I'm not a greenie. I recycle. That's about the extent of my environmentally conscious behavior. So when I read stories like this, I'm befuddled...perplexed...weirded out...sarcastic:
Rowell and Farnsworth, 26, were working with a dozen friends to install a dirt floor — an "earthen floor," as it is known — in their 50-year-old home in this Oakland suburb.
Labor costs included, earthen floors can run as little as $5 a square foot, compared with $15 or more for hardwood. But because so much of the work on their floor was volunteered by friends, the cost was lower.
The floor — which, in addition to the basic ingredient, included lime and sand, two classic components of concrete — would take a few weeks to dry, a period when the couple would camp out in their living room. But once sealed with a mixture of linseed oil and beeswax, the floor theoretically would be firm and repel water.
Theoretically? This may sound strange coming from an economist, but I'd like my floors to have proven properties...not theoretical.
Apparently, the dirt floors* have nice thermal properties. They retain heat and lower heating bills. But there are some undesirables:
"It’s great for a sitting room, a library or a hearth around the fireplace, but I don’t recommend them for wet areas like bathrooms or kitchens," he said. "They are vulnerable. If you ever have a flood in your house, it will saturate it, and you’ll have a big mess."
Yeah, it's called MUD and it's the reason hard surface floors were invented!
And although earthen floors are durable when well-installed, "There are things they don’t tolerate well, such as point loads," Steen said. "Twenty women in high-heeled shoes would not be good."
How often do people with earthen floors have 20 women in high-heeled shoes in their house at the same time? Wouldn't they all be in Birkenstocks**?
Even chair legs can be problematic. When Jenny and Chris Altenbach moved into their earthen-floored house in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2006, they left tiny craters in the floor whenever they sat in a chair.
How about tree stumps? They make nice chairs around the campfire and spread the load more evenly.
"It hadn’t developed the proper hardness, and we got a lot of dents and scratches," Jenny Altenbach said.
The floors were subjected to other punishment. Jenny Altenbach said their dogs weren’t house-trained and occasionally left stains, and their daughter, Eliza, enjoyed drawing on the floor with markers.
On the upside, the family room baseball games have a surprising new sense of realism to them.
But like most believers, they were not easily discouraged.
"The imperfections just add to the character of the floors," Jenny Altenbach said. "We’ve had every kind of mess you can imagine. Some of the stains show, but it only makes these floors more beautiful, like an aging leather jacket."
Pee stains, mud and markers are now just character traits of floors? Alright, it's official...I'm a snob.
*I know there's more to it than dirt, but trust me, most people will think this is a dirt floor.
**I'm kidding!...please send all complaints about jokes in bad taste to our customer service representatives and they will issue a full refund.