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WHAT IS PAPERCRETE?

Papercrete, or Fibrous Cement, as it is also called is the ultimate recycling building material!

This is our HISTORY left here as a public service:

 We have lived in and with buildings made of papercrete for over 12 years without any temperate controls and found it to be very comfortable even with winters having nighttime temperatures dipping into the teens and summers with temperatures reaching 3 figures. This fantastic product, when used with an owner builder simple shelter approach, keeps us happy and healthy.

Papercrete is very inexpensive. At an out-of-pocket cost of about $.30-$.35 for a block 18" x 12" x 6" it is also a very real alternative to conventional building materials. Face it, newspaper (junk mail, glossy paper, magazines, even cardboard) is free. In most places, water is readily available. Add 5%-10% cement to a 4' diameter stock tank full of water and newspaper and you have industrial strength paper mache'. It looks nice too!!!

HOW DO I MAKE PAPERCRETE?

Papercrete is easy to make. Take the differential from an old truck, put the stock tank on top of it, place a recycled cooling fan from a big truck (or a lawn mower blade) inside the stock tank, and a hitch on the front of it all and voile! You have all the machinery you need.

Or you can hook the drive axle from a stick shift car to the tank and have a stationary unit. We've done both.

Build a few molds to hold the industrial strength paper mache' for an hour or so, remove the molds, and let the bricks dry.

To get fancy, get some old carpet, or cardboard to lay on the ground so that weeds, twigs, and dirt don't get on your bricks.

Make a hardware cloth drain so that you pre-dry the industrial strength paper mache' before putting it into the molds and to capture the water for reuse in the next batch.

We have in the past offered workshops, as a community service, in working with this fantastic product, but Cochise County Planning and Zoning officials decided that 2 square miles of foothills was not appropriate for an education program site a couple of times a year so they forced us to stop. We can direct you to Super Dirt Cheap Builder Mike McCain who will travel to your site and offer instructions or sell you a great video. It's truly a "hands-on" experience and so eco-friendly!

Papercrete has the same, or better, insulating power as strawbale building, but oh so much lighter!

It is far easier to cut and shape (but hard on chain saw blades) after it is dry, and can be made into anything, any shape, when it is wet.

Papercrete does not melt. Papercrete does not want to go back to being newspaper. It's nearly impossible to burn. It will smolder if you use a blow torch on it for a very long time, but it will NOT flame up. If you keep it out in the rain for years it does not change in shape or composition.

Papercrete is very strong! As far as we know, we have the only Papercrete Earth Sheltered House in the USA. Our Burrowing Owl Casita is 18' x 18' and has earth on three sides with big windows (and passive solar heaters) facing south. The walls are load bearing Papercrete with the north wall nearly level to the earth. It is very quiet (even when the wind really blows here) and stays at a very even temperature inside.

Papercrete was invented in the 1920's, but due to its high labor investment it never became a widely distributed product. Unless you really have your heart set on making mortgage payments for the next 30 years and paying high utility bills the rest of your life, you might want to consider this alternative.

Mother Earth News did a cover story on Papercrete April 2000. A book and newsletter is published by Laura and Gordon Solberg in New Mexico. There are several other great sites about this product

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