Monday, October 17, 2011

Building the Tire & Concrete Movable Volleyball Posts

(c) 2011 by Tom King

Way back at Keene Public School, we used to play volleyball on an uneven dirt and rock basketball court with a net strung between two metal poles stuck into a car tire full of concrete. I think that public schools are prohibited from using anything so practical (or cheap) anymore, but if you look you'll still find a few here and there on church playgrounds or gyms. It's likely some kid turned one on its side and rolled it over his own or someone else's foot. One lawsuit and anything good gets banned. Still, these sturdy volleyball goals are really handy and if the folk using it have a modicum of intelligence and supervise their children, they should be safe enough. They are portable, hold the net tight and can be built out of scrap materials with minimal cost.

  1. Two tires with good tread and no steel wire poking through. (It's worth buying used tires to get good tread. They look better and are safer)
  2. Four to six bags of concrete depending on how big the tires are. (Get extras, you can always take them back or make yourself a small sidewalk or some stepping stones or something)
  3. Two metal pipes or two 4x4 posts, at least 8 feet tall.

  • Six Eyebolts with nuts and lock washers long enough to fit through the metal pipes or eye screws if you're using wooden posts
  • Tools:
    • Hoe
    • Shovel
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Drill
    • Steel drill bit
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Plastic 5 gallon bucket
    • Tape measure

    Step 1
    Lay the tires on the ground.

    Step 2
    Prop the poles or posts upright with the bases of the poles in the exact center of each tire. Tie or brace the poles so they won't move while the concrete is setting or the pole will be loose inside the concrete.

    Step 3
    Mix enough concrete mix in a wheelbarrow to fill up one tire at a time. Make it a little thinner, about the consistency of fresh made pudding so it will flow easily up inside the tire

    Step 4
    Pour concrete into the tires around the base of the poles or posts. I prefer to scoop the concrete into a plastic bucket so I can control the wet concrete more easily.  You have to pour slowly so you don't move the base of the upright out of center and it's hard to control that if you pour directly from the wheelbarrow.  Tires hold a deceptively large amount of concrete, so you may have to keep mixing bags and adding them till the concrete fills the tire to the top rim. Mix quickly so the first pour is still wet when you add more.  Don't run concrete over the top rim of the tire or the dried overflow will break off in thin sheets later and make a mess.

    Step 5
    Let the concrete cure overnight.

    Step 6
    Remove the braces and check out how sturdy the pole is.

    Step 7
    Lay the pole over and mark holes for the eyebolts at 2 feet from the ground (for the bottom tie of the net) and at 7 feet 4 inches for women's volleyball and at 7 feet 11-5/8 inches for men's v-ball. You'll be installing 3 eyebolts or screws for tying the net to. 

    Step 8
    Predrill holes for eyebolts a bit larger than the bolts or a bit smaller than eye screws. If you're using pipes drill all the way through so you can bolt the eyebolt in place. If using wooden posts, drill a hole slightly smaller than the eye screw and a quarter inch or so shallower than the length of the screw.

    Step 9
    Install the eyebolts or eye screws so the eyes are all on the same side of the upright pole or post. 

    Step 10
    Roll the volleyball standards into place on either side of the center of a large flat area 30 feet wide by 60 feet long.  String up the net and you're ready to go.

    Note on Playing Volleyball:
    I always use the women's height for groups of kids or church groups to make it easier to play.  That is, unless it's an all men's group or you have one of those pesky ego-maniac show-offs who thinks it's fun to spike a volleyball into a kid's face to show off his prowess in front of the women-folk. Then, I put the net at full height so they can't spike the ball so easily. Men, even church-going men, are dreadfully competitive.  I've even resorted to using nerf volleyballs and beach balls to reduce the danger to smaller players and to make the game more fun to play.

    Safety Note:
    Here are Marc St. Angelo's
    tire & concrete volleyball poles.

    Thanks for pic, Marc.

