Living earthen floor?

by ziggy on June 16, 2009 -- 9 comments -- Follow

I have been away from Dancing Rabbit for the past week, and friends have been monitoring the drying of my earthen floor, which I completed about a week before I left for New Jersey. My friend Liat just sent me some images of what the floor looks like… it isn’t dry, and there is now both grass and mushrooms popping up through the floor.

The last week has been quite damp there, but damn… it’s already been two weeks since the floor has been finished. (It’s 1.5″ of new material, so it’s not that much stuff that has to dry out.)

I’m a little concerned about what looks like definite mold… but should I be worried? Anyone experience a situation like this? I won’t be able to pluck the grass and mushrooms and wipe the mold until the floor dries…



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  • Rebecca

    Hey, I’ve been lurking along for most of your “year” now. I might have something to say about your predicament, but take it with a grain of salt (or sand).
    When I went to a cob workshop a few years ago there was a small home similar to your already built with a new, drying earth floor. The grass was growing lush and green almost like a lawn. The teacher said that eventually the grasss will die from lack of water and then there will just be little cracks running hither and yon that you can push damp floor mix into later and rub the whole the whole thing smooth. Hope that helps.

  • Hi Rebecca: Thanks for reading! Yea, that sounds about like what I expected. But I suppose the mushrooms/mold are the bigger concern for me. I wonder if the mold can be wiped later, or if it will make some discoloration. Hmm…

    Thanks for commenting.

  • rebecca page

    lol! I think your friends must have dodgy feet! all that Halloween dancing left some fungi behind:)
    I say taste em, if they give you a good trip then just keep them- and charge an entry fee!!:P

    nah, i agree with what rebecca said, they will die out. and its not mould, its just fungi. it must be warm in your cottage, which is good. Mould doesn’t form like a stalactite (stalagmite?) so i would wait it out.

  • Hi Ziggy, Love to see your progress!
    I almost always have grass, or barley in my case. Little pumps sucking out moisture. They do die off. I once had some mold that I was concerned about too, didn’t have a full fledged mushroom garden though. What I did is shoot the surface with a little bleach water mix to prevent growth.

  • Emily

    I’ve been a confessed lurker, too, keeping up with your progress. It looks great, by the way. We started the stem walls of our cob home and have been very slow in progress (had some health issues come up and delay us). We live in HOT, HUMID Alabama. I am worried about your earthen floor. We tend to get a lot of rain here which means more dreadful humity. We had planned on having an earthen floor and have dug out excessively deep for the stem walls, almost 3 ft deep to account for any water that might try to get in. I have heard the debate on water barriers, pros and cons for both. What do you think on the matter and do you think it is too muggy here for an earthen floor. If so what would you suggest as an alternative?

  • Thanks, Emily! My opinion on using water barriers has more to do with not wanting to use plastic any more than I have to, but it’s not clear to me either whether or not they are beneficial. I too have seen conflicting information, but I would lean towards “stay away”. It seems important that the floor should be able to “breathe”.

    Mugginess shouldn’t pose a problem beyond the drying period of the floor. I think that once an earthen floor is dry (and oiled), the humidity/mugginess should not affect it. It definitely helps to install the floor during a drier time of year, though.

    Alternatives… well, there’s always reclaimed wood, or flagstone or some other type of stone. If you use flagstone (see The Hand-Sculpted House), that’s less earth that will be in your floor and less of an opportunity for moisture to pose a problem.

    Good luck! Be sure to contact again as you make more progress.

  • Dude

    Moisture, as I have read, is the engine that drives mold. Control moisture to control mold. Moisture also gives the desired properties of earth flooring, so this is a catch 22.

    It may be a good idea to heat the soil under a black plastic sheet in the sun for a few weeks to a month to kill seeds; I believe it’s called soil solarization. That would require alot of planning and work before installation.

    Temporary fixes are: soap and water, vinegar, bleach, desiccant granules, dehumidifier.

  • Max

    This photo is very scary, things like this should be talked about more in earthen building workshops. This is the kind of stuff that leads to things that infect people and spread chagas disease killing hundreds of thousands in latin america.

  • Su Hagan

    Try a little essential oil, almost any will do, but tea tree or lavender are good as they are both anti bacterial and anti fungal in a spray bottle diluted in water. Say, 15 drops to a litre and spray it on. Smells good and the white stuff disappears quickly. You can also use a few drops of essential oil in the cob mix to prevent this from happening.

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