The Floor Failure (Not!)

June 2010 update: It did work!! I just didn’t wait long enough for the poly to dry- after waiting the recommended time before adding furniture, most of the wrinkles were smoothed out and the ones left were just part of the effect. See the room makeover reveal where my son says “the cool floor is my favorite part!”

Our first house was a bungalow in the city with wood floors throughout the main floor. But the attic had been finished in the 70s or 80s and when we bought it came complete with stained blue carpeting up the stairs and in both rooms.

Being young and poor and hating the carpet (yes, my non-love affair with carpet goes way back…), I found an obscure picture in a book on decoupage that showed a floor covered in torn brown paper that looked leather-like. So Brian and I tore and crumpled paper and I spent about a week on my knees gluing it down and covering it with coats of polyurethane.
We did the whole floor and stairs for about $150 (most of the cost being the poly) and it was beautiful. I couldn’t believe how good it turned out. I thought for sure it wouldn’t last very well, especially on the stairs, so I was going to get a runner to go up the stairs. But I never did. When we sold it five years later, it still looked great- even on the stairs.
Everyone who saw it thought it was so cool and didn’t guess it was just paper. I told lots of people how I did it, “you just tear paper and apply it overlapping with some watered-down Elmer’s glue!”
Apparently, time is not my friend.

This is a “keeping it real” post. I wanted a quick, cheap alternative to yucky carpet for our son’s room makeover, so of course I thought of my cool paper treatment.
I tore and crumpled and glued carefully with my slightly watered down Elmer’s just like before, but…

It didn’t work this time. The paper wrinkled up and stayed wrinkled. Uggggggh.
I vaguely remembered seeing wrinkles the last time right after laying it, but that they smoothed out overnight after drying, so I kept thinking they would go away.

But they didn’t. Not after drying. Not after four coats of poly.
I know you’re probably shaking your heads, thinking “what possessed her?” but it really was a cool treatment I thought would be no problem to do again.
Now what? We’re looking for a really big rug and will have to cover it with hardwood plywood (our other inexpensive flooring option) at a later date.
In the meantime, not only does it look like paper, it feels like paper and crackles when you walk on it.
And I’m left completely mystified why it worked so well before and not this time. Any ideas?
This is linked to: Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest




  1. Jenelle says

    It’s just paper grocery bag. right? I wonder if they have changed what they make them out of since you last did this. They could also just be thinner these days. That’s my guess anyway.

  2. says

    Found you from The Shabby Nest…
    I have seen that treatment before, and it looked great, too bad that you didn’t have as great of luck this time. We just moved into our “project house” and discovered that the hardwood floors throughout the living room were mostly plywood-repair sections. We currently have a huge rug until finances allow us to replace those sections. (ok, I didn’t meant for this comment to be so long winded!)

    Love your blog. As a fellow couponing, gardening, trying-to-live-simply Oregonian it was great to find someone so like minded!

  3. says

    This sounds like a good idea, sorry it didn’t work out. I applaud you for trying a creative solution to your decorating needs. I have had projects not turn out the way I had hoped, and it can be a bit discouraging. Don’t be discouraged ~ you have a wonderful blog! Great info!

  4. Carl says

    Uuugghh. I have a sympathy stomach ache for you. So much work. I’m sorry.. and I don’t have any ideas. I wish I did because I can imagine how great it would look. Actually it doesn’t look bad.. but I think the crunch might bother me.
    I sure hope you find an easy solution. Good luck.

    Not Carl… but I didn’t notice he was signed in.. I’m AtOneWithHim. See Ya!

  5. says

    bags (and everything else it seems!) are not made like they used to be! I used to use brown bags for A LOT of projects but they are too thin now, what a dissappointment! I love the idea. I’ve seen it done for wallpaper too. Wish I could help!

  6. says

    I have two thoughts. I babysat for a family in the late 70’s that did this. They used smaller pieces. Each piece was torn and different, but they were all smaller than notebook paper. Also, how many years lapsed. So many paper bags are recycled paper now. I think the quality of the paper was thicker the first time you did it. Just like thin paper buckles with watercolor paints but does not with heavy artist paper. Thanks for all your transparent sharing.

  7. Anonymous says

    I am sorry this did not work out for you. I do have an idea for a cheap throw rug. I bought an awesome outdoor rug for my back patio that would work great in a bedroom It was a lot less than a regular rug and I am sure home depot, costco etc. has them in stock by now.

  8. says

    Thanks, guys! I was thinking maybe I made my pieces too big, but even some of the smaller ones have big wrinkles. And while the idea came from using paper bags, I didn’t, I used part of a roll of kraft paper called “builders paper” and it’s actually pretty thick.

    And I did find a 5×8 rug for only $30, so between that and the furniture, it’s not so bad!

  9. sue says

    Was what you glued it to, different? Perhaps the surface of your first attempt was different than this time, hence the difference between the finished product. I just wonder if the change in papers, with recycling, etc., makes the difference.

  10. says

    I know when you mod podge, you have to wait for the underside to dry before you should put a coat on top bc it will wrinkle. What if you just applied all the paper with glue only on the back, then when that dried do the glue on top? I just saw you in Cottages and Bungalows and want to try this! So sorry it didn’t work the second time around.

    • Dorothye58 says

      I just did a large kitchen/diningroom with this technique using white craft paper. Only two places did I have any problem, with it not sealing down after I left it overnight. 1. Where I tried to scrimp on my glue and get one more piece down before I mixed more 1:1 ratio. 2. Where I bought newer thicker glue from the local hardware store, I had to use 1 part glue to 1.5 water with that to get the same consistency I had with the gallon I ran out of. I don’t know if that was your problem, but that’s what I found on mine. I used pieces from 2′ square to small strips tapering to nothing so I don’t think it was the size of your paper.

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