What is Papercrete? | Uses of Papercrete | Advantages and Disadvantages of Papercrete

What is Papercrete? | Uses of Papercrete | Advantages and Disadvantages of Papercrete

What is Papercrete? |Manufacturing Papercrete |Application of Papercrete? Pros and Cons of  Papercrete

What is Papercrete?

Papercrete is a building material that consists of re-pulped paper fiber with Portland cement or clay and/or other soil added.

 Papercrete derives its name from the fact that most formulae combine water, cement, and cellulose fiber.

Typically, the fiber is obtained from recycled newspaper, lottery tickets, and phone books. The mixture has the appearance and texture of oatmeal and is poured into molds before being sun-dried, similar to the process of building adobe.

First patented in 1928, it was revived during the 1980s. Although perceived as an environmentally friendly material due to the significant recycled content, this is offset by the presence of cement.

The material lacks standardization, and proper use therefore requires care and experience.

Eric Patterson and Mike McCain, who have been credited with independently “inventing” papercrete, have both contributed considerably to research into machinery to make it and ways of using it for building.

Properties of Papercrete

Papercrete offers excellent sound absorption properties. Papercrete constructed with specific mixes is resistant to fire, fungus, and pests of all types. Papercrete blocks built with enough Portland cement and sand are fire resistant.

Papercrete blocks can be made fireproof by coating them with a solution of boric acid and borax, and papercrete blocks can be made waterproof by applying a concrete sealer.

Papercrete building blocks, due to their light weight, can be utilized for inner walls in high-rise buildings in seismically active areas.

Using papercrete building blocks instead of traditional or concrete bricks/blocks could lower the dead load of the project, as well as the steel percentage and foundation depth required.

The use of wastepaper in concrete could become a cost-effective and profitable alternative to landfills, incinerators, and other disposal methods.

Uses of Papercrete

Papercrete is a type of concrete that is made from paper. It’s less costly, stronger, lighter, and more insulating than bricks.

Papercrete was devised in the 1920s, but because it was so simple to make, no one wanted it. Papercrete has been used to construct homes, walls, and fences, and it can be easily shaped into anything from flowerpots to furniture.

The main advantage of papercrete is that it is lightweight but strong enough to support loads. It is also extremely insulating, with an R-value of R2 per inch.

Even better, you can saw it, drill it, and pound nails into it using standard hand and power tools.

The main uses of Papercrete include;

          They are widely utilized in the construction of houses. In particular, sound and heat are used as insulators.

          Its unique shapes are used to embellish buildings and flower pots.

          Domed ceilings/roofs may be commonly constructed with this material.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Papercrete

Advantages of Papercrete

1.       The main material used in the production papercrete is paper which is usually waste material. This simply means that it is cost effective.

2.       It can be easily molded into different shapes meaning that it can be used for other products such as furniture, benches, flowerpots and much more.

3.       An example of this would be wall shelves that are used to house odds and ends around the house or on the patio.

4.       The use of papercrete is eco-friendly as it helps to reduce the volume of waste. This is an added advantage in modern times where waste management is becoming a major environmental concern. Additionally, the production process of papercrete consumes less energy and water compared to traditional concrete.

5.       It has low thermal conductivity and a well insulated property which prevents heat and sound transmission.

6.       Papercrete is fire resistant. The production process of papercrete uses chemicals that form a fire-resistant coating on the material making it an effective insulator against fires.

Disadvantages of Papercrete

1.       It is not as strong as traditional concrete although papercrete can be combined with traditional concrete to make it stronger.

2.       Papercrete has a short lifespan compared to other building materials hence, it has to be constantly replaced whenever necessary.

3.       Although it is cost effective, it is not biodegradable.

4.       Papercrete does not have a standard color and therefore has to be regularly replaced when required. The color changes when exposed to the sun in which case it begins to acquire a yellow tint that helps in identifying the material from any other paper creations such as junk mail.

5.       It is not as durable as other materials, and thus, it must be constantly maintained to ensure success.

6.       The production process of papercrete is slow which means longer construction time and costlier material compared to other building materials.

The production of papercrete can be done in the following manner;

          It can be produced by using water and a chemical called sodium silicate. This chemical is mixed with water to form a gel-like substance which is placed into molds that are then covered with another plastic sheet.

          The process can be enhanced by adding colorants to the mixture which enhances the appearance of papercrete.

