Brown Paper Floor Technique: FAQs

My most viewed post and video, by far, is the Brown/Kraft Paper DIY Alternative to Wood Flooring tutorial: how to cover a floor in brown kraft paper to create a great, leather-looking surface. And after having this tutorial get published in Cottages and Bungalows magazine in April 2011 (woot!), more readers and bloggers have tried it in their homes with great success.

It’s also the post I get the most questions about – here, on our You Tube channel, and through email. I thought it was about time to address some of the most common questions people have about this easy, affordable, and beautiful flooring option.

Before I get to the specific questions, I want to emphasize a couple of points that answer most general questions:

  • ALWAYS do a test area if you’re unsure. If there is no out-of-the-way place to do it, get a piece of material that is the same as the surface you want to cover and try it.
  • If you want to try something other than what I did, don’t be afraid to experiment with your ideas…on your test patch, or the actual floor if you’re a daredevil.
  • I can only tell you my experiences- I don’t know exactly how this will work/hold up in your situation. That’s the nature of DIY, I’m afraid.
  • This is pretty low-cost and low-impact, so I always tell people to go for it when they want to try something different- don’t be afraid to be creative!

Brown Paper Floor Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Can I do this on concrete?(the most-asked question, by the way- who knew there were so many concrete floors?)

  • I haven’t done it myself, so I can only give my reader’s experiences. I’ve been told that using only the polyurethane to “glue” down the paper works for concrete – but not the 3:1 water-to-glue ratio that I use on wood-based sub floors. Paint the concrete with poly, apply the paper and then poly over the top. Again- I haven’t tried it, but I’ve been told this gives good results. If the concrete sits on dirt, there may be moisture issues and I’d do a test area.
  • Here’s what one You Tube commenter said:

“Yes I just did it on concrete in my sons room, it looks great, I love it- about to do the hallway now. I just made sure to scrape it clean so it was smooth. But we love it, so glad I found this”

2. Can I do this on tile? Vinyl? Other subfloors like pressboard or plywood?

  • See question #1 and general suggestions above
  • My only experience has been with wood-based subfloors (specifically, particle board, but I’ve also done patches on plywood- more wrinkles with particle board, less with plywood) – I think putting this over tile would leave grout marks- not sure at all how that would look. 
  • If the linoleum is in good condition and there aren’t a lot of bumps and ridges in the surface design (most things show up when the paper dries) the paper should adhere. As always, I recommend to do a test patch in an out-of-the-way spot and see what it looks like!
  • Here’s a reader comment who applied it to a painted floor:

“If you have a floor that already has a coat of poly on it (we had a painted floor), you can use poly for your glue and it works very well!” 

3. How durable is this? Does it last?(second most-asked question)

  • Again, I can give you our experiences: in our former house, we did the stairs and the entire upstairs (400 sq. ft.) three years before we sold it. The stairs looked as good as the day with finished them – much to my surprise – and there was one spot upstairs that tore from moving furniture. I touched it up before selling.
  • At our current house, it’s been two years since we finished our son’s bedroom and it, too, looks just the same as when we finished it. I think it might be discolored where the bed feet are, but it hasn’t been moved, so I won’t deal with it until it’s needed.
  • SO, I feel pretty confident in saying that it’s very durable – considering it’s paper. That’s the result of the polyurethane – I do four coats, but you can always do more, it’ll just cost more.

4. Can I do this in a bathroom? Kitchen? Dining room? Etc…

  • I haven’t tried it in these areas, though I’ve heard from a few readers who’ve put it down on their bathroom floors. They report good results – one said her parents had it back in the 70s and it lasted more than 7 years. Another reader said after awhile it wore a little in front of the bathtub and they added more paper and poly and it continues to work for them!
  • I would think kitchens may be the same, though they get a lot more traffic. My suggestion is to take a chance – for $60-70 and a few days time you’ll have a cool floor for awhile at least. And maybe longer!

5. Can I do this on stairs? On walls? On counters?

  • See second point of question #4 – it’s cheap, so go for it and find out!
  • As for stairs, as I said in #3, I’ve done it (and others as well) and they really look nice and hold up well

6. How long does it take to finish? Will the wrinkles smooth out? Is it hard on the knees?

  • It takes a long weekend – about 3 days – to do the technique like I outlined in the video, longer if you want to stain the paper (more on that below).
  • Yes, after the glue/water dries, the wrinkles will be much less noticeable, then pop up again after applying the poly. As the poly dries over the next week, they will lessen until hardly noticeable. Read this post about how I thought I failed, but then didn’t.
  • Yes, it’s hard on the knees and the back! Be prepared…

7. Is it loud? Slippery? How do you transition to other flooring (ie, thresholds)?

  • We don’t find it to be obnoxiously loud, but it does squeak more than carpet, as you’re walking on the subfloor.
  • Yes, it’s slippery like any surface that’s been coated with polyurethane (wood floors, etc.). You’ll need rugs with pads under them and for little kids, those socks with the no-skid bottoms. *smile*
  • We buy wood thresholds from the home store and stain them what we want to transition between the lower paper floor and our wood floors. Works for us.

