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Earth Floor Notes
Hardening Earth Floors & Finishing with Linseed Oil

How to Harden an Earth Floor

Materials needed:
-wire strainer
-trowel or heavy board

1. Prick the earth floor, moisten, and level it. (If the floor has holes, fill them with pieces of rock or earth.)
2. Evenly apply a -inch thick coat of a well-strained mixture of 2 parts earth, 1 part ashes, and enough
water to hold them together. 3. Smooth the mixture with a trowel or straight board.
4. Let this coat dry for at least 2 days.
5. Evenly apply -inch thick coat of a mixture of 2 parts ashes and 1 part earth. (These are the reverse amounts of ashes and earth used in the base layer.) They should be mixed with just enough water to make a very thick paste.
6. Smooth and level this second coat.
7. Let dry for at least 3 days. Do not use the floor during this time.

Special instructions:
1. Strain the ashes and earth well to remove all rocks, coals, or other materials.
2. Mix the ashes and earth very thoroughly and slowly add just enough water to make a paste.
3. When sweeping the finished floor, add a little water so that the mixture will not "dust off" but become harder.
4. It is best to finish one-half of the floor before starting the other part.
5. If the floor cracks, go over it with the second mixture. Fill in the openings and smooth.

Finishing an Earthen Floor with Linseed Oil
By Barbara Roemer and Glenn Miller

      We mixed linseed oil into our final coat for the floor because we'd had small cracks in the first two layers. Used about a gallon to 50 gals of floor mix (4:1 clay to sand, with lots of finely screened chopped straw).

      The floor was down for more than a year before it developed a few hairline cracks in this dry summer. We are just ready to reoil it, and expect most of those cracks to disappear with reoiling. Used regular boiled linseed oil when we could keep the house entirely open, and Bioshield Hard Oil #9 thereafter.

      The Steens have a new floor book coming out soon, and they have simplified their system such that they do not dilute the oil with solvents, putting on successively richer or leaner coats. Put it on, wipe in down as soon as the oil has had a chance to soak in. We used heated oil, but did it in a waterbath: oil in a coffee can sitting in a frying pan of water over a campstove outside. Do not leave a batch on while you are working - it takes only a few minutes to reheat it and is not worth the risk of untended oil over any kind of fire. Our floor, even with linseed oil in the final coat, soaked up three coats quickly, but it was bone dry (several months worth of drying). It could have used another coat at 9 months, and is very hard. Water pools on it rather than soaking into it.

      Still, I wouldn't recommend cob with oil finish for a horizontal surface outside. The Steens' lime plastered bale or cob benches are almost always covered with a porch, and their rainfall is low and confined to one season. Don't know about alum, but the Steens have also experimented with olive oil soap rubbed into lime plasters for a beautiful sheen. Something in the soap reacts with the lime. Look for their new book - maybe it will have an explanation of the chemistry. It's a labor-intensive process suited to small decorative areas.

See also:
Making An Earthen Floor
Adobe Floor Basics: How to Build a Dirt Cheap Floor
Earthen Floor at the Middle Path Health Awareness Retreat

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
See also: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.

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Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
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