Aircrete has become a fascinating topic in alternative housing. It is lightweight, DIY friendly, and cost-effective, making it an ideal alternative housing option. When it comes to aircrete houses, many people love the sustainability factor of using less raw materials – concrete – and making it go further with the foam added to the mixture to form aircrete. This sustainability, along with the other benefits of aircrete, makes it a great building material.
So with all of these benefits, why should you build with aircrete? Does an aircrete house have to be dome-shaped? And do you have to build a tiny house? We will answer these questions and more in this article.
Aircrete has many benefits, which we have covered in depth in our article What is Aircrete? But will briefly mention it here.
Fireproof – Aircrete Europe, a manufacturer of prefabricated aircrete products like bricks, rounds, interior slabs, and reinforced support beams, aircrete has an unsurpassed fire rating. “Aircrete firewall panels outperform its alternatives, such as concrete wall elements. For example, a 15 cm thick firewall made of Aircrete can withstand up to 6 hours of direct fire exposure. Aircrete wall panels do not burn. They are classified as non-combustible, having a Euroclass of A1 (the highest possible) and have a ‘class 0’ (zero) surface spread of flame.”
Lightweight and easy workability – Due to the light weight of the aircrete materials, a home can quickly be built by hand without heavy equipment. Aircrete panels and blocks are easy to cut and shape using standard woodworking tools. You can use them to close up a space, fit around joists or cut for specialty-shaped areas like around a chimney.
Creative – Aircrete Europe has developed and created many types of aircrete products for residential and industrial use. While straight aircrete is not load bearing, when reinforced, it can be used as roofing, flooring, load bearing beams above and around doors and windows. These block and curved structures, along with poured aircrete, allow homebuilders to create uniquely shaped homes instead of living in a traditional stick-built house.
Does an aircrete house need to be a dome house?
When looking at aircrete homes, you often find dome houses constructed from poured aircrete or a combination of blocks and poured aircrete. The final product in many builds is a dome house. We have written about geodesic domes, which are similar in shape. The dome comes along due to the arch frames built out of 1/8” plywood to create the forms. Then aircrete blocks are attached in a masonry fashion to the exterior and finished with more aircrete. The dome home is a beautiful and serene structure, and aircrete gives it properties to withstand wind, rain, pests, and extremes in temperature. Domes can be fitted together to make a larger home.
Does an aircrete house need to be a tiny house?
The answer is an emphatic “No.” Aircrete blocks, whether prefabricated or handmade, can be used like bricks or other concrete, cob, or adobe blocks. Unlike traditional homes, where you would need to reframe and build out a new section for an addition, it can be done much more quickly with aircrete. If you need to add on, prepare your foundation, place your aircrete forms or bricks, and build your new walls in a masonry style. You can build a house as large as you have a budget for.
In the U.S., Litecon produces, imports, and markets aircrete construction materials. They have used aircrete products in all settings, from industrial, agricultural, residential, and all sizes.
Again for most people, the budget will be the most significant concern. When DIYing an aircrete house, the materials can be produced for about $2 a square foot, whereas if you were to purchase aircrete blocks, they would cost around $4 per square foot. However, compared to traditional building materials, this seems to be about half the cost, if not more; for example, concrete blocks run about $11 per square foot, whereas brick can run between $2–$50 per square foot.
In what types of climates can you build an aircrete home?
Aircrete homes can be used in hot and cold climates. It depends on the thickness of the walls. That gives the aircrete its insulative value, referred to as the R-Value. For a traditional home, building codes recommend that for exterior walls, the R-value is R-13 to R-23. R-30, R-38, and R-49 are common for attics and ceilings. So how does R-value translate with aircrete thickness? The insulative value for aircrete is R-6 per every inch of thickness. So an aircrete brick of at least 2 1/2 in. – 4 in. thick would be similar to the R-value necessary for exterior walls. With the right thickness, you could use aircrete homes in the coldest and hottest parts of the United States.
The building process, especially if done with poured aircrete, might be a little different in the coldest and hottest areas as you need the proper moisture barriers, but you can build them anywhere. Aircrete homes require very little maintenance on the exterior, and one of the best pieces of news is that if you did finish the home in aircrete or another material, you could fix it if it cracks.
Aircrete is a very versatile building product. You can purchase premade blocks, panels, and curves to build your house or build it by hand. One will cost more money, the other, more time. If you are interested in building with aircrete, talk to your local building inspectors about how you can go about the process safely and within your local building codes. Alternative housing doesn’t need to be complicated, and aircrete looks like one of the most creative building materials on the market today.
Alternative housing options explore all kinds of homes, from tiny houses to cob, manufactured, and earthberm. We love housing in all forms and hope to educate you on the unique, permanent, and mobile housing types.