8. How does it hold up with dogs?

  • Our dog doesn’t go into the rooms with this floor, so I only know what I’ve read from others. I’ve had readers say their floor was fine with pets. As I’ve said, with the coatings of poly I believe it wears really well. The bonus is, if it does get pulled up in an area by pets (or moving furniture and such) you can simply tear a piece of paper to cover it and poly it down. Good as new, which can’t be said for many other floor treatments.
  • That said, I’m not sure there’s any floor that dogs won’t put some scratches in (except carpet, but that has it’s own issues…), so you’ve got to be OK with that, I think.
  • If you’re worried about your dog chewing, I’d suggest doing a Google search on dogs and the poly finish. There aren’t edges to be chewed, but you never know what a chewy dog will find.

9. Can I use a roller to apply the polyurethane? Does it smell? Do I have to sand between coats?

  • You can use a roller if you want to – I use a brush as it’s easy for me and I can get into the corners and edges without cutting in later. Readers have told me they’ve used a foam mop-head type applicator as well as a roller. I’ve always heard that rollers could increase the bubbles in the finish, plus I have more control with a brush, so that’s what I’ve always used.
  • The water-based poly has minimal smell- not at all like the oil-based stuff that is so strong and lingers for days.
  • I’ve never sanded between coats. This isn’t a fine finish- just for protection, so I don’t bother.

10. Can I use other types of paper? Fabric?

  • Sure! Use any paper you’d like. As with most other questions, I always suggest trying it first.
  • I’ve never even imagined it with fabric- you may have problems with edges fraying as you brush the glue on, if it’s a loose fabric. Or not. Experiment!

11. Can I cut the paper into strips?

  • I know of a couple of readers who’ve used strips, and they like it. I think it gets harder when the pieces are bigger, though, so keep the pieces easy to handle and glue down.

12. Can I use oil-based polyurethane?

  • I DO NOT recommend it. I have had readers tell me it worked for them and I don’t know the difference, but when I tried it (it’s cheaper, and I succumbed…) I had awful oily splotches. I had to tear it ALL up and lay the paper all over again. And the smell- it was so bad, and for days. I’ll never use an oi-based product on it again.

13. Can I stain it? How?

  • Yes, readers have successfully stained it. You stain it one of three ways:
  1. Stain the floor right after the glue/water mixture has fully dried, BEFORE starting the poly coats. Use the stain you’d like and apply it with a foam pad applicator or brush. Let dry fully before starting the poly coats. Here’s one reader’s technique (though I still don’t recommend using anything oil-based with the paper).
  2. Mix a water-based stain in the glue/water mixture, effectively staining the paper as you go. This is more time-saving than the first option, but you have to experiment with the mixture first to get the ratio so that the floor ends up the color you want.
  3. For concrete floors, since you’re not using the glue/water mixture, you’ll need to tint the polyurethane (some poly comes with stain in it- you can experiment with that).

14. Can I put another floor over the top of it later? Do I have to rip it up?

  • I think that’s one of the nice things about this- if you ever want to install wood (or, heaven forbid- carpet :-), it would go right over the top with no problem. About the only thing you couldn’t do would be to paint it, although people surprise me all the time…maybe someone will do this one day!
  • I wouldn’t bother removing it, but I suppose that depends on what you’re putting on top. Guess what? Yeah…do a test patch. *smile*

15. How do you clean it?

  • I clean my paper floors like I clean wood floors: I vacuum with a canister vac weekly and use a slightly damp mop as needed (ours are in bedrooms- the need for mopping is not that great). Like wood floors, I never put a lot of water on them- just a damp mop is good. They really are easy care!

16. Can it be repaired if it tears? How?

  • Yes, easily. Simply tear and crumple a new piece of brown paper to cover the area to be fixed. Use poly only and brush the floor with it, lay the new piece on the area and brush more poly over the top. Let dry and repeat for the number of coats you’d like.

17. What about resale value?

  • As far as renovations go, this is a pretty inexpensive one, even if it’s just for a few years before you can afford something else. But as I mentioned in another question, we sold our other house with this flooring on the stairs and second floor with no problem. In fact, the new family thought it was cool (we sold it ourselves, so we heard all their comments). Everyone who’s ever visited our houses have thought it was a great floor and many of them have wanted to do it to their own floors. Each situation is unique, though, and I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t like it (they’re probably carpet people!).

Whew! As you can tell, I really have gotten a lot of questions about this. If you’ve made it this far, you must be interested in trying this so if you have any more questions I haven’t mentioned, be sure to leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best (or our readers will!) to answer them here. I’ll just keep adding to the list.

And be sure to tell us if you’ve done this technique and leave a link if you’ve posted about it on a blog or website!
This is linked to Tutorials and Tips, Saturday Nite Special, DIY Project Parade, and Remodelaholic’s Anonymous.

