Using Papercrete to Build Recycled Houses - Green Homes. Learn about using papercrete to build recycled houses. Sure, we'd heard the rumors about paper houses, but our initial reaction was largely incredulous: What homebuilder with a lick of sense would invest his time, energy and money in literally a house of cards? Well, then we ran across Gordon and Laura Solberg, publishers of the Earth Quarterly newsletter and self- appointed chroniclers of the paper building movement. In touting paper's pluses, both ecologic and economic, the Solbergs covinced us to take another look at this innovative, dirt- cheap construction method. 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 3. 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 5. American families, building with recycled paper simply makes sense. Papercrete has been independently rediscovered a number of times since the 1.
James Moon of Tucson, Arizona, Eric Patterson of Silver City, New Mexico (who was the subject of a PBS documentary several years ago), and Mike Mc. Cain of Crestone, Colorado.
Zach Rabon founded Mason Greenstar in Mason, Texas for the purpose of producing and selling a commercially viable papercrete block. His product, Blox Building System. Manufacture Building a Mixer Mass Production Properties Strength. How to Build with Papercrete How to Build with Papercrete. Using this technique for building a papercrete house is a good choice. The Truth about Papercrete by Kelly Hart. When I asked Harun Magnuson, who has been building a vaulted papercrete structure for several years. Describes the use of papercrete or.
Here, we'll focus on two of them: Andy Hopkins' 5. Crestone and Virginia Nabity's 8. Cortez, Colorado.
Both were built in 1. We'll also touch on a close relative of papercrete, made by adding adobe dirt to the paper pulp. Also, fidobe blocks won't deteriorate if left out in the rain, since the paper fibers bind the blocks together. 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. This can provide a real edge in wet climates or if you're in a hurry. 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. There is no doubt that papercrete and fidobe are admirably suited for dry climates; the wetter the climate, the more precautions you'll have to take: For starters, build only during the hottest, driest time of year. This is a gamble, as cold weather can come sooner than expected, leaving you with a partially soggy house that won't dry properly until the following summer. 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. 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? We've little doubt that papercrete and fidobe will be included in the universal building code . Until then, you're left with three main options: 1) In many rural counties, particularly in the West, there are either no building codes or the existing codes are loosely enforced.
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 . This requires drawing up a set of plans and having an engineer sign off on them. Talk to your local building inspector. 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. Fidobe in particular might qualify under your state's existing adobe code, particularly if you called it .
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. In the meantime, you've got to make your own blocks and that means building a mixer. 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 5. Currently the most popular mixer design — and the type used by both Andy and Virginia — is the . It consists of a 2. In a car, the drive shaft turns the wheels and vice versa: turn the wheels, and the drive shaft will turn. This is the key to Mike's tow mixer design. 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, Mc. Cain has started a mixer- building sideline (see . Usually, people add one 9. Portland cement to a mixerload. Half a bag will work fine, but the slurry will dry more slowly and won't be as hard when it does.
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. While there's no one right recipe, the basic formula for a 2. 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.
Although the paper makes up only 2. When making roof panels, leave out the sand for an even lighter weight material with maximum insulation value. Incidentally, as we said earlier, slurry is 8. A lot of this water drains out immediately after the papercrete is poured. The rest evaporates as the slurry dries, leaving behind the millions of tiny air pockets that account for papercrete's lightness and superior insulation properties. 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 4: 1 ratio (dirt to paper, by weight). This gives a strong block that is reasonably lightweight, with a substantial R- value.
Papercrete is an incredible building material that is lightweight. How We Made Our Experimental Earthbag / Papercrete House by Kelly Hart. DVDs and PDF Technical. The Building Department at ArchitectureWeek, the new magazine of design and building, serving architecture online like never. Building with Papercrete. Has been carried out to optimization of mix for papercrete bricks depending upon the.
Papercrete is said to be. It is widely believed that building with papercrete is safe.
For a 2. 00- gallon batch, we mix together 1. The clay content of the dirt should be anywhere from 3. 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. We've found that papercrete made with a 4: 1 ratio (cement to paper, by weight) will not burn, and that fidobe made with 3 parts dirt to 1 part paper will not burn. So we don't consider flammability to be much of an issue.
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. If the formula contains enough nonflammable material, the block will glow red- hot where the flame hits, but it won't sustain combustion once the flame is removed. Blocks or Forms or . Cob? Both blocks and slip forms have their advantages. With blocks, there is no lifting of slurry, which again, at 8.
Instead, the slurry is dumped into block forms at ground level, where the blocks are left to dry (thus losing most of their weight). With slip forms, the slurry has to be handled only once, since it's poured directly onto the wall.
But there is a lot of heavy lifting involved, and the wall won't start to dry out until the last load of slurry is dumped at the very top. 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 1. 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.
That way, you can nail your forms onto the corner posts and window/door frames, which is a quick and convenient way to build. 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.