Filling Mesh Tubing with Papercrete

A blog post entitled “Earthbag, Superadobe, Hiperdobe, Why Not Hiperpapercrete?” caught my eye. The author makes a very good case for filling mesh tubing with damp papercrete. Here is how he explains it:

“I have recently been reading up about earthbag/superadobe construction. One of the new techniques that some earthbaggers are very excited about utilizes a type open mesh bag material called “knit raschel.” It was started in Brazil by a guy named Fernando Pacheco. They have named their new system Hiperadobe.

The knit raschel is the same type of netting material that is often used to bag produce like onions or oranges in the supermarket. Here is a photo of what this type of knit raschel produce bag looks like.

The bag material has many advantages for construction. Very low cost, fast drying for the contents, no need to run barbed wire between bag layers during construction like typical woven polypropylene earthbags bags require, and when compacted, the earth adobe mixture they use in the knit raschel bags seeps out of the netting openings slightly to mix with the adjacent bags and layers to become one big solid block very much like rammed earth, but without all the extensive formwork or the hassles of ramming tires.

All this is fascinating, but what does it have to do with papercrete you ask? Good question.

What about filling knit raschel bags or tubes with papercrete? (Manufacurers of the knit raschel material make big long tubes that are rolled up so that the company purchasing the tube can cut it to whatever length of bag they want and sew the ends shut.)

This concept has the potential to speed up papercrete construction rather dramatically while drastically reducing the man hours of labor required. No more need for fiddling around with papercrete blocks. No need to pour them into forms, individually turn and dry them. No need to then stack and store until ready to build walls. No need to mortar them into place. No need to build slipforms, wait for a layer to dry, tear off and reattach the forms, and then repour the next layer. One can simply keep working as fast as your mixer can make papercrete and you can dump it into the bag. With a small crew of unskilled people, and splitting up the various tasks assembly line style, work should proceed rapidly. You only handle the papercrete one time. You mix it, and if you fill the bag while the bag is sitting on the wall, you never have to move the papercrete again.

The netting bags would be the formwork. The netting would remain in place and become part of the structure permanently. Think of it as a very light weight reinforcing mesh, ready for interior and exterior plaster, stucco, shingles, clapboards, or whatever you choose.

The netting would allow the papercrete to drain out the excess water easily and quickly. The netting would allow the papercrete to dry in place in the wall after it has been built. The drained but damp papercrete could easily be tamped into place as the wall is built providing for some compression of the damp slurry. It would also help the layers of bags glue themselves together to become one big block of papercrete.

While earthbag is a great technology, one of the biggest drawbacks is that it can become difficult to insulate an earthbag structure if you do not have access to porous volcanic rock to fill the bags, like scoria or pumice. Where insulation is needed the most, like very cold northern regions, volcanic rock is often very expensive to have trucked in from long distances. Papercrete could be the perfect alternative that recycles material that is nearly universally available and being thrown away.

Interesting architectural shapes can be easily accomplished, like very graceful curving walls, the standard straight box type construction, or a blend of both working together.

I don’t know of anyone that has attempted Hiperpapercrete. Heck I think I may have just invented the term, but I am confident that it could work well. It would be great if someone adventurous and sharp is willing to figure out the tricks and kinks being the trailblazer. No doubt there are some details that I have not considered, but I am confident they could be addressed.

Clearly a small test structure should be the first place to start to figure out the details of how to handle the process.

The idea of building an entire highly insulated papercrete structure in a few weekends using the help of a few unskilled laborers like family or friends seems very possible. Even reasonably sized children could help.

Anyone intrigued by the idea and want to be the first to give it a shot?

Here is a video of a Hiperadobe structure getting started using the knit raschel tube material filled with adobe soil. Instead of adobe soil, imagine filling the netting tube with wet papercrete, allowing it to drain while on the wall, and tamping that into place.

Thoughts anyone?”

I think that this is a brilliant idea! I have a lot of experience with both earthbag building and papercrete (see the house I built using both at ). I can easily visualize making very substantial walls using the raschel mesh tubes (or even individual bags) filled with damp papercrete.

Everything about this idea fits well with the physical needs of curing papercrete: the damp papercrete is held in place while it cures; the excess water can easily drain away; the wall can breathe on both sides once it is cured; the finished wall ends up being substantially reinforced and monolithic; and all of that mesh reinforcement acts to stabilize the wall against potential seismic forces.

I’m sure that in reality it would be a messy proposition to be filling and placing that damp papercrete, but then working with papercrete tends to be a messy proposition period.

17 thoughts on “Filling Mesh Tubing with Papercrete”

  1. Kelly, I will take up your challenge to build a hiperpapercrete building here in Homer, Alaska. Once the snow melts and the ground thaws it will be done. We will document everything and fully share results.
    In addition we are adding two new elements; machinery and experimental insulation. Machinery will result in palletized product delivered to the jobsite ready for building which ought to expand the actual market. Dreamers and conceptualizers are much more likely to build if the guesswork is taken out of the formula.
    We may have figured out a way to insulate earth bags regardless of where in the world you are gathering the earth. We will keep you, Owen, and others informed.

