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Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Hello everyone.

Natural buildings of old and new have some characteristics to themselves, be it functional, material or just aesthetic.
I found quite a lot of info and knowledge about vernacular and "newer" buildings done with natural materials and methods.
One major difference between old and new buildings is the "bathroom".
At least in my culture, bathing was a, let's put it this way, "interesting" topic, especially during cold season.
This does not mean people did not bathe, just that frequency, place and conditions of "bathing" differed radically from what we do today.
Another thing we do today is that we took the "outhouse" inhouse, melting it with the bathroom.
Needless to say, i don't see anyone going back to the ways of the old (not regarding this specific part).

All in all, this leads to a space that has frequent waterings of the walls and floor.
I've found different means to protect the walls (lime plaster, tadelakt, etc) but nothing on the floor.
The floor is essential since whatever is splattered on any vertical surface will end up on the floor eventually (gravity does it's magic).

Traditional structure protection for water damage was to place a "capillary" break somewhere, this usually taking form of a rock/gravel bed.
Water would just pass thru this layer and that's it.
Very nice if you think it macro (whole house) as it will "flow away", but if it's just one room ?
Where would this water go as the "away" is technically still inside?
So we're back to where we started.

What flooring options using natural means (no OPC slab) have you seen / heard about ?
What form shall the transition from floor to wall take as to not have water damage there?
How would you do it ?

 
Anne Miller
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While I haven't seen or heard of natural means for your situation, I would like to offer a few suggestions and maybe other will critique my suggestions or offer their own.

I don't know the name but there is a membrane that is put on the floor while a shower is being built.  What I remember is a "black sheet" of something that is larger than the floor so it goes up the wall a few inches or a foot.  I would suggest starting with this on your bathroom floor.  Then you could use redwood or cedar tonque and groove for the floor.  Or you could use linoleum because it is made of linseed oil.

These are just suggestions to help give you some ideas.

 
Tobias Ber
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in this video they make an earthen floor with coatings of lineseed-oil and wax:



don t forget that you can use carpets/rugs to help protect the floor from splashing water
 
Ionel Catanescu
Posts: 174
Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Thanks Anne for your input.

There are many ways to skin a cat, problems arise when the cat is skinny ...

There are 2 parts to the problem.
1. All that water will have to stop on some surface sooner or later.
That surface could be the actual floor, or the subfloor.
The higher it is stopped the better.
That is because you can see/inspect the thing.

2. Once you have that water stopped at that surface, you better get rid of it because there's no material that can withold water forever.
Yes, not even modern plastics / rubbers.

Conventional wisdom says to build the floor as waterproof as you can and put a drain hole somewhere with the floor having a down slope towards that hole so water cannot just freestand.
The higher the slope, the better.
If slope is high enough, you don't need to bother much about waterproofing as gravity won't let water stay there long enough.
Only problem with steep slopes is you'll go down the drain with the water and everything in that space will follow you (unless you bolt it thru).

So, 10% slope is nice but very steep (for a human).
I think 3% slope is maximum that you could call confortable / safe.

So, all things aside, a plastic / rubber membrane won't be waterproof for long.

What i would imagine is a TATAKI floor with the sides going a little up the walls at a steep slope.
Then you would plaster the walls coming down a little over the raised TATAKI so water can't go there.

TATAKI is the only proven natural thing i found so far that could take water without damage (either a lot at once or small amount for long times) since it's somewhat waterproof.
It's waterproofing abilities can be greatly improved by a surface finish as described in the above link and possibly even more by oiling it although historically oil was not used.

Another possibility would be to use NHL-crete if it's available.
Basically, TATAKI can be regarded as a form of artificial hydraulic lime (due to the bitterns added).


Tobias, thanks for chiming in.
I am not a big fan of earthen floors, oiled even, for this situation since it's quite a soft material (softer than lime anyway).
It doesn't have waterproofing qualities without oil unless it's surface clay is saturated (this happens usually on pond's bottom) and nothing moves.
On the other hand, oil penetration will only be skin deep and any dent in the surface, which could happen on a regular base, will be a pathway for water to get in.
Not to mention mopping the floor will be a royal chore.
 
