Brown Paper Bag Flooring…Updates

Few things are more satisfying than replacing smelling, stinky, worn-out old carpet, unless it’s replacing it with a super successful DIY alternative that leaves money in your pocket! That’s exactly what my experience has been with brown paper flooring.

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BASIC INFORMATION

What is a brown paper floor?

The brown paper floor is a hard floor covering that you can do yourself. It has a finished look of worn leather. It is created by gluing torn/crumpled pieces of brown paper, in an overlapping pattern. Personal styles and colors are achieved with stain and patterns. The floor is sealed using Polyurethane.

What supplies do I need? The supply list for the brown paper floor is extremely simple:

    • Brown paper
    • Glue (Elmer’s White Glue or Polyurethane)
    • Sealant (Polyurethane)
    • Stain (optional), rag or paper towels
    • Paint tray
    • Roller or brushes

I also purchased a set of knee pads and latex gloves. I highly recommend both although they aren’t an absolute necessity.

How do you do it?

Prepare the floor by removing old flooring, sanding or any other steps required to acquire a smooth surface. On a wood floor, the glue mixture of Elmer’s white glue and water (50/50 ratio) is used. On a concrete floor you will need to use straight polyurethane to glue the paper down – be sure to use a water based poly. Tear the paper in irregular shapes and patterns and crumple each piece. Dip the crumpled paper ball into the glue mixture, carefully unwrap the the wrinkled paper and smooth it out on the floor. Press out air bubbles as you smooth the paper pieces on the floor, layering the pieces in an overlapping pattern to generate the desired, random  look. Let the floor dry, then apply stain if desired and seal the floor with several coats of polyurethane.

TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS

  • Take the time to prepare your floor well. The finished floor is truly thin paper, so irregularities will show through – this includes seams, gashes, glue or texture mud splatters, staples, etc. I choose to put a 1/4 hardwood underlayment down on any floor I stripped of glue and laminate.
  • A stronger glue mixture (more Elmer’s glue than water) will result in a darker look of the crumpled seams. If your mixture is different during applications, it will be noticeable to you especially if you use stain. Measuring is a great solution for uniformity.
  • Beware of glue drops! These will dry and show through as perfect drops/circles when you apply the stain or poly. Make sure to keep any glue drips and drops smoothed out with the rest of the floor as it dries.
  • Repairs are a wonderful attribute of this flooring option as any place you are unhappy with or that gets damaged is easily repaired by gluing more paper over old. If you have already stained or added poly to your floor you’ll need to use poly as the glue to reapply paper.
  • There is a combo poly/stain product you can purchase if you want color on a floor where poly was used as the glue. The stain doesn’t take the same way to this as it does to the white glue, but it can still be accomplished with this combo product.
  • Use enough polyurethane. It will take at least 4 coats to seal your floor and provide some protection, although personally I wouldn’t do any less than 6 coats on top and have seen several who recommend twice that amount. After about the 4th coat you’ll start to notice the finish and leveling of your floor.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Truly all you really need is a desire a few supplies to create your own, beautiful floor.  It’s the most inexpensive and deeply satisfying DIY project I’ve ever undertaken. It’s been really fun to see this project come together. Many have asked where I got my supplies. I ordered two rolls of  brown paper from Amazon for about $16 each. They covered well over 1800 square feet. You can purchase brown paper at your local hardware store too. I can’t speak to the difference in paper types or cost, I truly ordered the cheapest big roll of brown paper that came up on amazon with my first search. I bought a gallon of Elmer’s white glue for about $14 at a local hardware store, also some knee pads and latex gloves. Polyurethane varies from about $30-50 per gallon. I bought mine at Lowe’s.

One common question is how long to let the paper absorb the glue mixture. The best answer is you’ll find out really fast! There is a balance in too much/too little but by the first 2-3 pieces you’ll have it figured out. If you leave it too long the paper will fall apart on you as you try to unfold and flatten it. I found no need to put glue down first, the paper was adequately wet with glue that as I spread and flattened the paper out the glue mixture would move easily and hold the paper in place. The only thing to avoid is catching air under the paper. I found taking time to apply pressure and smoothing on each piece was all required to avoid bubbles and wrinkles. The white glue mixture with water will absorb almost twice as fast as the poly.

My first attempt was on a concrete floor in the basement. I opted to use an old lid, covered in a black garbage bag, for holding the poly and dipping the paper. In the end, I’m not sure it was any easier than just putting the gallon on a black garbage bag and dipping the paper right into the can. But I would recommend using the garbage bag as it catches a lot of stray drips and that’s a good thing!

Brown Paper Flooring on Concrete

 

My first blunder was trying to use a combo poly/stain to apply the paper. I’d read that polyurethane would be required to make the paper adhere to concrete, so when I saw they made a combination polyurethane with stain product I thought it was a perfect one step solution. NOT SO. Stain is oil based. Oil doesn’t stick – duh! As soon as I used my plain water based poly the paper went down like a dream. I did use the combo product to seal and finish the floor with a darker color and that worked great.

The next learning curve was seeing how much polyurethane it would take to glue the floor down. My first gallon did this section of floor plus the small room off to the left.

 

 

As I was covering all but three rooms in a 1500 sq foot basement, it was clear a couple gallons wasn’t going to do the job. I took just over 3 gallons to finish an estimated 600-700 sq feet. At this point, I changed my game plan of buying a more expensive polyurethane to the cheapest one I could find which ended up being a Rustoleum brand at Lowe’s for about $30 a gallon. It’s still super cheap compared to other floor coverings, but I wasn’t planning on spending as much here as I’d read about. These pictures reflect how the floor looks when it’s wet and the same floor when it’s dried. This is before the polyurethane has been applied. I just remember when looking at tutorials how I wished I’d had a visual reference as it was wet to know if I was doing it right! Don’t worry about imperfections of wrinkling in the paper, etc. I found that as it dries most of those things resolve themselves and the coats of sealant complete the fix. Additionally, I found that it was much harder to get the paper as smooth and wrinkle free on concrete versus wood. The good news is you’re going for a look of worn leather so wrinkles fit and camouflage well.

 

Both of these photos are from the basement where I put this floor down. The one on the left is a direct look down, the one on the right is a distance shot across the floor. Both pictures have the same dried coats of top coat (polyurethane), the lighting and angle are what explain the different look. The color variations in the paper are a natural process of the way the crumpled paper absorbs the glue and how it dries. You can see from the picture on the right how the gloss sheen adds to the finished look of the floor, if you prefer a less glossy finish you simply use a satin version of polyurethane. I read many recommendations to lightly sand in between each coat for a smooth finish. I found this impossible on the concrete floor because there are some seams and wrinkles that already interfered with the completely smooth finish. At this point, I’ve simply paid more attention to these areas when applying the sealant coats giving those spots a little extra. Honestly, I can’t see that not sanding between coats has had any negative impact on my flooring. Additionally, it’s flooring that will eventually be covered with area rugs and furniture. To date, I’ve put down three coats of polyurethane, I plan to do one or two more. One great advantage to this floor is it’s flexibility. Additional coats of polyurethane could be added at any time during the life of the floor for added endurance and shine. It is also extremely forgiving! If you don’t like the look of a section or if you have a scratch or trouble spot you simple glue more paper over the top. I’ve already had a few touch up spots.

 

You can see what it looks like to put new paper over old. The picture on the right is this same spot, looking down, after it’s dried. The “fix” fits in perfectly. You can also see how a floor imperfection will show through your work. This seam of two concrete pads is significant. I thought I had enough floor leveler over the seam to hide it. But you can still see perfectly where the seam is. Paper is very thin so imperfections in the floor they’re covering will show through. Prep work pays!

Paper on concrete also looks differently when dried. On a concrete floor I found the paper dried very light compared to that on wood. You also can clearly see the paper sections and seams. The wood floor finish is more even and camouflaged (until stained). It’s not hard to see why people like working with it on wood better than concrete. However, that said I still think both look beautiful! One other detail I learned along the way was how the coloring is affected by the glue and pressure. The white glue mixture needs to be consistent or you will see a difference with each “batch” of glue. More glue creates a darker look, while a batch with more water will cause a lighter more washed out effect. As poly was used downstairs I can only explain this difference as how long/well the paper was allowed to absorb the glue before being put down. In areas of the floor where my husband helped me, the paper looked darker and I could see all the details and seams better. I liked it better than areas I’d done on my own. My only conclusion is that he did a better job of smashing the paper before laying it out flat. I figure his hand strength was better than mine or he was better and squeezing out the excess poly before handing me the paper pieces.

