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Posts Tagged ‘floor’

Ceramic tile floor

Ceramic tile floor


Soil-cement floor

Soil-cement floor


Stone floor

Stone floor


Recycled brick floor

Recycled brick floor


Earth coupled floors – high mass floors in contact with the soil below (slab on grade, tile, stone, CEB, earthen floors, salvaged brick) – are ideal for keeping homes cool in hot climates. They are not recommended for cold climates where underfloor insulation is best. Our earthbag roundhouse, which is in a hot climate, remains cool year-round due in part to the earth coupled floor. The indoor temperature is about 15 degrees F (8 degrees C) cooler inside than out, and the temperature remains nearly constant night and day. Plastic sheeting under the floor prevents wicking of moisture.

“Floors are often the primary link between the structure of a building and its foundations (the ground upon which it sits). Where floors are in direct contact with the ground, they can have a major influence on the internal climate by adding thermal inertia (capacitive insulation) which is assisted by thermal coupling with the mass of earth underneath the floor.

The coupling effect of the earth and building structure increases with depth. Walls and roofs can also be earth coupled if the structure is excavated below ground. Once a structure lies about 3.0 metres below ground, it has such great thermal inertia that it is no longer subject to day/night temperature swing, but only to slight effects from seasonal variation.”

Text source: TT Architecture
Image source: Ceramic-Floors.com
Image source: Rammed Earth Works
Image source: Inehome.com
Image source: Vintage Brick Salvage

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Plunger Pile Floor System

Plunger Pile Floor System


An inexpensive option to thick concrete floors. The diagram below is from the 1972 book “The Owner Built Home”, by Ken Kern. In this discussion Kern describes a lightweight 1″ thick fiber reinforced floor system that had been tested extensively in India. The system starts with a flat earthen floor surface that has been loosened to encourage future settlement. Over this soil is laid a thin layer of sand and then the fiber reinforcing. Traditionally this is hessian, a type of burlap. CountryPlans administrator Glenn Kangiser has built floors such as this using jute and landscape fiber mats. The structural bearing of the floor comes from plunger pile footings punched into the soil on a 3′ by 3′ grid with a crowbar or metal rod. These are filled with grout or concrete which melds with the fiber reinforced concrete shell above. After a few weeks the soil below the concrete shell settles and provides a thermal and moisture break from the soil below.

Source: Country Plans.com

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Free shipping pallets can be used to make durable, comfortable and beautiful wooden floors. (click to enlarge)

Free shipping pallets can be used to make durable, comfortable and beautiful wooden floors. (click to enlarge)


We recently discussed Eleven Earth Floor Methods. Here’s another low cost floor method to consider. The drawing above is pretty much self explanatory, but here are the basic steps and a few options. First, create a level, stable base with tamped road base, subsoil or crusher fines. You could use scoria or pumice in cold climates or sand/gravel in rainy climates. Add 6 mil plastic sheeting on top as a moisture barrier and 1” or so of sand that is carefully leveled. Set one pallet at a time, screwing or nail gunning each pallet to previous pallets. Use pallets that are all the same size. This will naturally take extra time and care when you select the pallets. Also, don’t use pallets that are badly broken since they will be supporting your floor.

Flooring options include rough sawn wood from a local saw mill, recycled wood or ‘barn wood’ from old buildings or gymnasium floors (excellent source of hard maple flooring), manufactured bamboo flooring or even split bamboo if you want a really rustic look, or tongue and groove flooring (T&G). You could mill your own wood with a bandsaw sawmill. Milling your own wood enables you to use unusual woods that are not commercially available and/or cut to special dimensions – wide planks, for instance. If money is really tight, you could use pieces of pallets for the floor itself. This would definitely require a floor sander to smooth and level the floor, and a nail set to pound the nails below the surface. The drawing shows trim screws that have small, inconspicuous heads, which would work well in most instances. T&G flooring can be toe-nailed with a toe-nail gun so the nail is not visible. (This is what most pros use.) Another beautiful flooring method – although much more time consuming – is achieved by using screws and dowel plugs.

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“If you are looking for a cheap way to make a hard floor in a foyer, in a shed, or barn, you may want to consider a tamped earth floor, or what is called “tataki” or “douma” in Japanese. Japanese buildings have all historically been tamped earth or wooden flooring. Some temples have earth floors over huge areas. Kitchens and storage building floors were often made of the material that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Recently home builders have been returning the material for its aesthetic appeal, as well as the cost. The floors last for decades with moderately heavy use, are easy to repair if they crack, and can be made smooth or textured and decorated. They are inexpensive, because the materials are available nearly anywhere, and you can do all of the work. Finally, in the end the floors return to their natural condition, dirt.

