What is a Paper Bag Floor – DIY Ideas + Pros and Cons

Quite a unique budget flooring concept, the brown paper bag floor is one of the cheapest DIY options for any flooring remodel project. While it is cost-effective, paper bag flooring still produces aesthetic results, but there are some pros and cons you want to know first.

Paper bag flooring is a type of DIY floor that’s made from brown kraft paper that is stuck on the subfloor using glue and sealed with a polyurethane sealer. The floor can be stained for color or left brown. Paper bag floors can last up to 5 years but are not as durable as hardwood and vinyl floors.

To install a brown paper bag floor, all you need are some pieces of brown kraft paper, glue, and a polyurethane sealer. Below, I’ve explained how to install paper bag flooring yourself with easy steps you can follow.

What is a Paper Bag Floor, DIY Ideas on installation, Pros and Cons

How to DIY-Install Paper Bag Flooring

Before embarking on a DIY paper bag flooring installation project, ensure you’ve got enough time, as this can be quite time-consuming. Also, make sure you’ve got all the necessary supplies for your project.

These include brown kraft paper, glue, a spray bottle, a bucketful of water, polyurethane, a vacuum cleaner, tape, a paintbrush, a paint stirrer, a handheld sander, sandpaper, and a staining product. Finally, don’t forget to wear the proper protective gear- including hand gloves and a face mask.

Once you’ve got all your supplies/equipment and safety gear ready, it’s now time to install the paper bag floor.

Here’s how to install a paper bag floor yourself:

1. Prep the subfloor

Paper bag floors tend to look horrendous when installed over subfloors with imperfections. That’s why it’s important- if not mandatory- to prep the subfloor prior to installation. Prepping the subfloor involves sanding it to remove any dents and gouges that may show through the paper bag floor, and filling in cracks with wood filler.

NB: Wood filler tends to shrink- so you may want to factor that in and overfill the cracks a bit.

Once you’ve sanded the floor, clean up all dust and debris using a vacuum cleaner. Failure to do so will result in lumpy/bumpy spots showing through the paper bag floor.

Install the paper bag flooring

Before laying the paper bag floor, you’ll, first of all, create lots of pieces of paper from your roll of kraft paper. For a more visually appealing aesthetic, I recommend tearing the paper into random shapes.

However, you’ll also need to cut some of the pieces with at least one straight side so that they can be fitted along the edges of the floor. Another trick that adds a touch of character is slightly spraying the pieces of paper with water and wrinkling them up.

Next, mix three parts glue with two parts water inside a bucket. Then, using your paintbrush apply the glue onto the floor, starting with the edges and corners. It’s not advisable to apply glue to sections larger than four square feet at a time, as you don’t want it to dry up before you lay down the kraft paper.

As you apply adhesive, stick the kraft paper pieces onto the glued-down subfloor, starting with the edge pieces. As you lay down the paper pieces, straighten them out before applying another coat of glue above them. For larger rooms, you can use a paint roller to apply glue to the subfloor and atop the laid-down pieces of kraft paper- and reserve the paintbrush for the edges.

Finally, let the glue cure. This usually takes between 6-12 hours. You can speed up the time the adhesive takes to dry up by using a space heater to heat up the floor.

Stain the paper bag floor

Once the paper bag flooring has been installed and the glue has dried up, it’s now time to stain the surface to your personal tastes and preferences. It’s crucial to have your face mask on for this stage, as stains and paints typically contain chemicals that can trigger respiratory illnesses when inhaled. Ensuring proper ventilation by opening up the windows is also recommended.

You’ll also want to tape off your baseboards to avoid staining them. To stain the paper bag floor, dip a piece of microfiber cloth inside the stain container and apply it to the surface. Make sure to start from the farthest corner of the room as you work your way outwards.

  • I highly recommend that you use a water-based stain because it cures faster compared to oil-based stains. Also, oil-based stains tend to cause unsightly splotches on paper bag flooring.
  • Another precaution is to let the first coat of stain dry up completely before applying a second coat. Failure to do so will result in a cloudy look on the paper bag flooring.

Seal the paper bag floor

After the stain cures, seal the paper bag flooring using a polyurethane sealant. You can use an applicator pad to apply the polyurethane. For a high-quality protective layer, it’s advisable to apply multiple coatings of the polyurethane sealer. When sealing, ensure that all windows are open, as some polyurethane products have an unpleasant smell.