Tobias Ber
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i heard that oiled floors arent that heavy to clean.

in this video they have waxed it too. that should help with dents. i remember that in the old days people used to wax their wooden floors on a regular basis.

in my experience there is not that much water hitting the bathroom floor. 100ml maybe? and that is easily contained by a carpet or by a towel on the floor.

how big a mess are you planning to make while using that bathroom?
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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I personally don't plan to bring in the niagara falls.
BUT,
There's also the wife + 3 small kids.
I don't think there's a need to give more details  
 
Tobias Ber
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hmmm.... i think, that you won t need the same type of waterproof-ness here as you would need in a swimming pool.
water will not stand there all the time. you splash, then you clean up. so you could plan and test for a floor that would withstand 1 hour of water.

i think, oil and wax would be good enough for that. could you make a test batch and try it?
 
Travis Johnson
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We get far more water in our foyer and mudroom then we do our bathroom (with 4 young daughters) and we have slate which we like. It is naturally occurring here so it was made from blocks of slate quarried and split right here on our farm. We even put some up on the wall by 4 inches so we can really get aggressive with mopping.

I agree with what everyone else has said with the exception that in the winter time, when mud is the biggest issue in our Foyer and Mudroom, water does not pool up at all IF you have radiant floor heat. It works so well that we lay our delicate fabrics after washing my wife's pantyhose and other unmentionables, right on the floor to dry. We do the same with gloves, mittens and other small items that get dirty and muddy. You will still have moisture to contend with in the summer, but half your concern is taken away anyway.

 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Of course there won't be water standing for long time but when the young bathe, or even wash them little hands, ... well ... they manage to put a lot on the floor.
Wishing for this not to happen ain't gonna work.
Ask me how i know.

On the subject of plating the floor with stone, tile of whatever else, i don't have exactly fond memories of water getting thru the grouting and underneath and after that unable to get out.

Tile (slate, stone, etc) would have been my first pick, even with the trouble of finding a natural adhesive for a natural subfloor, bu the grout, i won't take any chances with that.
 
Peter Ingot
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Ionel Catanescu wrote:Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Of course there won't be water standing for long time but when the young bathe, or even wash them little hands, ... well ... they manage to put a lot on the floor.
Wishing for this not to happen ain't gonna work.
Ask me how i know.

On the subject of plating the floor with stone, tile of whatever else, i don't have exactly fond memories of water getting thru the grouting and underneath and after that unable to get out.

Tile (slate, stone, etc) would have been my first pick, even with the trouble of finding a natural adhesive for a natural subfloor, bu the grout, i won't take any chances with that.


Good points, we have wrestled with this one. Modern bathrooms, plumbing, baths, showers etc. are all designed with concrete, plasterboard etc. in mind, all substances which do not mesh well with adobe ecobuildings. In some cases they seem to take over old adobe/cob houses like a plague, little by little blighting the building, until the ugly, damp, crumbly dysfunctional mess gets demolished and replaced with a wholly concrete building.

Traditional houses were often designed for people who washed outside with cold water, and only occasionally washed in winter. Our bathroom is upstairs in an old timber framed wattle and daub house. We brought piped water indoors, and after several years of hauling water containers around, this was very welcome. An outside bathhouse would be better in some ways, but winter can be really cold here. A downstairs wet room would be better in many ways except that currently this would also mean walking outside to bathe in winter (maybe we've gone soft, but we love those hot baths and comfy beds in winter).

We have a bath and shower enclosed by a shower curtain (inside the bath). We considered a completely enclosed shower cabinet, but buying and installing one of these seemed to attract pushy tradesmen determined to blight our lovely earth walls with concrete, plasterboard, silicon and plastic, until we ran screaming from the store . The floor is now wood, varnished, with rugs on it, rubber ones underneath. No kids aside from occasional visitors. The boiler heats the room so it gets steamy, but we rarely get the floor or walls noticeably wet these days (although it got flooded plenty of times early on when we were tinkering with plumbing). The water now goes mostly down the plughole. We resisted the temptation to use slate, as this would mean, in practice, slates sealed/grouted/set into cement. We have always believed that concrete and adobe don't mix well, but IMO it might be possible to concrete the  floor of a groundfloor adobe room without too many problems, and incorporate drainage. There is the weight to consider in an upstairs room with old timbers underneath it. The adobe seems to breath pretty well, and the ceiling is wood with an attic above, so ventilation is good, verging on draughty (but a lot cosier than when we moved in).

I don't know if we made the right decisions. It's lasted well for a few years now in its current form. Ask me again after 20 years or so and I will give you honest feedback (ain't that the way it should be with ecobuilding?)

