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Papercrete

Yesterday morning, a couple who own a bed and breakfast in Texas dropped by to look at our yurts.  They were excited about our yurts and also about sustainable building.  Their bed and breakfast is “green”, and they have a goal of building several structures on their 11 acre plot that involve green building techniques.  One of the insulation ideas they shared with me is papercrete. I had never heard of it, but papercrete is an ancient and modernized insulation.  It’s an exciting idea, to create your own environmentally friendly, sound proof, and inexpensive home with yesterday’s newspaper, and today’s junk mail!  

Every month millions of tons of refuse enter our landfills. A lot of it is not salvageable. But, for office paper, magazines, light cardboard, junk mail and newspapers Papercrete offers the perfect solution, by removing tons of waste paper from the ever-growing piles, while providing useful shelter material. Papercrete is a recently developed construction material which consists of re-pulped paper fiber with Portland cement or clay and/or other soil added. First patented in 1928, it has been revived since the 1980s.  Adding the cement makes the product less “green”, but the relatively small amount of cement is possibly a reasonable trade off for what papercrete can offer.

Some of the qualities of papercrete as a building material include:

  • Highly insulating (about R-2 1/2 per inch)

  • Involves little cost to start. The materials are claimed to be cheap or free and widely available.

  • Good shear strength as a block.  Lateral load involves sideways force – the wind load on the entire area of an outside wall for example. Because papercrete walls are usually a minimum of twelve inches thick, and usually pinned with rebar, they may be strong laterally.

  • Machinery suitable for small-scale construction is simple to design and construct.

  • When properly mixed and dried, the papercrete wall can be left exposed to the elements. In its natural state, it is a grey, fibrous-looking wall. For a more conventional look, stucco can be applied directly to it.

  • Does not support flames.  The more cement and mineral material that is added to the mix, the more fireproof it becomes.

  • Resists rodent and bug infestation

  • Holds screws without cracking

As I read about papercrete online and learned some of the properties, I was excited at using “trash” for new home building.  Many people approach us who want to live in a yurt while they build they home. Some of them like the yurt so much, they decide it is their dream home.  Others are researching how to build “green” and papercrete is one interesting option. 

For those of you who want to see how it’s done: check out this YouTube Video!  How To Make Paper Crete From a Tow Mixer

Thank you to these websites that provided me with information and photos:

http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/papercrete.htm

http://makepapercrete.com

http://earthbagbuilding.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papercrete

http://www.livinginpaper.com/mixes.htm

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yurtmanI live in a little sustainable minded yurt village in western NC near AshevilleView all posts by yurtman →