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A family builds their dream home, one tire at a time

Julia Botero
The Cronk Earthship is made out of 13,000 used tires and has taken the family five years to build.

Eating locally grown vegetables and driving a hybrid car – these are ways to limit your  carbon footprint. A family in Lorraine, a small town near Adams in Jefferson County, has gone a lot further. They’re building a house made out of old tires and recycled wine bottles.  It’s called an Earthship and there are houses just like it all over the world.

The "Cronkerbar" is a tool Anthony Cronk invented after spending over a year jamming dirt inside old tires. These tires were then stacked like bricks to build the walls of his house. It took 13,000 tires and five years to get here, and it's almost finished.

“Oh man. There’s nothing about this house that ’s easy,” Anthony said.

The house is about the length of two school buses. There’s a porch that wraps around the second story.

“If you were describing to someone on the radio what this looks like, what would you say….The Cronk castle! There you go.  It has a turret. An upper part. South-facing windows. A bermed castle. There we go. With no moat,” Anthony said.

Anthony’s wife Melissa tells me they didn’t set out to build a castle in the woods made out of old tires.

“We had decided we were going to build a log cabin. And he was looking for some sort of furnace to do that with," Melissa said.

Anthony stumbled across a website that described a kind of ultra-efficient house called an Earthship.

“I was like, you can use tires?," Cronk said.

Credit Julia Botero
Anthony Cronk says he hopes to finish building his house by Halloween. The living room ( pictured ) and the floors still need work.

  The house would collect rainwater for drinking and bathing and even have vegetable gardens in the hallway.

“I wasn’t thinking sustainability or being green. I thought ‘that is cool I wanna build that,” Anthony Cronk said.

Melissa’s one stipulation. this house had to have a wrap around porch and a red front door..

“It was within a couple of days that we said lets do this,” Melissa said.

So Anthony drew up a design. That was back in July of 2010.

Today, the Cronks are giving a group of agriculture teachers from schools all over the state a tour. They want to show people how Earthships can make everyday living more sustainable. We walk through what they call the Hobbit door on the side of the house. To our left are floor to ceiling windows angled towards the sky.

“The main reason for using the glass is so that you get the passive solar heat. That’s going to be the primary heat source for the house," Anthony said.

The tires help retain that heat. And in the winter, they slowly release that warmth. There’s a wood stove too.

Carlie Brown teaches at a school near the Finger Lakes. She looks up at the skylights that will help release hot air in the summer and it helps to remind her what’s possible.

“I'd love something like this… but five years, I’ don’t think I can put in that kind of time,” Brown said.

Besides nails and the cement, all the building materials are second-hand.

Some of the windows are from the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown. The foam board insulation came off school roofs. And broken chunks of 7 thousand wine bottles from Tug Hill Vineyards are pressed into cement in the house’s front entrance.  On top of the tower, pieces of glass spell out CRONK.

Six- year old Daphne Cronk and her five year old brother Maddox say they helped.

Credit Julia Botero
Agriculture teachers from around the state helped the Cronks jam dirt into old tires. The tires will be used to build the walls of their house.

“We got to break glass bottles. And then they go Bam! And they break.”

Right now Daphne, Maddox and their baby sister live with their parents down the road. Daphne says their old house looks very different.

“My brother’s room will be like ten times bigger when we move in. And we’re recycling," said Daphne.

Melissa Cronk says because of this house, their family has grown more environmentally aware.

“We would like to see more people do something like this. Maybe not to this magnitude but by maybe growing your own vegetables. How much of an effect can you have on the earth so we don't have this global climate change because we aren't paying attention to what we're doing?" 

The Cronks say they’ve spent close to 125 thousand dollars so far to build their new home. They hope the money they’ll save on their gas and electric bill will pay it back.

Is this their dream home?

“It better be…yes, yes it is," Melissa says.

Anthony and Melissa say the house still needs more work but it has to be down by Halloween to satisfy the bank loan.  The final touch, will the red front door .