We considered linseed oil on the adobe, but ever since that stuff started to get sold by the capsule, the price has rocketed. We were assured that mixing builders glue (stuff resembling copydex) with earth floors would make them waterproof, breathable and longlasting. Nope. We were told that sweeping adobe floors every day would make them "hard as concrete". Nope. We just covered everything in the house with dust, ruined electrical equipment and  gradually swept the floors away until we had to remake them with fresh clay. We laid down a sheet of pvc over the adobe floor in the bathroom and laid rugs on top as a temporary fix, and it worked for a while, but ultimately was not sufficiently hardwearing. It did however have the unexpected side effect of consolidating and hardening the earth floor very nicely over a few months.

We stopped believing most of what we heard about earth floors and have started covering them one room at a time with wooden floorboards. We will maybe opt for linoleum as a temporary fix in some rooms. A lot of people in the area use it in similar old houses. I've heard about a method involving successive layers clay-wax mixture (clay and a little wax, followed by wax with a little clay). We adore pretty much everything else about earth houses, but feel the question of flooring, especially bathroom flooring, is not completely answered for us yet. Maybe in future we will rearrange and rebuild everything and make a free draining, warm, ventilated bathhouse/sauna extension (maybe above a big oven for maximum heat efficiency) which is comfortably accessible from indoors. Tataki sounds interesting, but I've done enough experimenting for now. Other people can try these methods in a variety of climates and then report back honestly after 20 years (please ).
 
Brian Walker
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Perhaps a slatted floor might span and drain directly onto a steeply sloping sub-floor with drain.

To me, such a floor would appear to require a few precautions to have long-lasting efficacy  using natural materials:

1.  The s`ub-floor would need to be sloped quite steeply and be surfaced with a substance  hardened & sealed to minimize absorption and maximize run-off rates for water amounts  commensurate with a family's most lavish bathroom water spillage expected. Glazed ceramic or stone tiles would seem to be a suitable facing material.  If they were made to interlock or join one-another at as few seems as possible on lines perpendicular to the drain contour, they might not need to be rigidly mortared in place but cast in shapes that would fit snugly together and perhaps layered so that no direct route existed as a seem for direct water penetration of the surface layer.Beneath this layer could be blocks cut or cast to establish the slope would interface with underlying and adjacent weight-beraring blocks of the bathroom sub-floor.  All such blocks could be constructed of fired ceramic blocks or otherwise breathable and hardened earthen forms.  These blocks would be contiguous with other sub-floor mass in other parts of the house.  If a sub-floor heating system is implemented, warm, dry air would circulated through breathable bathroom sub-floor blocks with regular stove usage to prevent excessive fungal growth in the sub-floor.

2.  The decking used to make the slatted floor would be designed to be easily replaceable, but constructed of rot-resistant wood such as cedar or black locust.  floor joists and flooring would fit into slots in the sub-floor-to-wall transition.

3.  Ventilation, being necessary to prevent mold where I live, could be provided by including air channels throughout the sub-floor that commubnicate with various rooms in the house, as well as air columns in the walls, which communicate with the external air around the roof line the house.

4.  This might go without saying for most, but I suppose it's important to drain the water rapidly into some other vessel or conduit that transmits graywater effectively into other systems so that there is never a clogged drain event.

5.  Naturally, I'd position the bathroom in that portion of the house that received the most
sunlight, another important anti-fungal force.

6.  I suppose if I had grey water control, I'd have the bathroom issue directly into a greenhouse solarium whose bathroom-side perimeter might ideally be characterized by aromatics to further prevent mildews.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Peter, thanks for bringing your experience, very much appreciated.
Your way of thinking strikes quite close to home.
Fortunately for me, my planned home will be only 1 level and no bother for the floor/subfloor to be up.

Brian, you think like me 10 years ago.
I still have tendencies to overcomplicate things, but that's just due to how i was raised.
Modern "schooling" has pretty much nothing to do with nature / reality.
Therefore it only stimulates a way of thinking down those lines, resulting in unrealistic, subpar, overcomplicated "solutions".
As i said, i'm working very hard to get me out of this poison but it's pretty deep.

