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Earthbag Building & Other Natural Building Methods

Dirt-cheap Dirt Floors

A professional rammed-earth home builder shares his methods for pouring low-cost soil-cement floors that are not only durable, but also extremely handsome in appearance.

A professional rammed-earth home builder shares his methods for pouring low-cost soil-cement floors that are not only durable, but also extremely handsome in appearance.

David Easton, author of The Rammed Earth House and owner of Rammed Earth Works in California, shares his earth floor building method in Popular Science. Click link below for full article.

“My family and I live in a beautiful earth home with a handsome earth floor. It may sound unbelievable, but as a successful builder of rammed earth houses I’d been trying for a while to expand the use of earth to finished flooring. After much experimentation, I’ve finally found a suitable mix of soil and cement to do the job.

Why bother? Well, a soil-based floor is softer and more comfortable than a conventional concrete slab, and if you lay it yourself, it’s less expensive. As a bonus, it can be stamped to look like rustic tiling that has an earthy color. Finally, a soil-cement floor is a natural for passive solar heating and a perfect medium for hydronic radiant slab.

Soil-cement is softer underfoot because it is less dense than concrete. Unlike the aggregate used in concrete, soil expands significantly when it’s wet. As a soil-cement slab dries and the soil particles lose water, they shrink, and millions of tiny air pockets develop. These air pockets essentially make the floor a little spongy.”

[Easton goes on to explain all the steps in detail. He recommends a 1” thick layer of soil cement on top of 4” of well-compacted soil such as road base. This saves cement because only the top 1” is stabilized.]

Source: Popular Science, Dirt Cheap Dirt Floors by David Easton (type the name of the article and author in a search engine if the link doesn’t work)
Soil Cement Pavers
Tamped Earth Floors

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14 Responses to “Dirt-cheap Dirt Floors”

  1. Iman says:

    Hi there
    What precautions could you take to ensure a floor like this would be suitable for a bathroom?
    Or should I just forget that idea!

  2. Emma De says:

    This floor looks warm and gorgeous! Our 5 acres came with an inherited 2 bed prefab- plywood on a concrete slab.

    I’m trying to salvage the place for guest accommodation- adding reclaimed wood cladding and insulation, but I’m stumped on finding an affordable eco-flooring solution.

    Do you think that the cement slab might work as a stable structure to pour the soil cement onto? I don’t mind raising the level of the floor a few inches.

    Thanks so much!

    • Owen Geiger says:

      The slab would make a great base. Concrete wicks moisture and expands/contracts at a different rate than soil, so I would add plastic sheeting between the concrete and earthen floor. I use 6 mil poly.

      Earthen floors are my favorite. They are warm, somewhat resilient and comfortable under foot. I think they’re the best flooring choice in the world. Even some millionaires have put these floors in their homes. You can add pex radiant floor heating if you want. The key is to get the right soil mix. Make sure you experiment because it’s a bit tricky. And be sure to buy that new earth floor book that just came out. It was on our blog a few weeks back.

  3. Dave Healey says:

    Hello From Australia.
    How would a rammed earth floor perform on very reactive clay soil?

    • Owen Geiger says:

      Reactive clay reacts to water. So keep the floor dry. Prevent expansion by building on high ground, raising the building site, adding a French drain, build wide roof overhangs, etc.

  4. Juergen says:

    I’ve already planned to have such floors in the bedrooms of my roundhouse.
    It’s just beautyful…

  5. DJ says:

    It looks amazing but sounds as if it isn’t something that could be implemented in an existing house?

    Also, is it possible to obtain different colors using dyes or stains?

    Just curious.

    I would love to do this in my family room, kitchen, bath, and hallway, which have different flooring types, all in bad shape. But my house is already built and certainly doesn’t have the substrate mentioned above. : )

  6. Kat says:

    Is it permeable? For example: a pet has an accident on the floor while I’m at work and can’t clean it up right away. Will that seep into the floor and be a big stinky deal to get out?

    Also, how does it stand up to heavy rolling loads (garage, workshop with heavy power tools on casters)?

  7. Robin says:

    That they are dirt cheap is great. But this floor looks so good I can not believe it.

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