Comments

  1. Wow! this is great and very thorough!
    I found your technique through YOUtube and I did it in my bathroom…to date…it is my 2nd most viewed post and running a close 1st! I’ve had my floor pinned and that made my day. I didn’t do an extensive DIY video but I linked you as my ‘go to’ research. I will definitely be linking this informative post to any future posts about my floor.
    I love it. I’ve only had it a little over a month, but it is holding up pretty well.
    I did my floor over vinyl and DID notice a couple of place that HAVE BUBBLED. As soon as it warms up enough to cut the propane water heater off again ( I used oil based poly) I’ll be cutting, Re-glueing, and patching. I’m confident it will be an inexpensive and EASY FIX!
    Thanks for all your great info.
    ~Pat

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says:

      Oh, yes, Pat – I remember your floor because you did it with strips to look like wood! I didn’t know you’d done it over vinyl, though. So glad you are adding to our conversation by telling us your experience with using it over vinyl! Thanks so much!

    • I want to know what sort of prep work needs to be done if my concrete slab has previously had self adhesive tiles on it? Does the entire slab need to be ground down prior to application? Or will the left over adhesive help to make the paper stick? When we purchased our house the previous owners had applied these “lovely” little tiles. We wanted to stain and poly the concrete floors but would have had to grind the slab to remove all of the adhesive. Will the paper bags cover this so that we will not have to do this? I love this technique but I am not sure if I can get my husband on board if it will require us to remove the leftover adhesive.

      • I’ve never done the technique on cement, Robin, so I can only give you my guesses. Any bumps on the floor show through the paper (little rocks/debris left before application), so if the adhesive is uneven and has bumps, you will see it and it might even make the paper wear there as you use it. You can try a test area, like I suggest above. Good luck with your project!

      • We have had great success removing self stick tile and it’s left over adhesive
        by putting a thin old towel or thick paper over the tile and going over the tile or glue patch with a warm iron.

      • KIMBERLY says:

        I just did my 11X25 family room this past weekend. concrete floor that had carpet glue on it. We kept the glue, as it added to the texture of the floor. I LOVE IT! I used 1:1 elmers glue/water to stick the paper down. And we are now in the process of putting many many coats of ploy (water based). One thing I did do differently was to place pennies (heads up of course) on the floor around the room with the first coat of poly. It is quirky, and something fun :) I found pennies with the birth years for my kids and myself. The poly isn’t enough to make them flush just yet, but we will be adding 3 more coats…totaling 10 coats.

  2. Thank you so much for all of this information! I have HIDEOUS linoleum in my kitchen but we can’t afford to replace it so this paper technique is one I’ve been contemplating. I’m going to pin this and your other information and if I get brave enough to do this, I’ll let you know!

    • bob tourtelot says:

      i am curious to know how things worked out using the paper technique over linoleum.

      • franstuff says:

        I did it over a year ago throughout my entire house, 2 bathrooms and the kitchen were vinyl. One of the bathrooms I used the pages from a book about Victorian trade cards in one bathroom, pages from a vintage cookbook on the kitchen floor and I used laser printed pictures of cats in the other bath. They all turned out fine, except the trading card book bled a bit from the polyurethane. I put some strain over it, which I had also done in the kitchen, and now it just looks cool and antique. The bathroom I sealed with MOD podge (you can get it by the gallon – use matte) and it has held up as well as the rest. I got that idea from someone on Flickr who did her counters that way. Granted, the second bathroom doesn’t get the traffic of the rest of the house. I’ve saved cookbook pages for patching, and could always print more cats,I haven’t had to patch any of them but a few places of the plain brown paper floor where it wasn’t smooth enough in high traffic areas and the high spots wore off. Simple fix with another piece of paper, a bit of glue, and I patched with MOD PODGE. I love it all! I will mention I did not crumple the book pages, though I DID crumple the brown paper. Also, if your vinyl floor has texture it will show a bit, it doesn’t bother me, but I will note staining makes it less visible.

        • Awesome, Fran! Thanks for sharing your adaptations and how it’s worked in your house and traffic areas – I always get questions about this, so it’s really helpful!

          • Ray Pulliam says:

            This is new to me, sounds interesting. will the ploy crack as the floor flexes,when walking on it? and how many coats are needed.

          • I’ve not had an issue of the poly cracking, Ray, but I’ve only done it on subfloor that used large sheets of particle board. An old subfloor of 4-inch wood pieces might if it’s really squeaky. I do 3-4 coats (what I get from a gallon for a 10×11 ft. room), though I’ve had readers tell me they use a lot more.

    • Sharon Hastings says:

      When you decide to do your floor try this first, do a sample, wet your paper thoroughly, I let my paper sit in a bucket of water. And get good and wet, remove, take a damp cloth and wipe off the back, use white glue do not dilute and paint on and glue then lay down wipe with damp cloth to smooth off and no wrinkles. Also I base coat my paper white , I use paint and glazes over the base paint or you could just paint it, tear and apply, it will take longer to prepare but it works. I do walls, furniture, just about everything. If you can afford a roll of paper and a gallon of oops paint light in color, paint your roll of paper in strips let dry and when you can afford it do the next steps. I just roll the painted strips up and use as needed, this is very addicting as you will want to cover everything. Let me know.