Now, regarding the floor.
I did think of doing it like you said.
Problem is there are no advantages and plenty of disadvantages.
Instead of having just 1 layer and dealing with the water right there, where it's standing, in plain sight, very easily "inspected" and dealt with, we move it underneath something where "dealing with it" becomes harder and inspecting it even more.
Water is dangerous not only if it's flooding but even if it's just slight damp - mold heaven.
And i can't really stress enough the INSPECTING part.
If you can see it and act on it, that's it.
I've had "mind opening" moments seeing some things (plumbing, electrics, etc) where everything was just an arm's length away, in plain sight, hidden behind a curtain or a wooden door.

I am trying to obey the KISS principle.
And also trying to reckon with the "natural" mindset, rediscovering, with great pain (mostly intelectual bun not exclusively), what was abandoned (forced or willing) a few generations ago by my (r ours) forebears.
 
Alan Loy
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In the mud brick homes of the 70s & 80s near me one of the most popular floors was bricks set in sand and grouted with sand.  If the sand base was on gravel then any moisture would drain away.  If your expecting lots of water then a floor drain would be needed.  If you are in a cold climate then under floor heating would seem to be a worthwhile addition.

These floors can be taken up, if you need to do so, as there is no cement or adobe to stick it together. This might give you an idea but they use cement and a sealer I wouldn't use http://www.home-dzine.co.za/home-Improvement/improve-brick-floor.htm

Another alternative https://permies.com/t/7885/CHEAP-EASY-BRICK-FLOORS

another couple https://www.milkwood.net/2014/01/28/making-a-diy-earthen-floor-two-methods/
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Thanks Alan.

I love the look and feel of brick floors.
They are pretty unusual around here but one can find some.

I have some problems with them regarding water presence.

1. Bricks take up water, this is a known fact.
They can be sealed but natural seals are not easy to come by and artificial ones ... not interested.
I could shell out the cash and buy klinker bricks which are impervious to liquids.
They're price is in the range of good quality tile / porcelain tile.
2. Cleaning.
This is not such a big deal with the bricks themselves (none actually if using klinker) but mostly with the grout.

One other issue with letting water flow thru the floor and drain "away" is that there is no away.
We are inside a house, where would that "away" be ?
I thought of and suggestions were made before to put good drainage under the floor and some waterproofing material underneath that with a good gradient to someplace to drain.
But where is that someplace ?
It could be "outside" via a pipe but my outside tends to freeze hard for some months.

A floor drain is always recommended and it's placement is essential.
If placed at the floor level, water won't have time to go elsewhere.
If placed at the subfloor level, water won't have other way than going to the subfloor then to the drain.

I prefer a floor that's water resistant just enough to let whatever water happens to be there flow naturally towards the drain and not suck it like a sponge.
That will deal with water at the place where it's "created" and everything can be dealt with easily.

As of now, from all natural materials / methods i could find, the only solution is a continuous floor of something at least temporarily waterproof.
Temporarily could mean anything from 20' to 1hr.
Such a solution, depending on amount of water and time of it's presence, could be a oil/wax sealed rammed earth floor for little water or a form of limecrete (something done with NHL or any hydraulic lime mixtures such as adding brick dust to regular lime) for lots of water.
Somewhere in the middle, but closer to the hydraulic limes is tataki.

Lots to consider and think of.
 
Tobias Ber
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a few of these might help:

Schmutzfangmatte

they re heavy duty. kinda cheap. rot resistant. rubber backing is waterproof. it has some kinda systhetic carpet to suck up moisture.

have a few of these and rotate them after bathing the kids.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Ha, that was a good one.
It made me 

Maybe i could borrow you my kids for a while ?
I am willing to send them for free you know (for a while anyway).
That would definitely help (at least it will help me  ).
 
Tobias Ber
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hm... ok.... i suppose the best way for your situation would be to get some sheets of stainless steel and weld them together. and turn the whole bathroom into one big tub.

that should help. you could drain that into an irrigation system for your greenhouse. or, in your case, to irrigate a hectare or two.

installing a water-slide and maybe some fountains/water-jets would be a nice extra


or you could just get a huge swimmingpool and simply build a house above it.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Great tips Tobias.
Don't tell the kids tho as i won't be able to back off the idea 😁

Now, for the serious part, i'm hoping that by the time i finish the house (about 2 years from now) they would grow up and be less childish but they will still be kids anyway.
By then maybe i'll be enlightened to find the most appropriate solution.
 
Anne Miller
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I ran across this one this morning:

https://permies.com/t/54912/Living-floor

 
Erica Wisner
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All interesting ideas.
Here is a big long wall of text, on a few different points.

