Bring It Home

When it’s finally dry and finished, the floor—though much harder than natural dirt—has a softer feel than concrete, so it’s easier on your legs and feet. It also has more give, so in a one- to two-inch pour, it won’t crack as easily as concrete. If it does happen to get a blemish, simply mix up a small amount of the same materials you used before and smooth it over. Just be sure to seal the new area with the same vigor you used on the original floor. By adding a new coat of wax about every 10 years, you’ll have an attractive, sustainable floor that will warm up your space for decades.

Get to the Source

You can find everything you need for an earthen floor locally, but the most interesting ingredient to hunt for is the dirt itself. You need clay-rich soil to make the floor work, which means it needs to come from more than one foot deep. Try getting dirt from a cemetery. It may sound strange, but that’s where you’ll find some of the best dirt, because it comes from, well, six feet under.

Also try construction sites, places where postholes are being dug, or anywhere else where people dig below one foot. In most of these situations, you’ll either get the dirt for free or be charged only a nominal fee. Just call the caretaker or construction company beforehand.

STRAW: This can come from any farm-supply store, such as Burns Feed Store (29215 SE Orient Dr, Gresham,, where you can buy a 50-pound bale for $5.

WASHED MASONRY SAND: Best Buy in Town (2200 NW Cornelius Pass Rd, Hillsboro, sells sand by the yard. You can pick it up in your own container for $37 per yard or have it delivered for $79 for the first yard; the price per yard decreases with bulk. One unit, which is 7.4 yards, costs $279.

MORTAR MIXER: Interstate Rentals (1130 N Schmeer Rd, rents mixers for $50 per day, plus a $200 deposit.

SEALER: You can find BioShield sealers at Ecohaus (819 SE Taylor St, A 2.5-liter bottle of Hard Oil (#9) costs $48.50; a 2.5-liter can of Resin Floor Finish (#4 or #44) costs $74.

BOOKS: Check out The Hand-Sculpted House (Chelsea Green Publishing, $35). Though the book takes a different approach to laying dirt floors than Crimmel does, it provides useful background and earthen building information.