    I called these "movable" volleyball posts and not "portable", because, though you can move them around your backyard or playground, I wouldn't want to haul them across town without a really big trailer and possibly a crane.  There is a lot of concrete inside one of those tires and they are extremely heavy.  To move them around, you merely lay them over on their sides, have one person lift the pole end to guide it and another one or two to roll the tire.  Don't let it roll over your foot whatever you do because, as I said, all that concrete is really, really heavy.  It's pretty easy to move them, though and it's obvious how heavy they are so you have to be pretty thick to want to get in front of one when it's rolling.  Don't let small children turn it over or play "pole vault" with it. I can tell you from bitter childhood experience that when the pole starts upward, a lightweight child can get flung a goodly distance when the pole snaps him off the ground. And if he does manage to hang on, he can pull the whole pole over and conk himself on the head.  I was more curious than bright in them days.  Like anything you have around children, you have to watch them and sometimes think for them. It's a bloody miracle some of us ever managed to grow up in one piece at all.


    1. You're welcome. I think everyone should have one or two of these. If you have a small backyard, you can screw hooks into the house and set one of these poles out in the yard to hold the other end of the net. Or you can put screws on your fence or screw a 2x4 extension to one of the fence posts if they aren't tall enough.

      Very useful things, these posts.


    2. Quick question for you before I attempt: how do you keep the concrete from spilling out beneath the tire when you dump it all in if it's slightly wet? Should I do this in the driveway or yard?

    3. You can pour sand in the center so it levels up to the lower edge of the tire. Then pour the concrete into the tire.

      I just let it run through. It comes out the bottom, but that makes a lip on the bottom and adds more weight to the pole. I usually do this on gravel or sand or a bare spot in the yard so as not to damage grass or stick to the driveway.

      Good questions. Thanks,


    4. about How much did it cost you to build these two poles?

      1. The tires were free. The concrete at the time was about $4 a bag and I bought six bags or so. The poles were also scrap someone gave me. The eye bolts an nuts ran around two bucks a piece. This was about 8 years ago, so hardware is likely a bit more expensive. I probably spent $30-35 bucks for everything for both poles.

    5. Thanks for an easy to follow guide. I remembered these from my childhood and its much easier than putting the cement into the ground and then digging it up later.

    6. Tom, I'm so glad you wrote this out. I was looking to do exactly this.

      Any recommendations on volleyball nets that endure the elements best?

      Also, do you add extra support lines from the pole to the ground or does the cement tire provide enough tension for keeping the net tight?


      1. Re volleyball nets. Get one with a steel cable. The best outdoor nets are VERY expensive >$150. I've had good luck with the inexpensive $20 nets.

        I'd further recommend taking the nets down when not in use (at the very least, take them down during the winter months). Clasps, bungees, and carabiners make it easy to remove (knot everybody can tie a knot).

        I personally use guy wires and a ratchet cargo strap to pull my el cheapo net tight. Works great.

        Finally...get or make some rope boundaries. They can really polish off your court (and prevent arguments).


    7. The weight of the concrete in the tires is plenty to hold the nets taught. A trick I use if you want them really tight is to cinch the top till the pole leans in just a bit. Tie the top first. Then the weight of the pole base will keep it pulled tight. Just don't lean the poles more than a couple of inches or the base won't be stable.

      Buy a commercial net from a sporting goods supply house - one that supplies schools and pro teams.

      Have fun.


    8. Can you use PVC pipe for the poles?

      1. You probably could. I'd use a large enough pipe that it wouldn't bend against the weight of the net. Also, because PVC is more flexible, you'd likely want to run a couple of long bolts through the base that would stick out into the concrete when it is poured. Otherwise the movement of the pipe after the base sets and hardens would loosen the pole and you'd have it falling out or working loose. I'd use a little deeper tire so you have more concrete up around the base.

    9. What size of pipe do you find works best? 3 inch?

    10. A 1-1/2" or larger steal pipe depending on the thickness of the pipe walls. It just needs to be stiff enough to manage the tension on the net. I use scrap pipe, so I generally estimate given what's available. I wouldn't go less thant 2-1/2 or 3 inches with plastic pipe. Again it depends on the thickness of the pipe walls - the thicker the pipe's side walls, the thinner the pipe you can use. With a wooden post you might use a 3x3, but they don't really make them that size, so a 4x4 probably is the smallest you want to use for durability over the long haul.

