Starting to build the earthen mass floor

by ziggy on November 3, 2008 -- 1 comment -- Follow

And now… how to build an earthen floor:

When I began building, I decided to leave the topsoil in my house instead of hauling it out. I guess mostly to avoid the extra labor, really.

floor-dirt

Over the months, it has become quite tamped and solid from continually walking on it. I decided to leave it as is, with the original slope of the land, supposing that any moisture that does happen to get in there (which it shouldn’t) will run out towards the drainage trench.

Moving and tamping the gravel

Next up was moving gravel into the space. I estimate it took about six tons of material. The gravel is about 3-4″ thick on the east side, and 12″ on the west. (It is 1″ clean gravel, for the record.) It was surprisingly easy to level – I hardly had to do anything other than rake it and eye it to judge it level. Although having level dots painted on the foundation certainly helped when moving the gravel into the house.

Anyway, next came the tamping. Thankfully, we got the gravel in the house just in time for our annual traveling Halloween party. Typically, we celebrate Halloween by traveling around the village, making stops at different (and predetermined) houses and locations. Each host has a different activity or snacks or what-have-you. For my stop, we had a GOBCOBATRON DISCO. Presumably, with all of those bodies dancing, the gravel would be tamped more easily than having to do it by hand by myself.

tamp-party

It certainly didn’t do any harm!

Making the earthen floor mix

Now it was time to make the mix for the base layer of the earthen floor: a combination of sand, clay, and straw (surprise!). For this base layer, the ratio of sand to clay that I am using is 3:1, with long straw by the handful. The next (and final) layer will have sifted sand, sieved clay, and chopped straw.

floor-earth

My base layer is 2.5″ thick. Today, I stomped a whole 11 batches of material for the house. There are 14 batches currently in the space. It will need a few more before it is done.

floor-pound

To make the actual floor, I load the (very dry) mix into buckets, and then dump it on the floor. Next I use my hands to knead the surface and make it roughly level. I slap it some with my hands, and then stamp it by jumping on a longish 2×6 board. Stamping it is very tiring and hard on the back. Thankfully, it has been surprisingly easy to keep level. I am not being too picky about having a perfectly level floor, though. This layer is much rougher than the final coat of earth, too, so I’ll be more careful with that final layer.

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