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Spinoff: Wooden floors over dirt floors

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  • Spinoff: Wooden floors over dirt floors

    Our dirt floor barn is getting ready for new stall and alley floors and after reading on another thread about different flooring, we're considering 2" x 10" tongue and groove, rough cut oak flooring for the alleyway. Anyone have experience?
    Alison Howard
    Homestead Farms, Maryland www.freshorganicvegetables.com

  • #2
    I worked for a vet who had wood floors in his stalls but they were laid over a foot or more of gravel topped with sand for drainage and had spaces between the boards filled with sand. We used straw for bedding so they were not as slippery as when shavings or sawdust are used over wood.

    When a client's horse would leave, we would strip the stall, including the sand between the boards, disinfect the whole stall and add more sand, then fresh straw bedding.

    I have never seen wooden floors in an aisle way except in very old barns - would think they could get slippery. Why not use rubber mats over the dirt in your aisleway?


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by KnKShowmom View Post
      I worked for a vet who had wood floors in his stalls but they were laid over a foot or more of gravel topped with sand for drainage and had spaces between the boards filled with sand. We used straw for bedding so they were not as slippery as when shavings or sawdust are used over wood.

      When a client's horse would leave, we would strip the stall, including the sand between the boards, disinfect the whole stall and add more sand, then fresh straw bedding.

      I have never seen wooden floors in an aisle way except in very old barns - would think they could get slippery. Why not use rubber mats over the dirt in your aisleway?

      Yep, this is what I'm thinking for stalls although I hadn't thought of sand in between the boards.

      We have mats over dirt, as a stall experiment, and it's not turning out to be what we want so we won't be replicating it in the alley. The rough hewn lumber would be to cut down on the slip factor, but I will be looking forward to folks' replies who have had a wood floor.
      Alison Howard
      Homestead Farms, Maryland www.freshorganicvegetables.com


      • #4
        An interesting idea. I've seen wooden stall floors before but never an aisle floor. The wood floors in the stalls worked fine and were more forgiving than concrete or asphalt (seen both used). In theory, if you use pressure treated wood, it should last 40 years. My main concern would be that it would become slippery when wet...but then most flooring surfaces do.


        • #5
          You should never use pressure-treated wood anywhere it is likely to splinter or be scuffed up, or inside. It gives off highly toxic residues.
          I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


          • #6
            I worked in a dry-climate barn with wooden aisles. Traffic tends to wear the wood smooth and it does get slippery, even when dry.

            There are paint-on products, like for garage floors, that both rubbery and gritty. Maybe something like that would help minimize wear and keep the wood aisle rougher. Running the boards crosswise rather than with traffic would probably help, too.


            • #7
              I've got one stall with a wood floor (full 2" thick oak) over #11 gravel (about the size of ice chips). The boards aren't secured in any way- their weight keeps them in place. It's been there about 5 years. The front board under the water bucket needs to be replaced because horse plays in his water and we don't always get all the wet bedding from under the bucket, so mostly our fault. I did have to pull up several of the boards last year and re-level because something had tunneled under the stall, it took 45 minutes or so. The wood floor stays drier than my rubber-matted stalls and isn't as slippery wet or dry.

              That said, I'm not sure I'd use wood for an aisle. Seems like it would wear quickly and be slippery for a horse to walk on- yeah, I know they walk in their stalls (mine is a stall walker at times) but it's not quite the same.


              • #8
                In the alleyway?


                I don't know. I'd prefer rubber pavers or rubber matts to wood in the aisle, but my favourite is actually concrete for an aisle because it cleans up easily, wears forever, can be surfaced to be non slip, is easy to disinfect, doesn't dry out or burn....etc.

                In stalls, we were always very happy with the rough hewn timbers over gravel for the floors, but that was in the days of cheap lumber we have rubber matts now. The wood floors drained well, were warm and forgiving for the horses, were not slippery, did not develope soggy spots, and surprisingly did not smell of urine or ammonia as quickly as other types of floors, etc. However, rodents did tend to tunnel in the gravel in places, under the wood floors.

                I knew a lot of older barns that had wooden floors in the aisles, and as they got older, with the planks laid crossways across the aisles, they developed cupping, so the floor was a series of waves that was a bit disconcerting to walk or stand on. Probably tongue and groove would prevent some of that. I think it was because of the dry air on the top side and the damp dark gravel underneath?
                "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


                • #9
                  I boarded at a place where one of the barns (the property had 3 barns on it) has wood flooring for the aisle. Yes, it's a very old barn, and I'd guess that flooring is 50 years old or so? It does get slick, and they are slowly having to replace random planks as they're rotting and such. But considering how old the flooring is, I think that's to be expected.

                  It certainly looks lovely, though.
                  Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


                  • Original Poster

                    The cupping is an interesting thought. I hadn't thought of that yet. Perhaps some sort of waterproofing on the underside. Rodents tunnelling I hadn't thought of.
                    Alison Howard
                    Homestead Farms, Maryland www.freshorganicvegetables.com


                    • #11
                      Besides all of the negatives that have been mentioned you are talking a maintenance nightmare. I promise you. Plus it will not be as easy to install as you may think. And $$ if you are paying someone. I bet it would not cost that much more to have rubber pavers installed. If you do go with wood do not use pressure treated not because of it's toxicity, that type was banned by the EPA and is no longer available, but it does get very slippery when wet. Oak is the best choice. IMO stone dust would be by far your best choice easy to install and level and it looks pretty good. Easy do it yourself project other then a lot of heavy shoveling, spreading and tamping. In stalls it is my flooring of choice. Gives a horse purchase to get up, especially foals and easy to level out when it gets torn up and drains well. Big bank for the buck. Our barn came with asphalt isle ways not as slippery as you would think. And is not that expensive to have installed. Though I hate it in stalls. A lot of Kentucky farms use a porous asphalt mix so it will drain. And it does at first but it doesn't take long for a 1200 lb horse to pack it down.


