Materials earthen floor

Published on November 6th, 2008 | by ziggy

20

Natural Building 101: How To Make an Earthen or Adobe Floor

When mention of an “earthen floor” is made, one might imagine a dusty, drab dirt floor. Earthen floors are far from this, however; instead they are very elegant, durable, inexpensive, and ecologically sustainable solutions to a typical floor installation. They are varied in construction, but the idea and ingredients are essentially the same across the board. Earthen (or adobe) floors are poured or compacted combinations of sand, clay, straw, and sometimes crushed rock, with pleasantly smooth surfaces resistant to wear and tear, and capable of storing heat from the sun.

There is no one way to construct an earthen floor. They are a natural option for straw bale or cob buildings, but they can even be installed on concrete slabs or preexisting wood floors, as along as the framework is strong enough to support the heavy weight of many buckets full of earthen material.

How to make an earthen floor

A typical earthen floor might include 70% sand, 30% clay, with lots of chopped straw for tensile strength. Oftentimes, they are constructed of two or three layers. My own earthen floor is (or will be, I should say) composed of two layers, the base layer composed of sand and clay at a 3:1 ratio, with handfuls of long straw mixed in for extra strength. (See photo to the right!) This sublayer is 2.5″ thick. Once it is dry, the final layer will be installed and smoothed with a trowel, composed of a similar sand to clay ratio, but mixed with very short chopped straw. The sand will be sifted and the clay will be sieved to remove larger particles.

Earthen floors in suburban homes

Some homeowners have even installed earthen floors in their suburban homes, influenced by the low impact nature of an earthen floor. The New York Times has a nice article detailing one family’s earthen floor installation experience. Earth is an environmentally friendly alternative to hardwood flooring (which requires lots of lumber typically shipped over great distances) and carpet (which may offgas dangerous toxins like formaldehyde), making it an appealing option for more eco-conscious homeowners.

Benefits of an earthen floor

Earthen floors can be very easily made using local materials, and are a common sight in traditional housing all over the globe. Materials can be found locally, as close as the ground underneath your feet.

Notably, they are also an excellent option for passive solar homes, due to their thermal mass. For example, the heat of the sun striking the floor in the wintertime will be stored in the mass of the floor, making for a pleasantly warm surface. This heat can also slowly radiate into the living space over time.

For more information on earthen floors and how to make them, check out the following websites.

(Image credit: flickr via tylerwawa)




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About the Author

I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply. You can read about my on-going natural building projects at: http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud



  • Peter

    Great article. It’s exciting to see somebody MAKING the floor– adds some empathy.

  • Peter

    Great article. It’s exciting to see somebody MAKING the floor– adds some empathy.

  • http://www.kendallpointlodge.ca darren deason

    will adding lime to the mixture toughen it?

  • http://www.kendallpointlodge.ca darren deason

    will adding lime to the mixture toughen it?

  • http://www.hattalk.com/member.php?u=25354 exirl

    Is best site greenbuildingelements.com!
    ——————————————-
    Aveta
    http://forum.kotiki.ru/index.php?action=profile;u=3183
    631035

    http://beerboards.com/member.php?u=25012

  • http://www.hattalk.com/member.php?u=25354 exirl

    Is best site greenbuildingelements.com!
    ——————————————-
    Aveta
    http://forum.kotiki.ru/index.php?action=profile;u=3183
    631035

    http://beerboards.com/member.php?u=25012

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  • dorothy

    I love this article. How about telling us how to build a complete house with earth?

  • dorothy

    I love this article. How about telling us how to build a complete house with earth?

  • http://www.kerpbloks.com Melih Samurkas

    Dear Sirs,

    Our company occupies itself in the fields of building and housing construction and acts as general representative and distributor of many leader firms in these fields within Turkey.
    It is possible to build summer houses, mountain houses, forest houses, plateau houses, warehouses, garages and many other buildings with adobe bricks (KerpBloks) reinforced by blending and mixing soil with EARTHZYME Soil Stabilizer material being completely natural and environment-friendly. Due to the superior isolation feature of adobe bricks, savings are ensured in matters of energy consumption during heating as well as cooling. At the same time, due to the fact that it is natural, rheumatic diseases are not observed in individuals living in adobe buildings.

    Best Regards
    Melih Samurkas

  • http://www.kerpbloks.com Melih Samurkas

    Dear Sirs,

    Our company occupies itself in the fields of building and housing construction and acts as general representative and distributor of many leader firms in these fields within Turkey.
    It is possible to build summer houses, mountain houses, forest houses, plateau houses, warehouses, garages and many other buildings with adobe bricks (KerpBloks) reinforced by blending and mixing soil with EARTHZYME Soil Stabilizer material being completely natural and environment-friendly. Due to the superior isolation feature of adobe bricks, savings are ensured in matters of energy consumption during heating as well as cooling. At the same time, due to the fact that it is natural, rheumatic diseases are not observed in individuals living in adobe buildings.

    Best Regards
    Melih Samurkas

  • Greg

    You are giving advice on a floor that you have never made? Interesting.

  • Greg

    You are giving advice on a floor that you have never made? Interesting.

  • Paul

    what is the best way to sift the sand and clay? how do you control the mixture? Can you separate the sand and clay through the sifting?

    thanks

  • Paul

    what is the best way to sift the sand and clay? how do you control the mixture? Can you separate the sand and clay through the sifting?

    thanks

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