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How to Make a Dirt Floor

Megan Shoop

Dirt and earthen floors are gaining ever more attention in the construction world. Inexpensive at about a dollar per square foot, these floors aren’t the packed earth floors of the pioneers. Instead, modern dirt floors are made of a combination of sand, clay and gravel left over from big construction projects.

Earthen floors are economical and sturdy.

Dirt floors have been transformed from primitive foundations to a modern, chic way to reduce construction waste and finish your home. You can install dirt floors on your own, but it takes time and plenty of endurance. You may want to recruit friends and family to help with the project.

  1. Line the floor area with a 6-inch-thick layer of finely crushed rock. Pea-sized gravel should do the trick. Spread it smooth with your hands, stepping into the corners to push them down level with the rest of the floor. Flooring beneath the dirt floor may be bare ground or highly reinforced subflooring.

  2. Add about 30 pounds of sand to a cement trough, followed by 10 pounds each of clay and finely chopped straw. Add ½ gallon of water to the mixture, stir with a hoe, and repeat until the mix is about the consistency of very thick, smooth pudding.

  3. Shovel about 1 lb. of the mixture into the corner of your room farthest from the door. Drop shovelfuls of mixture this way all over your floor until you run out.

  4. Press down on the dirt mixture and smooth it over the floor with a trowel. Smooth the edges of the shovelfuls into each other to create a seamless floor. Continue this way until the entire floor is covered. You may need to make more mixture as you go.

  5. Allow the first layer of flooring to dry overnight. Mix another batch of sand, clay and straw. Smooth a second layer of flooring over the first, continuing until your floor is as thick as you need it to be. Each layer should be about 2 inches thick; if your floor must be 5 feet thick, you’ll need 30 layers of dirt.

  6. Allow the floor to cure for up to a month, ensuring all of the layers are solid and dry. Roll about three coats of tile sealer over the floor with paint rollers, allowing each coat to dry for 2 hours before adding another. Allow the final coat to dry for 24 hours.

  7. Tip

    Dirt floors are best used on floors sitting directly on the ground. Finished basements and ground floors make practical choices for placing these heavy floors. If placing an earthen floor on a second story or over a basement, the sub-flooring must be highly reinforced and graded to hold at least double the weight of your floor.