First you need to consider how large an area you want to cover. If your foyer is three meters square, and you want a floor that is fifteen centimeters thick, then you will have to have about one and a half cubic meters of compacted earth and lime in the end product. I recommend at least fifteen centimeters of thickness for a strong floor. The thing is though that once this is packed down, it is about 1/3 the height of the original materials untamped. That means that you will need to start with about three times the amount of sand and lime to compact for your floor with the desired dimensions. In other words, you will need a little more than three cubic meters of sand and a one cubic meter of lime for your three meter square floor.”

Read the full article at Jinriki
Related: Jaanus / Doma

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Terracotta tile floor project at The Year of Mud blog

Terracotta tile floor project at The Year of Mud blog


Ziggy, over at The Year of Mud blog, has done it again. Over and over he comes up with some of the clearest, most in-depth blog posts on low cost natural building techniques, and his photos are always superb. Here’s a snippet from his blog about how to lay terracotta floor tile using clay mortar over an earthen floor base. Click on the link below for the full article and lots more photos.

“After we laid our base and final layer of the earthen floor (1.5″ and 3/4″ thick each, respectively — I actually could have done just one layer that was about 2″ that would have sufficed), we set about laying the tile. We waited until the final layer of the earthen floor was about 80% dry to do the tiling.

I used clay to adhere the tile to the earthen floor — straight clay that had been mixed up a bit by hand, fairly wet, but not so wet that it could hold no shape. This I smeared on the floor, applying enough so that the tile could sit flush with its neighbors. This took a while to learn — how much clay to apply to keep a level plane.

Before placing the tile, I dipped it in water. These things suck up moisture, so it helped to wet them a bit to be able to shimmy them about without the tiles setting up so quickly.

And then the placement: quick, firm, and with pressure to set it down nicely in the clay. Ideally, you should not have to pick up the tile once it is down — picking it up with clay all over the back is annoying and tedious. That’s why getting the amount of clay adhesive right the first time is so important.”

Source: Year of Mud
Be sure to check out the new house Ziggy is building. He’s also recently remodeled his cob house.

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Geopolymer pavers would look similar to this limestone tile.

Geopolymer pavers would look similar to this limestone tile.


This new idea comes from two recent blog posts. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read the blog post about How They Built the Pyramids. Geopolymer is a subject I’ll be returning to again and again because it makes so much sense on so many levels. In addition, the blog post last week on CEB floors was a bit hit. (See Cheap and Easy Brick Floors.) The fabulous look, simplicity and durability of CEB pavers make them a top choice for flooring.

With these two ideas fresh in my mind, it just occurred to me that you could use geopolymer to cast pavers for floors and garden paths any size and shape you want. This would eliminate the need for a CEB press, use no cement and utilize 100% natural local materials. And the clincher for me? The material (loose limestone) turns to actual stone. Your floor would last indefinitely. You could remove pavers if necessary to access your radiant heat flooring. Old pavers could be recycled over and over again just like stone… because it is stone. All you’re doing is adding the binder to ‘glue’ the material back together. Brilliant, no? It’s certainly a step or two above ugly concrete.

Okay, so no system is perfect. Let’s briefly discuss some of the drawbacks and challenges involved with making your own geopolymer pavers. For one, you’d have to experiment a bit. Materials would vary – primarily the limestone and kaolin clay – and so you’d have to make a few samples to find out what works best. There are very few resources that describe in detail how to do this. You’d have to read what’s available from the Geopolymer Institute and work things out. So this is not an out of the box solution. Plus, you’d have to grind and polish the pavers if you wanted a refined look like in the image above. This isn’t necessary because the natural look of limestone is quite beautiful, but rough surface would be difficult to clean. I would try casting the pavers with extra moisture (like the lower blocks in the video mentioned above) and try for a smooth finish that doesn’t need grinding/polishing.

Image credit: White Hall

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This video is by David Easton, the well known owner of Rammed Earth Works in California and author of The Rammed Earth House, the best selling book on the subject.

Here’s Wiki’s description: “Soil cement is a construction material, a mix of pulverized natural soil with small amount of Portland cement and water, usually processed in a [mixer…]. Hard, semi-rigid, durable material is formed by hydration of the cement particles.”

Soil cement is another great way to make affordable floors, patios and extremely strong fill material for earthbags. [Note for new readers: most earthbags are not stabilized, but there are certain applications where soil stabilization is a good idea.] Google “soil cement” to learn more about this subject.

Even though the video is about making pavers, I was more interested in David Easton’s soil cement recipe. This is why I love the Internet. Thank you David.
3 parts soil
2 parts sand
4 parts pea gravel
½ sack of cement
1 part water

Rammed Earth Works

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