      • Karen Logan says:

        SHARON,
        I would love to see some photos of your work. It sounds like what I am itching to do. Haven’t seen any done in strips yet or any lighter colors which I am dying to see! Gearing up to do my 365sq ft kitchen/dining area. Looking for ideas and examples.

  3. Amazing finish! I’d love to try this on something! Maybe I’ll start with a wall or door… oh my… now my imagination has gone crazy…

    Shared on FJI Facebook for SNS 127. :)

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150759610031141&set=a.192514281140.164586.175378011140&type=1&theater

    Donna

  4. The Gourd Lady says:

    Saw this 20 years ago in a kitchen featured in Country Magazine. It had been down for over 10 years at that time so you know it’s durable even in a kitchen! They had torn the paper more in a circular pattern rather than squares plus smaller pieces, all from recycled paper bags, and it was stained a dark reddish brown. Beautiful. Truly looked like old leather!

  5. Thanks for the link back, Jami! It looks like you and I get the same questions haha! I’m like you, I always recommend it because of the cost….but TEST TEST TEST!!! I’m loving mine still, people compliment it all the time. I wouldn’t go back to carpet. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  6. Can I do in parts.. See the issue is, we are going to do our living room but ALL rooms lead into our living room. So we would have to do the hall 1st then the main living room.. Would I be able to get it like this??

    Thanks so much for the help!

    • Sure – you just have to plan for the transition areas. If you leave a straight line there’ll be a, well…straight line. :) If you’d like it to blend better, leave it looking uneven, like it would if you were just continuing in a regular room. Hope that makes sense…

  7. Could you tell me if you can use a steam cleaner on them and is the floor as hard as hard wood or is it thinner since its paper but i love the look and thinking about trying it thanks

    • Hmmm, that’s a new question, Christy! I really don’t know about the steam cleaner. My gut reaction is no, but then I’ve never suggested doing the technique in a bathroom, either, but folks have and tell me the poly protects the surface from the water. It’s your call – you could test it I suppose, either on a test piece of wood or in an area like a closet or something.

      As for hardness, it feels like the subfloor ’cause it’s only a thin layer on top, so yeah it’s like wood floors. :)

  8. Hello Jami
    I have enjoyed your video/tutorial and all of your FAQ’s… I just did one of our rooms and it’s all wrinkled- I know you thought you failed with your son’s room- do the wrinkles really go away?? I don’t want to spend the time/money on the poly if I should be doing something special before I apply the poly- any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated :-)

    • Is it completely dry? If it is and there are big wrinkles you can put your finger in, then the poly probably won’t make it go back down. There shouldn’t be lot’s of wrinkles after the paper’s dried from the glue. It’s when you put the poly on that it wrinkles up again (and I thought it had failed), then as the poly dries, the wrinkles relax (1-2 weeks time to fully cure, I think).

  9. Ok, I did two stairs today to see how it would look. After the glue dried however; it doesn’t look like there are any wrinkles at all. I haven’t put the Polyurethane on yet as I thought the steps had to dry before applying it. Right now, it just looks like any other step. If you look really closely, you can see wrinkles. But if I am just standing and looking at them, it looks like I just laid the paper over it. Did I not use enough glue on the step before applying the paper? Will the Polyurethane make them show more? Also, what color Polyurethane did you use?? Help!!! Thanks!

    • Traci, I have found that sometimes the kraft paper is thicker and doesn’t show the wrinkles as much. Two things – they will show up a bit more with the poly and you can try crushing them more on your other steps. And yes, the glue needs to dry before the poly. You can stain the paper if you want for color – I always use the clear poly – I didn’t know it came in shades. Hmmm – wonder if that would be easier than staining the paper? I can see I have another thing I can test out. :)

      • Just curious if you have tried the stained poly and what the results were? I would like to do half my house with this next summer. :)

        • I did try it, Dana, and it did add color, but in a streaky way – it wasn’t really uniform. It’s okay, but I’m not sure I would do it again.

  10. Sharon Hastings says:

    Wrinkles…I wet my paper first in a container of water first, lay face down and wipe off the excess water , then add glue, lay down, use a damp cloth to smooth out wrinkles and air bubbles. No need to paint over with glue after its layed down. Try on a sample first and you will see the difference. Let dry thoroughly before you poly. I have been doing this for years. Started with vases, walls then furniture. Next project floors, the process would be the same for all. Thank you for info on floor poly as can learn something new. I never seal the walls and put the paper up with starch as easy removal and never damages the wall. I also use 3color glazes which I mix myself and paint on before I tear and apply.

  11. Hi Jami,
    My hubby and I are working on this right now and I have a question. One of our steps (the tread) was cracking and we put 3 screws in it instead of replacing it. Long story, but that was our better choice of the two. Anyway, hubby wasn’t able to get the screws flush and I’m wondering if
    a) will it tear the paper if we just try to paper over them
    b) in the event they don’t cause the paper to tear, how noticeable will they be?

