Written by Alden Smith on Sep 14, People who are truly earth conscious tend to live off the grid. They make every effort to conserve energy, make less impact on the earth, and use materials that are both readily available and sustainable in their building projects. No discussion on earth friendly buildings would be complete without talking about papercrete and how it is used to build homes. This article focuses on papercrete and how it is used, plus some of the advantages of a papercrete home. What Is Papercrete?
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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. Better yet, you can use regular hand tools and power tools to saw it, drill it, and you can even pound nails into it.
Basic Papercrete Ingredients As you would suspect, papercrete starts with paper. Newspaper is the source of choice, but any paper will do including magazines, napkins, paper bags, junk mail, and even cardboard.
They can all be combined in any proportion and are torn into two-inch long strips; soaked in water and then pulverized to a pulp using a plaster or paint mixer or stucco mixer attached to a large drill. The second ingredient is cement used as a binder. Portland cement is the standard recommendation in a smaller proportion than the paper pulp. Fillers can either lighten the papercrete in the case of perlite and vermiculite or make it heavier and stronger when sand or dirt are used. The choice of filler has to do with the end use.
You could also skip any filler and go for the strongest mix of just paper pulp and cement. Serious Off-Grid Papercrete Papercrete ingredients are essentially on-grid components. If we find ourselves off the grid for any length of time, manufacturing processes to make cement and even paper will be compromised. Clay is another option as a binder, but the unique properties that make papercrete work come from the cellulose fibers in paper. If you can find cellulose fibers in nature, you can improvise without paper.
Papercrete Colors Straight papercrete is a light grey. It can be painted or stained and sealed with polyurethane. It can also be dyed with commercially available concrete dyes. Adding a dye saves you from the labor of painting and repainting. A lot of that depends on the recipe and your proportions. A mixture that is high in paper pulp will be lighter, less expensive, have better insulation properties, and will be easier to saw, drill and shave.
Unfortunately, papercrete in general will form mildew if in constant contact with water, especially a papercrete mix made with a high proportion of pulp. On the other hand, papercrete with a high proportion of concrete is not only stronger but more resistant to moisture.
Also, papercrete does not bond well with stone or concrete. Papercrete with a high proportion of paper pulp can be slightly flammable. Most reports indicate that it tends to smolder rather than burst into flames, but unlike conventional brick, it should be kept away from flame sources like wood-burning stoves if it has a high proportion of paper pulp in the mix. High pulp mixes also lack some of the structural integrity of mixtures made with proportionately more cement.
As a general rule, you should keep all papercrete off the ground and especially avoid putting it underground or it will eventually disintegrate. If you get a daily newspaper, get it out of the recycling bin and into a paper storage bin.
If there are plastic windows in an envelope from the mailbox, tear them out. Plaster or paint mixer attachment or a stucco mixing blade attachment, although the sharp blades of a stucco mixer could cut the plastic sides of a 5-gallon bucket.
A heavy-duty drill that will accommodate a half-inch bit. Enough water to cover the torn paper by two inches. Portland cement. Vermiculite, perlite, sand, or dirt.
Vermiculite and perlite are light fillers while sand and dirt are heavier and sturdier fillers. Wood, nails, and hammer to build forms. If forming bricks, an actual brick will help to determine the size of the form. Papercrete Brick Forms Papercrete is typically poured into a mold or form. Molds are used to shape objects like pots and forms are typically used to make papercrete bricks. The standard size for a common brick is 8 x 4 x 2.
Unfortunately, a standard 2 x 4 is actually 1. Neither measurement comes close to 2. Papercrete Release Agents Any form or mold needs to be coated with a release agent to allow the papercrete to release from the mold or form. Common vegetable oil works fine, or you can buy professional release agents for concrete at a home center or hardware store. Paint the release agent on the interior of the form or mold with a paintbrush or spray it on for larger projects.
In a serious off-grid environment, you can use animal fat, old motor oil, and even waxes to prevent the papercrete from bonding to the sides of the mold or form. Paper Pulp Directions: 1. Tear the paper into long, 2-inch strips and drop into the 5-gallon bucket until almost full. Pour enough water into the bucket to soak the paper strips. Tamp the paper down with the paint mixer to compress it slightly so it is beneath the water level by at least two inches.
Let the paper soak for 24 to 48 hours. Attach the paint or stucco mixer to the drill and move it around in the paper to shred the paper to a pulp. Experiment with drill speeds to determine which speed does the best job based on the power of your drill. The pulp will splatter from the bucket and can splatter both you and the surrounding area. Continue to pulp the paper pulling up the mixer from the bottom and sides. If the mix is too dry and resists pulping, add water.
If the mix is too wet, drain off some water from the top or add more paper. You can add small proportions of dried paper if necessary, but tear it into small pieces. The final pulp should have the consistency of cottage cheese or lumpy oatmeal. Once pulped, you can add a quart of bleach if you want to diminish the grey color. Pour in the bleach and continue to pulp and distribute the bleach with the mixer until blended.
As the paper pulp soaks, the color will bleach to a light greyish-white. You will never get pure white. If you choose to bleach the pulp, know that any splatter that hits your clothing will bleach it in spots, so dress accordingly.
The bleach will cancel it out or turn it into a very muted color. Strain the pulp through a colander or, for larger batches, improvise a strainer with a screen supported by chicken wire on a wood frame. Reserve the pulp for the final formula. If making a larger quantity, you could use a wheelbarrow or concrete trough. You could also use a shovel if mixing in a larger container.
Basic Papercrete Directions: 1. Add the proper proportion of cement next. Begin blending the mixture using the trowel. If it gets too dry, add some more paper pulp.
When done, it should have the consistency of chunky pudding. It should not settle when placed on a board, but hold its shape. After 20 minutes, the papercrete will start to settle.
Cover the mold or form with plastic wrap for 24 hours to let the papercrete slowly cure, then remove the plastic wrap and remove the form to allow the papercrete to stand freely for further drying. Let dry for another 2 days.
If drying outdoors, cover it with a loose-fitting tarp to prevent morning dew or rain from coming in contact. Something as simple as covering it with a black tarp or a black plastic garbage bag could capture enough heat from the sun to do the job during a cold day. The amount of shrinkage is proportional to the amount of paper pulp in the final mix. Paper pulp alone, when dried, is very weak in terms of load-bearing and also flammable.
Especially with things like Perlite, power tools, ample electricity, lots of paper, and easy access to a hardware store for cement. While dirt and sand are heavier, they perform the same purpose to add structure to the papercrete and add some load-bearing properties as well. The easy one is to use clay. Adobe bricks are primarily made out of clay and when mixed with paper pulp, they can form a very good variation on papercrete. The second option is to make Old Roman Concrete.
The solution is to find a natural source of cellulose that has a fibrous composition. Here are some good examples to look for: Burdock Stems and Burrs — These are highly fibrous.
Their most common identifying characteristic is the cockle burrs that attach to our clothing during a casual walk in the woods and fields. In fact, the Romans used to make rope out of the stalks of Burdock after rubbing the stalks into fibers.
Dead Burdock is best after it has turned brown and is dry. If green, set the stems out to dry in the sun.
Papercrete / Paper-adobe: Insulation and Thermal Mass
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. Putting it inside the wall and then having a brick wall outside of that is pitting thermal dynamics and the laws of nature against your wallet when it comes time to pay the heating and cooling bills. Adding lime reduces the possibility of mold growth if the material stays wet somewhere down the line during the life of the structure, and also increases insect resistance.
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?
Building with Papercrete and Paper Adobe