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The Best Stable Aisle Floors for Your Horse Barn

What is underfoot of both horse and human matters not just in the stables or stalls, it also matters in the high traffic areas such as barn aisles, tack and feed rooms and wash/grooming stalls. These floors all need to be safe, durable and highly functional.

Materials to surface these floor areas should be chosen to offer a non-slip surface for the horses or their equine caregivers; no broken saddle trees caused by an errant fall off the saddle rack; and no cracking or damage to surfaces when traversed by motorized equipment.

Interior barn floors also need to be easy to keep clean on a daily basis. Hay and shaving litter, shed horsehair from grooming and detritus from hoof picking, all require clean up. While the interior barn floors may be sheltered from the weather by the roof, they are also often subject to damage from water, urine and manure, chemical components/ingredients in horse care sprays or care products and will need to withstand staining with oils such as hoof dressings.

What type of flooring you install where, will come down to a number of factors: its cost and your budget; the amount of value you place on its aesthetic appeal; and how you’d like to use and abuse it. Here are a few pointers to help walk you successfully up that walkway.


Set Priorities

Wherever the horse is likely to tread the floor should be selected with keen consideration of how the type of material laid will impact the physical condition of the horses’ legs, hooves and overall joint health.

The safest surface materials will not:

  • Become slippery when wet.
  • Be so smooth so as to offer no traction especially to metal horseshoes and will be able to withstand the abuse of studs and caulks on shoes.
  • Be so hard or abrasive that a horse falling on it or a caregiver kneeling on it finds it unforgiving on their joints or skin.

Fire safety should also be a consideration in barn floor choices. A floor that is compacted dirt with a shavings cover will pose a high risk for fire if motorized gas vehicles are used for mucking out and feeding chores, while a concrete floor will pose a low fire risk.


Spend Your Money Wisely

The longevity of a floor surface is dependent not just on the finished surface material as a good floor goes more than skin deep. The substructure of the ground beneath needs to be of sound construction too.

It is essential to provide a well-compacted level subfloor under whatever surface flooring is applied. Money spent on appropriate preparation of the sub floor and drainage needs for a particular area will pay dividends down the road.

Gravel bases with a mason sand or stone dust compaction on top are commonly recommended, their depths and constituent layers depend on the type of surface floor material being installed.

If you live in a region that endures extreme cold temperatures during winter months also consider how condensation, ice and snow build up and entry doors may be affected when temperatures drop below freezing. Metal doors may freeze to concrete floors and a subfloor that heaves due to lack of depth of compacted gravel beneath it can cause sliding stall doors to stick and become difficult to open.


The A’s, B’s and C’s Of Barn Floors

Asphalt laid through an aisleway is a popular floor choice. A raked surface with a small aggregate size is best for traction. Concrete is another option though the expense of both hard floors can be significant. Especially when you consider that both will likely need to be covered to some degree with rubber mats to provide extra comfort for the horse and their caregiver.

Concrete floors are subject to cracking and the depth and consistency of the concrete should be chosen with care to ensure they will withstand the weight of any vehicles such as ATVs, UTVs, tractors that may be driven across them.

Tractor footprints usually exert about 100 PSI per foot (pounds per square inch), so for a compact tractor or similar vehicle, concrete installed to a 4” layer over a 4” layer of gravel, reinforced with mesh or rebar should work. For storage or machine sheds used for heavier duty farm equipment it is best to go 6” in depth.

Concrete is sold at different rates of strength or PSI, and a minimum 3000 to 4000 PSI concrete is usually utilized for high traffic barn areas where farm equipment will be used. Just remember the higher the PSI you buy the more resilient to cracking the floor will be and thus the more durable.

Wash stalls will require proper drainage and a sloping of a concrete surface, and taking water to daylight at the corner of the stall is the cheapest way to effect drainage. Once outside water can be discharged to a ditch to take it away from the exterior of the building where it might otherwise damage the structure and/or cause flooding.

All drains within the barn should be meshed/grilled and protected from detritus such as horsehair, dirt and gravel, hay etc. entering the drain which would cause blockages.


Rubber, Plastic and Stone Pavers

The huge variety of rubber and plastic pavers on the market offer plenty of creative license when it comes to the aesthetic appeal of a horse barn. However, depending on the quality of the product the color you choose on the rubber pavers may fade over time.

The use of recycled or reground rubber often incorporated into pavers reduces the overall longevity of the product. Stranded rubber will last longer but it is also more expensive.

Interlocking of rubber and plastic pavers is essential if the pavers are not to become uneven over time causing a tripping hazard. A disadvantage of rubber pavers is their difficulty in keeping them clean.

Thick pavers are generally installed over sand, while thinner pavers are usually installed over a concrete floor. In areas where liquids such as water or urine may collect, a soft sand underlay will become squishy and cause the pavers to float. This highly undesirable result of a floating floor will become particularly apparent in a wash stall.

Plastic pavers also come in a variety of qualities, sizes and offer different levels of permeability. Wear and tear on plastic pavers can result in the plastic surfaces becoming worn thus reducing traction if the pavers are not properly filled and installed.

Pavers of all types are manufactured to withstand different levels of abuse so it is essential to choose one that offers a good PSI strength. For example, rubber pavers can be rated to 8000 PSI or higher while stone pavers made of concrete or clay based may crumble at 2000 PSI. Certain manufacturers offer pavestone that is three inches thick and can withstand much heavier weights.

As there are so many variables in the huge range of paving products it is best to check the details carefully, ensure installation directions are followed and pick a product with a good warranty and from a company with a proven reputation for standing behind their product.


Floors For Feed/Tack Rooms

Tile floors are a popular choice for tack rooms and office spaces as they are easy to clean and offer such a wide range of choices in color and designs. However, the impact resistance of the tile should be considered where they are used in areas where they may be subject to heavy objects being dropped on them such as tack boxes, Western saddles or even horse bits and metal stirrup irons.

Tile floors offer the advantage of working well with radiant heat if the interior room is to be heated for the comfort of the users or to maintain the right temperature to keep tack, equipment and in particular leather goods in good condition.

Wood floors offer warmth and wood is a natural insulator. If you drop an English saddle from a saddle rack on a wood floor it is much less likely to cause damage to the vulnerable saddle tree than a tile floor.

Floating laminate floors are cheap to install and purchase and offer a better aesthetic appeal and durability than finishing the floor with plywood. Hardwood flooring is ideal as it offers excellent durability. Manufactured wood floors of many types now come with highly resilient metal oxide finishes such as aluminum oxide, making clean up easy and providing them the ability to maintain their good looks despite wear and tear.

Remember tack rooms will likely be used for tack cleaning jobs, removing muddy boots and equipment and will require constant sweeping and cleaning up.

Rooms such as feed and tack rooms that are attractive spaces to rodents should have floors installed that are properly sealed to their wall edges, and any wood support members beneath should be pressure treated to mitigate insect infestation, rodent damage, and decay from moisture. There are new spray-foam products available on the market that can be used beneath the floor to help provide an effective rodent and moisture barrier.


A Word On Floor Cleaning

It is preferable to vacuum floors versus sweeping them clean to remove hay, dust and detritus as this will minimize air contamination with allergens and dust.

About Horizon Structures

Horizon Structures is now the industry’s leader in quality built horse barns, horse stables and run-in sheds. The high level of craftsmanship in our Amish built barns, horse stables, storage buildings, sheds and garages provide for a long lasting structure that comes with our Written Guarantee.

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