The Wonder that is Papercrete

Recently, one of the bloggers I read decided it would be her last post on her website.  All of her readers were told not to worry, as she had created a new site that would encompass more things and more information.  Her new site (Mike and Mollys house) has a lot of great stuff, but one thing that really caught my eye was this article on papercrete.  I had never heard of this before, immediately decided to do more research on the stuff.  What I’ve found has been really interesting, and I’d like to let you all know more as well.

Papercrete is basically ground up old pieces of paper, water, portland cement and some dirt.  It seems like mixes can vary based on your ingredients, but they all typically include those four things.  It can be made then formed into anything, from bricks for a paved walkway outside to bricks for the walls of your next shed (or home!)

Not only is the material strong, it has an “R” value  (insulation rating in the building industry) of 2-3 per inch, much better than concrete which is .9!  Along with superior insulation qualities, papercrete is much lighter than a traditional concrete block.  Even though the portland cement makes it a bit less green, it provides a large amount of stability to the slurry – without the portland cement, tests have shown that the blocks would shrink more than 10% in size when drying.  With the cement, they shrank between 3-5%.  Enough with the construction facts.  On to the fun part – How to make papercrete yourself.

How to make papercrete at home

Papercrete is perfect for a weekend project.  First though, you’ve got to figure out where you’re going to be using it.  When I first saw the things about papercrete, I had plenty of ideas for the use, from garden boxes to outbuildings/sheds, but for my first crack at it, I think I’ll turn them into walls for my yet to be build garden.   This of course means that I’ll need a form to make the bricks out of, and you can make the bricks as large or as small as you like.  This portion can simply be done with some spare lumber.   Once you’ve got a form for your blocks built, you can freely begin to build a mixer.  There are plenty of different ways to do this, from a drill with a stucco “x” mixing blade and a five gallon pail to a 1000 gallon stock tank welded onto the back of an old truck axle and towed behind a pickup for extra large batches.

Once you’ve gotten your ingredients mixed up and poured into forms, you can play the waiting game.  How long it takes your blocks to dry will depend on the size of the blocks and the outside temperature, but from what I’ve read it looks like you can remove the form after about an hour or two and begin to make more.

You can also use this stuff for houses and simply cover the outside with stucco so you can fit in with your neighbors.  However, you’ll have a house made out of a lot of recycled materials and can sleep easier knowing you kept all of that paper out of the landfill.

Most of the information was gleaned from Living in Paper.

Readers: Have you heard of papercrete?  Would you be willing to try to make a structure out of it, or would you be more interested in using it in the garden like I’m considering?  Or are you not interested in making or using papercrete at all?

This is an article written by Jeff at Sustainable Life Blog.  Jeff blogs about sustaining your finances, DIY, helping the environment and staying healthy.

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