Rex’s House Update

“Heres the skinny [from Rex],
I’ve been working solo on the house for the last 3 months which has slowed progress. Which can be seen as a negative or positive. Its given me a chance to breathe after blowing out of the gates like a ball of fire. I’m currently finished the Lueders stone shower and river rock bathroom floor. I’ve also built a Lueders stone stove area, so the stove has all rock around it. The padobe kitchen bar and sink areas are done. The flexibility of the padobe has been pretty sweet as anything I’ve tried thus far has worked pretty well.

I just bought an Alaskan mill and will be doing some log end flooring with the left over lumber that I cut for the house along with some slabs and dimensional lumber from the mill. The exterior padobe is sealed with linseed oil and an exterior oil based paint. The surface reminds me of stucco and I couldn’t be happier with the padobes’ performance thus far. Due to the lack of help my realistic finish date is closer to a year, than the 6-9 months I was hoping for. Progress is slow as I’m in the middle of building fence and working a full time job, along with the house. I have every element to finish lined out such as a 7 ft long table that will be suspended overhead via pulley and hand crank system, that will double as a lighting source with led strips under it when above head, and when lowered will serve as dinner table. It allows for a maximization of space. The skid pallets that I have left (we didn’t use them on the house) will serve as wood flooring. Plans on diff flooring: River rock cobblestone style, soilcrete, log end, poured earth, wood pallet. I’m still enjoying the work and will continue keeping on.

I built the entire kitchen out of padobe, with a 4′ bar and put in a stainless sink. I will be ‘suspending’ the bar from the clerestory beams with a steel cable and cutting the padobe covered juniper stump that support it, out. So the padobe will look as if it’s suspended in the air. I’ll be using the padobe stump for the base to hold the galvanized steel wash tub, that will be used for the bathroom sink. The river rock, or creek rock as I should call it has been a lot of fun to work with. I laid it right down on top of the dirt floor (caliche) and it has been great and looks good. Very solid. The enjoyment of hunting for the smoothed rock as been a blast. I did use mortar for the bathroom, but elsewhere in the house that I use the creek stone I’ll be doing them on either a soilcrete base or adobe.

I’m going to experiment with pouring straight caliche/water mix as a bedroom floor. Just leaving the rock in, floating them and letting the floor harden and crack. I’ll fill big cracks with some sort of mortar or grout. The lower bedroom will be least traveled and i think I can get away with an earthen floor.

The bathroom and lower bedroom walls are reclaimed 2x4s framed fairly traditionally, with a single pass of chicken wire on them. A thin layer of padobe on both sides and it hardens up like concrete. It appears as though it will make excellent interior walls that are fairly fast paced.

I think the house will be livable by May. I would say total completion with the berm, porch/deck, retaining walls…July. It will be right at a year in that time frame. If I would have had another hand working along side, could have been done in 7-8 months. It’s been livable in terms of shelter for the last 2 months.

Keep up the good work, I still follow the blog daily.

See the numerous prior blog posts such as:
Update on Rex’s Pallet House in Texas

6 thoughts on “Rex’s House Update”

    • As Owen said, Padobe can be considered a form of papercrete. It also could be considered a form of Adobe with paper pulp replacing straw as a fiber reinforcement.

      Owen is correct that some people have had bad experiences with papercrete, but that can also be said of every other style of construction. The key is to educate oneself in whatever type of construction you plan to use and be smart about it. If someone builds with Padobe or Papercrete, and does not take appropriate measures to control water, they will have problems, but that also can be said of Earthbag, Timberframe, Stick Lumber, Stone, or anything else. The bad experience that have happened with Papercrete result from improper use and poor techniques.

      There also are a great number of people who have had amazing success with Papercrete and Padobe. The key is to learn from those who have had success as well as learn from those that have had failures.

      That is exactly what Owen has done for Earthbag technology on this blog. He teaches people the right way to use earthbags to avoid having problems. Regular readers of this blog know that it is important use the correct type of soil, and/or amend your soil to get the correct properties. We know that it is important to use barbed wire between layers of woven poly bags, and to run that wire in two parallel strands, and not zigzag the wire. We know this because someone zigzagged their barbed wire and had a structural failure. There are multitudes of other examples where Owen has wisely instructed people the best ways to use earthbags to avoid problems that some have encountered. That’s the beauty of sharing information so that we all can learn from other’s successes and failures. We improve our abilities the more knowledge we share.

      Papercrete and Padobe are excellent materials, when used properly.

      It’s even possible to combine earthbag and papercrete maximizing the advantages of each technology. Utilizing earthbags for high thermal mass, and papercrete for superior insulation is one way. Another way is hiperpapercrete, utilizing mesh tubing as formwork to hold papercrete.

      If you live in a climate where a building a structure with a lot of insulation makes sense, and if you have access to a lot of free scrap paper, then Papercrete or Padobe may be an excellent option for you to build an extremely energy efficient structure very cheaply. Only if you do it correctly, though.

      One of the best resources on the internet to learn about Papercrete and Padobe is on the Yahoo Group Papercreters. There are many experienced builders that regularly post there that are happy to help someone learn the best practices for using Papercrete and Padobe so that you can avoid the mistakes some have made in the past.

      • Mixing ingredients into your earthbag fill mixture greatly increases the labor. Try to find soil, lava rock, etc. that don’t require mixing. Earthbag is labor intensive and you sure don’t want to make it more difficult unnecessarily.

        Besides the extra work of mixing in paper pulp, earthbags filled with padobe or papercrete would take an extremely long time to dry and could mold. I would stick to well tested earthbag fill materials. Road base, for instance, with minimal moisture will be fairly dry in just a few days of hot weather.

        I would insulate the outside of earthbag walls in cold climates. This is now standard for adobe buildings.

        • I never recommend papercrete or padobe inside woven poly earthbags. Of course I didn’t post that suggestion in my comment you replied to either. Not sure why you brought it up, but if your comment was for the sake of clarity, it can’t hurt to mention it.

          Inside raschel mesh (which I did mention) is another topic entirely. Of course, then you won’t be trapping moisture inside.

          When papercrete is USED PROPERLY, there won’t be mold problems. Of course, to do it properly requires someone to actually educate themselves about how it is done.

          Papercrete needs to be allowed to dry completely, and then it needs to be protected from moisture. It’s not difficult to do, but it is important to get it right.

          Of course, how many people leave their woven poly earthbags exposed to the sunshine and ruin them? It’s amazing how mistakes can be made that can destroy a lot of hard work. Simple details done incorrectly can be devastating.


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