If you want to skip to the end:
For "before the bathroom" traditional floor options, look at kitchens, cheeserooms, and similar designs.
Think 'washable,' not necessarily waterproof. 
Replacing a little grout now and then might be easier than waterproofing an entire floor.

Modern earthen villages:
I have visited a few villages in Morocco, and some urban bathrooms too. 
Earthen floors, the traditional way, do make a lot of dust (always sprinkle water while sweeping), and I am told the village women 're-do' the floor about once a month (moving all the furniture and re-finishing with fresh clay/paint, maybe this is no more work than mopping and waxing a high-end floor, but it sounds like a lot of work to me and to the translator who described it to me). 

In bathrooms, it is common to use stones, tiles, or concrete, anywhere from just a few stepping stones, to going up the walls as high as your budget allows.
It is also common to have an outhouse in the villages, or to locate bathrooms near the "outdoor" or "public" parts of a building.   
Some homes have the bathing room and toilet indoors, some still have it outdoors across a courtyard.  (the whole home is rooms around a courtyard, it's sort of indoor-outdoor living, warm climate.) 

The common attitude seems to be that the whole floor of the bathroom, like the outdoors, is "dirty," you take your outside-shoes off before coming into the "nice" part of the house.
These areas use a squat toilet, it is not a place you want to stand in bare feet.  When I did not bring them, I was offered someone else's 'bath-shoes' (flip-flops, two-strap sandals, or plastic "jelly" shoes if you have girl-size feet).
In the homes where the same room is used for bathing and toileting, and the toilet serves as a shower-drain, you wash the floor a bit while heating the water for your shower. 
And you shower with your shoes on.

In the US Southwest, my sister and her husband live in a modern adobe house (maybe 1970s or later).  They have fully modern detailing; I don't know if the adobe walls are stabilized with Portland cement, but the interior detailing is very conventional/modern.  Almost all the floors are porous Saltillo tile (he re-did them after they moved in), and the bathroom floors have sheet linoleum and little washable rugs.  They have 2 kids, small enough that they use a stool to get up to use the sink.  Their kids are pretty well behaved, they usually don't make more water on the floor than you can collect in one finger-thick bathroom rug, and maybe half a towel.  I would suspect these bathrooms have cement-board and waterproofing behind their linoleum, but in any case, the climate is dry enough that the water will generally evaporate before it makes any mold.

Cold-climate traditions:
In England, even before indoor water-closets, there were common designs for well-drained cheese-rooms and dairies.  These often had tiled floors so they could be washed down.  However, the tile was porous, so it would maintain 'cheese culture' and humidity, like a cave.  The milking barn might have cheaper versions of the same idea - stone cobbles for the floor, with a gutter, to make it easier to wash it out.

Kitchens:
Kitchens are also designed to handle a lot of spills.  (So are breweries, pickle-factories... maybe there are local industries with long traditions of washable floors)

What are the traditional kitchen floors for your climate? 
Some places have a culture where the kitchen and 'scullery' are almost outdoors, out back. 
Other places, these are heated rooms, and designed so that spills can be cleaned.
Some places, the traditional kitchen was sort of an indoor barn, with earth floor and even straw on it, an easy place to start a grease fire, and not very sanitary.
Some places made the kids white-wash the kitchen and dairy regularly, slowly building up a layer of mold-resistant and washable wall surface, painting over any spills that would not wash up.

Modern natural options:
True linoleum, now sold as "marmoleum," is a blend of linseed oil, granite dust, fibers, and other stuff like that.  (May include cheaper oils, other kinds of rock dust, pigments, etc.)
You can make an "earthen" or "lime" floor that is essentially very thick linoleum, incorporating oil into the final finish layers and then oiling the surface.  If you work very hard to burnish the top, and oil and wax it regularly, it might wear almost as well as commercial marmoleum. 
However, it is probably cheaper and easier to get a sheet of real linoleum, and install it over a nice smooth sub-floor of any convenient material.

I agree about earthen floors being possible to waterproof, but difficult.  Clay likes water better than oil; it will hydrate and soften eventually, unless you are VERY good at maintenance and the floor has a thick layer of wax at all times. 
If you are going to use 1/2" to 1" of high-quality drying oil like linseed, plus regular waxing, I don't personally see much difference to buying a commercial, natural "plastic" like linoleum, that will be easier to maintain with less wax.