 

So this is where a little control comes in with color. These photos show the natural color, or the look with the paper, unaltered dried. Again, there’s a difference between concrete and wood. Because the only adhesive strong enough to glue the paper to concrete is polyurethane, there is already a coat of protectant on the paper once it’s dried. This means putting any stain for color will be problematic. I did try one small area with a combination polyurethane and stain. It glides on the same way a coat of polyurethane does.

The stained floor is a darker brown. Ironically it’s the same walnut stain as you’ll see on the stairs although it clearly doesn’t look anywhere near that dark on the concrete. For this small space, I used a brush to apply the stained polyurethane. On the rest of the floor I used a paint roller and brushed in the edges to apply the top coats.

On a wood floor you can control color by applying stain directly onto the dried paper and then applying the polyurethane top coats. I found it helpful to run a dry paper towel over the top of the stain to absorb excess stain and better control the look I wanted. I used both paper towels and a rag to apply the stain, I prefer the rag as the paper towel will inevitably pull apart leaving little pieces of paper towel to clean up. I also found the stain remains quite tacky even after drying. I wrapped my feet with some press and seal plastic wrap when applying the first coat of polyurethane, which dried in about four hours. This removed the tacky finish and started the gloss look. In fact, as I moved on with the floor I found I liked the washed look that the poly brought out when applied almost immediately after the stain was put down.

One of the things I’ve loved the most about working with paper is how easy it is. All you need to do is fold over the wet paper to make a straight edge. This was very helpful when applying it to the stairs as there were a lot of straight edges. It was wonderful to see the ugly wood transformed into a picture of perfect edges and beautiful finish.

Here’s the stair’s transformation:

Pulling up old floor was a learning experience. I wasn’t prepared for how rough the wood subfloor would be when the old linoleum was pulled up and scraped off. My floor had two coverings to remove – old carpet and old linoleum.

IMG_4839 IMG_4840 IMG_4841 IMG_4842

 

Unless you have a lot more patience than me, and perhaps more equipment – smoothing out this travesty is impossible. I did try one room of putting the paper down on top and wasn’t happy. So I opted to go buy some 1/4 hardwood panels for about $18/ea to put down for a smooth subfloor.

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I have been MUCH happier with this and highly recommend doing it for any floor where there’s been damage done to the subfloor from previous flooring. In fact, knowing what I know now, I may have opted to put this down on my concrete in the basement instead of applying the paper straight to the concrete.

This new underlayment also provided me the option of matching instead of replacing some hardwood laminate flooring that I put paper over. We took a room out and were left with these open seams where the walls had been.

IMG_4613 IMG_4691 IMG_4769

 

This meant figuring out a way to patch the areas. We ended up gluing some of the same underlayment and covering it with poly to bring it the same height for finishing. Another lesson learned here is application of polyurethane. There’s a reason the instructions say to apply it in thin layers. When you pour it out it will get deep creases and cracks in it as it dries. For my application this was fine as I was applying more wrinkles over top, but if you wanted to skip a few steps in applying your top coat – DON’T!

As I gained confidence with my floor, I decided to tape a pattern into my dining room area. I measured out the area my table and hutch would be using a piece of yard and then put down painters tape in a pattern. It turned out great!

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As the stain is going on paper, it is impossible to avoid some bleeding of the stain under the tape – even using the higher end tape. But it fits the style of the floor and is only noticeable to me and those who might scrutinize the floor close up. Originally, I was going to tape out some large diamonds inside but it was more work than I anticipated so ended up keeping it simple. If you have the time, talent and patience the sky is the limit with the designs you could paint into your floor freehand with just the darker stain. Everyone that sees my floor asks me how I got the lighter color. They are surprised when I show them my pictures and see how simple it was.

Another blunder – As I hadn’t done a pattern before I didn’t know what to expect. I tried to put a lighter stain down in the light strip but found it blurred the line so much it looked bad. So I ended up re-taping and touching up with the dark stain again to re-define my line where I’d tried it. It also taught me that even a light stain will bring out the wrinkles and seams of the paper more. So if you don’t want to see the overlapping paper seams don’t use stain at all. If you are going to stain patterns into your floor I strongly suggest planning on the natural color as one and only dealing with one other color of stain. If you really want stain colors you’d need to seal the floor with a coat of poly before applying the second stain to maintain the crisp line definitions.

Stain is a personal choice. I like it, I think the darker stain enhances details, gives depth and makes the floor look more elegant. The options are endless. Either way, stain or no stain, I don’t think you’ll find as pretty a floor – especially without the price tag – as the brown paper floor offers.

Durability – Many have worried and asked about the strength and durability of this floor. My personal experience has been fantastic. My stairs have never yet had the extra coats of poly on them. They’ve been in use since I could get the first coat over the stain and they have handled movers, utility dollies and kids throwing toys down them. I had one area of damage that took two small chips of wood out when something big was dropped, but all I had to do was reapply some small paper and more stain. As for the floors that have had at least 4 coats of poly – they are holding up wonderfully! I look forward to getting more coats on for a deeper shine and added strength.

I have loved my brown paper floors and get compliments and questions every time someone new sees them!

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Check out my other home makeover projects: Goodbye 70s Scroll, Counter Magic

150 thoughts on “Brown Paper Bag Flooring…Updates

  1. That is simply amazing Holly! It looks so professional, and it seems very easy to do from reading this. We’ve been wanting to replace all the carpet in our old house with wood floors, but I love this much better! Anything that saves money and looks GREAT is a bonus in my book!!! Can’t wait to see the rest of your pictures when you’re finished with the whole house!

    PS…..I probably will be contacting you when we start our floors with this technic.

    Jennifer Chambers

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  2. Cool floor!

    A few weeks ago, I was looking through all of your activity day ideas. Now it appears that they are no longer on the site? :( Is there any way, I could get the ideas.. as I had quite a few written down from your website. You can email me at evieccurtis@gmail.com

    If you don’t mind, I could really use the help, as I’m new to the calling! Maybe my email address could be deleted from this post after?

    Thank you so much!

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    1. Hi Evelyn,

      I’ve reviewed the Activity Days page and can’t see any links that are broken. Was there something in particular you were looking for?

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  3. Hi Holly, Love the floor, but what kind of glue’s did you use to soak the paper in before applying to floor? Did you apply glue to the floor first also.

    Thank so much

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    1. Hi Tammy,
      I used a mixture of half Elmer’s white glue to half water. The paper soaks it up and you lay it flat on a wood floor to dry. I didn’t put any glue on the floor.

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  4. Hi Holly,

    What do you use on the floor to prevent it from getting the white spots from when the glue gets wet from a small spill? I know there has to be a remedy but am searching the net to find one :)

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Michelle,

      I didn’t have that problem. I wonder if it’s because my glue mixture was more watered than yours? I mixed 50/50 water to glue, there is a some white visible when wet but as soon as it dries I never had any spots. I also put a sealant coat of polyurethane over the top as soon as my paper (and/or stain) was dry enough to do so. That’s what really protects the floor and paper from any spills. In fact, my stairs have not yet had more than the first sealant coat and have held up to a lot of abuse! I look forward to finishing them up pretty with more coats of polyurethane. :)

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  5. Hi Holly – I am going to do a concrete floor and you mention that concrete requires a stronger adhesive, so what should I use and what ratio?

    Thanks!

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  6. Hello. I am going to try this and pray it comes out as beautiful! I had an appointment to get carpeting put in but cancelled after seeing the websites. I am on a budget as it is and the whole carpeting idea was not really what I wanted to do. I have a concrete floor to do this on so the polyurethane will work best? I want a little darker effect than the brown paper bag but not too dark, what should I use to have a darker look?

    Thanks.

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    1. Hi Noelle, I think you’ll be happy. It’s pretty foolproof! When you don’t like something you just slap another torn, crumpled piece of paper over it. I used the polyurethane for concrete glue and it worked great. I found a product in the wood stain isle at my hardware store that said it was combination of stain and polyurethane. I used that to make one room in my basement a little darker. I just brushed it on and had the poly and stain done in one step. :) I don’t know how pure stain would go on the concrete floor as the polyurethane is used as the glue so the top of the paper already has a sealant of sorts, but I do know that the combo product of stain with poly worked great. Just be sure to use it as a finishing product only. It WILL NOT work as the glue to put the paper down.

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      1. Thanks Holly for taking the time to respond! How many coats of the polyurethane do you suggest using? I am going to do my boys room with a darker stain/poly combo. I saw online that Minwax has some dark choices.

        Thanks again for your help!

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      2. I suggest no less than 4 and more like 6. It depends on how much finish you desire on top. I can tell you that with nothing more than the first sealant coat of poly the floors are extremely durable! But they look much nicer with a nice finishing coat of several layers of poly. If you use the combo stain poly, I’d do it as the first (maybe second too if you want it darker) coat, then put clear poly on top for the finishing coats. I really liked using that on one of my basement floors. Good luck!

