The charm of red oxide floor

All that it demands is a daily mop with wet cloth. Over time, it looks increasingly better too.

If we search for the flooring option that scores well on all fronts such as embodied energy, eco friendly, economy and ease of maintenance, our search may as well end with red oxide flooring. If we survey across South India to find what floor type the majority have grown up with, the answer could as well be red oxide again. Incidentally, this wonder option also requires the least of manufacturing, generates no wastage, lasts very long, demands minimal transportation of raw materials and channelises money to the local people. It will be great to find out who discovered or invented this simple technology of red oxide floor!

Any mention of red oxide floor elicits reactions like ‘Oh, no one does it nowadays’ or we do not get skilled masons. While these are true, the last decade has seen a revival of the technology with Kerala, Bangalore, Auroville and such places producing high quality floors.

The media has widely disseminated the process, to empower those who are interested. There still are people looking down upon this option, many government norms do not accept it and surprisingly in Bangalore a red oxide floor house gets lesser tax, indirectly suggesting it as a lower quality house.

When mosaic, ceramic and such factory made products dominated the construction industry, red oxide got relegated to the back seat. However, none of these attitudes can refute the time tested performance of the hand-made oxide floor.

The term red oxide technically refers to the fine powdered form of iron oxide, a non-flammable inorganic compound found in nature as a mineral, which emits no hazardous emissions. The material can also be produced in bulk by laboratory controlled factory processes. In a way, we owe the material to the science of chemistry.

Avoid humid areas

While red is the most popular colour, black, blue, pink, yellow and green colours are also in common use. The material tends to absorb moisture, hence should be stored safely away from humid areas. These oxides are used not only for flooring, but also for anti-rust applications, paints, iron industry, pigmenting, polishing and such others, hence have a wider validity.

The beauty of oxide floor is the seamless floor without any joints and the look of tiles or slabs. They are best suited to indoors, for the cycle of rain and sunshine of the outdoors tend to result in surface cracks.

Using water with high mineral content, like borewell water, is not advisable; hence before deciding upon red oxide floor, it is safer to ensure clean well water or treated water is available at the construction site. The major care in a household context would be not to spill cleaning acids on it and once occupied, to rub off any spilled over lemon juice, wine, curds or such food items with sour qualities, which tend to form stain marks.

All that the oxide floor demands is a daily mop with wet cloth. Over time, the floor looks increasingly better!

Posted on July 7, 2012, in designs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. A very nice piece on red oxide floors. Visiting my ancestral home in Kerala as a young child I have always admired red oxide flooring work done there. I have recently bought a home in Pune and I am thinking of doing the same here. However as you mentioned the risk in this in spite of it being a much better and cheaper option is that there is no one skilled enough to do this kind of work especially here in Maharashtra or I have not come across anyone who does. Do you know of any contractor here in Pune who specializes in this kind of work.

  2. I am in Australia and in the 1920s red Oxide floors were very popular. Such traditional flooring is still appreciated in 1925 built Bungalows in Australia. . But I can no longer buy the traditional red coloured wax polish that I used to apply to the floor. Does anyone have a traditional recipe for this red oxide wax floor polish?

    • Dear Suzzane,

      In India, both the plain white wax and pigmented red wax are still available in the market, so I do not know if anyone has been researching for the actual traditional recipes. Sometimes, simple application of oil (say coconut oil) helps in temporarily improving the looks.

      If one has the mood to experiment, red oxide powder can be purchased (do not know if its available in your place), mix with honey bee wax and any oil with evaporative characteristics like coconut oil in trial and error proportion – and hopw to get home made polish. I

      I have no idea about the actual composition of red oxidde composition, but an experiment…

      Prof. Sathya Prakash Varanashi

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