Montana Rain Forest

Rain… what can we say! It hasn’t stopped, but it has slowed down our progress on applying the papercrete to the exterior of the domes. So far we’ve managed to finish the first layer to the bedroom and the kitchen, and 80% of the front room. And… papercrete is a lot easier then applying the mud we put on last fall. (The mud was to protect the bags and get us through the winter until we decided what finish we wanted to go with) Three weeks ago we decided to go with papercrete. Why? We couldn’t think of anything else. We had to experiment with the mix until we got it right, but afterward, we started churning out batches and slapping it on. Unfortunately, we can only mix small batches at a time since we don’t have a big mixer, just a 1/2″ drill and a mortar mixer attachment.

Here is a pix of the kitchen after the first layer.

The other two domes are not as bumpy as this. Somehow the kitchen is always the test to perfect our technique.

So here is our process for making papercrete:

First, we collected a lot of newspaper from a local recycling bin. I’m sure people thought we were crazy when they drove by an saw legs sticking out from the bin when we reached in to grab bundles of newspapers. Next, we purchased two paper shredders from the thrift store for $5 each. The paper shredders overheat and stop… so we shred as much as we can then let them cool down. We add the shredded newspaper to a 55 gallon plastic barrel filled with water. If we can we let it soak overnight, but there were times we just let it soak for a few hours.

After soaking, we fill 5 gallon buckets, add a little water and put the mortar mixer to them and pulp them to an oatmeal consistency. Then we plop the pulp onto a flat board which is set at an angle to allow the excess water to drain until we are ready to use it.

The formula/recipe we used. (Per 5 gallon bucket)

4 (14.5 oz.) cans of water – 58 oz. total. If you want a thinner mix, add 6 cans instead (87 oz. total). We used sweet corn tin cans bought at the super market.

1 gallon of pulped newspaper

4 level scoops from a 48 oz. container of Portland Cement. (We used a 3 lb. Darigold Sour Cream container.)

1 tablespoon of Borax (to inhibit mold)

Mix with mortar mixer then slap it on.

We also decided on adding skylights to the kitchen and bedroom domes. So we removed the top bags, built a papercrete base that is angled and used a double paned window, then papercreted around the frames. Here is how the skylight looks from inside the kitchen.

We get an amazing amount of light from this.

More to come later.