Thoughts and Updates: Plasters and Floors

Santafe.com - September 19, 2011

"...the floors look great and I’m almost ready to put down the mud layers"

Late summer and early fall are always the busiest times for me when it comes to building. At the beginning of the summer it seems like you have so much time, but when it gets to be mid-September, you realize how much still needs to be done before winter sets in.

So the camera is up and running again and it’s time for some updates.

I borrowed a trailer and spent last week bringing up my floor level. I debated about digging the local sand and soil as I have done for my plaster but opted instead to get some base course from the gravel yard. Anything you do is going to be just plain hard work when it comes to moving heavy awkward stuff – which is how I would describe road base.  What I got was reclaimed road base at $8.75 a ton. I was glad to see this was available as the entire project (except for a couple of things) is of recycled material.

We got three loads of three tons each. I had some help shoveling it from the trailer into the buildings, but even so it was a four-day job. By the end of the week, I was really dragging, but the floors look great and I’m almost ready to put down the mud layers.

You can see in the photo that the floor has a white substance on it. What I did was shovel the base course in, then wet it and tamp it down. I did this in several shallow layers. What happened was that the clay kept sticking to the bottom of the tamper (tampers are heavy enough without the extra weight of mud clinging to them) so I used a sprinkling of perlite on top of the floor. This is sort of like flouring the board when you are kneading bread.

It’s important at this step to have the floor as level and even as possible. This was really the most labor-intensive part of the project, and my back felt it the next day. After shoveling the stuff in, I raked it out, checked it with a level in all directions and made the needed corrections. Then I screeded every inch with the level in all directions before tamping. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an easier way to do this and welcome suggestions. I still have one more floor to do.

I left three inches for the finish floor. I’m not exactly sure how I will do it. More research is needed. Since I work mostly alone, I need to decide on what is do-able for me. I also have to keep in mind the cost of things. I am voluntarily living on very little so every expenditure has to be carefully considered. I am sure I will use the same free materials I used on the walls – sand and clay soils from my land along with some wheat paste made from cheap white flour.

Speaking of plaster, I got the interior done in about five days time. I used my free materials along with a five pound bag of iron oxide pigment purchased at the pottery store and the wheat paste. I went around the windows using fabric so I could shape them the way I wanted with a nice bullnose.

The picture shows me getting the window ready for plaster when I did the first coat. The final coat was done the same way except that I use a finer fabric – not so coarse. It involves stapling the fabric all around the window frame, coating it with a clay slurry (levigated clay mixed with water to a batter like consistency), then folding back the fabric and sticking it to the wall with plaster. This makes a nice mold-able edge and reduces cracking.

One thing I did not do but should have was to save small amounts of plaster to do any future repairs. Well, next time I will remember.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I graduated the color around the room. The plaster in the kitchen area is dark red. By the time I worked my way around to the picture window side of the room, the plaster was the natural light brown color. See the first picture of the post showing the fireplace.  The floor will be the natural color as well, but with a linseed oil finish it may look darker.