          This method is very easy to produce and can easily be done in a matter of minutes.

Manufacturing Papercrete

The manufacturing of papercrete or its raw materials are no different from other type of materials available in market.

1.                   The only difference is that they undergo a processing that converts them into papercrete. The following are the steps that needs to be carried out at the appropriate stages of production:

2.                   The paper is obtained from a wide range of sources like, newspapers, junk mail, etc. The main important of this process is in recovering the newsprint stock which is normally jam packed and needs careful preparation if desired.

3.                   The recycled paper is transported to a mill to be shredded or baled for future use.. The shredded paper can be used as fillers for concrete foundations or as sound and heat insulations.

4.                   Recycled paper is then transported to a pulp mill where it is shredded into small pieces and any dust or dirt are removed.

5.                   The recycled paper is ground into flakes next to a large stone, referred to as the “stone moulder”.

6.                   Pulp is poured into an alkaline solution that helps in expansion and drying the paper.

7.                   Adequate water is then added to the mixed pulp which is then sprayed onto a screen. The dried product is then collected and thrown into an alkali solution once again.

8.                   An additive such as rice hulls or recycled glass may be added to the mixture at this stage which aids in its insulation property.

9.                   The paper mixture is placed under pressure in different molds and allowed to dry for around 7 days if it has not been mixed with any additives that increase drying time.

10.               Molded papercrete is then removed from the molds and placed in another place to dry for another 7 days.

11.               The dried mixture is then run through a series of machines that allow it to harden into its final shape.

12.               Papercrete is then ready for use and can be used immediately or it can be stored in a sealed container for future use as long as they are sealed tight to ensure its longevity.

13.               The finished papercrete can then be used for many applications such as walls, roofs, sound and heat insulations and more.

Papercrete can be used in the construction of buildings to serve different purposes that include;

1.         They provide an excellent solution for insulation purposes. This is especially true when they are applied directly against a building’s main walls. The heat is retained inside a building during winter time by trapping it between the inside wall surfaces and the outside surfaces of papercrete.

2.         They can be used to provide sound insulation on the inside surfaces of buildings.

3.         They can also be used to insulate a house’s roof or an attic space.

4.         They can also be applied directly onto floor surfaces which helps in insulating the entire house during winter time.

5. Papercrete is also used in the manufacturing of retort cement because it is cheaper and more cost effective than other materials which is simply due to its production process and material composition.

 Papercrete FAQS

1. How long does it take to dry?

It depends on a number of factors such as weather conditions (humidity), room with a fan or without, thickness of material.

 Moisture content can be determined by using a moisture meter. For the average thickness of 1″ it takes about 1 week to dry in a climate varying between 40 °F-80 °F and somewhere around 2 weeks if the climate is in the range of 30 °F-50 °F.

2. What is the best way to mix papercrete?

There are many methods for mixing papercrete. The most common method is to use a power mixer with a vibrating drum.

 Other methods include: fork rake, trowel, hand trowel, and shovel. There are also bucket and sieve methods used in some cases. The latter two can be combined with a power mixer for optimum results.

3. How long does it take to get rid of the papercrete smell?

Depending on the amount of moist underneath and how long it has been there, it takes around 1-2 months to be completely gone.

4. Where can papercrete be used?

Papercrete can be used practically anywhere you would use concrete.

5. Can you mix papercrete with soil or cement?

No, you should never mix these two together.

6. Can I substitute other materials for paper?

Yes, you can substitute many physical materials for paper. Some examples are: wood, sawdust, straw, carbon fibre, glass noodles and more.

7. Can you build a whole house out of papercrete?

Absolutely yes, many people have done it successfully and more are doing it now. Yes, you should not worry because papercrete is waterproof.

8. Does papercrete have any damage that can be caused to the environment, buildings and people?

No it will not. Papercrete is 100% biodegradable and biodegrades within 4-5 years depending on its quality. What’s more, it does not harm the environment in any way.

9. What is the difference between papercrete and concrete?

There are many differences between the two, however, at the very basics level, papercrete is made by mixing paper with a cementing agent and water. Concrete is made from cement mixed with sand,gravel and water.

10. What is the difference between papercrete and gypsum?

Gypsum is a compound derived from calcium sulphate that forms as a mineral when sulphuric acid acts upon chalk. Papercrete is made out of paper and cementing agent.


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