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Earthen Floor Brownstone

The correct way to finish off a brownstone is to put lots of insulation and then a concrete slab, right? Correct maybe but not the greenest way. Concrete creates way too much CO2.  The greenest way and a great alternative to concrete is to put lots of insulation and then an EARTHEN floor. Yes earth, as in the same earth you dug out to make room for the insulation in the first place.

People have only been using earthen floors since humans evolved out of the trees….earthen floors can be hardened to be durable and they last many years. Unlike other materials they can be “healed” by adding some more earth and water to any crack or scratched spot. Then you seal the patch with a natural hardener like linseed oil.

Next time you need to redo your basement call us to install an earthen floor! An earthen floor is a green alternative to a concrete basement slab.

Taken from EcoAct:

Earthen flooring is exactly what it sounds like – humble, natural earth can be compacted with straw or other fibers and stabilized with various natural oils to form attractive high-quality flooring.

earthen floor2 Earthen Floor Brownstone

Advantages of earthen flooring:

  • Eliminates construction waste – excess earth can be reincorporated into the landscape
  • Attractive, comfortable, slightly spongy surface, sometimes compared to leather
  • Inexpensive materials
  • Minimal to zero pollution – Earthen materials require only simple processing and little or no transport. Even when produced by a machine, a finished earthen slab is estimated to have 90% lower embodied energy than finished concrete. (Adapted from Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings, 1984)
  • Durable with proper care, and repairable
  • Low maintenance, able to be swept or moist-mopped; properly sealed, stabilized earthen flooring is not dusty

earthen floor pic Earthen Floor Brownstone

Disadvantages of earthen flooring:

  • Labor intensive to install
  • High traffic areas such as entries or workspaces may require additional materials – such as flagstone – for protection
  • More vulnerable to scratching and gouging than hard tile or cement – but earthen flooring is more durable than vinyl because it is repairable.
  • Few local contractors are experienced with earthen flooring

Earthen flooring can be a durable, inexpensive, environmentally sound, and uniquely aesthetic complement to a home or office. Because “dirt” is of course plentiful and locally available, earthen flooring virtually eliminates the waste, pollution, and energy necessary to manufacture a floor, and can save money.

One of the keys to a good earthen floor is the proper mixture of dirt, clay, and straw. (Stabilizers such as starch paste, casein, glues, or portland cement can be added for a harder floor.) Earthen floors are usually sealed with any oxidizing oil such as linseed or hemp oil.

Here is an example of earthen floor layers. The first one of course is LOTS of insulation.

earth floor sections3 Earthen Floor Brownstone

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5 comments to Earthen Floor Brownstone

  • Heather Y

    Earthen Floor is screamin green …

    Wow- so it is not clay after all- this is just fascinating! Amazing!

    “Labor intensive” could mean that people could get employed in teaching, learning, and doing this work.

    “Not many local contractors know how” just means that green contractors have YET ANOTHER opportunity….

    “minimal poluution, locally sourced material wherever you go (dirt) and 90 per cent less embedded energy” is just screaming green cred…

    Put it all together and it seems like a perfect pitch for the second phase of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act plus the incoming ” cash for Caulkers” program.

    What say you, Eco Brooklyn?

    Is the state administrator for these federal funds looking for you?

  • juan

    I just did mine mixed chat which is like caliche 50 50 with local earth, repaired the cracks let it dry, two coats of linseed oil, let it dry three coats of polyurethane. I love it

  • javier solis

    just made mine in san angelo tx I mixed one part caliche one part earth two coats on linseed oil, three coats polyurethane. I love it, nicer than I envisioned
    I do recommend it

  • [...] reading at EcoBrooklyn and at I Love Cob in which you can find all sorts of articles and instruction for building Rocket [...]

  • I don’t see the insulation in the detail provided, can you explain for me? I’m an architect in Wisconsin and would love to see this work here.

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