By Jesse Morado

Green building practices have really introduced some great products that increase energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprint and are environmentally friendly. We are all familiar with the usual hardwoods, tile, stone, carpet, vinyl and engineered products but what about dirt? Yes, dirt.
This new trend in flooring has really captured my attention and appears to be catching on in certain areas of the country. I found it quite ironic and interesting that we have spent a lot of time, money, and equipment trying to keep dirt off our floors and now we’re bringing the dirt in.
Dirt floors, or earthen floors as they are referred to, are gaining in popularity and believe it or not are attractive and quite easy to care for. Now, we are not talking about a dirt floor that looks like something you saw in the movie, Dances with Wolves or in some old barn. Earthen floors are very cool. No really, they keep your home cool in the warm months and can hold and radiate heat in the winter months. Talk about eco-friendly, you can’t get more eco-friendly than mother earth.
Some of the qualities I like about an earthen floor are that using it as a finished flooring material reduces construction waste, is an inexpensive material, easy to secure, produces zero to minimal pollution, is quite durable, repairable and easy to maintain.  There are a few cons in using this product.  One is being labor intensive to install, a little more vulnerable to gouging and scratching from high heels and pointed furniture legs, and a shortage of trained installers.
Installation basically consists of having a structurally sound substrate covered with a moisture barrier, a layer of sand and then the earthen mix which consists of clay-rich dirt, straw, and lime. Once the flooring has been poured and trowled into place it is allowed to dry and set up. This may take some time but it will be well worth it.
To protect the floor you’ll need to apply coats of linseed oil along with a wax.  The combination of these materials will insure the floors performance and also facilitate its cleaning. So next time you think about “what kind of floor should we use in the new room addition, look into an earthen floor.
Jesse Morado is CEO of Renovation Coach, Inc. a consulting firm providing pre-construction guidance and risk management for homeowners and business coaching of best practices for contractors.  He is a Certified Remodeler and Certified Aging in Place Specialist and currently serves as NARI Nationals Education Committee Vice Chair. You may reach him at (404) 729-4969 or at www.renovationcoach.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.