Earthen Floors, Clay Floors, Adobe Floors, Mud Floors; let's cut the crap. They're just dirt floors.
They're really cool dirt floors...
Dolla Dolla Bills Y'all....
So the cost analysis of dirt floors is this:
According to Home Advisor, flooring is going to cost you
$1-$4 per square foot for materials.
$1-$2 per square foot for installation
Or if you like the look of stone:
$7-$20 per square foot for materials
$6-$8 per square foot for installation.
SOURCE: HOME ADVISOR FLOORING
So on a 20'x20' space (400sqft) you pay about $1600 for basic flooring or $6000 on stone.
A dirt floor uses clay, sand, and straw. (Clay and sand make dirt. Different locations have different proportions)
So your flooring looks good and is dirt cheap. ;)
Benefits of a Dirt Floor
Great conversation starter:
"Hey Bobby, wipe your shoes! You don't want to track mud in the house."
-"Mom, the floors are mud..."
"Take off your shoes at the door and Go to your room!"
(Go outside and look down.)
Concrete and Tile have no cushion for your feet so they wear away at your body. Wood and dirt floors offer a slight give which stresses your body less.
I personally like warm floors on a cold day. You can do this with awesome water pipes that go through your foundation with warm water heating up the floor OR with electric netting that you put underneath your flooring. (Seems dangerous but they tell me its safe). Earth floors are very compatible with either method of radiant flooring.
Clay floors are coated in a finish that makes them water resistant. (typically linseed oil). This hardens the floor (process called curing) and makes your floor water resistant so you can mop it or spill water no problem. Also dust will brush off of it. (100% sweepable or your money back)
Yes, dirt floors are durable.
No, they are not concrete.
If you leave a heavy object (Looking at you refrigerator) for a long time in one spot, it will dent. If you drop something heavy (gold bricks) it can also damage the floor. Pushing the bed across the floor can also cause scraping. In general treat the floor like a hard wood floor and its a good place to start. Also don't leave water pooling for too long as it will soften that area and need to be re-cured.
So, How Do You Build An Earthen Floor?
Exactly how you'd think.
Ratio of sand to clay should be about 3:1. (3 cups sand per 1 cup clay. repeat). Sand is the aggregate. Clay is the binding agent, and straw provides tensile strength.
If you think of concrete, the straw is the rebar.
Dirt floors are not an exact science. Some trial and error go into the process for each location depending on climate and availability of materials.
You want to build the floor in layers. (bottom layer first. ;) )
So you have whatever is beneath your floor first. (can be ground, concrete slab, gravel, scoria/pumice, compacted subfloor, or if you're willing to take some precautions: wood subfloors.
First you make a course layer (thicker) with more clay, less sand, and LOTS of straw. (mixed sizes). This is the base layer and needs to be strong and well-bonded so that your pretty finished floor can go on top.
You take the clay and sand and straw and water and mix them like wet mud pies in buckets. once their consistency is between that of pudding and peanut butter, you pour it onto the ground starting with the furthest corner from the door.
Use a long 2x4 and a level to make sure you're staying consistent as you work backwards on your knees with a trowel to create a flat base layer.
Building a temporary frame on the outside with 2x4's will help you stay level if your floorplan works with it.
Once the base layer is down, you let it dry (duration depends on climate).
Then you repeat the process with another layer with higher sand content and less/shorter straw bits. This is your finish layer so make sure its smooth and pretty. This layer can be thinner.
After that layer is complete, you apply a sealant (linseed oil is recommended) and wait for it to cure.
When the floor is hard to the touch and dry, you have a earthen floor.
NOTE* in humid areas, the wait times for all these can take FOREVER. So plan accordingly. #newmexico #drylyfe
For added info check out this book: Earthen Floors
And this website: The Year of Mud
Written by: Page Ollice
Founder of Good Old Fashioned, Page has spent over 7 years researching off grid and sustainable living techniques to design one master project: A self reliant homestead in New Mexico that takes into account shelter, water, fuel, food, waste management, heat/cooling, and electricity. He is putting all his notes online open source for public use so that anyone can follow his plans to building their own autonomous, self-reliant homestead.
About the "Good Old Fashioned" Project
I love systems. Everything in our solar system has a cycle. Trees, Nutrients, Water, Air, Heat, Plate Tectonics, Cells, Food, Carbon, Plants, Rocks, everything.
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