    • From Kelly:
      Papercrete takes several weeks to dry out in the best of circumstances: warm, dry air. I expect that that is possible during the long summer days in Alaska when the sun hardly sets. Papercrete can certainly handle some humidity, just like strawbales can, as long as it is allowed to breath. The fact that much of the time the climate is so cold would help the situation because mold needs warm conditions to flourish, and cold air holds much less moisture than warmer air. My guess is that a papercrete house with well protected walls that were finished well before the onset of frosts would probably survive. Timing would be critical, and for this reason alone, papercrete may not be the best choice in that climate. Once it were cured and kept relatively dry I would think that the papercrete could handle the freezing temperatures just fine. It is amazingly stable dimensionally and quite unaffected by freeze-thaw cycles.

      • I can’t find a better place for this so I am just going to leave it here. I was just thinking. Why not use old cloth to form square tubes/cells which could be filled with tamped earth or anything really. So from above the concrete cloth stay in place form work would look like a divided grid, or one or two rows hollow square tubes, ready to be filled in with your choice of filler? I was thinking earth or earth mixed with shredded waste plastic perhaps mixed with a touch of Portland cement or recycled gypsum. But Potentially you could use anything. The concrete cloth vertical cells would provide the structure.
        I am going with a different method (Going for $0.00 construction of HDPE milk jugs as filled interlocking blocks. Will post again when I have started that method).
        The other thing I was thinking was, one could create stacks of filled plastic water bottles for walls and just drape them with concrete cloth to provide weatherproof and insulating structures.
        Anyway food for thought..buzzing with ideas at the moment.

  2. I have a building made of papercrete and it has been terrific here in the southwest but the trick is drying the blocks. A chain saw was used to trim the inside and outside walls and then the building was sprayed with stucco. It has viga ceilings and a metal roof and it was used for an art gallery. The temp in the summer never got over 90 and on the coldest day in 20s never dropped below 50 degrees and I check it many times. The walls are about 2 ft. thick. Problem with netting bags is still the drying process. The idea sounds great but still need to let materials dry thoroughly and the mixing of mixture still requires time. I love all these ideas to recycle materials…I am still filling bottles with sand but haven’t gotten enough to build a small greenhouse which is my goal.
    Cheers to all, Jeri Sue

  3. Most of these building methods rely on FREE materials to make it worth the time. It is actually hard to get meaningful amounts of free paper many areas. Newspapers and phonebooks are going extinct and being forced to be recycled. Same problem with Earthships–tires and beer bottles and have a .gov forced minimal value.

    Most landowners still have dirt.

    • That’s why we cover a range of materials and building options. It’s up to individual homeowners to figure out what’s available, what method is best for their climate (just because it can work doesn’t mean it’s optimum), what method is best suited to their skills, what method is most affordable, etc.

  4. too bad that papercrete is not a better building option, is there no way to mix in additives such as dirt, lime, or something like that? What about using the latex cement in the papercrete? Is there nothing one could add to the papercrete to help with the waterproofing and mold problem?

    • I don’t trust that system. They’re in a very rainy/humid climate. How will they replace the panels if they fail in 5-10 years? Why risk it? There are lots of other viable options.

  5. I am planning a hyperadobe building this summer in northern Pennsylvania. This idea is intriguing for insulating properties although is papercrete suitable for cold wet areas? Are there problems with mold and how do you weatherproof such a wall? Does anyone know of a good resource on papercrete?

    • No, it’s not suitable for cold, wet areas. Papercrete can mold. It’s being used primarily in the desert southwest, and even then sometimes the houses have mold problems.

    • If you consider papercrete much you would strawbale in the way it is used for building, you can be fairly safe with the objection about possible mold. It is well known that a strawbale wall needs a good roof over it with a substantial eave, and it needs to be kept off the ground on a good foundation. It should never be used for a roof. Any plasters should be breathable, so that if the wall ever gets damp, it can easily dry out. If you follow these rules, you can safely build with either strawbales or with papercrete.

      One of the best resources for information on papercrete is the blog and forum mentioned in the above post, and

  6. Not to rain on your parade,im not crazy about papercrete.Ive read about mold and fire problems.Sounds like it could be a winner in China.
    I hauled scrap paper and cardboard to a plant that made newpaper stock and
    cardboard boxs.I read a trade magazine that talked about a plant in china that got six hundred ocean containers a day.They turned cardboard into theyre version of drywall.American cardboard was considered the best.The company was called six dragons?The owner and president is a women.I wondered if it was a fire hazard.
    Lately im on the acrylic cement idea.
    I was thinking about an hexayurt with some additional wood strips to stiffen the panels then covered in fiberglass mesh and acrylic concrete.I may do this for a permanant place.mabe lightly earth covered.You could use insulated panels or even cardboard,mabe even use the cardboard for a mold,then remove.I got some of the idea from reading about ferrocement for making water tanks.Amazing what a little chicken wire and cement can do.


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