Tire Tank Installation

Tire tanks are one of the easiest tanks to seal and install, and yet there is tons of bad information and advice out there, much of it from people educated beyond their abilities at universities and government agencies. A prime example of this is the University of Kentucky Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Kentucky Beef Network and the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association. They have changed their installation recommendations multiple times from one failed method to the next, to the the current point where they tell people to fill the tank half full with an entire pallet of concrete...and then they wonder why they freeze!? The problem is that they teach others these moronic ideas that don't work. If you have considered using their advice, run the opposite direction!

We've been installing tire water tanks successfully in a variety of climates for 40 years. If you follow our simple instructions without deviation, you will have success too. There are lots of other compatible installation plans out there, mostly from western US states' NRCS programs who have decades of experience. States like Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas all have decent plans.

Before we get started, I've learned over the years that not everyone knows tire jargon, and specifically one term we use a lot: the bead. The bead of the tire is the inside edge of the tire that the wheel seals against. It is the edge of the donut hole, if you will. In a classic tire tank, this is what the concrete seals to. 


Water line installation: When you install your water line, obviously it needs to be buried below frost. You want to be sure to consider historical frost, keeping in mind winters in the 40's and 70's were quite a bit colder for many areas, and they may well be again. It doesn't matter a whole lot what material you use for your water line, PEX or PVC both work well. However, it is essential that you transition to a stainless steel or heavy brass pipe nipple for the entire thickness of the concrete! PVC can break off in the concrete. PEX allows too much flex in the pipe for many float valves to function properly. Galvanized pipe can react with concrete and corrode quickly. If you don't use stainless or brass, you will regret it. The top of the pipe nipple should extend 3"-4" above the tire bead or the top of your concrete, whichever is lower. If your concrete is lower than the bead (this is fine, as long as it is 4"-6" thick), you need to make sure there is enough space for your valve arm to function.

Water Supply Pipe placement: It is instinct to put the water supply pipe dead center in the tire. This is fine if you are using a valve that doesn't really have an extended arm, or if you are using a larger (10'+) diameter tank. However, if you are using a float valve with a longer arm, like the Best Float Valve that we recommend, offset your pipe closer to the edge of the bead, so that your float will be more in the center of the tank, and more out of reach of livestock wanting to play with it.

Shut-off valve placement: It is always good to have a shut-off valve in your water supply line to each tank. It is easiest to install it inside the tank below the float valve. However, we do not recommend this for a couple of reasons. First, in most tanks that puts your float valve up way too high, making it more prone to freeze and making it more accessible to livestock to mess with. Second, you really want to be able to shut off the water before it gets into your tank, especially in colder climates. We recommend installing a gate valve away from the heavy use area, on your supply line below frost. A plastic tile can be placed over it and capped, so that you have easy access with a notched pipe to turn it on and off.

Earth tube installation: An earth tube, or geothermal tube, is an easy way to passively heat your tank in colder climates. Burying a solid tile or culvert vertically from below frost up to just below the bottom of the tire bead will creates a dead air space that allows the earth's heat to rise and warm the concrete plug and your water. Your water supply and overflow pipe can also come through the earth tube, although they don't have to. You do want the top of the tube to be above ground level slightly, or up to the bottom of your concrete plug, whichever is higher. A thin piece of galvanized steel, copper, tin or aluminum should be used to cover the tube while the concrete sets. Plywood can be used, but since it doesn't conduct heat, it is not recommended. 


Overflow/drain pipe: If you have a place to run an overflow or drain pipe, like a ditch away from the tank or a drain tile, we always recommend doing so. This will prevent potential messes if a valve malfunctions, and it gives you flexibility to clean and drain tanks easily. I always use PVC for the standpipe, and I prefer 3" pipe to help prevent clogging. I install a sleeve or slip joint level with the concrete so that I can easily pull out the standpipe and drain the tank. Of course, this only will drain down to the concrete level and not the bottom of the trough. If you don't want to bail the bottom with a bucket, you can install a "T" fitting at the concrete level. The vertical outlet is for your overflow standpipe. The horizontal outlet allows you to run a pipe with a gate valve over to the deepest part of the trough and elbow it down to within about 1/2" from the bottom. If you cover the overflow standpipe and open the gate valve, you will create a siphon that will drain virtually the entire tank.

Preparing the pad: The first task is to make sure that when you install your water line (and overflow), compact the backfill soil where the tank will be. This will prevent settling or washing out of the tank foundation. Many people will install an aggregate heavy use pad under the tank. This is a great idea to do around the tank, but it is unnecessary to do under the tank, and in fact might allow cold air infiltration. If your tank is taller than you prefer, just putting a pad around it is a great way to compensate. On the other hand, if your tank is close to being too short, you'll want to avoid making it shorter by only installing aggregate around it. If you do put aggregate under the tank, make sure there are enough "fines" to fill in between the larger aggregate. Dense grade, crusher run, or crushed road base (our favorite) make good materials for your pad. Only using larger stone without fines creates voids that can cause you problems with settling.

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If you need further assistance while we finish this webpage,

call us at 800-365-5850

Placing the tank: 

Sealing the tank: 

Protecting the tank: 

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