Boats:
The other traditional environment that required waterproofing was boats, and these were generally caulked with oily mastics (white lead and linseed oil, for example, now we might use something other than white lead), and then painted with pitch or tar for waterproofing.  The wood would also swell with water under constant exposure, maintaining pressure on the caulk, but this hopefully is not the conditions for your bathroom.
I include it only to give the example that we have been using expensive 'natural' plastics, like bitumin and pine tar, for this job for many centuries.

Tile and Stones:  Glazed tile, or water-resistant stones like slate, will help water run off toward the drain.  High-end bathrooms and entertaining rooms from Roman times use tile mosaics set in hydraulic lime; high-end modern bathrooms often use semi-precious stones.  In some cities, slabs of marble can be gotten from building repairs in older buildings for fairly cheap, and maybe 3 to 5 panels would cover most of a bathroom floor quite well.  For laboratory sinks, soapstone was used (it is not as susceptible to acid as marble).

Why do you worry about the grout?  Have you seen problems in other areas where you tried to lay tile?
I've bathed in a lot of rooms with a few broken tiles.  The grout is mostly for keeping the stones from moving; it can be waterproof, or not, but in any case it is not a large portion of the surface.
You can do a tadelakt treatment on the grout, and burnish it. (Lime grout burnished with soap before it's done curing.)
Or oil and wax it, over lime or whatever grout you prefer. 
You can sink the grout lines and use them as tiny drainage channels, or keep them level and wax over them to encourage the drainage to find the proper channels.

The goal, over all, is to make it easy to move the water down to the drain.  But it doesn't have to be perfect. 
You can encourage the water with a little sweeping, or mopping, or using the dirty towel to sop up the worst mud.
Then you just need a floor that doesn't actively fall apart while you are dealing with the mess. 

I think washable is more important than waterproof.

Natural materials aren't perfect (like the welded stainless room).  But they can be good enough.

Under-floor drainage:
Yes, you could collect the water to a pipe. 

Once you have a floor that you can wash (linoleum, tile, stone, or waxed material), you have a choice of moving most of the water to a floor drain (probably by sweeping, mopping, or squeegee), or removing it with towels and wringing/draining them in the sink or laundry.

To drain the floor, the pipe clearly must exit below floor level. 
(Remember floor level is adjustable - if you have to, you could build a step up into the bathroom, building up the floor above the level of the available drain outlet.)
If you have already got running water in the house, you should have an outflow drain somewhere, and you may be able to install a floor drain that connects to this, to the main sewer, septic, etc. 
But for something like bathwater, which is at least as clean as the outdoors most of the time, you could also do a greywater drain directly out to somewhere convenient.

I agree that doing floor drainage on the surface is easier to inspect and maintain.  Bath-mats or towels on the floor is the most I would want, myself. 

The wooden bath-floor idea is common for saunas and outdoor showers.  For saunas, it's generally an adult room, and the heat and cedar make for quick drying and low mold problems.
For outdoor showers, the wood floor is just convenience because standing on loose stone or gravel (or mud) is not comfortable.  These are not areas where people worry about inspecting - they use it, eventually it rots or falls apart, and then they look and say "oh, gross." And they either move it to another place, or replace the funky gravel and re-build over "clean" drainage gravel again.

The building should already have sub-floor drainage for its foundations, like gravel.  But this is not always the case. 
I agree, I would not want to pour a lot of bathwater down there and hope.

So we know we want to remove most of the water, and that we are not perfect.
The "residue" of the water - where will it go?
There are three answers:
- "away" by drainage and/or cappillary action (sub-floor through gravel, directed toward the outside of the building; becomes ground water.)  Small amounts of water will never fully drain - they will stick to surfaces, especially layered materials.
- "away" by evaporation (good ventilation can dry the floor; porous materials can wick water away from the back side of water-resistant surfaces; bathroom fans, heat lamps, underfloor heating, etc. can all help evaporation);
- or "nowhere." This can create mold problems.  Mold can be controlled somewhat by good ventilation; by temperature; by choice of material (lime and stone are more mold-resistant than clay and fiber); and by washing/drying the surface promptly.

With the same sand-and-brick process, only using non-porous stones instead of porous bricks, you could have something almost 100% natural, and stable enough to support a soft grout of linseed-lime mastic, or linseed-sand.

