“I’ve seen some earthen floors last 25 years,” Heslam says. Plus, as he points out, “the oil makes the floor pretty stain-resistant.” He and his wife, Caitlin Campbell, have three kids under 3 years old—they would certainly know.

"Portland is a great market for earthen floors because it’s a creative, open-minded place that is willing to try new things.”

Sukita Crimmel of From These Hands (503-957-6132, sukita.com), a natural building company here in Portland, has installed eight earthen floors in the city and helped Heslam design his floor. “They are still a bit obscure,” she says. “But Portland is a great market for earthen floors because it’s a creative, open-minded place that is willing to try new things.”

Let us preface this tutorial by saying that, while we Portlanders are a handy bunch, you may want to hire a professional like Crimmel if you plan on redoing your entire first floor. Her company can help design and install an earthen floor from about $7 per square foot; prices increase with more complicated colors, patterns, and thicknesses.

On the other hand, if you have a sunroom or yoga studio that’s aching for a new floor (and can absorb a few imperfections), give it a shot yourself. But since each site has several factors affecting the formula, including type of dirt, humidity at the site, and additional contents, you should at least call Crimmel for advice or a full consultation before you start. Here are the basics.

Ready the Rigging

Earthen floors can be installed year-round, but the warmer, less humid summer months are ideal since the drying time can be reduced and there is no chance of a freeze. You can request earthen floors for all kinds of new construction, but if you are remodeling a room, have a contractor or engineer check your floors to be sure the existing joists can support the weight. The general rule is that if they’ll support concrete floors, they’ll support an earthen floor.