop was way too flimsy to support these shingles. The shingles averaged 14 lb per 25 shingles and I had 460. Since covering the run was out, the owners and I needed to think of what we could do instead. They had a big enough garden and the chickens already had access to it so we decided to build a semi-portable roof and place it in the garden area. To the right is the sketch for the new roof and it required (2) 8 2x 4 and (3) 4x 8 plywood sheets.

Shingle installation

The typical shingles you see on roofs are installed using tar paper, which helps ensure that water will not leak in. Also standard shingles are usually doubled up on the first row to help keep water out. The shingles were a bit thick (1/4) so I was not able to double up, but I did find that the rubber is very tight against the nail and helps to seal the holes much more so than traditional shingles. In Images 9 and 10 you will see a plastic bag that I stapled down for a little extra protection and the process of installing the shingles. The owners did have some roofing nails but I ran out and had to buy a box to finish the project. I took about 14 hours of labour to nail all of the shingles in and it only took four hours to make them all.

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