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    1. I believe the paper process could cover absolutely anything with the right glue. As it is paper and paper is thin, you’ll see every grout line from the tile. I suppose you could fill the grout lines first and smooth them with a floor filler to deal with that problem. You’d just have to try a spot and see if the elmer’s glue mixture works for the tile finish. You may have to go to the concrete method of using the polyurethane for the application glue.

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    1. Generally, I like Rustoleum as a brand. However, I haven’t felt a strong pull to any polyurethane. My only personal preference has been to use a water based one with gloss finish.

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  7. Nice floor! I’m hoping to do this over some 70s linoleum. I am doing a test patch, but wondered if you think glue will adhere to the linoleum. And my bigger question…can I do my room in sections and have it look okay at the end? My room is centrally located…it’s the room where you enter the house and you must pass through it to reach nearly all our other rooms.

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    1. Hi Becky, you can definitely do this in sections. Mine has been done that way all along. In fact, you can leave walking sections for places like hallways, etc. and fill those in as the other has dried. I did every other stair on the stairwell for this purpose too. The only thing I know about doing it over linoleum is that the patterns of the old floor will show through the new brown paper floor when you’re done. I have removed the old 70s linoleum in the rooms I’ve done and I’ve put an underlayment down for a smooth surface before papering.

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      1. My floor two different colors and included sparkles, but no raised patterns. There are cracks from the house shifting before we jacked it up too. The paperbag floor will be a temporary improvement before we do a major remodel (in about 10 years!) Anyway, even if it isn’t perfect, it’ll look better with cracks covered and just being one color! Thanks!

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    2. Update: When going over old linoleum, use poly instead of glue…I did part of the floor each way, and the area done with glue is having trouble in some areas. I may have to rip it out and redo using poly only. The poly only areas will accept stain, but will not darken as much as if you used glue.

      I am not finding that it holds up well with dog scratches. Even after “hardening” my dog has left many scratches. The scratches are a bit odd…they aren’t grooves from the top that can be covered with poly…it’s more like the poly is separating and lifting from the paper underneath…when I poly over it, it doesn’t change. Perhaps the area done with poly only is more durable…it’s mostly under an area rug, so I can’t tell for sure. I’m surprised that no one else had trouble with scratches. I was even careful to buy the same brand name products and letting it dry before applying poly. It was a beautiful floor…it just hasn’t held up very well.

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      1. Hi Becky,

        Thanks for sharing as I have no experience with over linoleum. I’ve just assumed it would be fairly problematic to begin with so have ripped up all old linoleum and put down new subfloor in those areas. So far, my floors are holding very well. I haven’t put as much poly as I want/need on my basement floor and I did have an area tear after putting down a couch that apparently had a metal base exposed. When I went to move the couch I could tell where kids had caused movement on the couch which slid back and forth in that area causing a tear. I figure that was both the problem of the couch contact/movement as well as my haste to put things in place before waiting the 7 or so days for “hard cure” of the floor. But the spots were easily fixed! :) It sounds like the problems you’re seeing are at the earliest layers so unless the scratches happened during the process I’d guess those were some form of lifting or clash between multiple gluing agents? I’m honestly not sure. I did have some problem with my most recent application of poly when I ended up with some white/milky areas and strips when the first coat dried. Everything I could find indicated that it was most likely a result of poor batch/can of poly. I was able to lightly sand and reapply stain in those areas and it looks fine now. It’s the first time anything like that has happened in all the floors I’ve done. Speaking for myself, every error or problem I’ve ever encountered is most likely a result of my own impatience. They say haste makes waste and I definitely find that to be true, anytime I’ve rushed a part of the process or been unwilling to do things the right/long way because I just want it done I regret it.

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  8. I love this site! I’m doing this to concrete floors. Can I use the poly/stain combo to glue it to the floor or do I have to use regular poly first? Also, do you soak the paper in the poly like you would with the glue?

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    1. Hi Brandi, You cannot use the combo poly/stain to glue it down. The stain is oil based and prevents adhesion. You do soak the paper in regular poly just like the glue mixture to glue the paper down. :) Good luck!

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      1. I think the oil in the stain would still be there even after it dried, preventing the paper to ever lay flat or glue down. I’ve found that stain on top of dried paper never fully dries anyway, it always stays a bit tacky until you put down the first coat of poly. I’m not sure why, but I’m guessing it’s the oil in the stain that causes this. The combo poly/stain works great after the floor is down on the concrete. You can still achieve the darker finish this way. You could always use a darker paper too. Ultimately, I can tell you I didn’t mind the poly/stain combo on the cement floor. The stain doesn’t take quite the same way as it does on the Elmer’s glue version but it’s still pretty. Honestly, if I were doing a cement floor again I’d put down a 1/4 wood subfloor/underlayment first. But whatever you decide, the paper floor looks nice on either! :)

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  9. Hello Holly, I am so glad I found this site! I am planning on doing this on concrete and bought all the supplies (including Elmer’s glue because that’s all I have seen). There are several areas that need to be leveled and holes that need to be filled from the tack strip that was removed. What leveling product do you recommend using for this step? Did you have to sand the areas after using the leveler/filler? Also, you mentioned poly with stain. Is this a product that already has stain in it or is it mixed like a paint color? What kind of prep work did you do (other than filling holes and leveling)? Did you clean the concrete with anything other than soap and water?

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Christi, I used a premixed cement crack filler I found at the hardware store. The leveling and smoothing is up to you, it is only paper covering it so you will see any imperfections in the floor underneath. I emphasize YOU will see because others probably won’t – the style of floor is that of worn leather and the seams and texture of the look of the floor camouflage a lot, but it will not hide holes, cracks or large imperfections. Yes the poly/stain combos have both in them and you can buy them premixed in a variety of colors at your local hardware store. I did not clean the concrete before laying paper. But I did read that Elmer’s glue was not strong enough to hold paper to cement only to wood. So I used straight polyurethane to glue the paper to the cement. It worked great, I never tried Elmer’s glue on the concrete.

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  10. Hello Holly. I’m so glad I found your blog. I just started this project last night. I have a concrete floor and used water-based poly as my “glue”. I finished the walk-in closet and about half of the room (this is more time-consuming than I initially thought and my back is reminding me that I’m not as young as I sometimes think I am). The floor is already looking awesome and I can’t wait to see the finished product.

    I have a question regarding the stain/poly combo. I want a really dark floor and plan to use MinWax Espresso Satin. How many coats do you think I will need? Also, should I roll or brush the stain/poly? Which brand of stain/poly combo did you use? I’ve heard MinWax is difficult to work with on furniture due to drips/puddling so I wasn’t sure how it would work on a floor. I wanted to use MinWax because they have the satin finish. Varanthane has semi-gloss and I don’t want a super shiny floor.

    Thanks for your help!

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    1. Hi Debbie, I’m so glad you found my blog too! :) I hear you on how time consuming it is! I’m not sure why but I felt my basement was more time consuming and harder than my upstairs. Hang in there, it’s worth it!

      I used the MinWax combo on my concrete floor in one room. I put down two coats and was happy with the color result. It does get darker with each application so if two didn’t do it you could keep going until you got the color you want. While I generally use a roller to apply the poly, in that room I applied the first coat with a brush as per what I’d read but I wasn’t happy seeing any brush strokes so I applied the second with a roller to even the color and remove visible brush strokes. I didn’t have any complaints about the product and thought it looked great. One thing I would do differently now, had I known, is to apply one sealant coat of clear poly BEFORE putting down the stain combo. For whatever reason, some areas of a few of my seams remained more porous and I only learned this after applying the stain as those spots seemed to suck up the color in an irregular fashion. While it’s not a big deal I wasn’t happy seeing a few irregular stain spots along a few of my seams. I think the sealant coat of clear poly first would prevent this. Additionally, another fun thing is seeing how easy it was to apply color to just one room and have a brisk, clear line. It’s made me think bigger for my dining room where I plan to tape of a pattern of large diagonal tiles and small border. It would look awesome and it only require taping the seams and using a variation in stain color.

      One final tidbit of advice is I’ve found a “magic” point where the top coats of polyurethane seem to hit the mark of satisfaction. For me, that’s been somewhere around coat #5 or #6. Those coats suddenly start showing more leveling of the seams and giving you that solid surface you’re expecting so don’t give up on applying those final coats of poly! :)

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  11. So excited to find your blog post! I am doing this in my low traffic half bath this weekend and am wondering about the poly/stain combo. Seems like it would be easier to do this to get the color I want and also way cheaper. Will it work with a wood subfloor? My concern is that it would stay tacky like a regular stain does. Or will the poly mixed in stop that from happening?