I think if you start with the idea that the floor is washable, not necessarily 100% waterproof, then you have a lot of choices of natural materials.
If you start with the idea that you can let the kids play "tidal wave" in the bathtub and never clean up, then you are going to see some damage to almost any materials you use (natural or synthetic). 
All materials wear out, and need maintenance.

and since we're comparing stories:

My personal bathroom right now is built inside a wood frame, with wooden sub-floor, with little "throw-rugs" of salvaged marmoleum and bath-mats.  And a shower that has its own drain pan.  I have cut a piece of linoleum to go around the toilet, but it's not sealed in place.  Because the bathroom is raised up in the wooden part of the house, it is easier to drain the toilet, sink, washing machine, etc. 
We have been over-complicating our thinking, wanting to lay some floor-heating under the finished floor, which has delayed our progress in even HAVING a finished floor.  So there are sometimes spills which have to be cleaned up, or which contaminate the wood. 
I used a 'natural' paint on the drywall ceiling, and there is no ceiling fan, and I am starting to see mold lines near the joists (coldest areas; between the joists the ceiling is insulated). 
There is a particular mold here that loves to eat drywall if the temperature is cold enough, and I think the bathroom gets cold enough for this mold to flourish when we are gone for winter holidays, fall or spring work trips, etc. 

I had good luck in a previous moldy bathroom using a paint made with lime and borax-and-casein, no clay; it did not re-grow mold for almost 3 years that we lived there after first trying it. 
So i may do that for my ceiling, after installing a proper vent fan.

Not perfect, not by a lot. 

But it does have the nice little 'cabinet with all the valves in arm's reach' under the sink, as you describe.
And it is way more comfortable and convenient than an outhouse, in this cold climate.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Thank you Erica for chiming in with such a wealth of experience.
I am honored to have your contribution to my humble thread.

We are one of those nations that fully embraced western modernity (with all it's goods and ills), especially since coming out of off a 50 year totalitarian dictatorship.
As such, the "traditional" is pretty defunct.
You can find it in remote or odd places but people don't believe in it's usefulness anymore.
It's just how people "less evolved" did stuff back then when they were "backwards" and uneducated.
This is indeed a sorry state to be in, especially if you seek out the good of the past.

I was not subjected to a lot of old wisdom because of this.
So seeking such places for tips won't yield much and the few remaining survivors (ie people) are either hard to find or gone the same road (discrediting old ways).
I really wish it wasn't like this but ... it is.

Just as you did, i don't find the earthen floors very appealing for everyday, high hammering areas.
My ancesters used them since that was what they had and it was good since labor was available as well as raw materials.

The outhouse era ended a long time ago.
I've seen all sorts of "retrofitting" done to earthen houses (tiled walls and floors, internal bathroom with toilet and shower, all with cement mortars, inside and outside).
I've even had the guts to tell some closer to me to don't do it as the 2 don't mix but my voice went into the wind ... as most good advices do ...

So it's inside and there to stay ...

Our culture does not consider the bathroom (inside the house) area as dirty, mainly because it came late and with all the nice and "clean" surfaces (concrete and ceramic tile), but mainly as possibly being wet sometimes.

Our climate is considered a cold one, not the coldest but not hot either.
The traditional outhouse was moved inside quickly, whoever did not do it was outcast by the political overlords and later by the "improved" people themselves.
Of course, industry, which replaced "primitive" rural living, only happily provided all means to this end.
The traditional kitchen was also an outhouse.
People did not cook much during winter and when they did, it was combined with heating.
So since there were no "kitchens", there was no special kitchen floor, not in the country side.
I've only experienced earthen ones but people had an outside lifestyle back then so not a lot of wear ...

Modern materials for solving the issues abound.
I've used quite a lot of them in the past but ain't looking forward to doing it again.

I can use whatever form of tile available or even stone tile in whatever form comes by.
I was worried about grout since it's usually pretty hard to find natural ones and the off-the-shelves one is a very hard material (made of cement) and tile movement will crack it.
Compound this if you have a softer, natural floor and also have a natural "tile adhesive" - if such a thing even exists.
Once cracked, water will seep thru and get underneath the tiles/stones where it will "stink up".
There are no such issues if you use a concrete slab as it "ain't gonna move".
But as the saying goes, like for like.
No industrial with natural mix, it does not work.

I can do, as you said, a lime grout with linseed but how do i attach the tiles/stones to the natural subfloor ?
Use a natural adhesive like what  ?
Or just bed it in sand ?
The thin ceramic tiles (4-6mm or 1/4"-1/6") will just crack and that's it.

