Red oxide, Black oxide and other color oxide flooring, unique to Kerala, is back in flavor after falling from grace in the seventies. Many people from the northern India and abroad exclaim at the richness and velvety gloss of a well-made oxide floor. The best example of traditional red and black flooring is found in the 400-year-old Padmanabhapuram Palace in Thakkala. However, with the arrival of a multitude of flooring materials such as Marble, Mosaic, Vitrified and other floor Tiles, Red/ Black oxide fell out of popularity in the Seventies. Of what has became more or less a poor man’s flooring is now getting back its glory!
SURFACES REPORTER spoke to Ar. Thirupurasundari Sevvel, Studio Conclave, Chennai about the use of RED OXIDE flooring as a preferred material in her projects. She has been working towards creating awareness about the use of local materials in projects through workshops and other initiatives. She is an independent researcher, educator and also the Founder of Nam Veedu, Naam Oor, Nam Kadhai. Get enlightened as the lady talks about the finer aspects of the flooring and how to apply it the right way to maximize benefits.
The technique of using coloured cement for flooring is found in other parts of India too, such as the Chettinad tiles. In Bangalore too, there were many old buildings made with oxide floors. Even carpet like patterns are embossed in the floor using different colours including the coloured flooring in many of the old houses in Goa. The old technique for the coloured floor used egg white, a lot like the fresco method.
However, the quality of the oxide flooring, whatever the colour, depends a lot on the craftsmanship. Only an expert craftsman can lay a perfect floor without cracks and that does not develop patches with time. The process is laborious and requires keen attention.
The biggest attraction of the oxide flooring is its economic viability. These days, various colours of oxide floors are available.
Ar. Thirupurasundari Sevvel, Studio Conclave, Chennai
The Curing Process to Follow
The day after doing the floor, cure the floor by sprinkling water every two to three hours for a whole day, to avoid a dry floor.
The second day, a thin sheet of water should be stocked up to check if white patches appear on the floor. If they do, remove the water, rub them off with a cloth and again refill water, until no white patches are visible.
Once the floor is laid, no one should walk on it for a minimum of four days, except for watering and waxing.
Let the floor dry for a few days, clean it by wet and dry mopping and apply 400 grade sand paper in case smoothening and levelling is enquired.
Red colour wax should now be applied directly on the surface with a soft cloth.
As the wax dries, rub the surface with rice husk or coconut pith in circular fashion until the wax disappears. Keep the room closed for three days so that the floor absorbs the wax fully
THE FINER POINTS TO NOTE
♦ The water should be clean or treated, and definitely not the mineral-rich borewell water.
♦ White cement and high grade grey cements tend to set fast, hence not advisable. Sand should not have silt deposits.
♦ Quality of red oxide is important to ensure that wear and
tear across the years does not expose the concrete beneath.
♦ For 1 part oxide, up to 3 parts, grey cement gives dark
red colour. Increasing cement leads to light red shades.
♦ White cement can be used to get different shades carefully.
♦ Cement and oxide should be first mixed in dry form, slowly adding water to get a consistent slurry-like mix. Any lump formation in the mix will show up in the flooring. Trowelling to get an even surface is very important.
♦ Oxide floors need to be done in one continuous stretch without break, often taking a whole day & night depending upon area.
♦ Most materials deteriorate with age, but the oxide floor is an exception. It shines more the longer it is used!