Papercrete can also be used as stucco to finish inside walls. Andy uses a 2 inch gear pump. Well, then we ran across Gordon and Laura Solberg, publishers of the Earth Quarterly newsletter and self-appointed chroniclers of the paper building movement. We came away enthusiastic converts eager to share the news. The concept for using papercrete to build recycled houses is simple: You build a mixer akin to a huge kitchen blender , mix the dry ingredients with water to form a slurry, cast the slurry into blocks or panels and let, it dry. When it hardens, papercrete is lightweight, a good insulator up to R-2 per inch , holds its shape even when wet and is quite strong, with a compressive strength of pounds per square inch psi.
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Papercrete can also be used as stucco to finish inside walls. Andy uses a 2 inch gear pump. Well, then we ran across Gordon and Laura Solberg, publishers of the Earth Quarterly newsletter and self-appointed chroniclers of the paper building movement.
We came away enthusiastic converts eager to share the news. The concept for using papercrete to build recycled houses is simple: You build a mixer akin to a huge kitchen blender , mix the dry ingredients with water to form a slurry, cast the slurry into blocks or panels and let, it dry. When it hardens, papercrete is lightweight, a good insulator up to R-2 per inch , holds its shape even when wet and is quite strong, with a compressive strength of pounds per square inch psi. Moreover, papercrete is remarkably inexpensive, since all of the ingredients except for the cement are available for free or nearly free.
Given that our landfills are clogged with more than 50 million tons of paper and cardboard annually, and that a bought-and-paid-for home remains beyond the financial means of millions of American families, building with recycled paper simply makes sense. We say "rediscovered" because papercrete is not a new concept: It was patented back in , but the patent expired unused since there was no profit to be made in so easy and inexpensive an idea.
Both were built in and reflect the state of the art of papercrete. This "fidobe" short for fibrous adobe has the advantage of not requiring cement, which makes it cheaper than papercrete suitable dirt is often available for free on-site , as well as more Earth-friendly, since the manufacture of Portland cement is a leading cause of greenhouse gases. Continue Reading Fidobe has several advantages over regular adobe: it is relatively lightweight, has good insulation value, will hold a screw and can be painted.
Working against fidobe, however, is the fact that it is extremely slow-drying. At least with papercrete, you can hurry the drying time by increasing the cement: the more you add, the faster the slurry hardens. Building With Papercrete in Wet Climates This matter of drying times brings us to the question that we hear most: Is it possible to build with papercrete or fidobe in humid climates?
Our answer is: It depends. Even during the hottest part of the year here in southern New Mexico, papercrete takes a good two weeks to dry, while fidobe takes about three Many people make the mistake of beginning a project too late in the summer and continuing to build into the fall. In all but the hottest climates, consider building a solar-heated shed out of 2 by 4s and clear plastic to dry your blocks.
Papercrete and especially fidobe dry slowly under the best of conditions. In cooler, moister climates, you may need to help speed the process along. Always protect your work from the rain. Papercrete absorbs water instantly, so have tarps or sheets of plastic handy and use them whenever the weather threatens. Build on a foundation or stem wall that is at least several inches off of the ground and use a moisture barrier between the foundation and wall to prevent wicking.
A stem wall is a low, usually concrete wall that rests atop your concrete foundation or footer and serves to raise the walls of your house above grade, thereby reducing wicking and related moisture problems. Build a roof with a substantial overhang. For more on roofs, see page 51 of this issue.
If you do opt to seal them Eric Patterson recommends Homestar brand silicone sealer , be sure to thoroughly coat them inside and out. Any moisture entering a sealed wall will never escape. With these factors in mind, it should be possible to build with papercrete in most climates. Fidobe is probably best left to drier areas. Building Codes When considering building any kind of innovative house, the first question that comes to mind is: What about building codes?
Both Andy and Virginia live in counties without building codes. A good strategy for any would-be innovative builder is to choose a likely looking county, drive around until you locate a suitably "alternative" looking house and ask the owners what they did about codes. This requires drawing up a set of plans and having an engineer sign off on them.
While many inspectors are strictly by-the-book, there are some that are open to new possibilities and will work with you. Mix up a sample of papercrete or fidobe so he can hold it in his hand and rap it with his knuckles. We know of one papercrete house being built with a permit in Arizona. The building inspector insisted that it be built post-and-beam, with the papercrete used only as infilling. This requires more lumber, but it is a very convenient way to build.
Mixers for Papercrete Ideally, in the future papercrete or fidobe blocks will be manufactured by local entrepreneurs and sold by the truckload. Your basic papercrete mixer is nothing more than a huge kitchen blender, consisting of a tank, a blade and a power source. The smallest mixers use a gallon barrel, a lawn-mower blade and a two-horsepower electric motor, but this setup is a bit small for serious production.
Currently the most popular mixer design — and the type used by both Andy and Virginia — is the "tow mixer," invented by Mike McCain. It consists of a gallon steel stock or plastic water tank riding atop a recycled automotive rear end. In a car, the drive shaft turns the wheels and vice versa: turn the wheels, and the drive shaft will turn. He cut off most of the drive shaft, but leaves several inches of it sticking out of the differential; he then runs the shortened drive shaft through the bottom of the tank and affixes a riding lawn-mower blade onto it.
When you tow the mixer behind your vehicle, the blade spins rapidly and with great force. Under ideal conditions, you can mix a batch of slurry by driving a block and back, though more typically it takes about a half mile in each direction.
