Papercrete is currently enjoying a boom among builders in the Southwest who
are looking for low-cost building materials that have minimal impact on the environment.
"Paper houses make sense," says Gordon Solberg, author of Building with Papercrete and
Paper  Adobe.  "Our  landfills  are  clogged  with  waste  paper  and  cardboard.  Millions  of
people  live  in  substandard  housing  or  have  no  housing  at  all.  With  papercrete,  we  can
solve both of these problems at once." 

                  Papercrete is a recently developed construction material which consists of re-
pulped paper fiber with portland cement or clay  and/or other soil added.Papercrete gets
its  name  from  the  fact  that  most  formulas  use  a  mixture  of  water  and  cement  with
cellulose fiber. The fiber is usually acquired from recycled newspaper, lottery tickets and
phone books. 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. Concrete and wood
are  not  known  for  their  insulating  qualities,  however,  papercrete  also  provides  good
insulation.Its R-value is reported to be within 2.0 and 3.0 per inch; papercrete walls are
typically 10 to 12 inches thick and usually pinned with rebars. Papercrete has very good
sheer  strength  as  a  block.  Lateral  load  involves  sideways  force  -  the  wind  load  on  the entire area of an outside wall for example. Unlike  concrete or adobe, papercrete blocks
are  lightweight,  less  than  a  third  of  the  weight  of  a  comparably-sized  adobe  brick.
Papercrete is mold resistant and has utility as a sound-proofing material.

A revival of the alternative building material known as papercrete may offer a sustainable
substitute for traditional materials such as wood and concrete.


                               Living in Paper offers an extensive introduction into "papercrete", an
innovative  construction  material  currently  going  through  testing.  The  construction
material's  performance  has  several  advantages  over  concrete  and  uses  recycled  paper
from just about any source as the aggregate.
                                 An  enormous  amount  of  paper  goes  un-recycled  each  year  in  the
United States (about 55% or 48 million tons), eventually making it to landfills. Industrial
papers contain toxins such as inks, dyes, bleaches and adhesives which contaminate the
surrounding soil and water. By using a mix of paper (50%-80%) and Portland cement, the
paper fibers and the chemicals are encased and the surrounding environment is prevented
from contamination. Fibrous mixes also leave tiny air pockets in the hardened material as
the wet mix evaporates, making it more lightweight and better insulator. 
                                 Papercrete  is  actually  a  generic  term  for  various  mixes  of  fibrous
material and cement or clay. 
                                 Papercrete  is  essentially  a  type  of  industrial  strength  paper  Mache
made with paper and cardboard, sand and Portland cement.Papercrete offers a way to turn
"trash" paper and cardboard  into inexpensive  houses that are strong, well-insulated and
easily  built.  Papercrete  can  simultaneously  reduce  overuse  of  landfills  while  providing
affordable  housing  for  millions of people. This  is an elegant, win-win solution to these
two problems. 


                                          Mix the dry  ingredients (cement,sand, paper / cardboard) with  
water  to  form  a  slurry.  Cast  the  slurry  into  blocks  or  panels,  and  let  it  dry.  When  it hardens up, papercrete is obtained.Thse papercrete thus obtained is having higher tensile
strength. The paper to be used can come  from a  variety of sources  may  be  newspaper,
junkmail,  magazines,  books,  etc.  Depending  on  the  type  of  mixer  that  is  used  to  make
                                    The  paper  may  be  soaked  in  water  before  hand  or    not.  A  small
electric motor mounted directly to a shaft with a couple of four inch square blades on it.
This shaft was suspended in a plastic 55 gallon drum where the mixing takes place.

 Papercrete        is        really        an        industrial        form        of        paper        mache.
In this photo inventor Mike McCain dumps a batch of papercrete into a drying form. 


                           Papercrete is made in twenty minutes.The tank is filled with water.Add
about one   wheel barrow full of dry paper.One sack of Portland cement, and some sand.
Drain  box  is back over with a 1/8  inch  mesh on the bottom.The slurry  is dumped  by  a
drain hole at The bottom After about a half hour of draining the excess water from the
slurry, the papercrete is soft, workable clay.

Mix proportions:

                                  The basic mix is “12-3-1 “. 12 fiber, 3 clay, 1 lime, water. Water is
added, about 3-5 gallons. Lime water can be used. Soft clay is added about 2-3 gallons
depending on the stickiness of the clay-sand ratio. Mixer is turned on and let agitate for
30  minutes. Then soft  lime  putty  is added, which  is dry  hydrate of  lime that soaked  in clean water for 48-72 hours. Approximately 1-6 ratio by volume of lime putty to clay is
used. Up to 30% lime to clay can be used. The mixer is run another 20 minutes to mix the
lime and clay. 



                  Papercrete / cement  slurry being drained   out of our 55 Gal pulp-maker
into the drain box, before mixing in the sand.

