Thursday, May 29, 2014

Floor Test

We have a lot of floor to do - and I do mean a LOT! We decided a long time ago that we wanted to have an earthen floor but as time has progressed and the house gets more and more finished and the realization that the pouring of that floor was getting closer and closer, I started getting really stressed about just how big a job that was going to be! How in the world were we going to screed a mud floor that big flat? And what could we do to make that job one I could do by myself, if need be? One day I had an epiphany - why not take adobe bricks and lay them out in a grid at floor height and pour the mud in the cells created? We still have ceiling to finish in most of the house which will take scaffolding but not in the bedroom so I decided to start there.

Step One

Before I started I removed all the very loose straw and dirt and got the floor somewhat level.

Step Two

Then I laid out all the adobes dry. I did a rough leveling job as I put the adobes in place. Before I started mudding, I strung a lead line all around the perimeter of the room. That was harder than I expected but it's close to level. You can see the string in the next picture.

Step Three

Then I started mudding.

All the adobes are in place. 
I must say that this was a VERY hard job! Much harder than I thought it would be. Hopefully, as we do more, it will get easier.

Step Four

Once the mud between the adobes was dry, I made a sanding block with expanded lath over a 2x4 and sanded the joints as flat as I could get them. I then did some fill work where needed. We may have to go back once the floor is totally dry and before we start the sealing process and do some more fill work.

Step Five

Next I re-leveled the floor in each section and tamped it down with the tamper. The floor is pretty much on undisturbed soil so it's pretty solid. I  used a watering can to wet down the dirt then I was ready to pour!

Step Six

The mix I used on the walls has dried with virtually no cracking so I decided to use the same mix for the floor: One part dirt to two parts sand with a bucket of chopped straw per wheelbarrow of mix. The only change I made was to add twice as much chopped straw as I did for the wall plaster.
To make the screeding process easier I took an old 2x6 and cut 2" sections out of each end. That allowed me to screed the first pour at 2" below finished floor level. On the final pour, I just turned the board over.

Once I started pouring and screeding I realized that even though setting the adobes was hard work, it was well worth it. They give us a manageable size cell to work with and made the filling and screeding a breeze!

First pour!
All six sections filled to 2" below floor level.
We allowed the first pour to dry for a day or so - just until it was still moist but not leather hard.

Step Seven

Then the second pour was made. Note the screed board turned over now.
We made the chopped straw I used for this pour much smaller - 1" pieces or smaller.

All the cells filled and ready to dry.

I checked the floor every day. The first couple of days I kept finding holes "dug" into the wet mud. I figured it was mice trying to get the straw out - or something. The holes were easy to fix with a little water and a trowel. That stopped once the floor got harder.

Step Eight

At the leather-hard stage, we took a damp sponge and wiped the sections down, exposing some more of the chopped straw.

Then the waiting began.

At the end of a week, you can see that the floor is starting to dry. The exciting news is that we have found NO cracking!!!

Once the floor is completely dry, we will start the sealing process.

Ceiling Update

We finally got all the vent stacks in and were able to get the ceiling ready for the blown insulation.

Slowly, slowly . . . 

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