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    1. Hi Mandi, I’m happy you found a helpful post too! :) I found the poly/stain mixture dried to the same finish as straight poly so there shouldn’t be any tacky factor. However, you might end up with a darker look as it takes several coats and I found each coat of the poly/stain mixture deepened the color. If you get the color you want you can put straight poly over the top too. :)

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  12. Hi Holly, do you remember the type of Kraft paper you used? I have read that the surface of some papers vary from one side to the other. I looked at a roll of paper on Amazon and it described one side of the paper as being smooth and the other side as being “toothy”. I know another blog I read talked about the paper absorbing stain differently depending on which side was laid down. Do you think that an initial coat of the poly over the whole floor prior to staining would alleviate this a bit. I understand there will be some variation but would like to try to avoid large blotches.

    thanks for all of your great info!

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    1. Hi Julie, I honestly didn’t do that much research on the paper. The paper I got was plain brown craft paper, I’m not sure of the brand name or type. It came in a long roll, about a yard and a half long. If there was a difference in the sides or the way it absorbed the stain I didn’t notice. I found the greater factor of look and absorption was in how crinkled the paper was, the more crinkled the softer the paper was the greater absorption, especially in those wrinkles – which generates that worn leather look. I also found a slight difference in the glue mixture made a minimal difference in the look of the paper after it dried. I could see where I’d run out of a batch of glue and started a new one after the paper was dried. However, it was probably only noticeable to me and was moot when the stain was applied which evened everything. I personally, like the look of the stain if you don’t wait for it to dry but put the poly on right over top. I applied my stain with a simple paper towel/rubbing method and then when I had it all done I put glad wrap over my feet and walked over the stain to apply the poly. Doing this not only ensures a walkable and non-tacky surface within a few hours, it also softened the stain in a very appealing way to me. :) A sealant coat of poly could help with uniformity, but having done both no stain and stain, I found the same areas that absorb more (and thus look a little darker) will do it the same with the poly as with the stain. If you do poly first you’ll need to use a combo poly/stain for the staining. The best advice I can share is if you have some areas that you don’t like you simply layer more paper over it until you get what you want. :)

      Like

      1. Thank you so much for the additional info! I am looking forward to this project. My husband raised his eyebrows over a paperbag floor but quickly admitted it looked great after seeing your work. Have a great rest of your week. Julie

        Like

  13. Already started the demolition phase!
    Love your blog…have looked at many and yours definitely has more tips!

    Question- Do I have to remove my baseboards? Could I just use painters tape to protect them and then caulk where they meet the floor,
    lke they do when tile is installed?

    Like

    1. Hi Julie,

      It’s not mandatory to remove baseboards, you could caulk the line between the floor and baseboard after it’s finished. I would advise paying special attention to the edges as you glue though if you don’t remove the boards as the edges have a tendency to raise up a bit. You could strengthen your glue solution around the edges or give them some special attention to pressing flat during the drying process. Caulking is always smart between floor and baseboard, especially in rooms that may ever have water like bathrooms. Good luck! :)

      Like

    1. Hi Leslie,

      You would have to change the process of gluing the floor down to make it work. The brown paper floor carries the look of worn leather – random pieces of torn paper crinkled and overlapping. The moment you add stain all those wrinkles and seams pop out (regardless of the color of stain). So if you tried to stencil over top you’d see the stencil but also all those random seams and in my head that would just look like two ideas thrown together. I suppose if you cut each piece of paper in a rectangle and didn’t wrinkle it before gluing it down you could generate a look closer to a hardwood floor. That would mean a lot of cutting and perfect edging during the gluing of the floor, but it might work.

      Like

  14. It seems I have had different results on concrete than you have. I used a 50/50 mixture of the gallon Elmer’s (this is not school glue and I highly advise using gloves and several old paint brushes if you go this route), brown paper ($11) from Lowes, and water based poly with oil enhancement (no, the guy at the store didn’t know what it meant either). I used a brush to apply the glue mixture on the front and back of each dry piece before I put it down and smoothed. I came back the next day and repeated the process using the poly blend instead of Elmers. I did it again. Then I applied my 4 coats of just the poly mix. I love the depth of using the different layers and the color changes it goes through. One layer would have worked fine with just the glue, but I wanted the assurances that day to day use would not tear through one layer. Voila! Looks great. Handling wear fine. Oh, also don’t believe the can that says it cleans up with soap and water. Keep several pair of surgical gloves around.

    Like

    1. Hi Ella, how fun to hear of other success on the concrete. Honestly, I went straight to using the poly as the glue because I’d read so much before I started about how you’d need a stronger glue to hold down the paper. If I read your comment correctly, you said you repeated the process the next day with the poly blend – I assume that means you applied it to both sides of the paper again? That was a little confusing for me. When I did it the process was the same one step glue and dry before top coats as the wood floors, it was only the glue I used to put the paper down that was different. Like you, I’m so tickled with the results and the different ways the color changes with each step. The only things I have any issues with are places where I rushed a step and ended up doing some patching to fix the way it looked. It’s always a patience buster for me!! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. :)

      Like

  15. Hi, we just laid a paper floor in my laundry room over plywood, used a walnut stain, after drying covered with one coat of Min Wax Golden Oak stain and sealer. We let that dry overnight and one day,then applied 2 coats of oil based poly sanding lightly beween coats. Now I see lots of tiny air bubbles in the dried poly. Is this because of something we did or didn’t do and will sanding again remove them? We have done lots of wood floor finishing but didn’t have the same problem with air bubbles. Thanks!

    Like

    1. Good questions Shirley! I’m not sure. The only immediate difference I can identify is that I used a water based poly versus oil. I can tell you that sanding and reapplying poly worked for me with my problem of a bad batch of poly that dried white, so it seems a good starting point. As a cosmetologist, I know that air bubbles are problems in nail polish when it’s applied too thickly and/or too quickly. I’m so sorry to hear of the bubbles. I know how frustrating it is to have something go wrong at these final steps!!

      Like

  16. Hi Holly, Very informative blog, I feel like you covered everything pretty well! The only question I have is about the 1/4 underlay you put down. Did you do it yourself or hire someone and how exactly did you attach it? Nails, screws, adhesive? I’m gonna need to use underlay as my surface has too many defects. Thanks for answering everyone’s questions, I feel really confident in this process now.

    Like

    1. Hi Mina,

      I put the floor down myself with the help of my husband. We used the concrete nails glue (looks like caulk tubes and uses a caulk gun), and staples with a staple gun that uses an air compressor. Watching construction workers do it, the only tool they used I didn’t have was a table saw so I used a power jig saw which worked fine but wasn’t as slick as a table saw. The power staple gun made quick work and hid the heads nicely, but I suppose any small nail would work too. I used a combination of wood filler and wood glue to fill and smooth seams. Originally, I was going to use the filler over all the staple indents, but found it wasn’t necessary. I will tell you though that it’s difficult to get the seams not to show when the floor is finished, that has very little to do with putting it down and most to do with taking the time to fill and sand the seams. It’s a lot like drywall in the regard of time and resources to sand seams and lines smooth. I wasn’t anywhere near diligent enough with that but honestly, it still is a thousand times better than my first attempt trying to put it on the really rough and damaged subfloor.

      Like

  17. What color did you use in your dining room for the darker stain?I love the color variations; is that just from the creases in the paper or is it how you put the stain down? Thanks!

    Like

    1. I used the dark walnut stain, the lighter color is paper without stain. :) I used a soft rag to gently apply the stain. Most of the crease and variation comes from the way the wrinkles in the paper absorb more. It definitely looks like worn leather when done.

      Like

  18. Can this be applied to painted cement or would you need to sand off the paint? Also, if I’m hoping for a lighter color floor, do you know the lightest color that can be achieved?

    Like

    1. Hi Shelly, I would think the poly would be a strong enough glue to adhere the paper to a painted surface, but I’m not certain. I’m pretty sure a regular glue mixture wouldn’t be strong enough. The color will depend more on the color paper you use if you’re going for lightest colors, as the dried finish is the same color as the paper you put down. Stain is optional, all my basement flooring is no stain so is a light as you can go unless using a lighter colored paper.

      Like

  19. You mentioned if you had a do-over in your basement you’d have used 1/4 plywood underlayment. I have concrete sub-floors and was thinking of adding underlayment. How would underlayment be attached to a concrete floor? Would it be glued or screwed into the concrete?

    Also, could a thin layer of soundproofing underlayment be placed under the plywood to cushion the floor since it would be kind of a laminate? Then begin paper, glue, poly process.

    Like

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I think your questions would be best answered by a professional. I can tell you that on the wood subfloor I used glue sparingly and staples (with air compressor staple gun) liberally. Glue seems the only option on a concrete floor but it would need to be used liberally. If I were going to do it I would research the suggestions from contractors and professionals. I don’t know about an insulator pad, I guess if you treated it as a floating floor like laminate woods, etc. it would work too.

