Saturday, October 19, 2013

Brown paper bag floor over concrete subfloor

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Brown paper bag flooring over concrete subfloor
First let me say....YAY! I am done and I must say the floors look amazing!
There are tons of great examples of this you can find by browsing Pinterest. My favorite was Domestic Imperfection because she did this on concrete subfloor like I would be doing. Many of the blogs show this flooring method done over plywood subflooring, which involves some different steps. Some other great blogs on this are... Uniquely Grace and Lovely Crafty Home. Before starting a project like this, I would suggest looking through how different people did theirs. I read through tons of blogs before I started. The basics are the same, but each of the above does it a little different.

These are the steps that I followed for my concrete subflooring that had carpet laid over it. My living room is about 27 feet long by 18 wide. My finished project was under $200 for an almost 500 sq ft room. That even includes new quarter round trim which has not been installed yet.
The poly takes up to a week to fully cure, so we have to wait to put the area rug down.

Step 1: Rip up the carpet. I just started pulling it up at a corner and rolling up the carpet and pad as I went. I later realized that cutting it into sections first would have been easier. I ripped up the carpet without really knowing what I was doing. I hadn't even bought any supplies yet and my husband was out of town for 6 days, which left me at home with my 1, 6 and 8 year olds. Probably not the brightest idea to start this then, but I couldn't wait to get rid of that dirty carpet!

Step 2: Remove carpet tack strips and repair any holes. This is by far the WORST part of the whole process. Carpet tack strips are EVIL! Here is a must watch video I found that shows how to do it without tearing up the concrete. I only ended up having to repair a handful of holes and I probably pulled out 100 nails. Do not pry up with a crowbar like other blogs say. This will damage the concrete and you will waste time filling the holes in.

Step 3: Clean the concrete floor. I just swept, then vacuumed mine a few times. Some people mop. I didn't see the need. If there is anything like glue, paint globs, caulk spills, etc on the floor you need to sand them down. If not, they will show when the floor is finished.

Step 4: Tear up and crinkle the paper. For my almost 500 sq ft room I used almost 2 rolls of the brown builders paper from Home Depot. Tear the paper into pieces about 12 inches wide...doesn't matter the shape. I found it helpful to put the straight edge pieces in a separate pile. This made doing the perimeter of the room faster. After tearing them, crinkle up and then open and crinkle again in a different direction. The more crinkles, the better the paper looks on the floor. Toss into a box or bag.

 Step 5: Glue the paper down. I used about 2 1/2 gallons of Elmer's Glue-All from Home Depot. Each blog does and slightly different method, and Uniquely Grace uses poly instead of glue. What worked for me was a 50/50 glue/water mixture. I used a bucket lined with a trash bag for the glue. Mix a small batch of glue, dunk a crinkled paper into the mixture, open and use your gloved hands to kind of squeegee off most of the glue. Lay it down on the floor and smooth out with your hands. Make sure its as flat as it can be. Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles. Add dabs of glue if needed for stubborn edges. Make sure to overlap the edges a little bit because the paper shrinks up a little after the glue dries. I read that a lot of people couldn't get the paper to stick to the concrete at all. At first I was spreading some straight glue on the concrete in small sections and they laying the wet with glue paper down. I found that that step was not necessary for my floors. Allow to dry at least overnight. Paper will ripple a little while drying, but mine was mostly flat after drying. Don't try to smooth out while its drying...the paper will tear.
Looks like this after gluing down
Looks like this after drying
BEFORE staining
AFTER staining
Step 6: Stain the paper (optional). This was by far the most rewarding step! This is when you really see the beauty! I ended up using Minwax wood stain in Special Walnut and I LOVE the color. I wanted a medium tone to go with the existing wood flooring. I applied this using a foam roller with the stain in a paint tray lined with a plastic sack for easy cleanup. I tried wiping the stain off but I like the richer color that I got with the pure stain, so I just rolled on and let dry. In such a large room, maintaining a "wet edge" was impossible. I just feathered the stain out at the edges of the section I was doing and tried to leave the edges at the edges of the paper so that if there was a line from the stain drying it would be concealed by the edges of the paper pieces. It took about an hour to do the whole room.

