Forming NFRC Island Segments

    Hex Island Segments are easy to make, small enough to handle, and easily reproduced. They even work to align forms for expansion of your island at sea. They move some, but tend to be flat on the water. Square, or rectangular Segments tend to bend with the waves. If that’s what you wish, build square ones.

    Read all my NFRC articles.

    The Island Segments are constructed up-side-down in a sand bed so that the upper side of these deck pieces will be flat, and sand covered for looks. Floats are attached easily to what will become out-of-sight on the bottom. Recycled soda bottles are tied to the edges with plastic string, with a NFRC buried knot in the middle, because Portland Cement won’t stick to plastic very well. In the center, a 55 gallon plastic garbage sack is attached per my previous instructions. When the deck piece is hard, and turned over in the water, up-side-down, filled with air, and tied shut, to become a float. Remember the principle, a large number of inexpensive smaller floats is safer than one big one, attached to the deck without making holes in it, so it can’t sink or float away.

    The Titanic was supposed to be “unsinkable,” but water flowed over the top on one section into the others. Sack floats are smaller, there is more of them in case of an accident, and they are tied shut to hold the air. This buys time for repairs, and the polyethylene bags are out of sight from the harmful UV rays of the Sun, so they should last a long time.

     Natural Fiber Reinforced Concrete is made of Portland Cement which works well in all kinds of water and weather. On Wake Island, and Saipan I saw concrete bunkers built by the Japanese, still in place after a half century.

     Natural Fiber is less expensive, even free. It’s laid like paper maché, criss-cross for strength. It only has to be ¼-inch thick for the surface and if tests show it bends too much, vertical walls, like a waffel, can be added to support extra weight. These only need to be a couple inches high and a couple inches apart spanning the whole 8-feet of the Hex.

     The Hex shape is chosen to provide strength through shape, rather than materials you have to buy. And ease in handling, tied together with plastic rope through corner holes you form and strengthen, indented into the NFRC, on top, and finally covered with loose sand. They disappear, but do a fine, inexpensive, job of holding the Island Segments deck pieces together to make a growing Island for comfortable living.

    If you are in salt water, and use sand from the bottom, you may have to wash it with fresh water. But since it’s only for looks, it may be ok. Try it and see.

     If it turns out that you don’t like them, they can be modified, disconnected, or some other type of Island Segment added to the island rim. If you need to make a change, you can buy a paint-on chemical that allows new Portland Cement to stick to your old NFRC. Without it, it may fall off one day. If it turns out well, you can build more islands at sea for sale. If you’re careful and smart, it may cost you less than $100, certainly less than $1000. Please send pictures, and tell us how it went, along with any recommendations you may have.

  1. Obtain permission to use a sandy beach for construction to begin with, where there isn't too many waves.
  2. Try to get a discount at a nearby hardware store.
  3. Try to get a discount at a nearby restaurant for all your meals, until your floating home provides food.
  4. Have an automobile you can sleep in until you floating home is complete.
  5. Get a local tree service to give you the cuttings from palm trees they trim, and deliver them. It should save them and you money.
Collect all your needed materials.
  1. Natural Fiber like palm leaves.
  2. Portland Cement.
  3. Plastic String.
  4. Plastic Rope.
  5. Water.
  6. 2x4s for forming.
  7. Plywood block outs about 3-inches long, cut on 60° angles with plastic hole position blockouts (big enough for rope,) at least 1-inch from the corner, at each corner. Plywood about ½ or more thickness to leave room for the top ropes without things sticking up.
  8. 3-inch screws for the form.
  9. Plastic drop cloths.
  10. Small L-brackets for each corner.
  11. Round River Stone.
  12. 55 gallon Plastic Garbage Sacks.
  13. Empty, recycled plastic soda bottles with lids tightly secured, and filled with air.
  14. Sand
Collect the tools you need
  1. Pointed trowel.
  2. Rubber or plastic gloves.
  3. Rake.
  4. Measuring tape.
  5. Pencil.
  6. Drill with ¼-inch bit.
  7. Plastic tape
  8. Grease
  9. Screw driver (preferably electric, charged.)
  1. Print out this page, keep it with you.