      Like

  20. Hi, Holly! Thank you for all the wonderful information and photos! Beautiful! My question – you mentioned doing the flooring in sections; I have a large living/dining area about 13′ x 25′. Our main traffic is on the south side of the room (the room goes east to west the long way) and I want to start on the less traffic north side of the room, then, since I have nowhere else to go with furniture, will have to move things around as I go. My question, can I do large chunks from the glued paper and then poly it with one (or more) coat, let it dry, carefully move furniture on to the finished section and complete another section? Will the areas that are poly’d have ridges when I do a new section? Does that make sense? There is no way to close off the room to traffic completely. Or I can basically split the room in 3 doing 2 halves and then the area along the south wall where we walk last. Then continue moving the furniture area to area as I poly more coats? Is this totally confusing? I’m trying to get the most I can done in each section, to the poly coats without having odd ridges from section to section. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    Like

    1. Hi Christine,

      Yes, you can do your project in groupings or stages. I did my entire upstairs that way for the same traffic reasons. If you are not using stain it is even easier to leave off and overlap the areas. I can tell what areas I did at different times (my upstairs took 4 sections), but I’m the only one. I would advise that you leave a fairly good margin of 6-10 inches of paper at the seams without poly. It’s easier for the overlap to glue correctly if you’re gluing paper to paper. Good luck!!

      Like

  21. Holly, those floors look fantastic! We have pulled all the carpet from 1500 square feet of concrete slab in preparation for installing engineered click-lock hardwood, but after seeing these photos my wife is seriously pushing for paper floors…I mean SERIOUSLY pushing!

    How do you find your floors holding up at this point? My primary concern is durability, as we have 1 large and 2 small dogs, and I’ve been told that field applied floor finishes don’t have nearly the hardness/scratch resistance of the factory applied wood floor finishes. You said you don’t have any dogs, so how are your heavily trafficked areas holding up?

    Also, does using the straight polyurethane as the glue over concrete provide an adequate moisture barrier, or do you think I should seal the floors with a clear sealer first?

    Last question: About those wrinkles; do they make any crackling type noise when you walk over them.

    Thank you for an excellent tutorial! I’m like you, in that I always prefer lots of photos.

    Curt

    Like

    1. Hi Curt,

      Crazy timing, my sister just put that type of locking hardwood in her new home. It’s the same darker wood color as my upstairs stained paper floor. In her first week, her floor looked more abused than mine after a little over a year! I like her floor, it has engineered textures and marks to make it look more authentic and worn and I like that better than the flat/flush laminate wood flooring I’ve installed in my other home, but I think hers will require more maintenance than mine by far to keep it looking pristine. If it were me, and I felt I had the time to invest (it’s really the only significant cost/resource in the paper bag floor) I’d probably start with the brown paper floor as if I ended up not liking it I wouldn’t be out much and could still do the other flooring, but if I did like it (and I have been so happy with mine!) I’d have saved a bundle!!

      As for endurance and floor performance, I couldn’t be happier! I am amazed at how well all the traffic areas have held up – especially my stairs which to this day have only ever received three coats of poly!! They have endured movers, a utility trolly and constant foot traffic and still look great! I do have a small dog so I understand the scratch fears. The critical time is during the setting/curing. The finish dries quickly between coats if you use the new water based poly, but overall the floor really needs a good 7-14 days to harden to the final strength. During those first weeks, the finish will be more susceptible to scratches and damage – after that they’re really strong! Honestly, the only markings I have noticed are right under my kitchen table from the constant moving of chairs. I just can’t keep those stink’n felt covers in place! Personally, I believe this is also because of the type of poly I used to finish that area. It said it was high gloss, but it’s by far more dull than the other flooring where I used the Rustoleum brand (and it was cheaper too!) So in my experience, the semi gloss is by far more likely to show any marks or wear than my high gloss areas. I also have to comment on durability in the water department as I put this down in my master bathroom too. Within the first few weeks I noticed how quickly the floor finish dulled from the consistent use of hair sprays and hair gels. That stuff is wicked to clean off most any surface, but I was pleasantly surprised the just letting a little water sit for a few minutes caused the hair product to turn milky white and it wiped right off. The beautiful finish was right there waiting and I used a simple finishing wipe with glass cleaner. Voila! My floor looked like new. This has been repeated several times over the past year and the floor still looks like it did when I put it down.

      As for moisture barrier, I’m not sure what to tell you. After using sealants like Killz on other floors, I can’t see much difference from it than from a layer of poly. The only prepping I did of my concrete was to fill holes and cracks. How grateful I was to have this flooring down as sadly a few months ago our dishwasher had a blowout in the line and put a small pond through the ceiling into the basement. If I’d had any other flooring down I’d have cried buckets! But that poly floor took the extreme water and you can’t tell at all! I think our basement is a high moisture risk -even without the recent accidental flood – and I’ve not had any moisture issues after over a year of the flooring down there.

      No sound on wrinkles. You can see the ridges in looking over the floor where the paper edges overlap, but even that would go away if someone put enough coats of poly over it. I figure, every year or two you could put down a new coat of poly and have a new and further strengthened floor. I’ve only ever gotten 5-6 coats on with a roller, but I know if I had double that, the floors would be completely smooth. I had a harder time getting the paper to stay as smooth and flat on the concrete than I did on the wood floor, but it doesn’t crinkle or make sound. I just have a few areas where it needed more poly finishing coats to smooth out the ridge.

      Best of luck to you in your decision!

      Like

    1. Hi Mareta,

      I have no reason to believe my floors will wear any less than a regular hardwood floor or other laminate floor coverings. Mine have been down for just over a year now and look as good as the day I put them down. I sweep mine with a regular broom. I have both steam cleaned and soft mopped, my favorite choice now to get my shine is to use windex on a soft mop.

      Like

  22. I just love this idea and I am wondering if anyone has tried doing this as a back splash in the kitchen. It seems to me this would be the perfect solution, durable and very inexpensive.

    Like

  23. I have rough edges sticking up on concrete floor. Should I sand them down or just keep applying more poly? Ive used a gallon already

    Like

    1. Yes, it’s cool compared to the wood floors. The paper is so thin and the poly offers a little insulation from the concrete’s temperature but not much.

      Like

  24. Thank you for your answers, Holly! One more question, I have 100+ year old wood floors under the ugly carpet I’m removing. I’ll be doing the paper flooring over this, however, the wood floor is very BAD. I’ve seen others using a subfloor of thin (1/8″ to 1/4″) cork for other types of flooring, I’m wondering if this will work as a subfloor for paper flooring, or if the glue will just seep in to the cork and make a mess. Has anyone else tried using the thin cork sheeting under this kind of floor?

    Also, when doing in sections, do you just put a couple coats of poly on and then after it’s all done, poly the whole thing a few times to ensure it’s nice and smooth?

    Thanks again! Christine

    Like

    1. Hi Christine,

      Yes, you will definitely want a smooth surface to put the paper on. I used a particle board with a hard finish, it was 1/4 inch. My construction contact told me to make sure whatever I put down was a hard finish to avoid future damage with heels or other harsh objects on the floor. The flooring I used looked like this: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.paxtonwood.com%2FPortals%2F0%2Fimages%2Fsheetstock%2Fparticleboard.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.paxtonwood.com%2Fcompositepanel.aspx&h=179&w=185&tbnid=p8wT2YqMxn755M%3A&zoom=1&docid=8tyf8AyzsGTQ-M&ei=MWw8U76nNMbgyQHFwoH4Cw&tbm=isch&client=safari&ved=0CF8QhBwwBA&iact=rc&dur=718&page=1&start=0&ndsp=25.

      The good news about poly is it dries fast (at least if you use the water base I did). Within 2 hrs you can walk on it. Each coat follows the same drying guidelines. I only had to do patch work when putting the paper down as it took many hours to dry, I was able to apply complete coverage of the poly I just timed it when I knew I had a 2 hour window. :)

      Like

  25. First, I love your blog, Its one of my usual haunts. But one thing I noticed is you mentioned that glue wasn’t strong enough to hold the paper to the concrete floor, I’ve got concrete subfloors (as most of us in Arizona do) and I have the same floor I put down about a year ago, I used glue but mixed it way about 1 part glue to 3.5 parts water and it he thinner ld down beautifully I did my entry, my bathroom and hallway and just started my dining room. I’ve had no issue with the glue, then stain then poly. Its worked like a charm and I get nothing but compliments on my floor and the looks of awe when I tell them what it is. I just couldn’t use the 50/50 mixture because it was way to thick and I had to smooth out the paper with my hands. But nonetheless your floor looks just amazing.

