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close this bookAppropriate Building Materials: a Catalogue of Potential Solutions (SKAT; 1988; 430 pages)
View the documentPreface
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsFundamental information on building materials
close this folderFundamental information on building elements
View the documentFoundations
View the documentFloors and ceilings
View the documentWalls
View the documentRoofs
View the documentBuilding systems
Open this folder and view contentsFundamental information on protective measures
Open this folder and view contentsExamples of foundation materials
Open this folder and view contentsExamples of floor materials
Open this folder and view contentsExamples of wall materials
Open this folder and view contentsExamples of roof materials
Open this folder and view contentsExamples of building systems
Open this folder and view contentsAnnexes

Floors and ceilings


In many traditional societies in developing countries it is customary for all daily activities, such as working, preparing food, cooking, eating and sleeping, to take place on the floor. Hence, the floor construction and, more so, the type of surface is of great importance, especially in terms of comfort and cleanliness.

But even if activities do not take place primarily on the floor, careful thought should be given to its design and the choice of materials, particularly with respect to the local climatic and environmental conditions, as well as to traditional lifestyles and natural hazards.

Although composite climates are more common, design considerations for floor and ceiling construction in the two major climatic regions (warm humid and hot dry climates) show the two extremes, between which a variety of intermediary solutions are possible.

Design Considerations

• It is always advantageous to construct floors well above the ground surface: protection against splashing rain and flood water in predominantly humid climates, exclusion of windblown sand in predominantly dry regions.

• In warm humid climates, floors raised off the ground, with an air space below, are preferred mainly to facilitate air movement (needed to reduce heat and moisture) and for protection against vermin.

• In hot dry climates, floors should preferably be in contact with the ground to facilitate heat conduction from building to earth.

• In regions which may experience brief but marked seasonal cooling, the normally welcome coolness of paved flooring may be temporarily mitigated by area rugs, carpets or mats.

• The choice of colour on floors exposed to sunshine is determined by a compromise between avoiding glare and discouraging heat absorption. Smooth surfaces are best in all areas subject to dust, but non-slip surfaces must be remembered for steps in wet areas.

• Non-uniform ground conditions can cause the foundations and/or floors to subside partially, causing serious damage. Hence, in some cases, it is advisable to construct movement joints between the floor and wall (or foundation).

• A dampproof course is required where ground moisture is a problem.

• The design of ceilings must take into account the problem of sound transmission from the higher to the lower floor: resilient materials and improper ceiling-to-wall connections can cause acoustical problems.

Common Materials for Floors and Ceilings



Stone slabs or tiles

Medium costs to expensive; provides cool, clean surface; impermeable, if joints are waterproof.


Cheap; suitable for hot dry climates; in warm humid climates raised well above ground; stabilizer and / or water proofing treatment and frequent renewal required (in some regions, cow dung is traditionally used and very effective).

Burnt clay bricks and tiles

Medium costs; provides cool surface; requires careful placement to avoid unevenness; suitable for all climates; structural clay filler blocks on precast concrete joists reduce time of construction and provide good alternatives to concrete ceilings.

Concrete slabs

Expensive; strong; suitable for all climates; with reinforcement good resistance to differential settling of soil; used mainly as substructure; in situ or precast construction.

Screed and concrete tiles

Expensive; strong; screed used as jointless floor surface or as bed for floor tiles; concrete tiles available in large variety of shapes and sizes.


Low to medium costs; used in warm humid regions for floors without ground contact; suitable for substructure and covering, preferably with bamboo boards (split and flat tened culms); very good workmanship and protection against biological agents and fire necessary.


Medium costs; similar considerations as for bamboo.


Medium costs; mainly PVC (polyvinyl chloride) tiles and sheets as floor covering laid on rough timber or screed base.

Sulphur concrete

Medium costs; provides cool, clean and impermeable surface; protection against excessive heat necessary.


Low to medium costs; large variety of applications as pozzolana and aggregate in concrete, thermal insulation material, adhesives, boards and tiles.

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