Plycem is a fiber cement board widely used in modern construction to replace wood siding, plywood, tile base in showers, and where needed, sheetrock. Plycem is manufactured in Costa Rica. The local Plycem distributor is Uriah Reisman at Natural Builders S.A.
This product replaces many wood products with a relatively low embodied energy product that will last far longer than wood in any inclement situation such as continuous exposure to weather, roof leaks or other moisture sources, and insect damage. The cement board is reinforced with fiber. In its siding form, it is textured to look like wood. It will accept wood stains and paint and both will give the appearance of wood siding. It can be spackled and taped like sheetrock for smooth wall finishes.
The embeded fiber reinforcement means a strong, durable product with less thickness than wood, and less weight than stucco finishes. These products are designed to be screwed into steel studs and floor joists. These steel components replace wood studs and joists back in North America. Here they are called cariolas, a steel “C” channel or steel stud. These come in different gauges depending on their use in a home. These products can replace plywood for floors, when placed on floor framing using cariolas.
This system significantly reduces the weight of a building, up to 80% less weight depending on other systems, like Concrete block. This means a lighter, stronger, more flexible structure that will require lighter foundations and supports, and withstand earthquakes fare better than a heavy, rigid, concrete structure.
This reduction in weight opens up a few unique possibilities here in Panama, not cost effective,( or many times not even possible) using concrete construction. These structures can be cantilevered off of hill sides, making unbuildable lots, buildable at a reasonable price. These systems have been used for generations in the US. In California, houses hanging off of the sides of hills is the norm.
Walls can have plycem on one or both sides. Siding outside and a sheetrock replacement on the inside. The steel stud wall has several advantages over other systems. It allows for insulation inside the wall in heating and cooling/AC zones. This can save a lot of money. Insulation can be added for sound. Party walls are easy to make, which uses more studs, and de-couples each side to reduce noise transmission. Standard romex wiring can be used. This is the most common wiring used north of Mexico and is a flexible 3 stranded copper cable that is pulled from outlet to outlet. No conduit required, no chiseling of walls, and many of the other problems that come with getting the outlet boxes flush to the wall surface. This makes electrical cheaper and easier.
The plumbing is not embedded in concrete walls and is under less pressure from movement and settling, and is much easier to access if a leak develops.