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Burlap and Cement: Strong Enough to Replace Plywood and Stucco Siding

blog1-1 Burlap-crete is a loosely woven burlap saturated in a rapid setting cement. Unlike exterior plywood sheathing, it doesn’t warp or swell. It won’t delaminate, mold, burn, or get damaged by rodents. It doesn’t take as many tools or any special skill either. It can withstand years of weather as well as the heat of a blowtorch and hammer blows when correctly applied.

Using a solution of quick set non-shrinking cement and overlapping the burlap layers like shingles, takes the more brittle artistic process and transforms the burlap into a shell with the strength of rigid half inch plywood coated with stucco. Adding latex concrete binder makes it more elastic and allows it to bend before breaking. In 30 minutes, cement containing non-shrinking grout achieves up to 9,000 pounds per square inch (psi) compressive strength after 28 days. It can handle wet weather and condensation and dries a nice sandy beige color with invisible seams.

The fast-drying cement can be mixed in a rubber feed bucket found at a livestock supply store – three feet around and over a foot high. Flexing the bucket will remove residual cement for reuse. Air temperature and wind can change the amount of water needed while the temperature of the water can change the setting time.

It is easiest to take a 55-pound bag of cement and mix it five gallons at a time and pour it into the larger feed bucket for use with the burlap. Using a half inch drill with a mixing paddle is important- a smaller drill motor can’t handle this thick solution.

Burlap needs to soak in water overnight and be cut into two-foot squares that will fit in the big rubber bucket. Wearing gloves, wring the burlap out slightly and dip it into the cement of a pea soup consistency, turning the burlap over a few times.

blog1-2Large wooden clothes pins, covered in oil, hold the burlap onto the wire wall or stock panels without sticking permanently to the structure. The mix dries rapidly, so put the pins on the wire just above where you intend to place the burlap so that they will be ready to use immediately. Turn the clothes pins toward the wire to press the burlap against it. You will need to fill the divot later with more cement. Doors and windows can be cut out later with a reciprocating saw just like with plywood.

Only one quart of concrete binder is needed per bag of cement if you use the Quickrete brand. A bag of cement will yield about 25 square feet of saturated burlap. One person can work quickly enough to deal with the entire process alone if well organized. It has a textured finish, but it can be dampened and smoothed out by hand or trowel using a thinned-out layer of cement. The versatility of burlap, a simple fabric of jute plant fiber, is proven once again.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 10th, 2017 at 11:12 am and is filed under All Natural, Burlap, DIY, Go Green.

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