Filling Mesh Tubing with Papercrete — 17 Comments

  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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