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DIY Paper Bag Flooring: A Budget-Friendly Home Improvement Project

Do you want to transform your floors without breaking the bank? Look no further than the DIY paper bag floor. Today, I am thrilled to share with you one of my favorite completed projects: our paper bag floor. Not only is this a cost-effective option, but it also offers a unique and stylish look that can breathe new life into any room.

The Journey Begins

A year ago, my partner and I bought our first house. Despite the excitement, we were faced with the daunting task of cleaning up the interior, as the previous owner was a smoker. After stripping everything down, we were ready for a fresh start. And that’s when we discovered the magic of paper bag flooring.

DIY Paper Bag Floor: A Time-Consuming, But Rewarding Project

Let me be upfront with you: paper bag floors are not difficult or expensive, but they do require time and patience. Lucky for us, we had the luxury of time before moving in, so we could focus on tackling this project. It’s important to note that we waited for a year before sharing our experience, just to make sure the floors held up well. And guess what? They still look amazing!

We decided to install paper bag flooring in both Sapphire’s room and our bedroom. Surprisingly, we have not encountered any issues with either floor. Our secret? We applied five coats of polyurethane, rather than settling for just one or two coats.

How to do Paper Bag Floors

Step by Step: Creating Your Own Paper Bag Floor

If you’re considering this project for your home, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you along the way.

Supplies Needed for Paper Bag Floors

Before diving in, gather the following supplies:

  • Roll of brown kraft paper
  • Spray bottle (for water)
  • Glue (THIS GLUE)
  • Water
  • Paint stirrers
  • Paint brushes
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Frog Tape
  • Stain
  • Gloves (like dishwashing gloves)
  • Mask (for the stain process… whew!)
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Polyurethane
  • Shop Vac (for prep)

Step 1: Prep

Prepping the floors may seem like a hassle, but it’s a crucial step for a successful paper bag floor. Start by removing the carpet, staples, and sanding down the surface until it’s smooth. If you have cracks in the subfloor, fill them with wood glue, let it dry, and sand down any rough spots. Although perfection isn’t necessary (you can use coarse-grade sandpaper), strive for an even surface. We used a hand sander to achieve the desired results.

After prepping and sanding, thoroughly clean the floors with a Shop Vac. It may take multiple passes to ensure a dirt-free surface. Remember, any dirt left behind can lead to bumpy and unsightly results once the paper is glued down.

Step 2: Laying the Floor

Now comes the fun part—laying the paper. Tear the paper into random shapes, avoiding perfectly square pieces. We learned the hard way that squares don’t adhere as well and are more time-consuming. For our bedroom, torn pieces measuring around 10 inches in length and 3-6 inches in width worked well. In Sapphire’s room, we opted for 12x12ish squares, but they didn’t yield as polished a look. When working with edges, ensure one side is straight to fit against the baseboards. Alternatively, you can glue it down and cut it straight using a razor knife.

Paper Bag Flooring

To save time, tear several pieces at once, setting aside the edge pieces. Lightly spray the torn pieces with water and wrinkle them up. This will add texture and character to your floor.

Mixing the glue

Mix the glue (THIS GLUE) with water. We found that a 60/40 mixture (glue to water) worked better than the recommended 50/50 ratio, as it provided a thicker consistency.

Start by working on the edge pieces. Lightly spray them with water and wrinkle them up. Using a paintbrush, apply glue to a 2ft by 2ft section of the floor. Don’t cover too large an area at once, as the glue may dry before you can lay down the paper. Place a piece of torn kraft paper on top of the glue-brushed floor and gently smooth it out with your hands. Don’t worry about wrinkles or cracks; they will add character to the final result. After smoothing the paper, brush a thin, even layer of the glue mixture over it. Move on to the next piece, overlapping slightly each time.

Overlapping is crucial to ensure everything stays glued down. Unlike squares, random shapes adhere more effectively. Don’t fret if the paper looks wet—it’s normal. Just make sure you don’t use too much glue, as it may become excessively wet.

Continue working piece by piece until you’ve covered the entire room. If you need to take breaks during the process, be prepared to use the Shop Vac again to clean up any foot traffic. Ideally, try to avoid walking on the floor until it’s complete.

If any pieces start to lift, simply apply the glue mixture underneath and brush over the top, as you did before. For any gaps, add a small piece of kraft paper to cover the entire floor.

Step 3: Stain

Once the paper bags are completely dry, it’s time to stain them. Begin by using Frog Tape to protect the baseboards—just as you would when painting. We tried various tapes, but only Frog Tape prevented any mess or damage to the baseboards.

Before you start staining, turn on your ceiling fan and open the windows for proper ventilation. You don’t want to be overwhelmed by fumes. Always have an exit plan while staining. Start from the back of the room and work your way toward the entryway.

Paper Bag Flooring in the Bedroom

Equipped with gloves, a mask, a microfiber cloth, and your chosen stain, begin staining the floor in a circular motion starting from a corner or wall. Avoid using excessive stain; a little goes a long way. If you notice any puddles or missed spots, simply go back over them. We opted for a single layer of stain, but feel free to add more coats for a darker shade. Keep in mind that the stain takes a while to dry, so ensure proper airflow with fans.

Refrain from walking on the surface until the stain is dry. Once dry, remove the Frog Tape before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a crucial step in protecting and preserving your paper bag floor. While it may be the most expensive part of the process, don’t skimp on quality. We used Varathane No Odor Interior Polyurethane Gloss and applied five coats. This, in our experience, is what has kept our floors intact despite heavy foot traffic.

Paper Bag Flooring

Apply the polyurethane with a wide paintbrush, starting from one corner and working your way out of the room. The drying time is relatively quick, so you won’t have to wait long between coats.

The Finished Product + Warnings

After the polyurethane has dried, your paper bag floors will have a beautiful, glossy finish. Everyone who has seen our floors absolutely loves the shine, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.

It’s important to note a few things about maintaining your paper bag floors:

  • To prevent scratches from pets, ensure you apply a minimum of five coats of polyurethane.
  • Avoid spilling water on the floors, as this can cause damage. While we haven’t encountered any issues, it’s better to play it safe.
  • We advise against using this technique in high-moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens. The risk of water exposure is too great.

And there you have it—a guide to creating your own stunning paper bag floors! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to assist you. Happy DIY-ing!


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