As i mentioned earlier, i'm indeed trying to have my floor just enough water resistant until the water flows down the drain.
That can mean a couple of minutes.
And yes, a washable floor is just that.
It's not water proof but won't let water pass thru in less than half hour for example.

One of the first solutions for inside living of the modern concrete era was linoleum.
Not the real deal, but just a cheap stinky plastic thing similarly soft and "pretty" colored.
I'm not amused by it at all.

I've really come to appreciate lime and it's antibacterial/fungal properties.
So i'm really inclined to use something based, either wholly or partially, of it, for the spots with wetting tendencies.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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I just got hit by something, an idea / memory.

People of the not so old days were laying hardwood parquet (narrow T&G pieces) on top of concrete floors using molten bitumen.
Unless you had water from above, it would last indefinitely.
Problems arose only when some smart minds thought it's a good idea to replace this bitumen with PVA.

So i thought that if you have a sound, dry, subfloor (earthen even), you could put some tarpaper on top (maybe even double layer) that would go up the walls a little, and lay some ceramic tile in bitumen over it.
That could be the molten type (for those who like burnt fingers) or some of the emulsion types.
It adheres joyfully to porous materials like the back of regular ceramic tiles, not sure about porcelain tiles.

Anyway, might be a (cheap) solution, not the most natural but still, for the water sensitive situations.
 
Tobias Ber
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ionel,
sounds like a good solution. but will water be able to evaporate?
a build up of water under or between wooden pieces would be bad. also that will lead to expanding wood, which will cause even more trouble.

you could probably seal the wooden floor. in my parents house we used a clear varnish to paint wooden stairs. that product was made for sealing boats. that might very much waterproof the floor. you would probably need to have a gap towards the walls for expansion. that could be caulked with silicone or something and hidden under wooden molding.

i ve seen parquet which has gaps of like 1-2mm between the pieces. poorly made thing that is. this would not help in a bathroom.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Hi Tobias.

It looks like i wasn't clear (again) on the topic.

My thought was to use the same methods for parquet (the bitumen part) but change the wood with ceramic tile.
Just add a small amount of grout and that's it.

In no way i would use parquet in the bathroom.
As you also observed the shrinking issues, so do almost all my memories of parquet involve gaps (smaller or larger).
 
Tobias Ber
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ok, i think, i misread your text.

you could make a testbatch somewhere. i assume that even slight flexibility under the tiles will crack the grout when pressure is put on the tiles. or might even crack the tiles.
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Tiles and grout are more flexible than you think.
Besides, i said i'll try to have as rigid a floor as i can without using concrete.

As an example, when i renovated my current fully concrete flat appartment, the floors were so way out of plane that just using cement-sand screed would had been 2 tons for half just the kitchen and bathroom.
No way i was going to haul that to the 4th floor, besides putting strain on the structure.

So i did a suspended 22mm OSB flooring over 2 by x wooden joists spaced cca 40cm on center.
That's ok for the rooms but not for the bathroom.

So, at those times with what i knew (not much) i used a 2mm layer of Sikabond T8 polyurethane liquid over the OSB to waterproof it.
And since this material is also good as a permanent elastic adhesive for tiles, after the fist layer dried, i troweled another layer in which i set the normal tiles.
The grout as a very rigid white cement material-thing.

Needless to say, mi kids jump like crazy over this flooring and there hasn't been any issue whatsoever.
the deflections are not large but if you stand nearby you can sense them.
I can't believe a proper tamped, stabilized, fibre reinforced, thick enough (10-15cm), dried thoroughly, over a properly tamped gravel bed, earthen floor will see more deflection than my OSB floor is seeing now.
As an aside, bitumen is more rigid than OSB (in this loading scenario) and much, much more rigid, than the polyurethane i used which can stretch about 600% and come back without without a blink.
 
Tobias Ber
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ok, that sounds promising and deserves a bit of serious scientific research.

could you make a testbatch of that floor-setup somewhere and then stress-test it? could you find a bunch of really overweight people to jump up and down on that testbatch a few thousand times?

then you would need to simulate the amount of water your kids might spill. could you borrow one of those hose-things from your local firefighters?
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Testing should be a good idea.

Water should not be a problem for this setup at all.

The heavyweight people jumping around might though 
But that's something the subfloor should handle no matter what i put on top but that's another topic entirely.
 
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