LET DRY AT LEAST 12 HOURS! I had a small section of the room that I was too tired to stain that night, so I did it the next morning...the day I was planning to poly. Being impatient, I tried to poly it about 8 hours later and the poly pulled the stain up! AHHH!

Mop mark after applying poly before stain dried 12 hours
Step 7: Polyurethane. I used Pro Polyurethane for Floors, water based, in semi gloss. People say they have applied anywhere from 4-12 coats of poly. I applied 9. I got an extender pole and a rectangle latex paint applicator pad. I poured into a paint tray lined with a plastic bag for easy cleanup. Tip: Make sure there is not any printed writing on the part of the bag that touches The poly had a neon purple tint while wet on the floor, so I could see where I was putting it. It took about 30 minutes max to apply each coat and my poly said to recoat in 1-2 hours. After the first coat I freaked out, because it was splotchy looking and seemed dull in spots and shiny in others. This went away after the second coat. I waited until after coat 3 to do some light sanding in spots that needed it. 

This is the poly I used

Applied with this

You can see random darker pieces on my pictures of the flooring. I originally started with the method that Uniquely Grace used on her blog (link at top). I stained the dry crinkled pieces first and was planning to glue them down already stained because I thought it would be too hard to stain such a large area of flooring without leaving edge marks. I used Cabot wood stain in brown mahogany to match our front door. After about 60 pieces I realized that it was taking WAY too long to do it that way, so I started laying down unstained pieces and mixing in the pre-stained ones. The pre-stained ones were a pain to get to lay flat, even after soaking in glue. I love the added depth the 2 colors give, but if I did it again I would maybe lay the entire floor unstained and then lay some random stained ones over the top while still wet.


  1. I had both types of floors, but I definitely know, that it is better to have concrete flooring. That is just because concrete floor is easier to clean, it is cheaper and there is huge variety of colours and styles. For me it is much better than paper bag flooring. I can even recommend you specialists who makes concrete flooring the best- betoniniu grindu irengimo technologija

  2. I love your floor! A couple years ago I saw the brown paper posts on Pinterest. We pulled up all the carpet in our house and needed a very inexpensive flooring. I did the brown paper floor in both my daughters rooms and guest bathroom almost exactly the same way you did your living room. We went with dark walnut. I lightly sanded between each coat. Their floors are doing fine. We do have one gouge in the bathroom floor that happened when our heavy curtain rod fell. I haven't tried repairing it yet. We have been living on ugly concrete way too long and are now planning on doing our living, kitchen and dining in it. I was wondering how your floor was holding up with a heavier traffic than a bedroom. Have you had to repair any scratches or tears?

    1. Can i ask do you rinse your brush after applying polyurethane everytime? I am about to start my floor and dont know if i have to keep it or wash every application thanks

  3. Yes, concrete has become the most requested choice by homeowners. And those who already have the concrete floor started to go for concrete floor polishing because of the benefits polished concrete offers.

  4. I was thinking of adding stain to the glue/water mixture to help it soak in better and eliminate the extra step of staining. Has anyone tried that? I love 'Special Walnut' by Minwax! Use it all the time for hardwoods.

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  12. wow nice and very informative blog. Thanks for sharing about brown paper bag floor over concrete.

  13. I like your floor. Thanks for sharing photos of brown paper bag floor over concrete.

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  19. How would you best recommend cleaning floors like this? What about minor repairs if there is a scrape?

  20. How would you best recommend cleaning floors like this? What about minor repairs if there is a scrape?

  21. Question: is there anything special about the brown paper? I am thinking of applying magazine paper on my office floor. Would it work?

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  25. My floor had a coat of aqua lock on it. Has anyone tried a paper bag floor over that?? Just wondering.

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  32. Im so excited to cover my concrete floor with the brown paper. The concrete is trashed so i will do some repair first then seal it before paper goes down. We ripped out the old dirty carpet in our apartment and will be leaving a beautiful floor when we move someday...along with other diy upgrades we have done in our stay here. I will be sure to take pictures throughout the process to post. Thank you for the great tips!

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  34. What would be best to make the floor gray?

  35. What would be best to make the floor gray?


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