    Like

    1. What a great share, thank you! I didn’t even try white glue on the concrete after reading about the difference in floors. I just used the poly suggested. So glad it worked well for you! After 1-2 years, I’m still really loving my floors too, and get compliments all the time. :)

      Like

  26. I am wanting to do this after I remove the gross carpet from my kitchen. I was wondering if you have ever seen anyone do this with a different colored paper? I am wanting to do more of a grey color. Do you have any ideas on how to achive this?

    Like

  27. Which $30 gallon of Rustoleum did you purchase from Lowe’s? They have 13 gallon products online and I have no idea what to buy… Also, did you sand your concrete floors down first? Mine are smooth and wavy ( obvious a poor finish ) and I am afraid that the glue or poly method will not work on a smooth floor. If you sanded them I have no idea what to get to do that. Please help I am anxious to make my house my home it hasn’t made me happy yet.

    Like

  28. Hi Holly!
    Your floors look fabulous! I admire that you took on doing the whole basement! Sounds like quite an undertaking!

    Thanks so much for posting this, and especially for replying to questions! I’ve been doing some research and have seen many blog posts and yours is very through. I’m looking to do this to a rental property and it is located about 3 hours away. I generally have a full day, maybe 1/2 to finish a project (not really enough to wait for glue to dry, and poly several coats.) I saw a video tutorial, and it appeared to be faster as the paper was coated front and back with poly and adhered directly to the cement (no glue at all.) However the video was short and did not specify if the cement had a poly coat prior originally, or not. I’d also read that poly would not glue down to bare cement, but poly would adhere paper to cement that already had a poly coat to begin. Can you say specifically if your cement floor had to be coated with poly (or something) first in order to use poly as ‘glue’ for the paper, or did you use poly to ‘glue’ the paper to bare cement? And also, if you use paper, soaked in poly to adhere to the cement, how does this affect the staining? Did you only use oil based stained poly for staining after adhering with water based poly?
    Thanks so much!

    Like

    1. Hi Stacey,

      I put the paper on bare cement – no coating, sealants or any treatment. I used a Rustoleum, water based poly and I soaked the pieces of crumpled paper directly in the poly for a few moments, then smoothed them flat on the floor. Smoothing on cement is harder and takes a little more work. The paper has a tendency to lift and crinkle a little more than on a wood floor when using the white glue mixture. However, I didn’t have any big problems just found it a little more challenging. The drying time was about 2-3 hours. I didn’t even try to use a stain on top fearing that the poly glue finish would cause an uneven application. I did experiment with one small room in the basement with a combo poly/stain product. That worked best if you want a different color, but it doesn’t cover the creases and crinkles the same way, it’s more like painting a color on top that sets with the poly. If you want to see stain in all the wrinkles, for that deeper leather look, you have to be able to apply an oil based stain to paper that retains its texture when dry – and that only happens when you use the white glue mixture. You can see the difference in pictures on my blog post. Hope that helps! Good luck!!

      Like

  29. Hi Holly!

    I am in the middle of my first room with this technique (master bathroom). Some of the paper peeled up in front of the shower (I couldn’t see this from the doorway after I stained my way out of the room and didn’t notice until I already had put poly down. I’ll have to fix these spots and I noticed that you (and other sites) indicate repairing this by putting down new paper with poly instead of glue. What no one indicates is how to go about staining the repaired spot? Do I poly the paper down and then stain after it dries? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Like

    1. Guess I should mention that I plan to cut out the lifted sections before I repair, so the repairs will be on wood subfloor and overlapping stained/poly’d sections.

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      1. Stain over poly won’t look the same because of the poly coating. My basement patch didn’t require stain so poly wasn’t a problem. I did have a spot on my wood floor though and like yours it already had a poly sealant. I used a higher concentration of white glue mixture and it dried/glued fine. However, the stain never looked the same. If I did it again, I’d take the time to lightly sand off the outer layers of the surrounding area before gluing in an effort to better match the new stain to the old.

        Like

      2. I should add that using white glue mixture worked fine and after sealed again with poly the only problem is uneven stain.

        Like

      3. I think the uneven stain won’t be a huge issue as there will be a bath mat over it. I’m more concerned about making sure it’s sealed to the floor since it’s right in front of the shower. Don’t want water to get under it. Thanks for your help!

        Like

  30. Just wanted to add my kudos for the amazing post! Such great info. Also, you are so amazing for responding to so many questions…even the ones you answered more than once. :) I can’t wait to replace the horrible linoleum flooring in my kitchen and bathrooms. Wish me luck!!

    Like

    1. Awww thanks!! You’ll do great, it’s fun to see it come together. Even more enjoyable when what you’re replacing is high on the list of things that need to go!! ;) best of luck to you!

      Like

  31. So, after thinking about it overnight, I’m hoping to get your advice. I want to do my bathrooms, which have concrete subfloors. I’d like to insulate it a bit, though, as I hate cold floors (I’m in Washington). So I was thinking about adding the 1/4″ wood on top of the concrete. But thinking about adding wood around the toilet gives me a headache. I’m assuming I probably wouldn’t be able to lay just one seamless piece down, so I was thinking of maybe cutting the wood into hardwood style pieces (thin and long) and lay it down like hardwood (though it obviously wouldn’t be interlocking or anything like that). I’m wondering if this would create a cool look under the paper or if all the seams would just create havoc and be more of a pain than fitting together as few wood pieces as possible and filling the seams. Thoughts?

    Like

    1. I think you’d be unhappy with the seams. Good caulking around the toilet flange works great. I think you’ll be happier with the floor over the wood subfloor. Get advice on what adhesive is best to adhere the wood to the cement and then get enough to not skimp. I used a simple wood filler to match seams with mine and where I took the time to fill and smooth those seams looks great. Where I didn’t, you can see the seams. If I were doing concrete floor again I’d do the wood subfloor. The paper goes down so smooth and nice with the smooth wood surface and the white glue mixture dries leaving you with more stain options. :)

      Like

  32. Hi—I want to make sure I have the steps down right (after reading so many different tips & techniques, it’s challenging to keep it all separate in my head!).
    So here’s our situation: I have cement under my carpet—I like a darker look. Here’s my plan…please correct me freely!
    Step 1: remove old carpet, nail strips, glue, etc..sweep
    Step 2: tear, crinkle brown paper into rough 12”X12” squares
    Step 3: Immerse papers—glue on both sides–in glue mix (mix: half Elmer’s glue, half water), overlapping papers. Smooth out creases & air bubbles; allow to dry (HOW LONG?)
    Step 4: Brush (or roll) Stain/poly mix over dried, glued paper floor, allow to dry (HOW LONG? AND YOU RECOMMEND THE INEXPENSIVE RUSTOLEUM STAIN/POLY MIX, RIGHT?)
    Step 5: Begin brush/roll layers of clear poly. Allow to dry (HOW LONG?)

    How does that sound? Let me know where I’m off! It’s so very reassuring to bounce it off someone who has done this before—thanks so much for taking the time.
    Suzanne

    Like

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Steps look right. :) The only thing I did different on cement was the glue and stain. I’d read that the white Elmer’s glue mixture wouldn’t hold to cement, that you needed to use straight poly as the glue. So that’s what I did. I also didn’t use any stain on the cement paper floor. I found the water based rustoleum poly (yes, that’s the one) I used took about 2-3 hours to dry per coat – or each time. The drying time after gluing down the paper took longer as the paper also had to dry, but you can see when the paper is not dry. That’s more like 6+ hours. I also only tore the paper in various (more curved) pieces.

      Good luck! You’ll catch on really quick. ;)

      Like

      1. Holly…another question (you’re such a great sport for answering questions…seriously, it’s a far less intimidating project knowing that I’ve got a sounding board to bounce things off of!)
        On the glue/poly on cement issue, just to clarify, I opted for glue because I got the impression that the staining worked better over glue and there were several folks who had written that they did NOT have probs with the glue on cement. In once sense, I’d love to combine the glue/stain/poly steps all into one by using a stain/poly combo from the very beginning (just 2x) but somewhere I got the impression that I should not do that…
        My plan for the last steps is a smidge different–I bought a pricey professional grade poly for the top coat. From the contractor reviews, one coat is the equivalent of 2-3 coats of lesser quality.
        Oh…my question–as I’m pulling up the carpet, I see glue trails- do I need to sand these down to nothing? I know I need to patch a few nail holes and sand those down but what about the glue stains on the cement (it’s like squiggly lines on paper–can’t feel ’em, only see them)
        Thanks! Suzanne

        Like

      2. I did have a response from someone who said they used white glue on cement and it worked fine. I can’t personally say as I haven’t tried it though. The white glue will allow the paper to dry without any sealant interference, so putting stain on top (when dried) will work the same as mine on wood floors. :) The only things I think you’d need to address on the floor are texture problems as those show through when the floor is done. Any discoloration should be hidden by the brown paper and stain. So if the glue trails are color only I think you’ll be fine.