 There  are  a  number  of  kinds  of  mixers,  differentiated  mainly  by
capacity  and  mobility.  The  whole  idea  of  mixing  is  to tear the  paper  apart  in  water to
produce slurry, and then mix in additives like Portland cement and sand. This procedure
is followed all the time - when working with small batches in a five-gallon bucket or with
1000 gallon (4500 liter) batches on the back of a 4-wheel drive truck. Get the paper and
water mixed first, and then add the other components. 


                       Another row of forms are being filled directly from our 200 Gal tow-mixer.
It does both, shredding the paper, and mixing it with the cement and sand.


                       View of a corner of one of the casting forms for blocks (1.5 ft x 2.5 ft x7in)
(45 x 76 x 18 cm);some gravel and window screen at the bottom for better. 

                               The  first  layer  with  both,  laying  blocks  and  site-casting.  (BTW,  the
bamboo reinforcement seen here is  pulled out later, as the Papercrete shrank away from
it while drying, obviously rendering the reinforcement ineffective.)

    As a non-heated storage shed, it was built with blocks on their small
side, creating a thinner wall (R-value only between 14 and 18). The wall stability during
construction would  be much better with the blocks laid flat (R-value between 36 and 45).


                                    Paper adobe is similar to papercrete, but instead of cement used to
bind  the  paper  fiber  into  a  solid,  clay  is  used  as  the  binder.This  can  work  well  if  the
material is kept absolutely dry.Otherwise it will become soft and could deform.These are
the types of adobe. Paper Adobe (paper and clay),  Cob wood (sawdust-lime-clay), Super adobe,(  Rammed  Earth,  Lime,  reed,  coir,  hemp,  jute)  for  building  small  projects  and
structures. Agstone (cement-sand-fiber) , 

   It is called Papercrete, Hybradobe, or Fidobe.
   It is dimensionally very stable at wide range of temperatures.
   It will hold fasteners to some extent, without cracking.
   It is highly insulating (about R-2 1/2 per inch).
   It is highly fire proof but, it may smolder at high temperature.
   It will support molds if it remains warm and moist for too long.
   It will wick moisture from the ground into the wall if it buried in dirt.
   It becomes soft and will deteriorate if kept damp 
   It resists rodent and insect infestation.
   It is relatively strong (compressive strength of at least 500 psi)
   It is light weight (is about 80% air).
   Highly  insulative (about R2 per inch of width)
   It is non-flammable.
   It is easily workable (wood working tools).
   It can be made water resistant .
A wall built using papercrete:


Papercrete blocks can be used like adobe bricks to build walls. Papercrete also
serves as the mortar. 

                                        "R-value"      is      a
measure of a material's resistance to heat flow. The R-value of papercrete is reported to
be  between  2.0  and  3.0  per  inch  -  the  higher  the  number,  the  better  use  a  1:1  mix  of
Portland cement with Fly ash to paper, with about 12 shallow shovelfuls of sand added.
The percentage of Portland cement and  fly ash  was 65% Portland cement and 35%  fly
ash. Let make a  blocks 12 inches (30 centimeters) thick. Add an average of about an inch
(2.5  centimeters)  of  papercrete  exterior  stucco  and  about  the  same  amount  for  interior
finish. That means that total R-value will be at between 30.24 (14 x 2.16) and 31.36 (14 x
2.24). That's quite good compared to an older standard wood frame wall of R- value 19.
The R-value of hollow masonry block is only 1.75. 


                                         The  compressive  strength  of  papercrete  has  been  measured  a
number of times and is variously reported to be in the 140-160 lb./sq. inch range -- but
compressive    strength    is    probably    not    the    most    accurate    way    to    judge
papercrete.  Compressive  strength  is  a  measure  of   load  at  the  instant  of  failure.   This works for concrete because when concrete's load is exceeded, it literally explodes. When
that  point  is  reached,  the  compressive  strength  is  known.  But  papercrete  never  fails
catastrophically, it just compresses like squeezing rubber. So a more accurate measure of
papercrete's strength is its stiffness - in other words, how much does it compress under
what  load?  We  have  found  that  this value  is less  than  the  compressive  strength  of
concrete,  but  many  times  greater  than  would  be  needed  to  support  any  kind  of  roof
combined with just about any roof load.  So with papercrete, you don't have the sudden
catastrophic  fragmentation,  which  is  characteristic  of  concrete  or  earth,  just  a  slower
squish.  When  the  load  is  removed,  papercrete  actually  rebounds  a  bit  in  an  attempt  to
return to its prior shape. What does this all  really mean?  It means that papercrete has no
problem with strength. A structure several stories high can be built with it. 

                                  The tensile strength of papercrete also seems sufficient to the task.
Just try to pull a single sheet of paper apart by pulling laterally on the edges. It has great
strength.  Ripping  a  piece  of  paper  is  much  easier  than  pulling  it  apart.  So  the  shear
strength  of  paper  is  not  as  great  as  its  tensile  strength.  But  a  papercrete block  is  the
equivalent of hundred of pages of paper - almost like a catalog. Papercrete has very good
sheer  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  are  very  strong
laterally.  No  extremely  long lengths  of  flat  wall  built  with  any  kind  of  material  should
lack  reinforcement.  The  reinforcement  might  be  internal  -  using  mesh  or  rebar,  or
external by curving the wall or connecting the wall to perpendicular walls at reasonable
intervals. Structural testing will tell us the best way to design for papercrete construction.
Again, papercrete is not yet part of the Universal Building Code, but in practice works
very well. 