    11. Tom,
      I made two of this this morning. How long should I expect the concrete to dry enough to roll the poles around the yard? The weather is dry and temps will be low of about 40 F and high of around 65 F for the next few days.


    12. I let them sit overnight to make sure they are fully set all the way through. If you'd like, send me a picture and I'll post it here with your name credited.


    13. Tom - I showed my dad your plans and he immediately agreed to help me out. Two hours later the standards were completely finished! Dads a farmer-welder so we skipped the concrete portion and used tires with rims to secure a 32" pole sleeve to house the longer 7'4" pole. If the weight isn't enough we'l redo it in concrete. I still have to get a good net but wanted to thank you for giving all of us here a great foundation upon which to start. And you're funny to boot.
      Best of all, I got two unexpected "stolen" hours with my 78 year old dad. And something tangible to keep and pass down to my teenagers when they grow up and have a backyard of their own

    14. Apparently a child in Lake County, Florida was at a church and somehow it fell on him and killed him. Just a warning so everyone on here knows there are dangers with building these and that's why they are banned from schools and churches.

      1. This kind of thing happens when you don't supervise groups of kids and when you don't teach kids safety rules. I make my poles a bit on the lighter side. I've seen these with 4 inch schedule 40 poles and that's way more weight than you need. In any case, you want to watch kids with them. I had two at my daycare center and we never had a problem, but then I didn't have a problem with bullies either because I WATCH THE KIDS! Parents today want to pad the walls so the kids can't possibly injure themselves and then go away and not have to teach them about safety or actually watch the little darlings. I was exposed to these all my life and never got a dent from one (and admittedly, I did try the weighted pole vault trick, but I had learned from hard experience that heavy poles hurt when you smack them against your head. Very valuable lesson.

    15. Just made my first pole. Stirring cement sucks, but it turned out nice. Thanks for the guide.

      1. Send me a picture and I'll post it -

      2. The same concept can be used for a tetherball post. My kids loved having one of those.

    16. Thanks for this I plan to use this for my Eagle Scout project

    17. How exactly would I go about bracing or tying the poles to stand upright?

    18. You don't need to brace them, Dan. They are almighty heavy. The concrete holds them upright, enough to keep the nets tight. You should know that a lot of public organizations, schools, etc. won't allow them on their grounds for insurance reasons. Kids often lay them over and then flip them up, conking each other on the heads with negative results. Best to supervise their use with kids around. Just saying.

    19. I see that you said to fill the bottom of the tire with sand, so the cement doesn't go through the bottom. I'm still struggling to believe the cement wont go through that. I don't want to waste cement, and I am hoping that it wont go through. Are you sure, the sand will stop the cement? What if I make these, and leave them outside and it rains? I probably cant put it together in the garage? Does it have to be made on a flat surface? What if I put it together in the driveway, and the cement leaks through... will it be stuck to the driveway?

    20. Just lay the tire flat. Brace the pole in the center and fill around it with wet cement. I put it on sand but you can set the tire on grass if you want. Just so it sits flat. You'll be carefully shoveling the cement around the pole and inside the tire. I usually shovel inside the tire to weight it down. Then just pour the tire full of cement. Use the shovel to poke cement up inside the tire to fill it full and then up around the pole to the top of the lip of the tire. I usually tie the center pole to a tree or something. It doesn't matter what you sit the tire on to pour the cement. I would pour it on a cement driveway unless you put down a sheet of plastic or something. If you put in in ther grass you'll get leaves and stuff under the bottom but they'll fall off after it's dried and you won't see them anyway. As to the flat surface, yes, it should be relatively flat anyway so that the bottom of the pole assembly will flat and sit upright. If you've got some plastic and a tree in the backyard, tie the top of the pole to a limb of a tree so that it stands up straight in the center of your tire. Fill the tire with concrete and you're pretty much done. It's not rocket science. Good luck. Send me a picture.

    21. Are you sure that the cement we pour into the tire, wont stick to the cement driveway? That is all I'm worried about!

      1. Put plastic under the tire when you pour it.

    22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.