    We also had to lay a thin board over the landing because it wasn’t solid and there is 1/8 of an inch difference from it to the next board. I used wood filler to make the transition a little smoother, but it will curve slightly. Will that be a problem? I can’t imagine that the floors have to be completely level before applying this technique, but wanted to ask.

    Thank you! Love your floors!

    • Hey Tiffani! My experience is that anything sticking up will show through the paper – even a little something I missed when vacuuming – so I think you’ll see the screws for sure. I would assume the paper would tear as the stairs are used, but I don’t know this for sure. If there’s nothing you can do about getting the screws flush, then I’d build up around them with wood fill, smoothing 3-5 inches out to try to make it a lump, but maybe not as noticeable? I don’t know – that’s just a thought. The wood fill area should be fine, you’ll notice it a bit but probably not too much. Sure hope that helps!

      • Thank you! It does help! I’m thinking of putting a very thin piece of board across the front. Since the screws are on the front of the tread, not the part you walk on (but not the riser), they at least won’t be stepped on.

        Thanks again!

  12. Just wanted to say thank you for this FAQ’s page! I recently did this in my boys room, (over concrete with the glue mixture) and had great success. I linked to this FAQ’s page in my post cause it’s just so darn thorough and awesome :) Here is a link to my post if you’re interested… http://www.domesticimperfection.com/2013/03/paper-bag-floors-a-tutorial/

    • Yes, I saw your results over on Hometalk, Ashley – great job! Glad that my FAQ page was helpful to you.:)

      • Oh geez, it kinda took on a life of it’s own on hometalk. I’ve been answering questions over there all week…the same questions over and over, haha. Anyway, I had to come back because I realized that leaving a link in your comments section was probably spammy and rude. Sorry about that, I swear I will not be even the tiniest bit offended it you delete it.

        • Ha! That’s why I had to create the FAQ page. :) And thanks for thinking of that about the comment, however I’ll leave it, as folks coming to this page want as much info as possible, so being able to find another person who’s done it is a good thing. No worries!

  13. My husband and I both have looked at these paper floors before and thought they looked cool. Since we are both musicians and have a grand piano in our living room, we thought it would be super cool to use old sheet music instead of brown paper bags. Of course I wondered if the paper would be thick enough. But he said “Well the paper is just the pattern. The durability is in the poly!” Smart man :-) We have carpeting in some rooms–miss our former home’s hardwood floors—so eventually we’ll get rid of that. Won’t be too long if the dogs keep wrestling around in there as they do! We do love this flooring technique/look!

  14. I just have to say that I am so impressed by this floor!!! Kudos!!
    Thanks for the idea/inspiration; I think am going to try it with a gray/blue stain.
    Jen

  15. Patti-Ann says:

    This is awesome. I have wood look laminate floors. Thinking about doing this and will test in the laundry room I guess. Thanks for the detailed instructions and easy to understand questions and answers.

  16. I’d love to do this in my office, which was a bedroom before, but I wonder if it would hold up to the rollers of an office chair. I don’t move the chair that much just between the 2 computers and they sit kind of in an L shape. Any opinions?

    • Not sure, Gem – it may…or it may not. The best solution I can think of would be to buy one of those clear office-chair plastic pads that are used on carpets, that way you’d know for sure that the floor would be okay.

  17. Kimberly Miller says:

    Just did this in my husbands office (was just sub-floor in there at the time) and will now be doing it throughout the rest of the bedrooms, hallway and living room. I have to say that photos and videos just do not capture the look of this floor treatment. I LOVE IT !!!
    It is SOOOO time consuming, but the inexpensiveness of the project is SOOOO worth it.
    I figure that by the time we are done with the rooms that we want to do we will have spent anywhere from $500-$700 for approximately 900 sq. ft of flooring. That is less than $.80 a sq. ft. !!!

  18. The area that I want to start redoing with paper floors, is one of my highest traffic areas! My question is what are your suggestions on how to lay this flooring down and still be able to use the area. It is my main hallway in my house that leads out of two of our bedrooms and is also the same area that leads my downstairs to the upstairs. Is it possible to walk on it after or has anyone ever done pieces of the floors and then went back and finished the rest later?

    • You won’t be able to use it while you’re working on it, but after the paper and glue dries you can walk on it. Then use water-based poly and it’s dry after 2 hrs, so you can walk on it if needed between coats. Good luck with that!

  19. In your video you mention that this floor isn’t good for high traffic i.e. kitchen, bathroom??? I’ve seen others install it in those rooms. Have you had any feedback or experience on this floor being installed in kitchens and bathrooms???

    • Just what others have told me, Sara – they have done it and just repaper any areas that need it after a year or two (like in front of the bathtub or kitchen sink). The reports I’ve had are that they are happy with it – it’s inexpensiveness and ease of repair if needed. It’s totally up to you!

  20. We did this type of paper on our basement floors. We did the 50/50 glue water after cleaning the contrete floor from the tiles n carpet that was there. Everything has come out really well the only issue we had is the drying process after the second coat because of the humid we are experiencing. Our friends love it! We really like it my husband was skeptic about it but I’m stubborn n did it anyway. I’m so glad I did.

