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Lime stabilised barn floor  RSS feed

 
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I am researching options for low-cost flooring in a new barn. Looking for an alternative to concrete. I have read of people using lime to stabilise the soil for this purpose.

The ground at the site is very sandy and free draining - please see the following video and a photo from a "soil in a jar" test.





I'm familiarising myself with Tataki δΈ‰ε’ŒεœŸ and "Doma"

Could lime be dug in and compacted to create a relatively stable, breathable floor for livestock?

Cattle would be bedded on rubber matts with straw and mucked out daily.

Related - lime aggregate extolled as livestock bedding in the US.

Keen to hear if anyone has had success with this approach and how appropriate it might be given my ground conditions.
 
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The USDA recommends lime as a floor, but it can be difficult for the farmer. If you are mucking out by hand, then it is not an issue, but if you are using a tractor it can be.

But if you are just looking to save money on concrete, you can try earthcrete. That is just where you spread the appropriate amount of cement over the area, take a rototiller and mix the two up. Then add water and mix again. Then you float it off and have weaker, but low cost concrete.
 
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Travis, what's the appropriate amount of cement for a given area of floor?  I'm thinking of doing that for a sugar shack which will only have foot and wheelbarrow traffic.  I was going to use 5-10 bags for a 14'x42' room but I have no idea if I'm even in the right ballpark.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Travis, what's the appropriate amount of cement for a given area of floor?  I'm thinking of doing that for a sugar shack which will only have foot and wheelbarrow traffic.  I was going to use 5-10 bags for a 14'x42' room but I have no idea if I'm even in the right ballpark.



I am not sure. My Uncle always said to mix 6 bags of cement to one cubic yard of gravel if it had a lot of soil in it. The rough estimate, I came up with wa 65 bags of 94 pound cement (not premixed) at $4 a bag, would be $260 dollars, not counting form material, rebar, etc. That is pretty cheap.

When i do my farm classes, I make sure to mention earthcrete, and of course include it in my book!


 
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Gotcha, I was just going to spread it around in the sugar shack (dry sandy soil) and rake it in a couple inches.  I don't have a tiller.  Then water it down, tamp it a bit and get it sort of level.  Good point on the non-premixed cement, I might have messed that up...  Thanks!
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Jay wrote:Gotcha, I was just going to spread it around in the sugar shack (dry sandy soil) and rake it in a couple inches.  I don't have a tiller.  Then water it down, tamp it a bit and get it sort of level.  Good point on the non-premixed cement, I might have messed that up...  Thanks!




I think I would rototill it, but if you do not have one, I would just rent one.

Here, buying off the ready mix truck is $100 a cubic yard, so a concrete pad, 6 inches thick, 14 feet wide by 42 feet would cost around $1100...without rebar forms, etc. For a quarter of the cost you could use earthcrete and that includes renting a rototiller for a weekend? Buying 65 bags, you might be able to get a bulk deal on the cement too?
 
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Hmm, that's more cement than I was imagining in make-believe.  But a 93# bag of Type 1 Portland cement here is $10.50 with delivery for $60 so it wouldn't be too bad.  And I'm sure I could find a tiller to borrow if I tried a bit.  

Would that be an earthcrete floor that's good enough to drive on (ie overkill for my needs)?
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Hmm, that's more cement than I was imagining in make-believe.  But a 93# bag of Type 1 Portland cement here is $10.50 with delivery for $60 so it wouldn't be too bad.  And I'm sure I could find a tiller to borrow if I tried a bit.  

Would that be an earthcrete floor that's good enough to drive on (ie overkill for my needs)?



I am not sure. You might have to try it. Just buy one bag and do a test plot. You would not have to rototill a test plot, but that would let you see how tough it would be. Cutting it back to a four bag mix would save you 20 bags or so...I would probably not go less than a 3 bag mix...
 
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Thanks Travis, I can certainly do that.  And I can easily work up a test area just with a pitch fork.  When you say a 3 or 4 bag mix, what area is that number of bags going into?  100 square feet?
 
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Great stuff, thanks. I think I'll try a few test plots - rototill lime in one, cement in the other...
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Travis, I can certainly do that.  And I can easily work up a test area just with a pitch fork.  When you say a 3 or 4 bag mix, what area is that number of bags going into?  100 square feet?



No, no, no...concrete is figured by "bags" per cubic yard. A "weak" mix would be (3) 94 pound bags to a cubic yard of gravel. An incredibly strong mix would be (8) 94 bags to a cubic yard. But with any mix, as long as you know the ratio, you can break it down into a super small size.

In this case, you want to test a (3) bag mix. So, since we know gravel weighs 3000 pounds per cubic yard, and would require 282 pounds of cement, from that we can figue any size test plot. Myself, since you can only buy it in bags of 94 pounds (pure portland cement), I would try making a 1/3 cubic yard test area. It would be just a tad bigger then a wheel barrow. (9 cubic feet) How thick of a slab are you making for your sugar shack? I might try testing a 4 inch thick slab...hey it might be okay? So 9 cubic feet would be 4 feet wide, by 7 feet wide, 4 inches thick. That would be a nice test spot because the forms would only require (3) 2x4's to form up.

I would just mix 9 cubic feet of earth to 1 bag of cement (it is only going to cost you $10.50 for this test), then mix in the water...going as light on the water as you can, then spread it out just like you would in a real world situation, level, smooth with a trowel, etc. Wait at least 1 week, then test to see if it meets your strength needs.

I am not telling YOU how to do it, but that is how I would do it. If it does not work, you are out $15 bucks??? If it works, you have a 4x7 pad for something for $15.

Keep in mind, your strength will come in on how well you mix the cement/dirt, and how little water you add. The more water, the weaker it will be. It also has to sit for at least a week.
 
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Thanks Travis!  I was planning on mixing it in place by tilling/forking/raking up the sand, mixing in the cement and then watering it down.  Here's where I got the idea...  I'd wear a respirator of course

 
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This family does an earthcrete floor in the various rooms they are building onto their earthbag home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZrW0v13BJI

Watch from 35:40 to 40:15.   Their technique was to level the floor first, then  spread 3/4 of an inch of portland cement, rototill it in to 4", screed it and then water it down.  Then trowel it smooth.  No rebar, but they are building bedrooms, not something where a vehicle will be driving/parking.

If it were me, I'd go with a higher percentage of portland cement.  Maybe an inch or 1.25 deep.  I suppose that if there is an area that gets more traffic (doorways) you could just add an extra bag of cement and perhaps even some sand and aggregate to those areas -- rototill them in, and you'd get a much stronger mix in those areas that need it more.

Do you have to deal with freeze/thaw cycles?
 
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Great - thanks!

No freeze thaw cycles to deal with thankfully.
 
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