Monday, July 21, 2014

What Is Papercrete?




 This material has been long invented and has history.  After saying that, what it lacks clearly is much acceptance.  Yet it does represent an excellent market for repulped waste paper.  What i would like to see is the equivalent of cinder blocks made from this stuff.  It would provide superior sound absorption as well as significant insulation.  Thus it would likely be superior for internal walls were dry wall happens to be insufficient.

This also escapes the load bearing problem nicely as well.

It is surprising that this has not received more thought.  sound abatement may well be the driver for acceptance.


What Is Papercrete?

By  on June 27, 2014
Papercrete is the ultimate building material for preppers, homesteaders, and off grid living enthusiasts. Not only is the building material incredibly inexpensive and Earth-friendly, it is also extremely durable.
Papercrete building blocks are most often made by upcycling used or discarded paper products with a sturdy frame of possibly rebar and metal lath added for support as well.
Building prepper retreat, homestead, or an off the grid home is most commonly done on a tight budget with self-sufficiency in mind. Paper concrete,, or papercrete homes are not exactly a new concept, but one that is undergoing a rapid resurgence and expansion around the world. Canvas concrete style temporary structures have been used by the military for many decades.
History of Papercrete


Papercrete gets its name from the fact that most formulas use a mixture of water and cement with cellulose fiber. The mixture has the appearance and texture of oatmeal and is poured into forms and dried in the sun, much like the process for making adobe. Research tests into papercrete have been carried out by Barry Fuller in Arizona and Zach Rabon in Texas…
Fuller directs government-funded research on papercrete through the Arizona State University Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. He is also head of a subcommittee for the American Society for Testing and Materials, and it is his goal to set standards that will lead to acceptance of the product within the architectural community and commercialization of the product, especially for affordable housing. (via Wikipedia)
As with all types of off the grid living housing alternatives, folks who live in areas bursting at the seams with permit officers, building inspectors and zoning departments, must get every step of the project approved and apply for all necessary permits in advance. Papercrete may not have the approval of the International Code Council, meaning its use within municipal limits in incorporated areas in the United States may be impossible.
Preppers and homesteading advocates who are blessed to live in rural regions like where I call home, can most often just gather their materials and get building without all the government hoops to jump through.
Papercrete is a building material which is comprised of “re-pulped” paper fiber with clay or Portland cement, or other soil added. The material was first patented during the 1920s and experienced a revival during the late 1980s. The environmentally friendly nature of paper concrete is often debated.
While the construction material often consists of a high percentage of recycled material, the presence of concrete also turns off some eco-building advocates. Both Mike McCain and Eric Patterson have been independently been credited as inventing papercrete. They often referred to the building material as fibrous cement and padobe.
Dome shaped structures are very popular with paper concrete builders. Getting a building permit, where it is necessary to do so, for papercrete structures that have load bearing walls is reportedly very difficult. Many builders feel that not enough testing has been done to determine if a papercrete building alone can support the weight of a roof. If the paper concrete structure will not house people, the approval process is allegedly a bit more feasible. A post and beam approach when setting the foundation and starting the walls is the preferred building method for both safety and inspection reasons.

Papercrete is also highly regarded for its insulation properties. Walls of paper concrete storage buildings, barns, and homes are typically 10 to 12 inches thick. The upcycling building material is known to be mold resistant and has been heralded for its “sound-proofing” qualities. Unlike adobe or concrete blocks, papercrete blocks are very lightweight, about a third of the weight of a similar sized adobe brick.

How Papercrete Is Made

In structural tests, paper concrete has reportedly tested in the 140-160 psi range. Some claim that the strength reaches into the 260 psi range. The stiffness of papercrete is a whole lot less than a solely concrete building of course, but it is reportedly strong enough to hold up the load of a roof on “low-height” buildings. Two-story structures have been built with concrete, and are very attractive and appear to be sturdy homes.

Papercrete Tips via Living In Paper:


  • Papercrete may be mixed in many ways. Different types of papercrete contain 50-80 percent waste paper! Up to now, there are no hard and fast rules, but recommended standards will undoubtedly be established in the future.
  • The basic constituents are water and nearly any kind of paper. Cardboard, glossy magazine stock, advertising brochures, junk mail or just about any other type of ‘mixed (lower) grade’ paper is acceptable. Some types of paper work better than others, but all types work. Newsprint is best.
  • Waterproofed paper and cardboard, such as butcher paper, beer cartons, etc. are harder to break down in water. Catalogs, magazines and other publications are fine in and of themselves, but some have a stringy, rubbery, sticky spine, which is also water resistant. Breaking down this kind of material in the mixing process can’t be done very well. Small fragments and strings of these materials are almost always present in the final mix.
  • When using papercrete containing the unwanted material in a finish, such as in stucco or plaster, the unwanted fragments sometimes show up on the surface, but this is not a serious problem. Papercrete can be sculpted into any shape and painted.
  • Common additives to the paper concrete mixes in addition to Portland cement and clay often include sand, glass, and “fly ash.”
  • The first three or so papercrete application must be either impaled or drilled into place above the rebar set in the concrete foundation. The rebar is necessary to prevent wall movement in a horizontal direction. Once only a couple of inches of the rebar is showing, lay another piece or rebar and wire it to the vertical pieces protruding from the foundation.
  • Paprecrete builders then recommend pounding the vertical piece of rebar until it is almost level with the papercrete block. Once this is done, cover the emerging wall with your papercrete mortar of choice and start the next row of blocks.
  • Wait at least several weeks after the walls have had time to settle before installing doors and windows. You can frame the wall and window area by leaving rebar out as you build the wall in the desired spots or use a chain saw and cut the openings out later.
Papercrete Mixing Materials
  • Newspapers
  • Cardboard food boxes
  • Shoe boxes
  • Paper sacks
  • Food can labels
  • Mail envelopes
  • Fast food wrappers, soft drink cups, and French fry holders
  • Cardboard shipping boxes
  • Wrapping paper
  • Toilet and paper towel cardboard rolls
  • Pet food bags
  • Juice boxes — cut open and allowed to dry thoroughly
  • Soft drink and beer cardboard cases
  • Used poster board, construction paper, and discarded homework and folders
Using wood harvested from your own property to support a barn, stall, or shed roof further increases the cost effective nature of papercrete building projects. Unlike some commercial building materials, papercrete does not contain any potentially harmful chemicals that could negatively impact livestock.
Papercrete can be painted after stucco has been applied or the Portland cement tinted to create a more pleasing appearance if desired.

When I first began making papercrete, I started with a small batch in a 5-gallon bucket and used a standard drill with a stucco bit. The mixing instructions often found online are merely estimates, so I used the least amount of water to avoid ruining the batch and added more as needed.
Before embarking on mixing enough papercrete to build a barn, home, or shed, make a dozen or so small batches and use the material to make some hand-poured blocks. Once you have the mixture amounts ironed out, more onto larger batches run through the stock-tank homemade mixer.
Building with papercrete is a great cost saver. Even if you already have an off the grid home or prepper retreat constructed, outbuildings, cellars, storm shelters, and barns can be constructed from upcycled paper products in order to save funds and provide added livestock shelter and storage for preps.

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