    • Thanks for letting us know how it worked for your concrete floors, Lanora! Since it’s the most-asked question, I’m always glad to hear someone’s experience.

  21. I just spent the last week working on my basement floor doing it in craft paper. It took my 3 young adult sons about 1/2 an hour to rip out carpet in a 450 square foot room–glad to have their strong backs around! And soooo very glad to have the 20 year-old recycled carpet taken to the dump! Then we spent a day stripping the glue off the floor and cleaning with a concrete solvent. Borrowed a shop vac from a friend for this, used a deck scrubbing brush we had and a squeegy on an extension pole. This was a fairly easy process and it took up so much gunk off the floor. Had thought about renting a big sander but was scared off by the price. ( I had planned on staining it but there was just too much paint and other residue that would show through.) My 16-year-old tore and wadded paper for me for several hours and I spent about 16 hours piecing and gluing them down while I watched Downton Abbey streaming on Amazon Prime (highly recommend Downton and Prime). So I fell into bed at 12:30 this morning and when I got up there are still tacky spots. I set up a fan and am waiting to put the poly down until later today. I am not going to stain because the color already compliments the paint on the walls. (Another tip: If you live in Oregon you can buy Metro recycled paint thru Metro but also at all Miller paint stores. $11 a gallon or $50 for 5 gallons–I recommend it. It cover great and comes in a nice selection of colors but can also be tinted. Best value around!) Thanks for the advice on how to do this–I am excited and my boys can’t wait to have their friends over to our new video game/media room with an AWESOME floor!

    • So glad to read this, Amy! Good tip about the fan, too – it probably took longer to dry because it’s a basement. Good work!

  22. ann amato says:

    How would I apply to a terrazo floor. I live in Florida, and its in every room. It’s clean, and any holes from removing the carpet and nail repaired. Should I use the elmers glue method, or skip it and use the poly as an adhesive? I can’t wait. thanks for your awesome advice and idea…

    • I don’t know, Ann – I’m not even sure I’ve heard of anyone doing that. My suggestion is the same, though – do a test area. Except try it both ways and see which works best. Let us know if it works for you!

  23. Hi Jami, thanks for your quick reply I started my floor today using the concrete method. It’s coming out awesome thanks to the you tube and this info. Really loving it.. Will do my bathroom next ..

    • ann amato says:

      Hi Jamie,
      It was a huge sucess!! Floor is done and one coat of poly on 3-4 more to go. Concrete method is the way to go..Looks fantastic and I can see a few family, and friends may become paper bag floor owners soon. Your awesome and Love my new unique floor… :)

      • Woot! So glad to know, Ann!!

      • What exactly is the concrete method?

        • I’m not Ann, April, but if you follow the link to Lovely Crafty Home she details how she did this method (or her dad did, I can’t remember now) on concrete. Basically, my understanding is that they had the best result when skipping the glue-water mix and using poly to adhere the paper to the concrete before coating. The main difference is the cost, as you’ll be using a lot more poly.

  24. Hi, I haven’t seen any mention of using the technique on formica counters. Are there any special instructions for that?
    Thanks!

    • I’ve had some readers tell me they’ve done counters – and even a refrigerator! – but they haven’t said they did anything different, so I’d assume it’s the same technique. My ongoing suggestion is to always do a test first. :)

  25. Can this be done on the concrete on my front porch? In other words is it weather proof?

  26. Hey there!! I am in the process of laying down my paper floor now. My mother in law came up to help me and the pieces she laid down were covered in glue and she rubbed it raw… how do I fix this? Any suggestions would be fabulous!

    • Two things can work, Natasha: let the pieces dry that your MIL did and then scrape them out with a putty knife, getting as much as you can – then redo the area to look like the rest OR if the rubbed raw areas aren’t too bumpy, simply add new pieces over them. Let everything dry thoroughly before adding the topcoats and you should be good to go!

      • Thank you!! In some places I just added new pieces over them and it worked like a charm. In other places the paper seemed to bubble up, so I took a razor and cut around the bubble, took a small damp washcloth and wiped the bubble, and was able to easily remove the bubble and recover it. Just thought I would share my experience in case anyone else has this problem! Thanks again! :)

  27. The one I saw the lady said after staining her floors she had white spots. She talked about the paper having a shiny side and regular side. From redoing wood floor several times my guess is the shiny side goes down and the regular side goes up. Am I correct in guessing that? Thank you for your time and I love this and will do it in my living room and kitchen that connect together.

  28. I was wondering, could you use a stamp in a pretty design with paint on some of the paper pieces, random or in a pattern? Would this hold up? I think it would give you infinite possibilities. Designs for a child, such as animals, ABCs, dinosaurs, etc. I have wood sub floors and I want a more finished look, although the leather look is wonderful!!!