For many, building the mixer is the most intimidating part of papercrete. Fortunately, McCain has started a mixer-building sideline see "Sources" at the end of this article. Papercrete Forumulas Since the most common mixer design has a capacity of gallons, most papercrete builders think in terms of gallon batches. Usually, people add one pound bag of Portland cement to a mixerload.
Some people add two bags per mixerload, particularly if the papercrete is to be used close to the ground, for roof panels or for floors. The sand adds thermal mass, reduces flammability, makes the slurry pack down better for a denser, stronger block and helps prevent cracking when papercrete is used for stucco.
When making roof panels, leave out the sand for an even lighter weight material with maximum insulation value. A lot of this water drains out immediately after the papercrete is poured.
As for fidobe, the ideal formula depends on your dirt. It pays to make up small batches in a kitchen blender before you go into serious production. Vary the dirt to paper ratio and see what proportion seems best. But keep in mind there is a trade-off: the more dirt you add, the heavier and stronger your block will be, but the less insulation it will provide. Our personal choice is a ratio dirt to paper, by weight.
This gives a strong block that is reasonably lightweight, with a substantial R-value. For a gallon batch, we mix together gallons of water, 60 pounds of paper and pounds of dirt. With regular adobe, too high a clay content causes cracking.
Not so with fidobe, since the paper fibers hold the block together. Flammability of Papercrete Unless you add enough nonflammable material to the mix, both papercrete and fidobe will burn, slowly and without flame, like a charcoal briquette. Besides, a nonflammable stucco inside and out will cut off the oxygen supply to the wall, preventing burning. Still, before building it would be a good idea to mix up some test samples, dry them and see if they burn.
The most common test is to apply the flame of a propane torch to one spot on a block for a minute. Blocks or Forms or. Both blocks and slip forms have their advantages. Instead, the slurry is dumped into block forms at ground level, where the blocks are left to dry thus losing most of their weight. Virginia started with blocks, but ran out and ended up using slip forms, while Andy used slip forms all the way.
Both made their walls 12 inches thick. If you plan on using slip forms, consider extending the window frames down to the ground, putting in some corner posts, and building a post-and-beam structure. Also, the extra lumber will add strength to your building. By the way, there is a third alternative: both papercrete and fidobe can be cobbed. To do this, you first dump the wet slurry onto a piece of shade cloth to drain. Cobbed fidobe we think offers the best of both worlds, giving you the free-form creativity of cob, but with the higher insulation value of fidobe.
Pumping Slurry While many a builder has tried, no one has yet come up with a surefire method to pump slurry. For example, one person we know used a diaphragm pump with great success, but another had a lot of trouble with a diaphragm pump that kept clogging. Others have had pumps work for awhile, then break down. Most pumps, even those designed to pump gravel, work best when pumping a substance with a high water content. But this goes against the principles of papercrete, which demands that the slurry be as dry as possible when applied to reduce subsequent shrinkage.
A number of people are looking into the pump situation — a grout pump is a likely candidate — and we plan to post regular updates on our Web site, www. Once pumping slurry becomes commonplace, it will revolutionize papercrete construction by eliminating a lot of the physical labor.
Papercrete Foundations Although some papercrete houses have been built directly on rubble trench foundations, most recent builders, including Virginia and Andy, are using modest concrete foundations or stem walls.
The weight of the heaviest papercrete building, even with a hefty snow load on the roof, is on the order of 5 psi. Since papercrete has a compressive strength in the psi range, and concrete has a compressive strength of 3, psi, neither walls nor foundation are likely to come close to having their limits tested.
Virginia has a 12 inch wide by 10 inch high concrete stem wall resting on a rubble-filled trench. Both used horizontal rebar laid lengthwise to eliminate any possibility of the concrete cracking. As with straw bale, papercrete builders have also started inserting into the foundation short pieces of vertical rebar on which to impale the first course of blocks.
Papercrete Floors Since papercrete is a good insulator with high compressive strength, it is commonly used as a subfloor. First you lay down a sheet of plastic and make one-foot slits every few feet so that the excess slurry water can drain out. Since the slits are so small, wicking of soil moisture back into the floor will be minimal. Next, you pour a 6 inch layer of papercrete onto the plastic and allow it to dry. Finally, you cover this with a 2 inch layer of concrete or adobe. Another strategy is to make the floor totally out of papercrete.
Using two bags of cement per batch will create a hard floor, which, when stained an attractive color and sealed, should stand up to considerably hard use.
Using Papercrete to Build Recycled Houses
Insulation only evens out temperature swings, or perhaps more to the point- a good jacket keeps you warm in winter so long as your body is producing heat. Stop producing heat and gues what, pretty soon you get cold even if you have a whole lot of insulation. The idea behind thermal mass is to collect heat or coolness and store it, and having good insulation on the outside of thermal mass insulates that thermal mass. It makes basic sense when you apply it to a person. Same thing applies to houses— put the insulation on the outside if you want to insulate the structure from the outside temperatures, period.
Papercrete / Paper-adobe: Insulation and Thermal Mass
I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time. Papercrete was invented in the s, but it was so easy to make, no one bought it. Papercrete has been used to build homes, walls, fences, and is easily formed into any object from flowerpots to furniture. Want to save this post for later? Click Here to Pin It on Pinterest! It also has excellent insulating properties with an R-value of R2 per inch.