Laying the ‘earth’ floors

After rendering the walls we started laying the floors. We decided to use earth floors for a number of reasons. 1) it is using natural materials some of which we have plenty of on the farm, 2) it is very cheap, 3) it is very nice to walk on because it is not really hard like tiles or concrete, 4) it is attractive, 5) we want to use underfloor heating to keep the house warm in winter.

We first did the bathroom and then the two bedrooms and now the lounge area. The mix we have used for the floors is very similar to the clay render mix we used for the walls except we are using a bit more sand. The mix is therefore 3 buckets of plasterers sand to two thirds of a bucket of clay and two thirds of a bucket of fresh cow manure with some chopped straw added. (compared to two sand in the mix for the walls) We lay the mix on the Geo-textile membrane we have been walking on all the last months since laying the compacted foamglas (see earlier blog). The membrane stops the earth floor mix going down into the foamglas.

When mixed we wheelbarrow the fairly dry mix into the house and tip it on the floor starting in the far corner of the room. This is compacted by walking on it and using a metal compacting rod. We are using the leveling laser and a stick with two levels marked on it. The one is for the finished floor level and we have another mark a couple of inches above which we lay the floor to first. This is because we want to lay the underfloor heating pipes into this layer before covering them up to the finished floor level.

One can lay the pipes in different ways or patterns. The rectangular bedrooms we laid going around the outside of the room and spiraling the pipe into the middle of the room and then spiraling it out again. The usual clips one uses to fix the pipe onto foam (i.e. Celetex) do not work when trying to clip the pipe to the just laid earth mix so we made little trenches as we laid it out and placed buckets of clay on them to hold them in position. We later learnt a better method is to make deeper ‘trenches’ and immediately cover them with some of the earth mix, patted down well, to hold them in position. When the pipes were laid out to our satisfaction we covered them over with more of the mix brought in with wheelbarrows. One has to be very careful not to squash the pipe, especially when tipping the wheelbarrow. I also first filled the pipe with water to help ensure that there was not a problem.

We used the same plastic trowels which we used for the walls, to level the floor. We constantly checked our height with the laser and marked stick to ensure it was level and used a steel trowel to get a good finish. It is not the easiest job but satisfying when it is done! When the floor is laid we switch on the underfloor heating at a low temperature, which helps dry it out very effectively. In the first room we didn’t put any underfloor pipe in the floor in the built in cupboards and they took a very long time to dry. When we did the next bedroom we did put the pipes in the floor in the cupboards and they dried quickly and beautifully!

2018-12-11 10.24.09We did our first floor in the bathroom to see how it would go. In order to ensure that the toilet will never wobble loose we decided to set a paving slab in some concrete below the toilet and where the four legs of the bath stand. Here Margy is setting a piece of wood in cement under the wash hand basin for the same reason. The cement and wood will be covered by the earth floor.

2018-12-11 10.25.14

2018-12-12 15.50.55Here you can see how on our first floors we held the pipe in position with buckets of clay. the system works but is not as easy as doing the ‘trench’ method we developed later.

2018-12-12 15.50.37

2018-12-12 15.51.47The pipe is nearly all covered!

2018-12-12 18.33.42Then trowled flat and smooth with a satisfying result!

2018-12-12 18.34.04This needs to now be thoroughly dry before having many layers of boiled linseed oil painted/ soaked in.

2018-12-17 16.49.49Here Sarah starts on the first bedroom. Sarah and Martin helped render lots of the walls while they were here.

2018-12-17 16.49.13

2019-05-01 18.02.27Here we are starting in the lounge.

2019-05-01 18.04.36It has to be well tamped.

2019-05-01 18.04.41but it is easy!

2019-05-01 18.03.53Now checking the level using the laser.

2019-05-01 18.04.07Yes it is where it should be for the first layer, ready to put the underfloor heating pipes in.

2019-05-04 17.52.49The pipe comes in under the wall and then is buried round the corner.

2019-05-04 18.05.06A trench is made down the board which is dividing the room so that the floor can be laid in two parts. The pipe will then be laid in it and covered over.

2019-05-04 17.53.39Another view of the lay out. The pipe will be laid out along the edge of the next board and then along under the big windows. The bucket, filled with set cement, sits in the floor in the middle to enable us to make a structure later that we can reach the fire to keep it going over the weeks that the floor will need to dry. Having hot water for the underfloor heating so that the floor dries nice and quickly is important. this is the reason we are doing the floor in this room in two parts.

2019-05-04 18.46.03The pipe has been buried along under the window and is now to be buried in the trench coming this way. It will zig zag back and forth until the whole area is covered and then slip back under the wall next to where the first bit of pipe came in.

2019-05-04 18.45.35

2019-05-04 19.05.31

2019-05-07 17.55.12so that’s the pipe back under the wall to the underfloor heating unit.

2019-06-12 19.37.07Here is the unit in a cupboard in the passage. The white underfloor heating pipes come and go to five areas or rooms, each with their own thermostat. The one copper pipe brings hot water from the tank and the other one returns cooled water back up to the tank. 

2019-05-04 17.54.40Now we need to make more mix and bring it in up the planks in a wheelbarrow so that the final layer can be compacted and leveled as well as possible.

2019-05-16 16.05.16 - Copy - CopyTerry enjoys helping make the mix!

2019-05-07 17.55.20Margy starts getting the final level with the help of the laser.

2019-05-07 17.55.34


2019-05-09 17.10.16Final touches


and it is looking good.


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