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DayCreek Journal

May 3 , 2001

To Use Paper or Not?
That is the question. The use of papercrete mortar for cordwood construction has been limited (so far) to the works of Paul Reavis and James Juczak. Traditional papercrete (there's an oxymoron) is made of almost all paper and very little cement. But here in the moisture laden Midwest that would be ill advised. Paul's cordwood barn is about 40% cement, the remainder paper while Jim's mix is about 20% cement, the remainder paper. Both projects have had excellent results but only time will tell.

No matter where you go, there's an over abundant supply of paper waste. Why not use it to build a house?

So what to do? After weighing the pro's and con's of papercrete mortar, I have decided to go ahead and use it. Even though it's on the "bleeding edge" of cordwood mortar technology (CMT as we call it), it's got a lot of great attributes. I could just use the traditional method of cordwood mortar, but then if everyone did just that, no one would ever discover something new.

I contacted James Juczak and Paul Reavis to confirm that their papercrete cordwood walls were still standing, and both were doing fine. So with that bit of confidence, I decided to give it a try.

My plans are to use 25% type N masonry cement and 75% paper. Considering that traditional cordwood mortar mixes use approximately 20% cement, this should be an adequate amount of cement to hold things together.

One bale of soaked paper just makes it into a 55 gallon drum.

Now where to get lots of paper? I wish I could list all the coincidental meetings I have had since I started this project, but one of noteworthy is a chance conversation I had with a couple (Debbie and Nick) at Rob Roy's booth at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair a few years back. Just by chance, they live in the area here and Nick happens to work for our county's recycling program. Thanks to Nick, I now have a source for recycled paper for the papercrete mortar.

Houston County Recycling makes bales of recycled newspaper and office paper. These bales are usually sold to local area farmers for animal bedding, but they will soon find there way into our walls.

The paper does need to soak a while before it can be used. One bale of paper, just fits into a 55 gallon drum. Once the paper is in the drum, the drum is filled with water and the paper is left to soak for at least one day. Depending how things go, I may opt to build a drum mixer. But for now, I'll give the James Juczak method a try by mixing the soggy paper in a 5 gallon bucket using a plaster mixing paddle attached to a drill. Time to experiment!

Baby, The Rain Must Fall
Glenn Yarbrough I am not, but Mother Nature is making up for last week's dry weather in a big way. It has rained every day this week and although I have been able to get a number of projects completed, it looks like any attempts at laying the first logs will be postponed.

But even with the rain, a lot has been going on. Besides the recycled paper find, the sand bed is producing heat! This was first noticed on Monday when I opened up the house and it was quite warm inside. (Usually, the temperature is about the same as the outside since there's no insulation to speak of.) Then I felt the floor, and towards the center of the house where the sand bed is located, the floor was noticeably warmer. Now the question is, how warm will the floor get? If things start to get too warm, I might be forced to shunt the heat into the ground or build the house al natural.

Finally, I successfully built a chop saw for cutting the logs. Since there's a few photo's to show, and an article to go with it, I'll write about it in the next journal entry probably in a couple of days or so. Until then, I'll be wading for you.