    • I don’t see why not, Gena – it sounds like a great idea to me! Since it would all be covered by the poly it should hold up just the same. If you do this, send some photos my way and I’ll feature them. :)

  29. I was wondering if anyone knows how paper floors are listed in a home appraisal. I’m about to do my entire house with paper floors (a litter of puppies had their way with my existing carpet and laminate), but I’m also working on refinancing our home. I read that painted concrete floors are considered unfinished and are listed as no flooring at all in an appraisal. I’m wondering how an appraiser would classify paper floors. I’m not even sure how to answer his question if he asks what kind of flooring I have. Maybe “decoupage flooring” because it sounds cool instead of “i glued paper to the floor.” Has anyone had a home appraisal with paper floors?

    • This is a great question – please let us know if you do this and have your house appraised! We sold our house by owner and they had a very picky VA loan appraisal and they didn’t say anything about the entire upstairs flooring being covered in paper. It’s like painting a wood floor – just covering it up. But it will be interesting to hear your experience.

  30. Ok so I did the rite dye in the glue and water mixture ! It works great but I had to quit half way through due to my knees and back killing me and restart up the next day. The glue water and dye mixture was exact to the day before , so I finished the room went to bed … The next am there is this dark line going all the way down through the middle of the floor where I started back up to finish the floor. I found on lone someone who also had this happen and they said its from overlapping the dye where it had dried and then re dyed. So now I’m going to try and save the floor by experimenting and dyeing the paper first drying it and going over the bad dark lined area with just water and glue over the color matched rite dyed paper that’s fully dried and see if that works! Sigh so if your gunna use the rite dye in the glue and water mixture be sure u finish it all before it dries or don’t do it at all.

    • So sorry, Cindy! But thanks so much for letting us know and potentially saving someone else from having to deal with that, too. I sure hope your fix works!

  31. I also wanted to add.. I seen someone online had used a mica glitter spray from a craft store over the dried paper floor before they Pollyed the floor and it looked beautiful ! The spray comes in gold copper and a coco chocolate brown color and u just spray it about 9 to 12 inches above the floor, it dries fast and it looked so nice after the Polly was put over it … Had a touch of glimmer :)

  32. I wonder if you can use wall paper? I have a couple of rolls and would love to try them on the floor of my bedroom…

  33. Sara Ewen says:

    We have radiant heat in our house (heat is in the floors). Aside from drying quickly, would the poly stand up to heating in the winter? I love this idea. Our basement floor has been unfinished for 11 years.

    • Hmmm, that’s the first question I’ve gotten like that, Sara – I don’t know, but since it’s basically sealed like a wood floor I would think it would work. Maybe do a test patch somewhere?

    • I am looking at doing this in my basement on concrete and I also have in-floor heating, I am wondering if you did this if it is working for you with the in-floor heat? Also my cement floor is painted, will just light sanding work to help things adhere down?

  34. Lisa Ferguson says:

    Can the Elmer’s glue be “Elmer’s Glue All” instead of the school glue?

  35. Jami,
    Wrinkles…….Ugggggg……..We mixed the glue …..3 parts water and 1 part glue because we were putting this onto a plywood subfloor in a bedroom where we had removed a carpet…we did as instructed, pasting the pieces and overlapping…..when the glue and paper dried (28hrs) we had quite a few wrinkles throughout the floor. We were going to glue down the paper and then wait till next weekend to poly. However, during the week we found ourselves cutting out wrinkles and pasting new paper over the top of several areas. We were wondering..What did we do that caused so many wrinkles? We did change our mixture to 50/50 on the glue and water when doing the patches because we thought it was better.
    Now we are at the Poly stage and have read that that seems to wrinkle as well.(a bit fearful of that)…..What water based poly to you suggest?

    Thank You for this great information and page!
    Janet…

    • I always just cut my glue with water to the consistency of cream (like I mention in the video) – although lots of commenters have used more accurate measurements. ;) 3 parts water to glue, though, is too watery – I’m sure mine is almost the opposite, 3 parts glue to 1 part water.

      Also using smaller pieces of paper helps with the wrinkles, I’ve found. The dried glue-paper should be pretty flat before the poly step, and yes, the poly causes it to wrinkle again, but it will flatten out over the next week as it dries thoroughly. Sometimes diy projects are trial-and-error – sorry! I sure hope you like the result as much as we do!

  36. Hey guys. Thanks a lot for all this useful information. The main question we have is the same as Carmen’s – can somebody please answer it for us – is it ok to do it with underfloor heating? Will the glue not go soft because of the heating? Has anybody tried it? Any ideas would be most welcome and appreciated! Seasons greatings and thanks again

  37. I’m sorry, I don’t have a reply re: the radiant heating issue…but yet, another question…There are wood floors (strips as opposed to squares) in this house…I am wondering if this technique can be used directly on top of the wood flooring or does it have to be removed?