        Like

  33. Can you tell me more about the stain design? Did the floor already have a coat of Poly? If not how did you keep the lines looking so clean? did you use anything other than the tape?

    Like

    1. I applied the stain directly to the dried paper, no poly. I used only painters tape. The lines are crisp, but if you inspect closely and inches away, you’ll see areas of slight bleeding under the tape edge. I found the process to be very similar to painting. If you want a perfect edge you’d probably need to apply with a steady hand and small brush. I can advise NOT to attempt a second color stain as that did destroy the crisp line. The results, I think, are highly satisfactory with just painters tape. :)

      Like

  34. Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are on a budget and this is the perfect option for us right now! We are going to tear out our old carpet tomorrow and get started. I cant wait to see the results.Yours turned out so beautiful. Given that it has a marble type look to it with certain stains I wonder if there would be a way to make this into a countertop?

    Like

    1. I’ve seen it done as a countertop. I think the only hard part would be patience in drying and sanding the necessary coats of poly to get a really smooth surface. It’s a super versatile option! I’m excited for you. I get compliments all the time on mine! Most people assume it’s a marble product. Happy flooring and good luck!

      Like

    1. Oh Michelle I know what you mean! I’ve had pretty good success using windex on mine as a general cleaning aid. I always thought I’d get another coat of poly on by now, but after almost 2 years it’s still not on my task list’s radar. I have been meaning to try some recipes I’ve read about for hardwood floors. I know olive oil and lemon juice are recommended to buff to a beautiful shine. I also found a recipe that included rubbing alcohol for fast streak free drying. So my best recommendation would be to try out a few of these kinds of recipes until you find what works best! Just google or search pinterest for hardwood floor cleaners.

      Like

  35. Hi. I’m in the middle of this project myself right now. After I let the glue dry, I noticed wrinkled spots right on the edge of some of my papers. Do i have to patch those or will the poly seal them? I just applied stain so if i have to patch it will add another day to my work but I don’t want there to be little holes on my project. When I laid the paper, there weren’t the lifted edges (I have about 6) but after they dried I noticed them. I don’t want to continue to the poly unless I know it will work itself out. If you could email me that would be AMAZING! I also have pics if you want.

    Like

    1. Hi there,

      The poly can seal over wrinkles, but it won’t smooth them out. You’d either have to apply extra poly around the higher surfaces until you achieve a smooth finish or make the surface smooth first. I had a few spots on my concrete floor that did that. It hasn’t bothered me but as they aren’t that noticeable. But if it’s something that will always bug you, you’ll probably want to either sand it down and/or at more paper over those areas.

      Best of luck! I’d love to see how your floor looks. ;)

      PS I sent this via email too.

      Like

      1. I don’t know if I explained what I mean correctly lol.

        It’s almost like small caves (holes) on the edges of the paper that I’m worried about. It’s not that it’s showing bare floor but like little caves you can stick the tip of your finger in. That’s the best way i can explain without showing pictures lol. I didn’t notice any of it while gluing but after it dries it’s very noticeable. Will the poly be heavy enough to weigh them down and glue them or should I patch it. I did a 2nd coat of stain today, and it looks amazing, but I don’t want to mess it up, it’s been TOO much work lol.

        Like

      2. If it were me, I’d test one of the spots with poly to see. It may act like a glue as well as finisher, or it may dry allowing the same lift or edging. I’m only guessing without seeing, but it sound like some of the torn paper edges were super thin and maybe dried funny leaving the holes? My best advice is if you don’t like something try to fix it. It’s really hard to match stain and look after applying the poly sealant.

        Like

      3. Ok. Thank you so much for all of your help holly. You’re wonderful and reply so fast! I may try to patch it. I’ve done 80% of this myself soi want it to be amazing! Lol. Thanks again!

        Like

  36. When you did pattern in dining room, did you do pattern after gluing bags to floor? Or did you apply stain or coat and then tape pattern? If you could give more details on this process.

    Also was thinking of getting bags with logos of restaurants to put on floor to see logos. Would that work?

    Thanks and your floors look awesome! I’m so excited to try!

    Like

    1. I taped the pattern after laying the paper and allowing it to dry. The tape went right onto the paper floor. I applied the stain over the tape, then removed the tape. When the stain dried, I applied the poly.

      Like

  37. Holly, your finished floor is beautiful! Kudos to you for having the guts to put in a design! Have you seen any other websites where someone has done this?
    Also, I plan on doing a paper floor in my kitchen, but I have a large area…over 800 sq ft. The only way I can think to attempt this is in sections – like under the fridge and stove first etc. Can you tell the difference after applying poly where you stopped and started back up? (You may not have had to do that, but I thought with the repairs you made, you may have some advice.)
    Thanks,
    Renee

    Like

    1. Hi Renee, I did do it like you are planning. I don’t like those crossover areas as much, but it’s not drastic. I left a raw, edge of about 6-8 inches of paper with no stain or poly so I could overlap the next section later with plain paper on paper. That worked well. The hard part is matching glue mixture, stain and technique to the previous section. I can see the subtle differences. It’s the only way I could do my kitchen.

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  38. I did my living room in this technique the past week. I have quite a few ripples in the floor. Wondering how I can fix them? I have put quite a few coats of poly over them hoping it would even them out but it hasn’t. Wondering if I should cut them and try to ‘glue’ them down with more poly? Any ideas on what i could have done wrong? I used the 50/50 glue ratio on plywood sub floor. minwax espresso stain and varathane water based poly. Any ideas would be appreciated. I love the way it looks but am worried about something snagging on ripples.
    Thanks
    Sandie

    Like

    1. Hi Sandie,

      I had no problems covering the wood floor, but had a few on the cement floor. The only coating solution I know of is a thick enough amount to meet the height of the wrinkle. Anything that wrinkles or pops up during the drying stage has to be addressed before the drying is set, otherwise it will require a patch or redo to get it laying smooth and flat.

      Like

      1. The ripples are in the actual paper. Is there a way I can post pictures in the comments? Or email them to you?
        Thanks for the speedy reply
        Sandie

        Like

      2. Your welcome to email: holly.schwendiman@gmail Are they small enough that you could do spot treatment of just the rippled with more poly and a hand brush to achieve a smooth surface?

        Like

  39. Love your floors! We have cheap laminate floors that we put in the entire house when we remodeled In 2008 and I have never liked them. I can’t seem to find any information on how or if you can use this technique over laminate floors. Since the floor isn’t really porous, would the glue stick to the laminate? We considered tiling using the wood plank looking tiles but that will require us to pull up all of this laminate and be very costly. Thanks for posting, I’m feeling inspired!

    Like

    1. Yes, you can apply it over laminate. The only downside is you will see whatever patterns and textures of the laminate when your floor is finished. Pulling up laminate is a tough job though so this downside may be worth it to you.

      Like

      1. Thanks Holly, my laminate has no texture, it is just flat and smooth, that is why I was afraid the paper wouldn’t stick, it was super cheap flooring and it is so light it shows every spec of dirt, I can’t wait to cover it up! I think I will start in our least used room and practice my technique there. Thanks so much for the information.

        Like

  40. Hello! I’m getting ready to attempt this project on my concrete basement floors. My husband was wondering if we decide in the future to replace the flooring, how hard would it be to put tile or carpet over the paper bag floor? Would we have to remove the paper bag flooring before placing something over it? Hopefully it’ll turn out as good as yours did and we won’t have to worry about that =)

    Like

  41. I’m just in the thinking (and admiring!) stage, but wondering what you think of this idea… I have a large bucket of fresh-fallen walnuts, and am going to boil & strain them to make a natural, water-based stain. Hoping I can store in Mason jars until I’m ready to use it, then measure out & replace part of the water in the glue mixture with the walnut husk stain. Has anyone tried this?

    Like

    1. The only problem I could foresee is the oil from the walnuts. Any oil in the glue mixture will prevent it from adhering. You could try it straight though after the floor is down and dry.

      Like

  42. I would really like to put this on my basement steps. I am very concerned about them being slippery after. Any suggestions!?! I have old semi gloss wood steps. Thank you !

    Like

    1. I havent had that problem on my stairs to the basement. They are loud to walk on with no sound insulation. If the steps are outdoors or prone to get wet a lot then I could see a slipping hazzard.

      Like

  43. Great post. Could I ask your advice? I’m looking to incorporate paper maps within the floor. The maps are a little thinner paper than the roll of paper that would be typically used. Would you recommend using the roll of paper and then putting the maps on top of that, or could we just go with the map paper but use extra sealant, if needed? Thanks.

