I made my first earthen floor about 7 years ago. It was a simple floor but had an elegant beauty about it. It had a certain softness too, unlike concrete. I recall how it warmed in the sun and from the fireplace next to it, storing the heat for many hours. Several years have passed since I worked on that first earthen floor but in the past few months we’ve installed a number of floors, and I’ve been reminded of their beauty, practicality, and how just how grounding these floors are.
Recently, we installed an earthen floor in Lethbridge, Alberta. The house sat overlooking a beautiful coulee and as is common for this part of the country, the wind blows often, usually intensely. After considering all the floor options, the homeowner decided on an earthen floor, as it suited her desire for a low-impact, warm, and unique flooring option. Though rather unexpected, the heavy earthen floor not only met her requirements but it really grounded the space. It provided a certain weightiness that rooted the house in the landscape and it did so using materials of the place – clay, sand, and straw. No longer did it seem like the house would just be blown away with the next big wind gust. Light streamed in the windows, illuminating the room and giving it a handsome glow that really made the place warm and inviting. It was made of the place and for the place, as all the materials were sourced in Southern Alberta.
Whether used in an earthen home or in a conventional home, as was the case in Lethbridge, an earthen floor offers a wonderful flooring option. Treated with oil (usually hemp or linseed) and finished with beeswax, earthen floors are durable, easy to live on, and easy to maintain. They complement in-floor heating and passive solar designs and when maintained, can last a lifetime.