Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Flagstone Flooring in the Kitchen - Part I

Sunday, my wife, our four kids, and I went searching for flagstones in the creek that runs through our farm. Using a spud bar, even our youngest children were able to separate layers of thin silt stone that we then loaded in the back of our Polaris Ranger. (Tons of this stone gets busted up and washed down the creek with every heavy rainstorm, so our environmental impact was extremely low.) From previous expeditions, we already had about 2 pallets of flat stones in the back yard. But this time, we were trying to find really thin stones (3/8" to 1"), for use inside of the house. Siltstone is not as durable as slate, granite, or even limestone, but I think that with a good latex-enhanced mortar beneath it and a good sealer on top of it, the stone will work fine in our kitchen. And if a stone breaks two months (or two hundred years!) from now, replacements will be close at hand.

Rocks just inches apart from each other varied widely in color. We found layers that were bright orange (from iron deposits?) as well as blue and buff layers. Monday, after the kids were off to school, my wife and I salvaged two more loads of rock before a near miss with a copperhead convinced us it was time to stop shopping and start building. We took our last load of stone to the house site and began experimenting with patterns and colors for the floor in the kitchen. Fairly soon, we realized that we didn't want to use really small stones, and that we preferred very thin mortar joints.

To get the thin mortar joints we liked, it was necessary to trim at least one side of most of the stones. A diamond blade on an angle grinder made short work of the siltstone. I would recommend wearing leather gloves and hearing protection, as well as keeping the shield on the grinder. (Hey, at least I'm wearing a respirator and glasses in the picture!)

After reading the directions on the grout bag, we think that perhaps our grout joints (between the stones) could be too thin for the grout to work properly. Oh well, we'll re-grout it with epoxy grout if the standard latex-enhanced stuff doesn't work. With this many stones fitted together, its too late to turn back now!

So far we have at least 40 person hours invested in the floor, with less than 90 square trimmed, fitted, and bedded. And we still haven't grouted or sealed the stones. Definitely not the quick way to cover a floor, but it has been very fun and rewarding for my wife and I, as well as another good lesson for our kids (i.e. "everything doesn't have to come from China via Walmart or Lowes"). Whats more, I think this floor could last a lifetime.


Blogger Bigshow said...

wow..you have alot of resources on your land. If I used what I have available to me, I'd have corn siding, sod walls, rammed earth flooring, field mice chandeliers, and grass skirts.

When we're out working on our frame talking about what we want to do to for flooring, siding, etc...I always say "Well, Thomas, that guy in Kentucky, well he's doing this..." and my wife stares daggers at me at the thought.

August 28, 2008 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...

resources... have you tried a core sample yet? :) There's something under that land - its just a matter of the economics of removing the overburden. :) For instance, look what this guy found...


Your wife is wise. This is too much work. We're going up to the house site today to work on the kitchen floor. The fireplace is the only thing that has gone slower than this floor.

August 29, 2008 at 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Frank Ladner said...

Boy howdy, having access to stuff like that in your back yard must be nice.

Keep up the good work!

September 19, 2008 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...

Thanks Frank. There's a lot of stuff around us - we just have to look for it, or be flexible. I see even better rocks where the highway cuts through the hills around here, but it would take longer to pack it home! Yes, finding stuff in our backyard is handy. I think we've spent less than $10 on fuel to collect these rocks and get them to the house site.

September 19, 2008 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Artist - H. Hinkle said...

I have been envisioning a floor just like that for our cabin,,,so glad I found your blog to show my husband what I want in our kitchen. We have stone we can harvest ourselves too. Oh no,,, another project to add to the long list (:

September 29, 2008 at 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Linoleum said...

What a nice story and blog, thank for sharing...

December 8, 2008 at 5:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

old Milwhat key?
I read your blog like half a year later. Thought I might do well with your encouragement... in building for oneself a home. Hows the kitchen floor coming along? Must be completed by now. You have a picture to show ? I probably have to buy flag stone somewhere. where can I buy for a good deal, say for floor and surface wall of a small house?


January 17, 2009 at 12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been looking to do my front hallway in the P 1010012-2 look. I would like to know who to contact to find out where I can buy the flagstone it and have it installed? Or even where to buy it so I can find someone to install it?


January 5, 2012 at 6:56 PM  

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