    • I don’t have any experience with using this on floors with radiant heating, Gail, so I really can’t comment about that – sorry! I’m sure the paper could be applied over wood floors, but I would prefer to use the wood as flooring – this has always been our option for when we couldn’t put wood floors down! So, again, I haven’t done it, but I’m sure it could be done. :)

      • We have poured terrazzo floors and the heat is built in the floors! So if any one has tried this technique please let me know if it worked ! We layed lament floor on top if terrazzo after we were assured it would work on concrete heated floors!! FYI… The heat doesn’t come through and the two rooms we did are usually colder than rest if the house and come spring when it starts to get humid , the lament floor rises like a big air bubble from the concert floor sweating !! I have to turn on air conditioning and then roll a flat piece of furniture over the huge “bubble”!!! We have ceramic tile over the terrazzo in the kitchen and it heats up well!! So any info if this technique works in radiant heat I would love to know!
        Thanks
        Tamy

  38. kathy mcdonald says:

    What a great idea, your floors are beautiful!!!!
    I have cement floors in my living room and kitchen so I’m
    going to give this a try.

    Thank You for the tutorial,
    Kathy

  39. Sharon Hinrichs says:

    I did my bathroom floor and my counter top with wallpaper illusions wallpaper. I did it pretty much like the paper bags flooring was done.And it turned out beautiful! Now I want to do it on a concrete patio. I’m not worried about getting the paper to stick to the concrete. I just can’t find any info on what to put on top of the paper. The polyurethane won’t work because it is for interiors use. So I was wondering if anyone out there has any ideas what I could use instead of polyurethane that would work for outside?

    • That sounds really interesting, Sharon! I know there is an outdoor poly made to coat wood boats – I think it’s called ‘Spar’ or something? It’s probably oil-based, though, and you may run the risk of the oil splotches appearing that happened to me when I tried an oil based poly.

  40. Suzie Zimmerman says:

    Can you do this on a concrete floor that is not heated during a Wisconsin winter?? Will the poly crack???

    • I’m not sure, Suzie, having never done it. ;) I’ve only read about warmer climates trying it, though. Is it possible to do a test area?

  41. billie koester says:

    We would like to put brown paper bag flooring in our laundry room. Since we need to jmove the washer and dryer to another part of the room, can we finish the erea the washer and dryer sits on let the floor dry then put the washer back in place and finish the rest of the floor when that part drys? Thank you.

    • I think that would work, Billie, since you will be covering up the first area. I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve done this that there is a definite line that never looks the same when you start and stop like that. I’m not sure why it seems to do this when using all the same materials, but these are the reports I’ve gotten. :( But with your w/d on top of the first part, I don’t think you’d notice if it did look different. Hope that helps you with your decision!

  42. Has anyone tried using whole strips of paper, rather than torn pieces? My idea is to use three-foot wide paper over concrete. Lay down a strip and cut it to length. Then pick it up and wad it up to create a wrinkle pattern. Pour and spread water-based poly on the concrete and then lay the strip down and stain and poly over. What do you think?
    I must admit that while I love the idea I am not wild about the process because my back and knees are a mess. I am looking for a similar result with less effort (lazy).

    • Go for it, John! Maybe you can test on a piece of plywood first to see the result? Some of my best diy things resulted from just trying things out first.

  43. Can you do this in a screened in 3 season porch (Minnesota)? We put plastic over the screens in the winter, so not much water gets in .

  44. SStephanie says:

    Hi, I was wondering if this can be doubled, do the first layer, let it dry thoroughly, then add another paper layer, let that dry, then poly over it? I’m wondering if that would provide a little more cushioning as you’ve stated here it’s hard on the knees/back, which is understandable. Do you think that would work or do you know of a downside to doubling paper layers?

    • You can always try a test area to see if you like the results, Stephanie! I’m not sure what you mean about hardness, though – the finished floor isn’t really any different than a wood floor. The part where I talk about being hard on the knees and back is the application process. ;)

  45. Francois says:

    I want to do this on presswood(masonite) do i have to put glue first to cover the cracks and bump ??

  46. I’m planning on doing our basement stairs, doing the top of the stairs only, and painting the risers. My question is should I paint the risers and trim before I do the paper stairs, or would it be best to do the painting of the trim and risers last?

    • That’s a hard one, Myrna! I might do the painting first, since then I wouldn’t worry about the poly getting on it later – it would only help it stay on longer, whereas if it got on before painting, the paint might not adhere good on those spots. What do you think?

  47. Hello, just wondering if baseboards have to be removed before gluing paper? Thanks so much!!

  48. Margaret says:

    I have the same question about papering a porch. Did you ever hear from the folks that were doing their porch too? Please let me know. Thanks.

    • I’m sorry, Margaret, I haven’t heard about using this on porches. It may work fine depending on the amount of rain that you get on it – or not. Is there a way you could test an area?

  49. Just wondering what kind of area the amounts you used covered? Also, how much paper, glue and poly did you use for this area exactly? Trying to figure out how much to buy.

    • The bedrooms we did were about 11′x11′ and one room took half a roll of builder’s paper, 1 gallon of glue and 1 gallon of polyurethane (which gave us about 3-4 coats total, which has been sufficient). Hope that helps you, Emma!

      • Thank you so much! Means I need to buy a lot less than I thought I did as I think my room is half the size… phew!

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