Oak Creek man building house out of newspaper
September 9, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Jacques Lemarie may have more copies of old newspapers in his house than anyone else in Routt County.
The 35-year-old Oak Creek man isn't stacking them in piles and letting old issues collect dust though — he's literally building his home out of newsprint.
"The material is actually called 'papercrete,' and it's a mixture of fibrous newspaper and concrete," said Lemarie, who purchased a 0.22-acre plot on Highland Street in Oak Creek last May.
Lemarie learned about papercrete on Google and got to work collecting about 2,000 pounds of old newspapers from the Steamboat Today to eventually form into papercrete bricks.
"This has kind of been a dream of mine for a few years now," said Lemarie, who grew up in Louisiana and moved to Colorado about five years ago.
Lemarie built a tow mixer that uses the power of a moving truck to tear and mix the paper up. Cement and sand are then added before the truck is driven around again, and the papercrete material is ready.
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"Once we've got the mixture ready, we cast it into form," he said.
Lemarie has made about 1,500 bricks so far — each about 10 by 12 inches in surface area and six inches deep.
When the weather's nice, he's been working on placing the bricks within a 400-square-foot post-and-beam structure.
He plans to live in the papercrete house when it's done but has realized that probably won't be until next spring.
Lemarie said once the structure is in place, he'll use a silicone sealant on the bricks so they can hold up to inclement weather. A standard roof — not made of papercrete — will also be used to stand up to the snowy Oak Creek winters.
Plans for the structure were approved by the Routt County Building Department based on the proposed home's structural integrity and safety, as well as an adequate insulation value.
"(Papercrete) is not something we find referenced in the building code at all, however the building code does allow us to look at the new products based on their characteristics and permit their use if we're comfortable with it," said Ben Grush, Routt County building official.
Assistant building official Ted Allen said the department puts trust in designers who bring alternative building projects forward.
"When someone goes out on a limb and does this kind of stuff, it's innovative, if nothing else," Allen said.
Allen said he saw someone build part of a house out of mud in Utah, adding there's always a concern for how long a structure built from an uncommon material might last. The mud façade ended up having an erosion problem, Allen said.
"That's a big concern with these type of material … its longevity," Allen said.
Lemarie said the newspaper house isn't that off-the-wall of a project for him. In the past, he's converted a Winnebago to run off vegetable oil, and his next project will be an aquaponic greenhouse.