How to Build a Home From Recycled Paper and Cardboard

How to Build a Home From Recycled Paper and Cardboard

How to Build a Home From Recycled Paper and Cardboard

Building a home from recycled paper and cardboard may seem like an unusual idea, but it can actually be a creative, eco-friendly, and cost-effective option for some situations. Here is an in-depth guide on how to build a paper and cardboard home.

Finding and Preparing Materials

The first step is gathering enough recycled paper and cardboard to build with. Here are some tips on finding and preparing the materials:

  • Collect recyclables – Gather cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, cardboard tubes, egg cartons, and any other paper materials you can find. Ask neighbors, family, friends, businesses, and community recycling centers to save their paper and cardboard for you.

  • Choose thick, sturdy cardboard – Prioritize corrugated cardboard from shipping boxes and the thick cardboard used for packaging appliances and furniture. The thicker and denser the cardboard, the more structural integrity it will have for building.

  • Remove labels, tape, staples – Clean the cardboard and paper to remove anything that could compromise the structure like labels, tape, and staples. This will allow the materials to adhere better.

  • Cut cardboard into workable sizes – Break down large cardboard boxes and cut the cardboard into pieces that can be easily worked with for building. Long cardboard tubes may also be very useful.

  • Consider waterproofing materials – If your structure will be exposed to weather, consider using a spray sealant, non-toxic paint, or beeswax on the outside of the cardboard to help waterproof it.

Structural Design Possibilities

There are a variety of ways to use paper and cardboard to create structural elements for a home:

Wall Systems

  • Stacked paper brick – Roll sheets of cardboard to form tubes. Cut tubes into short “bricks”. Stack bricks using adhesive to form walls.

  • Honeycomb cardboard panels – Glue cardboard pieces together in a honeycomb pattern for rigid panel walls.

  • Corrugated cardboard siding – Use large sheets of corrugated cardboard as a siding material similar to wood siding. Overlap pieces horizontally or vertically.


  • Cardboard studs – Use long cardboard tubes or stacked pieces as vertical studs. Infill between with honeycomb panels.

  • Cardboard I-beams – Fold and glue cardboard into I-beams for support structures like load bearing walls and the frame of roofs or floors.

Roof Systems

  • Corrugated roof – Corrugated cardboard roofing panels over purlins and rafters made from cardboard tubes or I-beams.

  • Cardboard shingles – Cut asphalt-treated cardboard into shingle shapes and use as roof covering.


  • Paper brick fill – Fill between wall studs with stacked paper bricks.

  • Loose paper/cardboard packed – Loosely fill wall cavities with shredded paper or crumpled cardboard as insulation.

Adhesives for Bonding

Choosing the right adhesive is important for structural integrity. Here are some options:

  • Wood glue – Works well for bonding cardboard. Can be waterproof or standard.

  • Construction adhesive – Provides a very strong bond. Useful for load bearing elements.

  • Wallpaper paste – Traditional starch-based adhesive used in books and wallpaper. Long open time.

  • Flour paste – Simple homemade paste can be made by mixing flour and water.

  • Caulk gun adhesives – Polyurethane construction adhesives and industrial hot melt adhesives applied with a caulk gun work well.

Building Techniques

Follow these tips for strong construction when building your cardboard home:

  • Use triangular shapes – Triangles provide more structural strength than squares or rectangles. Fold cardboard into triangles for framing.

  • Alternate layer directions – When stacking paper bricks or cardboard, alternate so the directions of the corrugation or layers are crossing each other for reinforcement.

  • Use multiple cardboard layers – Stack 2 or more layers of cardboard when making weight bearing elements like beams or structural panels.

  • Reinforce joints – Use cardboard strips, metal plates, or wood blocks to reinforce joints between beams or stacked bricks.

Waterproofing and Finishing

To protect the home from weather and improve aesthetics:

  • Apply waterproof sealant – Use non-toxic sealant on all surfaces that will be exposed to rain or moisture. Reapply annually.

  • Install vapor barrier – Line the interior walls with a vapor barrier like plastic sheeting or Tyvek paper to prevent moisture damage.

  • Use exterior siding – Cover exterior walls with recycled wood siding, metal siding, or other materials to provide protection from the elements.

  • Add interior or exterior plaster – Cover cardboard walls with plaster or stucco for a more finished look and additional water protection.

  • Paint surfaces – Use no-VOC paint on interior and properly sealed exterior surfaces for aesthetics and additional water resistance.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Building with recycled paper and cardboard has these notable pros and cons:


  • Extremely low cost construction material
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly use of waste
  • Materials are renewable and widely available
  • Lightweight and easy to work with
  • Structurally strong for walls, frames and panels


  • Requires heavy waterproofing for outdoor use
  • Not recommended for high wind or very wet climates
  • Potential issues with pests and mold if moisture penetrates
  • May require frequent maintenance and re-sealing

With the right design, construction techniques, and maintenance, homes made from recycled paper and cardboard can be a unique and viable green building solution. This comprehensive guide covers the key steps for successfully building a sturdy paper and cardboard structure. Let your creativity flow to design an eco-friendly home!