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Papercrete in Hyperadobe  RSS feed

 
Elisa Breland
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Hello, I have no clay available where I live and am planning a hyperadobe, or earthbag dome home. So, in exploring other options I came up with the idea of using papercrete in the earthbags or hyperadobe tube. My first thoughts are that this would work quite well. I am concerned that I won't have much mass for collecting heat.

Does anyone have any advice, opinions or experiences they would share with me?
 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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As long as the papercrete has enough strength to support the loads, and durability against decomposition or softening in damp, it should have enough mass surrounding you to be useful. I expect its greater insulation value compared to earth would be an advantage. All this depends on your climate, of course. If in the Okanogan area (WA?), insulation should be extremely valuable, beyond just mass.
 
Elisa Breland
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Glenn, thanks for the reply, your thoughts are aligned with what I was thinking. I am also in Okanogan County! I am giving some serious thought in using a product from Pacific Calcium in the place of the Portland Cement if they have something like a lime powder or fine gravel. Cost is a huge issue for us right now so I'm also working on finding the best deal for the most viable option.

I haven't made a decision yet about water-proofing. I am working on exploring the idea that adding lime instead of/or in addition to Portland Cement in the Papercrete may help to make it water resistant. The other idea I had was to plaster the dome with papercrete and then use a marine grade paint on it. Painting the dome would not be my first option, I would much rather go with the idea of Papercrete with lime to make it waterproof.

I know that a roof in this climate would be the best but the cost of adding a roof is prohibitive so I'm going to hedge my bets that we'll be able to come up with a method that will work.

Glenn, have you done any natural building here in Okanogan County?

Edited to say - Glen, please disregard my references to you living here in Okanogan County, I just re-read your message realized that you were referencing where I live not stating that you live here as well, lol.
 
Christopher Steen
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Here's my take on this Elisa,
A papercrete dome is a recipe for mold in all but the driest of deserts. A lime ingredient in papercrete doesn't waterproof, though at high enough ratios it raises pH enough to resist mold. Even with a waterproof coating, do you want to lay in bed at night when it's raining wondering if your roof is moldy or taking on 20,000 lbs of water before anything even drips inside? how often do you want to climb your roof to inspect it or reseal it? A roof ain't the spot to wing it and skimp. Its been done successfully and unsuccessfully.

You said money is too tight for a roof, well in typical EB dome square footages--300ish-- those materials can basically be scrounged or cost quite little. I suggest to keep it simple, keep it safe, build with a solid quick easy roof, because domes are advanced and take more skill, time, knowledge and aesthetic commitment. 16" annual rainfall isn't dry desert, enjoy that appropriately.

The squish factor of tamping papercrete destroys cement dendrite growth. Also I forsee your efforts at corbelling papercrete to result in rolling and bulging of previous rows. PC takes time to dry.

Crusher fines (basically screened road base often times has higher clay content) delivery is an option and might be desirable material for some aspects of your build (floor or if you want more internal mass than interior wall sections). Also with your terrain I bet clay isn't too far, look to old drainage and alluvial areas, ask dump truckers and guys with backhoes. With the Idaho pumice nearby and your terrain, you might have cinder somewhere in your region.
 
Christopher Steen
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Knowing of all the volcanic activity up there but not knowing of any Scoria bag construction in the PNW, I just curiously googled "Washington Scoria mine" real quick and found a couple mines 5 hours away. I bet some closer Scoria sources could be found on further searching this term or geological composition maps. With 15" annual rainfall and your cold climate, using good 3/4" or 1" aggregate (fines screened on their end), this would be a very good insulative and lightweight fill option, and if combined with appropriate plaster it can produce a well functioning dome assembly appropriate for your area, if you are attracted to domes. Obviously a good denier woven polypropylene and not raschel mesh for this fill. When you get a quote for the yard price and delivery by 18 wheeler End Dump (no belly dump and nothing smaller than 18 wheels--unless you're going small dome), balance that cost by the hidden material costs of papercrete, the vast time saved in efficiency by using dry lightweight fill, and the mineral durability of Scoria fill. If delivery is steep, then add plywood sides to a neighbors flatbed or horse trailer...
Oftentimes near these Scoria mines, there is a 20 year old pile in a farmer's yard from an abandoned project. I've scooped right into bags at these spots for very cheap. No delivery costs or mess in your yard either. Bonus eco points.
I do like papercrete in appropriate thinner applications, plasters, covered, and rich with lime and sand. I've not been too impressed with in thicker applications.
Also score craigslist materials while you're in civilization beforehand so that you may design around what you scored... That's a huge saving.
 
Elisa Breland
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Christopher,

Thanks for your thoughtful replies. I am planning a meeting with the manager of the local limestone quarry here. Scoria is just not available within any driving distance that we can afford or, afford to have delivered. We can purchase small amounts at the building store an hour away but that won't be economical for building the entire dome complex. We are using Owen Geiger's Eco-Dome II plans. I do already have near 1,000 poly bags so if I decide to go that route we have a good head start on that part, I also have done enough research to know how to get more to me at a reasonable price.

Delivery will also be a problem I'm sure. We live in the mountains, literally. We are lucky enough to live close to a fairly well-maintained road. An 18 wheeler would be able to get to our property and possibly unload at a flat area on the lower part of our property. But our building site is about 1/3 mile up a windy, narrow, bumpy driveway with very little space at this point to turn a vehicle around in once at the house site. I do know a gravel truck can make it up there as we had some gravel delivered last year. Thanks for the reminder about the amount of material needed and the delivery of the material, it will help me in determining the final cost and method.

We "left civilization" about a year ago actually. Before we moved here we brought load after load of things we thought we might need for building, but in the end, it turns out that due to circumstances during this year of living here our plans have changed and some of the building supplies are just not going to work any longer. Some are, and it's wonderful to already have windows, doors, etc.



I really wish we could use our "dirt" locally we call it "moon dust" it's actually very fine granite dust. We have about 6-12 inches of this dirt and vegetation roots on top of huge granite rocks. Unfortunately, the dirt on the property wasn't something we were really looking at upon purchase.
 
Christopher Steen
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Elisa Breland wrote:

I really wish we could use our "dirt" locally we call it "moon dust" it's actually very fine granite dust.

You also mentioned finding a replacement for Portland cement..
So just a little shout out for geopolymer: I have played with geopolymers a few different ways, and I was impressed with it. you may find a desirable use for it, using your granite sand and limestone aggregates-- if you can come up with cheap waste pozzolan. Something to consider while you are calling around...


"Here's what I could make out from this study which uses "waste mud" from a mining operation as the active alumina-silicate pozzolan (fly ash, volcanic ash, powdered slag, silica fume, and metakaolin are other examples of pozzolans)." --http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Talk:Geopolymers

A rented/borrowed full size truck and trailer can haul a lot of Scoria, the stuff is pretty light 800-1200 lbs/yard. Think I hauled 12 yards with a worn out 3/4 ton up steep roads no problem. But that makes for some trips. Maybe it could possible to 18 wheeler dump somewhere at base of the mountain / twisty steep stuff and haul bags up to site in pickup... Not to be pushy here, its just that Scoria bags are a favorite of mine.
 
Elisa Breland
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Just a quick update to this thread.  We are currently working on a two-room round house that has a small dome (mechanical room) attached.  We did find a good clay/sand mixture that we purchase by the truck load.  We're hoping to get the great room and bedroom completed enough to move into by late October and then next Spring we'll be adding on a master bedroom.
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