About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

Nylon-cement is the combination of nylon fishnet and cement. Nylon is resistant to ground chemicals and water. About the only thing that hurts it is sunlight. In combination with cement, the cement protects it from the sunlight. If the cement cracks, the fishnet holds the pieces in place.

I have used the material successfully on floors and walkways, with only a 1/4" thick layer of nylon-cement. This driveway was thicker, about 1/2" thick, but after many years of service vehicle traffic beat it up pretty badly. I am in the process of patching it now with the little fishnet I have left.

I got several tons of discarded netting free from a local tuna factory over the years, I built my whole house with it. Unfortunately, it is no longer available here.

New fishnet is expensive. Ideally, we should somehow process our discarded plastic to make mesh material for plastering.

Step 1: Fishnet

Fishnet comes in different size meshes. The green fishnet in the center is what I am using for this project.

Step 2: Before

This is the condition of the driveway after many years of use. The rate of deterioration was slow at first, but accelerated. I imagine that the more cement that was missing, the more the remaining cement was unsupported sideways, allowing the fishnet to stretch and more cement to fragment and fall out.

Considering the thickness, about 1/2", I guess I shouldn't complain about the service it has given me; probably at least ten years.

Step 3: After

This is the surface of the fresh layer on top of the old. Given that the old layer is a firmer base than the bare dirt underneath it, I would expect the new layer to last at least as long as the first, and probably longer.

Step 4: Construction Stages

A regular plastering mix of three parts sand to one part cement is used. To get the fishnet located in the middle of the cement, a layer of cement is first laid down. The netting is then laid down and patted into the first layer of cement. If penetration is not easily achieved with the top coat, some water is used while rubbing it on with rubber gloves. Sufficient thickness is laid down.

To create the rough texture, while still wet a stiff broom is used to leave a ripple pattern. On top of that, droplets of cement are "rained" down by a flicking motion with the gloved hand. That superimposes a crater effect on the ripple pattern.

The first layer of nylon-cement lasted many years. I hope this second layer, given the base layer underneath it, will last even longer.

Unfortunately, I'm running out of fishnet, so I had to do two tracks where the wheels go, instead of the whole width of the road. I will rub some cement on the center area to fill in the cracks and retard weed growth.

Using a minimum amount of material, nylon-cement is a great solution for problems like this.



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    25 Discussions

    I've been using your technique around my house and it has been working great! I built a sidewalk around one side and a staircase based on your zipper stair tutorial. Thanks so much!

    2 replies

    Thanks for the feedback. It made my day to know that somebody is actually getting some use out of what I posted. Where did you get your fishnet?

    Well, I happened upon a a big wadded up fishing net at the local Habitat for Humanity. I used that and it worked well, but then I needed more. So, lacking fishnet, I found some bright green net-like plastic material in a huge roll at the Goodwill for about $2. I have no idea what it was for, but it worked fine for this purpose. I also found some large rolls of brown plastic netting which I think was intended for protecting gutters and used that too. I got lucky and found enough to accomplish what I intended, but am keeping my eye out for more. Thanks again!

    Would this work better if you were able to layer some of the netting, much like with ferro-cement. I imagine it would add thickness and strength for little more.

    I've been thinking about variations for ferro for some smaller projects. Something I'd love to do is make the cement a little lighter for indoor use. Paper-crete is something I've thought of, but not sure if it would work good in applications like this.

    Anyway, thanks for the great instructable!

    3 replies

    The thicker, the better for vehicle roads, probably. More expensive, though.

    For light weight concrete, you can use Styrofoam for filler, instead of rock. It works pretty well for a lot of non-structural uses.

    What I have found works very well for driveways is used/trashed composite asphalt shingles. MAKE SURE all nails have been removed, then go over them again with a magnet. slice them into 1/3's or less. The tabbed type have 3 tabs generally, so just use a carpenters knife to cut them where the tab slot is. then lay down the pieces along your drive and they'll just bond together in the hot sun and you'll have a driveway that won't rut. I actually have a very long gravel driveway and where the ruts formed is where I put the layers of 3-tab. Now I have sort of an asphalt driveway with the grass strip in the center.

    Asphalt shingles are free for the taking from any roofing re-hab construction site. Just ask, they'd rather have you take them than to have to pay to bring them to the local landfill.

    This is an interesting technique. I am wondering if I could do something like this under my house. Someone suggested I put a layer of plastic down under my house as a vapor barrier, but the underneath of my house is very irregular. I'm having trouble imagining how to get plastic to stay put and conform to all the irregular ground under there. I don't know anything about it, but this looks like a potential solution. I will be mulling it over. Thank you.

    6 replies

    You're welcome. I'm not sure it would make a good vapor barrier, though. Cement is porous and humidity can pass through it. Anyway, mull away. I made some small ponds once. I filled in irregularities with a "concrete" using recycled styrofoam chunks and cement, put down a layer of plaster, a layer of vapor barrier plastic on the fresh plaster (comes in rolls) and another layer of plaster on top of that. The vapor barrier is the plastic. The top plaster protects the plastic. Try not to trap air with the plastic.

    Hmm. Okay. I wonder how I can get the plastic to stay down. Some people suggested weighting it down with rocks, though that doesn't seem good enough to me. I was considering pinning it down with garden staples, but I hate the idea of disturbing the soil under there. scary. thanks for the advice

    I often spec (and install) a 3-4" layer of 5/8" minus sized crushed gravel over the top of the 6 mil vapor barrier in the crawlspace of houses to keep it in place and to protect it from damage.

    I see, hm.   My crawlspace has a slope to it.  I think the little rocks would all pile up at the bottom before too long.  

    The angle of repose for crushed gravel is about 35 degrees, so if your crawlspace is less sloped than that, it'll stay put.

    With my ponds, the weight of the top layer of plaster kept the plastic pressed down on the fresh plaster below. With luck, no trapped air. Start in the middle and work out to the edges, pushing the trapped air out as you go. I would avoid the staples, because they would puncture the plastic. If the area is fairly flat, minimizing wrinkles, I see no problem. The top layer of cement lets you walk on it, without hurting the plastic.

    Is there a reason that you don't use any aggregate? It would seem that even coarse grained sand would allow you to make a thicker driveway while adding only a minimum to the cost.

    1 reply

    Thicker is better. Thicker also costs more, and means more hauling of materials and mixing for me. Depending on the mesh size, you can sometimes have good penetration with gravel added. This project used pretty fine mesh, because that was what I had left.

    This looks like a cement version of fiberglassing. Which makes me wonder now, because you can get cement impregnanted with fiberglass that acts as 'rebar'...hmmm.

    I drive a jeep. Visitors drive cars. The electrical company drove a humongous truck up it recently and really made a wrinkled mess out of it. The fishnet and cement will crack and reform themselves if the underlying dirt is soft and sinks. Likewise, roots growing under it can raise bumps. It's a good material, but needs to be thicker, for one thing, to withstand the stress of vehicle use. Of course that means a costlier road.