Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good Earth Floors--a How-to

Now that I'm exploring the wonders of Twitter, I come across tons more stuff. Just what I needed, right? Only, since tweets are limited to a couple of lines, I don't have to read through much, just skim. Like scanning a counter full of scarves for a color that jumps out at you.

Here's what jumped out today: an article from England about putting in an earthen floor.

Once as ubiquitous as thatch roofs, over the centuries earthen floors have gone the way of ... um ... earthen floors.  Dirt is something you shake off as you walk inside, right? Not what you walk on inside the house.

Looking for pictures, I found a site called Build and Rebuild. Their "Earthen Floor" link sent me here, which is where ia found the picture and step by step instructions for the home builder.

I recall reading about how wonderful earth floors were, in The Horse of Pride. Helias recalled how his mother swept it--swept the dirt off the dirt floor, an image hard to shake. And as the UK Tobias Jones piece shows (the same one referenced above), a well-designed earth floor hardens into a rich, beautiful surface...eventually.

In the meantime, though, you're dumping sand (or straw or ash), manure, and clay together. In this modern effort, Tobias Jones laid in a gravel subfloor (I doubt that our ancient ancestors did that) and uses a cement mixer to toss his ingredients together.

Lacking a cement mixer, I wonder how the Celts put together their floor. In small batches, perhaps, mixing sand, manure, and clay in a vat and then dumping it on ground? A plot of ground cleared of large rocks, foliage, roots, etc...I don't recall ever reading about the construction of an ancient floor. A gravel subfloor makes so much sense, but has such a floor ever been found?

Tobias points out a couple of real advantages to the earthen floor. Flaws--cracks, dips, etc--can be so easily fixed. Second, there are no health risks--no asbestos hiding in the mix, no chemicals, no skin irritants, etc. That is surprising--isn't manure a prime ingredient? Not that I'd be setting food on the floor, but  isn't manure rather aromatic in an unpleasant way? Tobias never mentions a troubling smell.

He finishes with his plans to finish the floor with a layer of beeswax, although linseed oil is another option. Linseed oil, I learn from another blog (I love cob), is combustible, so be careful with that. This picture--of an earth floor after being treated with linseed oil, came from that blog as well.

An expert called in to consult on the floor was a felow called "Old Boar": Eddie Wills. His expertise is in Iron Age crafts, among other things, and he's trying to set up an Iron Age Lake Village. Another name to run through Twitter!

1 comment:

Eddie Wills said...

Eddie Wills AKA Eddix the Old Boar apears on Twitter as FatherEdd, but doesn't have a lot to say for himself there!