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An Earthen Floor in a Bag

5/19/2011 12:00:00 AM


Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailEarth is perhaps our most enduring and natural flooring material, used since humans began building themselves shelter. In the American Southwest, homebuilders mixed ox blood with dirt for a stronger, more durable flooring surface, and rural Japanese poured bath water, which contained oil from bathers’ skin, onto unsealed floors. In India, ghee or clarified butter was used. Today, combining the wisdom of ancient traditions with modern building science, earthen floors are again becoming a popular natural flooring option,.

To lay a traditional earthen floor, a mixture of water, soil with clay content, sand and chopped straw is troweled into place and sealed with linseed oil after the floor has dried. Mud masters Bill and Atheena Steen offer directions for making your own earthen floors in Natural Home & Garden—or you can buy Claylin, a ready-mix earthen floor in a bag just released by Portland, Oregon-based From These Hands. “Claylin is mixed and packaged in the Portland, Oregon, area from local raw materials,” explains From These Hands owner Sukita Reay Crimmel. “And our Clayin finish has no heavy metals; it’s food grade.”

Claylin ready-mix contains sand, clay soil and fiber from the Portland Oregon, area. The floor is sealed with a mix of linseed oil, tung oil, pine rosin, beeswax, citrus oil and dipentene for a durable, washable surface. You can customize your floor by adding color or texture, creating patterns or designs, or inserting tiles or mosaics.

The floors can be installed “on grade,” on existing concrete slabs and on framed subfloors, making them appropriate for both new construction and renovations where structural support is sufficient to accommodate the weight. Claylin earthen floors range in thickness from 1 inch to 3 inches or more in colder climates.

With regular maintenance, earthen floors can last a lifetime. Claylin floors can be swept, vacuumed, mopped with a damp mop and occasionally washed with an oil-based soap to keep the surface clean and glossy. A new coat of wax is typically applied every one to five years, and the floors can easily be patched if they are damaged.

Claylin materials start at $4 per square foot and can cost up to $12 for certain colors. In comparison, hardwood floor materials can start at $9 per square foot, bamboo or cork also start at $4 per square foot, and natural linoleum at $5 per square foot. Ordering will be available mid-summer. To learn more, visit

claylin temple overall 

A Claylin earthen floor withstands heavy traffic at this Buddhist temple. Photo courtesy of Claylin 

claylin temple closeup 

The flooring is rich and buttery, very forgiving on bare feet. Photo courtesy of Claylin 

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