                      • #12
                        I saw a barn built on an incline. The stalls had wood planks with a slight gap between the wood. BO said the urine ran between the boards and dropped down to the earth and rolled away.
                        I don't know how they supported the stalls underneath since they were a foot or so above the earth. Don't know how they bedded it.
                        And it's important to know about the toxicity of pressure treated wood (especially when mixed with urine) because some people might use salvage planks dated prior to EPA rules.


                        • #13
                          One place I boarded was a fantastic old racing barn. And I mean fantastic...outside stall walls were real hand carved wainscotting, same with the barrel ceiling in the stalll area. The loft could store 2 years of hay for 30 horses, plus it had it's own grainery, 2 groom's apartments with old fireplaces (okay, they weren't overly fire conscious when this was built) and an upstairs main office that was 30x30 with a palladian window overlooking the track. The downstairs had an l-shaped addition to it that was a stone floored solarium that was one huge wash stall. Stayed warm in winter. Stunning place!
                          They had wood floors that worked well. Upsides like everyone else mentioned. Those stall floors though were open underneath with about 2' of air under to a dirt floor. The support joists were 8" on center I think. All oak. Small spaces in between for drainage. The horses seemed to like them.
                          Downsides were:
                          Absolutely positively no boriums/snow studs in winter or they gouged the heck out of the wood.
                          The aisle was wood also, nothing allowed that would stain the floor.
                          If you have a stall walker/pacer it's LOUD. Very loud. (I had a stall walker, the BOs could hear her walking all night long from their house which was 100 feet away!)
                          You have to be uber-clean with bedding and stall keeping. Damp bedding left in there is no good for the wood.
                          Every morning after cleaning stalls the bedding was all swept against the sides in high banks for the floors to air dry for the day. Bedding laid back out before turn in.

                          But they did look fantastic!
                          With a dirt floor in today's modern barns I'd probably dig it out a bit deeper and then backfill with stonedust, vibrate, pack and level and then add mats. No fuss easy as pie maintenance and excellent drainage!
                          You jump in the saddle,
                          Hold onto the bridle!
                          Jump in the line!


                          • Original Poster

                            Mistyblue, I was wondering about having a raised floor. Thanks for sharing the experience and practicality.

                            This is a picture of the barn. We have done everything ourselves and are proud of how it has turned out. We now have sliding doors and are working on the summer/fall/winter project list of stonedust sacrifice area under shed roof and extended into the larger sac. area and then putting flooring in the barn aisle and the stalls. We found AWESOME fans that came out of an old poultry house that I'm putting up this week. Man, these fans can move some serious air!

                            Alison Howard
                            Homestead Farms, Maryland www.freshorganicvegetables.com


                            • #15
                              The raised floors were nice. I didn't know they were raised (or had open space underneath actually) until one day I was there while the BO was replacing a couple worn out boards in one stall. I walked by and say him standing in a stall and he was a LOT shorter, LOL! I asked him why there was such a deep space underneath and wouldn't the horses' weight be too much? He said the space not only provided for excellent drainage but it also gave the wood a bit more give than sitting directly on ground and that they lasted longer not sitting on the ground that gets damp underneath.
                              He said the suppports were close and everything was very hard wood for bearing extra weight and in the 50 years he'd had the barn had never had a problem wiith boards bending or breaking.
                              I would also imagine any repairs would be rather simple since you just sweep back the bedding, pry up the damaged boards and put a new one down. Took him no time at all.

                              Your barn is lovely BTW! I wish I had the double overhangs like that, they're soooo very handy! I loved that photo after the one you linked to, nothing looks more inviting than a warmly lit barn on a dark winter's night!

                              Boy you guys grow a lot of crops, huh? And here I was feeling all proud of myself for having a living tiny veggie garden this year for the first time ever (I kill plants like it's my job). I'm guessing it's commercial because I know my 2 yellow squash plants and 2 zuke plants are spitting out veggies like a Pez dispenser on crack! My dingbat cukes are now giving up 6-7 cukes per day! (only 3 plants)
                              You jump in the saddle,
                              Hold onto the bridle!
                              Jump in the line!


                              • Original Poster

                                MB, thank you for the compliments. The overhangs are a fantastic part of the barn. Perfect for having turnout in inclement weather and they keep the stalls cooler this time of the year.

                                Yes, we grow about 10 acres of vegetables and 290 acres of grain. DH is the full time farmer. I'm the marketer (and horse person). He is the maintenance man and doer of nice projects.
                                Alison Howard
                                Homestead Farms, Maryland www.freshorganicvegetables.com


                                • #17
                                  Benson, what a lovely barn! The picture taken in the evening is so pretty...the barn just glows and looks so cozy.

                                  I pulled the wood floors out of my current barn and the barn I owned before this one, backfilled the stalls with boulders and dirt, then topped it off with stone dust, clay and mats. Over time, wood floors in stalls will rot from the constant assault from urine and spilled water from buckets and they can also be very slippery so I just prefer a solid floor under my horses with mats.


                                  • #18
                                    Benson, I'd give my eyeteeth for that barn! And seeing the snow picturess--you sure are in MD, aren't you? May we never again have another winter like that one!
                                    Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.