How to Build a Low-Cost House Alternative

Building with Papercrete is like building with bricks
Building with Papercrete is like building with bricks (Image: block wall image by Greg Pickens from

The cost of building a home no longer reflects the value of homes. Therefore, a more economical alternative material may be the answer to building your dream home. Paper has become one such alternative. Building with paper may only cost between $5.00 to $25.00 a square foot, depending on styling, finish and fixtures. Furthermore, this material is very sturdy, fire proof, insect, rodent resistant and an abundant resource.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Portland Cement
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Mixer
  • Trowel
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Water Sealant
  • 1 1/2 inch sheet rock screws
  • 3/4 inch wafer board
  • Circular saw
  • Screw gun
  • Paint brush

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Collect newspapers, magazines, junk mail and cardboard. Newspapers are a universal alternative next to dirt. One way to recycle paper is to build with it. Neighbors may even save newspapers for you or contact a nearby newspaper printing office.

Gather all the newspaper you can
Gather all the newspaper you can (Image: Journaux entassés sur un chariot. image by Blue Moon from

Soak all newspaper for at least 15 minutes. Magazines, junk mail and cardboard need to soak at least an hour.

Follow this mixing formula: If using a 55-gallon drum mixer, fill it about 3/4 full of water, start the engine, add 10 pounds of dry paper, already soaked. Add 10 pounds of Portland cement and add the same volume of sand as cement. Materials need to mix about 5 minutes before it’s ready to pour into forms.

(Image: cement mixer image by Joann Cooper from

Decide what size block you want to work with before building forms. Example: Blocks can be up to 12 inches wide by 8- to12-inches thick and however long you feel you can handle. Assemble wood with sheet rock screws and be sure to water seal the entire form.

Use a wheelbarrow to carry the mix to your forms, unless you have a portable mixer. The paper blocks may be manageable after 24 hours. Total drying time is 1 1/2 to 2 weeks, depending on weather and humidity.

(Image: driving a wheelbarrow image by timur1970 from

Tips & Warnings

  • Blocks are light weight when dry.
  • Depending on your budget, there are several types of structures that you can build.
  • Use a router to channel electrical wiring and plumbing into walls.
  • For windows and doors, use a chain saw to cut openings before framing them in.
  • Building your dream home this way isn't going to happen over night. Take your time to learn about the consistencies of how the blocks dry and be prepared for a workout.


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