  2. Take 3 10-foot 2x4s, as straight as you can get, and cut them in the middle at a 60° angle.

  3. Measure 4-feet or (if you want metric, 1 meter) from the angle cut and put a easily readable mark on each one.

  4. Soak them in diesel fuel or light oil so the NFRC won’t stick to them.

  5. Rake the sand flat on a flat place on a sandy beach.

  6. Lay them in a Hexagon shape having a 4-foot (or 1 meter) center. With the angle cut on one corner, and the mark you made on the other. This should be small enough to handle.

  7. Drill 1½ inches past the marks you make on each 2x4 to prevent the wood from splitting when you screw the form pieces together.

  8. Screw each corner making sure all measurements are correct.

  9. Remember that one corner on each side of the Hex must have 2 holes so the rope can lash them together properly.

  10. Cut plywood, Soak, screw plastic Hole blockouts at least 1-inch from corner. When placing the NFRC around the hole blockouts, make it extra thick so it will be strong enough. This blockout makes room for tie rope, and is covered with NFRC. You may need to wrap the entire Hex with rope in the NFRC, or three-eights-inch rebar to make them strong enough. This depends on wave action where you are to live. Cut the sides at a slight “draft” angle so you can get the block-out out of the finished, hard NFRC. Actually, you may use exterior wafer-board, but not particle-board because when it gets wet, it disintegrates. Paint the wood pieces and coat with oil so they will come out easier, and be reusable. Many hardware stores have scraps available so you will not have to buy a whole 4x8 sheet. But you have to ask.

  11. Mix about a third of a plastic 5-gallon bucket with Portland Cement per my previous instructions.

  12. Dip Fibers in cement like paper maché.

  13. Lay them out on the sand within the hex form, overlapping them by a distance of several inches, you may have to learn by experience, steel rebar requires 20 inches, but you may not have that much. Make 2 crossed layers, about a quarter-inch thick.

  14. Bend them up the 2x4 forms to make the hex edges. (Note the wet cement only allows you to work about 3 hours, so hurry.)

  15. Make the NFRC extra thick around corner hole blockouts.

  16. Cut plastic string in 6-inch pieces, and tie a knot in the middle, cover with NFRC.

  17. The string is to hold the Soda bottles in place as floats.

  18. Place the strings at about 1-foot intervals around the edge of the hex form, and cover the knots with NFRC to hold the floats in place. (Remember that you are building the segments up-side-down.)

  19. If needed, make NFRC vertical walls (about 2-inches high) and 2-inches apart in triangles, like a waffel, but where you can, have the fiber span the hex, overlapping as above at the joints.

  20. Place Round River Stones in the bottom of at least one plastic garbage sack (as shown in my previous paper) and put opposing wall in place to trap the sack floats.

  21. Write the date, your name and other pertinent information you may need later, while the NFRC is still wet.

  22. Have a beer!

  23. Make as many of these Hexs as time allows for in one day.

  24. Wait 3 days then unscrew the 2x4 forms and remove them.

  25. After a week, the cement should be hard enough that you can turn them over and float them in the water.

  26. Test it out to see that it does what you want, and can hold your weight in the water.

  27. The days in between can be used to make more Hexes.

  28. In the water, the Plastic Sack Floats can be mostly filled with air. (This may have to be done from underwater, with a power compressor. Be careful of electricity, if you use it, around water.)

  29. Place the small L-brackets on the Form corners to prevent the form from just slipping past the NFRC Hex. Wrap end with plastic tape, greased, to prevent NFRC from going through the hole.

  30. Place sand about ¼-inch deep, and rake flat within the Hex. Include plastic drop cloth if needed.

  31. Now make another Hex Segment plus ones on the beach if you can.

  32. Fill each bag with air and tie tight to keep the air permantly in. You may have to do this from underneath, in the water.

  33. You’ll probably need about 100 segments to start off your island. It may take a while, but it’s inexpensive.

  34. Tie each finished Hex with rope going through the holes you’ve made at the 6 corners. That's why there is an extra hole so as you connect 3 Hexs together you have one spare hole to make the tie come out right. Make ties underneath with square knots.

  35. You should be able to do all this from topside if you're careful. Otherwise you may need water gear.

  36. When right-side-up they should be coated with sand, but you can add sand to smooth out the entire island.

  37. And have another beer!
  • These Hexs have not been engineered, there are too many differences with your specific needs. You are responsible for what you build, and to test pieces for integretary, nither Dr. Hait nor the Rocky Mountain Research Center bear any responsibility.