    Like

    1. The map paper may be okay but whatever is under it will probably show through. You may want to do the roll first just to ensure uniformity in the coloration. Sounds like a fun project!

      Like

  44. Hi Holly,
    I’m wondering what strength of Kraft paper you used? 30lb, 40lb, etc. I’m not sure which one to buy.
    Also, I plan on doing this to my cement basement floors. I have areas that have effluresence coming through & plan on cleaning them up with muriatic acid, but there are some small holes/dimples in the cement. I plan on filling them with cement filler. I can’t wait to get started!
    Sincerely,
    Michelle

    Like

    1. Hi Michelle, i honestly don’t know the poundage of paper. I did a search on Amazon and got one of the first roll options. Even repeating the search today I can’t find that info. The strength comes from the poly top coat but the thicker the paper, the less you’d see show through for surface imperfections of your floor.

      Like

  45. Hi Holly, I’m in love with your floors, and so excited to do my entire downstairs in paper. I’m terrified I will do or buy the wrong material. I understand the brown paper, and glue. All my floors are wood, and I want them dark, like yours (dinning room table, compared to the light area, rug look). Can you tell me exactly what stain to buy, and poly that works best. I’m confused with oil base and water base. So if you could please tell me the product you used on covering paper to wood I would be so appreciative. This will be my Christmas present to myself and I want my floors to look as fabulous as yours do!
    Thank you so much Holly.
    Sarah

    Like

    1. Hi Sarah, I used MinWax dark walnut stain and Rustoleum water based poly. The lighter floor areas are natural with no stain. Best of luck!

      Like

  46. Is there anyway to lighten the stained floor? I used the lightest color Lowe’s carried & when I put on the 1st coat of poly, several areas turned a beautiful golden brown. I’d love the entire floor to look like this. Also, any tips on removing the glue off the floor since its already dried. With best regards, Kathy

    Like

    1. I dont know of any way, the lightest color would be no stain. The poly does have the ability to lighten the stain but only during the first coat. Once it dries the color is locked. I believe you could buy solvents but I think it would be a big mess. Best option might be to start over with new paper and no stain over the existing floor.

      Like

  47. HI There, I recently finished my third room, but have noticed that some of the poly is blistering in another room. I am wondering what I would need to do to fix that issue. I will experiment with it, but have you had that issue at all? I used a semi gloss, then thought maybe I should have used a satin. But then I read you liked the glosses, soooo…LOL am curious as to how to handle this if it starts up in the other rooms. Thank you for your time,
    Adrienne

    Like

    1. Not having had that, I’m not sure what I’d do. Sand it down maybe and reapply? The only thing I can think of is speed of application like happens in nail polish that bubbles? I know if it’s too thick it will bubble so maybe the same thing?

      Like

    2. Adrienne, I have had the same problem. I think it’s because I put too many coats of poly down. It took awhile for it to start bubbling. I also have some scuff issues so unfortunately my plan is to put new flooring over the top of it. I just don’t think the concept is durable enough for my bathroom.

      Like

      1. This definitely sounds like insufficient drying time between layers that may also be a little thick. Good luck!

        Like

  48. I love this! I am going to be doing this soon to our sunroom. This may be a stupid question, but how did u secure the hardwood panels to ur floor? We have concrete and it has glue marks from previous carpet and I’m too lazy to remove it all. Thank you!

    Like

  49. Hi Holly, I just wanted to say that i love your web. Your have very detailed instructions. I wanted to let you know how i did mine. I had old flooring that i tore up, smoothed out the floor to make sure there was no nails or obstructions to rip the paper, then i got down to work on one of the easiest, cheapest flooring ever. I bought the brown paper rolls from walmart for $4.97 per roll and with my glue i added stayflow and made a mixture of 50/50 which gave it more stinking power. I love the look. When it came time for the stain and poly, i dry brushed the stain on to give it two different colors of light and dark. I did go with the water based poly instead of oil based. It seemed to want to lift with the oil.
    Keep the ideas coming Holly.. Thanks Tina

    Like

  50. Holly, I am about to undertake this project on a wood plank floor. The wood is not oak, and has been painted several different times…it is not worth sanding. Anyway, we are going to put down 1/4 luan over the wood floor. My question is this…How would you suggest attaching the underlayment. An air stapler with create indents that would need to be filled. A carpenter suggested ring-shanked underlayment nails pounded in manually. He thought they wouldn’t create the indents that would need to be filled. I plan on using wood-filler on the seams. You’re thoughts? Also, on another site a woman had trouble with the finish being cloudy. She thought one side of the paper did this. How do I know which side of the paper to face up? I bought builder’s paper at Home depot. I am hoping you check this in the morn so I can get started! Thanks!

    Like

    1. I used subfloor glue and air gun staples. Wood filler for seams. I was pleasantly surprised that the staple indents didn’t show at all under the paper! I didn’t have to fill any of them. I had one cloudy problem but it was the poly. :( just got a bad batch which I read happens sometimes. But I only had one bad gallon in 6 or so. I had to lightly sand the cloudy film off, add more stain and new poly, then it was fine. Make sure you use clean supplies like rollers for the poly. That can cause problems too. Good luck!

      Like

  51. Hi Holly, I’ve loved reading this blog! I am another very creative 58 year old hairdresser and artist who loves being able to bring her artistic side into her home. I was so enthused about doing paper flooring until I read somewhere today in a few posts that people could not get re-financing because they had paper flooring as it does not qualify as real flooring. (not tile, linoleum, carpet or laminate). I also read that it lowers the re-sale value of the home. I plan to stay in my home but do you have any experience with this or have you heard anything about it? I love the look of it and love the fact that I don’t have to move everything out of my house in order to get the carpet out, but I have to admit that the thought of being financially in a bind because I indulged in my artistic fantasy is taking the joy out of what I thought would be a great spring and summer project. I hope you have something to share about this subject with so many people as excited about this project and thinking they are improving their homes with it!

    Patricia

    Like

    1. Hi Patricia, I haven’t heard of this before. Personal experience showed me a lot of hearsay is just that. For years I’d heard rooms with small windows were a fire safety issue so couldn’t be counted as bedrooms in appraisals and that was a primary reason egress windows were becoming so popular. We had one put in our basement and were surprised to learn from our appraiser that there was no truth to the window belief. He said a room with a door and enclosed closet defined bedrooms. When selling our last home, our friend and realtor advised that big ticket items like kitchen and bathrooms can add the most value but smaller visual items would appeal to buyers but not add to the value/appraisal in significant amounts. So I’m not sure how much the flooring would really impact an appraisal in dollar value. Personally, I just did something I liked that increased the cleanliness and look of the home. I believe 100% that the home shows better now than before my project and to me that has to be a positive. I say go for it. :)

      Like

  52. Thank you Holly! I imagine that if people don’t like the flooring when the time comes for me to sell my home in the distant future, they can always choose to change it. I am looking forward to some unique floors, maybe some with great designs stenciled into them. I appreciate your input, your enthusiasm and great writing. I love seeing creativity expressed in my home and you’ve helped me and so many others with your wonderfully thorough and concise work here. Thank you so much!

    Patricia

    Like

    1. Aww that’s so sweet! Thank you! I can’t wait to share my current reno project of kitchen cabinets! I did the brown paper as the backsplash. :) best of luck to you! I’d love to see your finished work. :)

      Like

  53. My husband and I have really been looking at this flooring, however i have a concern about the basement/closed in garage…….it seems moisture collects on the floor in the summer time. Will this moisture be there after the garage is closed and will it harm the paper?

    Like

    1. The floor won’t make a difference on sealing the space from moisture so you’d definitely want to make sure the space is water/air tight first. If you get enough coats of poly on it the water/moisture will pool on top without wetting the paper, but if the poly seal isn’t right the water will find its way through.

      Like

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  57. Thank you so much for your blog… I love this post! My hubby and I find ourselves turning a pole barn into a home. We will be adding on and using what we have. The floors are concrete with a light sealer on them, there are saw cuts like every 5 feet and it has pex tubing to heat the floors throughout. It is ugly and i can’t take it anymore. My concern is the heated floor. Would this hurt the poly? I ask because the sealer now gets warm and my rubber back bathroom rugs stick to it… bad… they leave bits of the rubber imbeded in the sealer.
    Also, due to the saw cuts… should i glue down the 1/4 wood and then paper over it? I am concerned the warm floor would affect the glue too… darn.
    I understand if you don’t know about this, but figured i would ask… maybe your concrete is heated too!

    Thank you for your time..

    Like

    1. I really don’t know about the heat, I’ve not dealt with that. The wood seems a reasonable solution but I’m not sure with the heat factor. Can the heat be disconnected?

      Like

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