Welcome to one of our most popular DIY's at AOC! This unique brown paper floor technique has been pinned and viewed on YouTube more than a million times and was even featured in an issue of Cottages and Bungalows! It's a doable DIY that anyone can do and results in a leather-look flooring that lasts a surprisingly long time.
Below you'll find a bit more about the technique, the video tutorial we made that shows all the steps needed to create this floor using brown kraft paper and glue, and a supplies list.
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UPDATE: Check out the definitive FAQ for the Paper Floor Technique where we answer all the many questions we get about this cool brown paper floor solution to nasty carpet!
UPDATE #2: See our Brown Paper Floor Follow Up: How Do They Look 4 Years Later? video.
Wondering what the heck a paper floor is and if it's really doable? It is a really cool, unique flooring method (which is basically decoupage) that I first created in our first house, a 1940 Portland bungalow.
We applied it to the stairs going up to a half story and all the floors in the upstairs, both an office and guest room-studio. I thought it would be temporary, but we were shocked how well it lasted, even on the stairs, and how much we liked it. We had no problem selling the house 5 years after laying for flooring - and the new owners thought it was really cool!
It's been such a great alternative to expensive wood floors, creating a cool leather look while still giving the feel (decor wise) and easy upkeep of wood.
What's wrong with carpet?
Brian and I are unanimous in our love of wood flooring and our hatred disgust dislike of carpet. Bear with me a minute as I get on a little soap box about wall-to-wall carpet.
- not an easy DIY project (more money for labor)
- hard to clean (pets? children?...hello?)
- "filter is full after 5 years" (exact quote from a carpet professional- translation: there's no amount of cleaning that's going to get it clean)
- dusty, dirty edges even with regular vacuuming
- an unchangeable color
- not great for certain allergies
- and, since we moved rurally, shows all of the dirt, mud and other dark things that routinely come in on people's shoes...
OK, I'm down from the box and obviously you can guess where we stand. And while I know plenty of people who love their wall-to-wall, this video tutorial is for those like us who'd like to get rid of it, either because you can't afford new or because you, too, don't like carpet.
Needless to say, we are slowly getting rid of all the carpet that came in our ranch-turned-cottage and we are down to two rooms left: the master bedroom and the sunken living room. They will probably get some sort of wood, but for the kid's rooms, we used this decoupage torn-paper technique we're sharing with you that we'd used in our Portland bungalow with great success.
Wait? Really, a paper floor?
Yes! We love the doable DIY aspect of this as well as the look and the cost. It is easy, inexpensive and creates a (sort of) leather-look with minimal effort.
Does it last?
It's coated with water based polyurethane so it has worn really well in the rooms we've used it, although I wouldn't recommend it for high traffic areas.
How much does it cost?
How inexpensive is it? A 12' x 11' room cost just $65 total, or about .50 a square foot, which is actually amazing for new flooring.
Brown Paper Floor
Here's what it looks like in our daughter's room:
Here you can better see what the floor looks like. The pieces of torn kraft paper all came from the same roll, but they dry light and dark (I don't know why), which I think creates a more interesting look than if it was all one color.
You can also see more of the finished floor in this follow up video.
Brown Paper Floor Tutorial Video
Interested in replicating this flooring option in your house? This tutorial video shows you all the steps and tools you'll need, plus I've created a list of tools and supplies after the video:
Brown Paper Floor Supplies
Applying The Paper
Brown "Builder's Paper" - the 140-foot roll covered a 12x11' bedroom and a 11x11' for us:
- Amazon: Easy Mask 35-inch x 140-feet Brown Builders Paper
- Home Depot (where we get ours): Trimaco Easy Mask 2.9-ft x 140-ft Builder's Paper
Gallon Size Glue - one gallon covers a 11'x11' or 12' room:
This step isn't in the video, but would happen after the glue dries but before you apply the polyurethane. See FAQs for more on staining; note that I don't recommend oil based stains like the examples since everything else is water based:
Water based stain in a color you'd like. Here are two options:
- 9-inch pad applicator (to work with an extension pole)
- For edges use disposable chip brushes or 2-inch foam brushes
- Disposable gloves
Polyurethane Coating The Paper Floor
Floor Grade Water Based Polyurethane - 1 gallon for a 10x10' to 10x12' room will give about 5 coats:
- Amazon: Minwax Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Clear Finish, Satin, or Varathane brand for floors in a single pack
- Home Depot: Varathane Satin Water-Based Floor Polyurethane (pack of 2)
To apply poly with a brush like I show in the video:
- 4-inch brush (attached with duct tape to a long PVC pipe pole)
To apply poly with a painter pad on a pole:
To apply poly with a roller (use only foam to minimize shedding and bubbles - these weren't available when I first did the floors):
Paper Floor Testimonials
Kee Kee 1/2019
Anyway, thank you sooooo much for sharing this flooring with the world. I am absolutely in love with the look, low maintenance, durability, and cleanliness of it. When we pulled up the Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring, I was absolutely disgusted by the what was underneath. The mildew and whatnot that was able to get through the crevices and fester. Yuck. The seamlessness of this flooring means I never have to worry about that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I did this technique about 13 years ago in a bathroom - still holding up Haven’t even needed to repoly. Insane
I added stain to my glue mix and I also did over vinyl . No problems . I did small pieces of paper , crinkled . Love It 13years!!! poly poly poly poly ! It looks amazing! And it is a heavily traffic area - our laundry in there also. Simply amazing.
Please let us know if you use the technique- we'd love to hear (and see!) how it turned out for you!
This tutorial has been updated - it was originally published in August of 2010.
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