                                  Our block and roof panel mixes cure into a material which will not
burn with an open flame. If an accelerant  like gasoline is applied to it or it's held over an
open fire for a prolonged period ( 30 seconds or more) it will begin to burn slowly like
charcoal rather than rapidly like wood.   

It will eventually be reduced to ashes, but  a single block 
will  take  several  hours  to  be  consumed.  Many  fire
retardants are expensive and give off toxic  fumes, but a
mixture  of  boric  acid  and  borax   is  environmentally
friendly and will protect the block from fire.  Boric acid
is used in eye washes.  This concoction has been used for
years  to  treat  curtains,  draperies  and  other  textiles  in
theaters,   playhouses   and   dance   clubs   where people
congregate in great numbers. 

                                  Add 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Boric acid in a gallon of water. It's
not too expensive and the great thing is that it seems to work.  Another great thing is that
it's  not  necessary  to  treat  all  blocks.  The  interior  plaster  and  exterior  stucco  used  with
papercrete contains a high percentage of Portland cement. That in itself will not burn.  So
the only weak point is inside the block near electrical outlets, switches and other places
where  wires  goes  through  walls,  into  boxes,  etc.  Properly  wired,  these  places  should
never cause a fire, but many home fires are   traced back to faulty installation of wiring.
So if you want to be extremely safe, we recommend soaking the outlet holes, switch box
holes and anywhere wire goes through walls with the above solution before installing the
boxes. This is not  to say that papercrete will never burn. Any material will burn or melt
if  enough  heat  is  applied  -  even  rock.   But  for  all  practical  purposes,  papercrete  is
relatively safe (safe as or safer than wood) without being treated. It's even more safe with
the boric acid solution above.
  After  two  minutes  in the  fire, it   blackened
but           did           not           catch           fire, 
smolder or burn.

Wicking -
                 Wicking  -  that  is  the  capillary  action  of  liquids  (in  this  case  water)  through
construction materials such as concrete. The idea is to prevent water from wicking from
the ground through the footing and up the stem wall (defying gravity) into the papercrete
wall - a potentially serious problem.
                  We are using sand bags for a foundation - see
Foundations , we wanted to double check that such bags
wouldn't  wick.  We  should    first  filled  a  bag  with  what
looked  like  sandy  soil.  We  placed  the  bag  into  a  metal
basin and filled the basin with water half the depth of the
bag.  Within  two  hours, the  top of  the  bag  was  sopping
wet. The water had defied gravity and climbed to the top
of the bag. This had happened since the soil we used was quite sandy, or so it appeared.
We ran a "shake test" on the sample of a bag..Place the bag to sit in water over night and
there was no wicking at all. It is not a secret that sand will not hold water, but we were
somewhat confused by the fact that soil can appear so sandy and yet, in combination with
clay, wick like a sponge. So, the lesson is if sand bags are used for the stem wall, make
sure the sand  is really sand. If the sand is not purchased  - that is, obtained from a river
bottom  or other  source  - be  sure  to  run  a  wick  test  as  described  above  before  using  it.

A simple wick test. Since the test is so easy, it might be a good idea to test every load to make sure that other
soil types are not contaminating the sand. 

 These two pieces of papercrete were cut  and ground for
test purposes.  Their finished dimension was 3 1/2 x 3 1/2
inches (about 9 x 9 centimeters).  To find out how well
conventional  white  glue  would  hold  the  pieces  together
so we put a medium amount of glue (several tablespoons)
on  the  bottom  piece, layed  the  top  one  in  place  and  let
them set over night.The result was remarkable. They will
not   come   apart.   This   would   seem   to   indicate   that 
papercrete could be used in applications calling for quick
assembly  by cutting  the  pieces  to  size  in  advance  and
letting     the     user     simply     glue     them     together.


                              Papercrete could replace concrete block and wood used in traditional
construction.Papercrete is strong (compressive strength of 260 psi), lightweight, holds its
shape even when wet, and has a high insulation value (estimatedbut unverified R 2.8 per
                            It  is  very  inexpensive.  Paper  adobe  is  even  less  expensive,  since  it  is
made of paper pulp and dirt. There is social and community benefit. Using papercrete to
build  mother-in-law  cottages,  or  guesthouses,  allows  all  economic  strata  of  people  to
have  affordable  housing.  Every  community  needs  housing  for  all  its  citizens,  and  this
building material may prove a viable alternative.
                             There  is  a  great  deal  of  potential  to  use  recycled,  free,  non-toxic
materials to make a variety of mixes, each having potential strengths and weaknesses. 
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