Why Get Paper Bag Flooring?

There are a few advantages of paper bag floors. While it is obvious that they can be a very cheap option, I found my first project to be a very unique output even though it was very tedious to install.

Here are the benefits and advantages of installing paper bag floors:

1. Budget-Friendly Flooring Option

Paper Bag Flooring is Affordable- all you need is about $100 dollars to spend on supplies and equipment. These may include the cost of the roll of kraft paper, the glue, the stain, and the brushes. What’s more, being as it’s easy to install, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to spend anything in terms of installation labor costs.

2. Easy DIY Installation

It doesn’t take any special skills or knowledge to properly install paper bag flooring by yourself. All you need are the earlier mentioned materials and tools to get the job done. DIY enthusiasts that have worked with paper bag flooring before will tell you that it was easily one of their easiest projects ever- timeline notwithstanding.

3. Versatile Flooring Option

One of the biggest benefits that you’ll get with paper bag flooring is the wide variety of finishes you can get- depending on how you prep the paper pieces and how you stain them after. High-gloss finishes, matte shades, warm tones- the choice is yours!

4. Hides Subfloor Imperfections

If you have a tile floor that’s discolored or a concrete floor that’s just straight-up ugly, you can correct these issues by installing paper bag flooring over such surfaces. It’s one more affordable way to improve upon your home’s décor and overall style aesthetics.

Durability

When properly installed, paper bag flooring has decent durability. However, it’s not as durable as other types of flooring and typically lasts for about 10 years before needing to be replaced. By contrast, vinyl flooring typically lasts up to 20 years, while natural hardwood flooring can last over 100 years before needing to be replaced.

Despite its relatively poor durability compared to other types of flooring, there are some ways in which you can extend the lifespan of your paper bag flooring. These include:

  • Cleaning the floor– dust and debris buildup can cause faster wear of your paper bag flooring, which is why you should clean it at least once every week using a vacuum cleaner. Alternatively, you can mop the surface using a mild vinegar solution.
  • Investing in mats/rugs and felt feet– furniture legs often cause scratches and dings on paper bag flooring. To prevent this, place felt feet underneath the furniture legs. Another solution is to install mats/ area rugs under the furniture, thus ensuring that the furniture legs don’t come into direct contact with the floor surface.

Color Options

While brown paper kraft is the most common choice for paper bag flooring, there are several alternatives you can use to achieve a variety of effects. For instance, you can install wallpaper with intriguing shapes and patterns for an eccentric touch.

You can also stain your paper bag floor to any color that you wish. Combining warm colors with a high-gloss finish will create a visually appealing faux-marble effect on your paper bag floor surface.

Paper bag floor problems and fails

Here are some of the common problems and fails of installing paper bag flooring on a DIY project:

  • If you fail to fill up any holes, cracks, and gaps in your subfloor, your paper bag floor will look awful after installation; as the subfloor imperfections will show through the paper bag surface.
  • If you don’t regularly clean up your paper bag floor to get rid of dirt buildup, it won’t hold up for long and will most likely need replacement after about five years.
  • If you subject your paper bag floor to unexpectedly high amounts of foot traffic, it’ll degrade rather fast. Paper bag floors can only withstand normal amounts of foot traffic.
  • Paper bag floor installation is a rather slow process. You may need up to a week to complete installing this type of flooring, depending on the size of your room.
  • Paper bag floors cannot be installed in bathrooms, kitchens, and wet spaces such as basements. The paper won’t hold up to the moisture levels in this area and you’ll soon end up with a damaged, unsightly floor.

Can you install paper bag floors on plywood?

Paper bag flooring can be installed over plywood subfloors. However, there’s a catch. You have to prep the subfloor before laying down your kraft paper/newspaper/wallpaper pieces. This includes sanding the plywood to level it out. The floor will look best if the plywood subfloor is even.

Can you install paper bag flooring on concrete?

Just as with plywood subfloors, you can successfully install paper bag flooring on concrete subfloors. Just ensure to clean and level out the concrete surface prior to paper bag floor installation.

Additionally, don’t expect paper bag flooring installed over concrete to be as durable as paper bag flooring installed over plywood or linoleum. This is because there is a greater potential for moisture issues in concrete floors due to its porosity- and the paper won’t hold up well to water.

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