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Pavaratty Marble

Let your floors glow deep and red

Red oxide flooring, unique to Kerala, is back in favour after falling from grace in the seventies.

The deep crimson hue of the red oxide flooring is something unique to Kerala. Many people from the northern India and abroad exclaim at the richness and velvety gloss of a well-made red oxide floor.

Cement floors enhanced with colours were the first step of modern flooring in Kerala. But, the technique of red oxide flooring had arrived here much before the advent of reinforced cement concrete roofing. Commonly found in the palaces and the houses of nobility of the early days, the red and black oxide floors had become associated with tradition in Kerala.

The best example of traditional red and black flooring is found in the 400-year-old Padmanabhapuram Palace in Thakkala. Though once the seat of the Travancore Royal House, this palace is at present in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

Flooring materials

However, with the arrival of the multitude of flooring materials, red oxide fell out of popularity in the Seventies. It became more or less a poor man's flooring. Mosaic was the in-thing of those days, later to be replaced by ceramic tiles and marbles.

But, these days, the oxide floors are seemingly making a comeback. "Though the oxide floors had fell out of popularity at a certain time, now more and more people start to prefer it," says Latha Raman, a Kochi-base architect. Ms. Raman and her husband G. Jaigopal, who run the firm, `Inspirations,' are strong supporters of the coloured flooring. The office space of Inspirations at Eroor has the floor done in red oxide. They have also used it in the Hotel Sarovaram in Kundannur mixed with other types of flooring like terracota tiles.

Architect Eugene Pandala also agrees on the virtues of the oxide floors. He points out that the technique of using coloured cement for flooring is found in other parts o 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. He had found the coloured flooring in the old houses in Goa also.

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.


Interestingly, a small village in Thrissur district has generations of workers who have specialised in the oxide flooring work. Pavaratty, famous with the church of St. Joseph, is also known in the building circuit of Kerala for the `Pavaratty Finish,' the exquisite work of marble finish given to walls and flooring with white cement and pigments.

Says Sebi, an engineer hailing from Pavaratty and now based in Thiruvananthapuram: "The craftsmen in Pavaratty were taught the technique of `marble finish' by Italian priests who arrived about 80 - 90 years ago to supervise the construction of churches.

The local masons were worried by the white cement turning into black once it dried out. The Italians taught them how to polish the white cement without fading."

Later, the craftsmen improvised the technique by incorporating new pigments and designs. Now, the workers from Pavaratty can create wonderful designs that resemble streaks of marble or grains of wood on walls and floor using white cement and different types of pigments. But, their specialisation lies in the laying of oxide flooring.

"Local masons often pour the white cement group over the roughly laid concrete floor even before it dries out. So, the pigment is absorbed by the wet concrete and later, when the floor dries out, the sand particles in the mixture comes into the surface, leaving dirty patches," says Sebi.

His workers, on the other hand, apply the white cement-pigment mix only after the floor is dried out. The ratio of the mix is also important.

The biggest attraction of the oxide flooring is its economic viability. The average cost with the best quality cement and pigments comes to only about Rs. 13.50 per square foot, according to Mr. Sebi.

by RENU RAMANATH in hindu property
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  1. Dear Simon,
    i heard about the red-oxide flooring in 'The Hindu' and on the google search, I came across your posting of the same article. Can you help me to find out the more of this work and whom I should contact for the details of this flooring and who can help us in doing it. We have a very small work of about 600 sq ft to put red oxide flooring for our apartment that getting finised in Jan 09. The apartment is in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu. Can you email me with your contact details.
  2. Dear Simon,

    I completely agree with you on the beauty of the red/black oxide flooring, and now its available in many other colours too!
    I'm a conservation architect ,based in the UK. Currently, im designing a farmhouse in Thiruvananthapuram for a friend. Ive specified oxide flooring throughout the house(to keep it as cost-effective and earthy as possible!), but i have no idea who to contact in Kerala. Could you help me please? hope to recieve an email from you soon!

    many Thanks,

  3. Dear Mr. Simon,

    My parents hail from Kerala and for long since we are located in Coimbatore. Now we are in the process of fully renovating our old house and our choice was for Black Oxide flooring as we dislike any other modern means. Thanx a lot to you for being available in this field. My father knows about Pavaratty and that made me to google for more information where I found you. I would love to hear from you so that I can get more ideas regarding this. Take care.

  4. Hi Simon ,
    I am building a home in Goa and would like to do cement oxide floor...I have tried and broken the floors several tomes...Could you please help me find someone that can do it for me....The area is about 3000 square feet..Regards Sanjay
    Mobile - 09326119779
  5. Hi Simon
    I am planning a house Puthur, Palakkad and intend use oxide flooring in 3 or 4 different shades, red black blue and green.
    Can you please guide me to a reliable contractor
    KPB Menon
  6. Hi Simon
    I do not seem to have received a reply to my above mail. Appreciate if you can take a little time off to reply.
    KPB Menon
  7. Hi Simon
    I do not seem to have received a reply to my above mail. Appreciate if you can take a little time off to reply.
    KPB Menon
  8. Dear sir please let me know about the experts in this field. Could you please provide phone numbers of these experts
  9. Hello sir...
    Could you please provide with the contact numbers of Mason's who do the red oxide polish work