DIY Brown Paper Floor – Part 2


I was featured on Remodelaholic

It’s done!  I could kiss someone, I’m so happy!  The carpet is finally out of the dining room, the paper floor is complete and I have put down new molding…all in time for the sweetest boy’s 9th birthday party!

I shared here, how we ended up choosing paper floors.  Now it’s time for the steps, what went WRONG, how we fixed it and the final result!

Let’s get started!!

Materials Needed:

  • Box cutter (for removing carpet)
  • Twine (for binding rolled carpet)
  • Elmer’s Glue All
  • Rit Dye in Dark Brown
  • Water Based Polyurethane – designated for floors (NOT OIL BASED)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Paint brush
  • Brown contractor’s paper
  • Stain pad
  • Extension pole (I unscrewed mine from my broom and just used that)
  • Large bowl or pan
  • Measuring cup

1.  Remove the carpet
I’ll be honest, I don’t do this part.  Remember when I told you about my demo hubby?  He is THE best!  He went to the store and got a box cutter and twine and had this step complete in about an hour!  If you have trim/baseboards that need to be removed, do that first.  Next, cut the carpet in about 3ft strips.  This allows you to roll the carpet and padding up into manageable sized rolls.  Secure the roll with twine and haul it to the trash.

2.  Prep the sub-floor

Now that the carpet is out of there, it’s time to remove the tack strips, staples and hammer down any nails sticking up.  Once that is complete, I rolled Killz over my entire floor.  This is not necessary if you don’t have any stains, but I wanted a clean slate.  It helped too when placing the paper, because the unpainted sub floor would get dyed very easily and blend in with the paper, so I didn’t realize there were some spots that were not overlapped enough.  Foreshadowing alert, this was one of my issues!  

Once the Killz dried, I went over the seams of the sub-floor with thin fiberglass mesh tape.

3.  Rip up the paper
Iron Man 3 was on, so I ripped paper while that was playing.  I won’t lie, my hands hurt!  I may wear gloves if I do this again.  I ripped pieces anywhere from 6 inches to 16 inches, then crumpled them up and laid them out flat again.  Be sure to have 2 separate piles.  One for edges and one without.  You’ll place the pieces with edges around the perimeter of the room.  It takes A LOT of paper, so when you think you finally have enough…rip up some more!  Then, get a good night’s sleep because you are going to need it.

**Please note:  There is a front and back side of the paper.  Using dye or stain will help with making it more uniform.  If you don’t use either, make sure you know which side is the front and which side is the back because one is more absorbent and it may appear splotchy depending on your paper.  This is why the test boards are important.

4.  Mix the glue/dye mixture
Put on disposable gloves (you’ll thank me later for this one).  The ratio I used for each batch of glue/dye mixture was the following:

  • 2 cups of warm water (I found that the glue dissolved better in warm water)
  • 2 cups of glue
  • 2 TBS of Rit Dye

Once I combined all of these, the dye turned the mixture purple.  I would have 100% freaked out, but I had read from Marilyn at 4 You With Love’s blog to expect this, so I kept on going.

5.  Start placing the paper
Begin in a far corner of the room and work your way out, through the doorway.  Our dining room has 2 doors, so I just made sure I didn’t block myself out of any areas.  I took each piece of paper, dunked it in the mixture long enough for it to get saturated, but not so much that it would fall apart.  Pulled it through two fingers to get any excess off and placed it on the floor.  Be sure to overlap each piece about an inch because it will dry and shrink!

After about an hour on the floor, my knees and back were killing me, so I went out in the garage and pulled out my rolling garden cart.  It’s fantastic!  You sit on it and it has wheels, so you just roll from side to side.  I love it!  I just had to make sure that I only rolled it on the exposed sub-floor and not any parts that had already been papered.

Are you ready for this?  It took 8 hours of non-stop work. I did this all myself and don’t think I could handle doing it again alone.  There were times that I wanted to quit, scream, throw all the paper and dye in the trash, punch a hole in the wall… you get the point.  It’s a lot of work… A LOT.

As the paper begins to dry, the purple fades and a beautiful dark brown color shows through.  After 8 hours, I was beginning to see the edges and certain spots take on a personality of their own, with the dye gathering in the areas where I had crinkled up the paper.  I was loving it.

Then I went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning and walked hobbled in to my dining room, I gasped.  It was BEAUTIFUL!! The floor turned out so much better than I had ever imagined! I wanted to finish it up that day, but OMG I was so sore!  I decided I would pull a Scarlett and worry about it tomorrow.  I spent the majority of the day laying down and watching movies with the sweet boy.

The next morning, I couldn’t wait to get the polyurethane on it!!!  I did see a few spots where the paper had shrunk and the white Killz floor was showing.  No problem, I thought…I’ll just mix up some extra glue/dye stuff and create a patch.  Here are all the places I put patches.


The “patches” dried a completely different (lighter) color and where the glue/dye went past the edges, it turned super dark.  I was crushed, I ruined it.  I was so mortified that I didn’t even take any pictures.  Hours of tedious labor, down the toilet.  I tried darkening it very precisely with a paint brush, but no luck.  Finally, I went to my toolbox and pulled out my box cutter, then proceeded to cut out all of the patches and original paper under those patches.  I remixed and re-papered the patches and waited overnight.  It was an improvement, but I still was not satisfied.  My hubby (being the level-headed man he is) said, “let it sit for a couple of days, think about it and move on from there.”  I love him.  🙂

6.  Apply the polyurethane

After 2 days, I decided to go ahead and put the first coat of polyurethane on the floor. If the spots were lighter…then so be it.  I was going to put a rug down anyway and no one would really notice. I read where a lot of people brush the poly on with a paint brush… there was no way I was getting back down on that floor! I used a sponge applicator made specifically for finishing floors (about $6 at Lowes) and just screwed it in to my broom handle.  It was fast and it worked perfectly!  Here’s the other thing, after the first coat of poly, it looked better!  The spots were still visible, as you can see below, but it was definitely an improvement.

I waited a full 24 hours before putting the 2nd coat of poly on because, I had an idea that I thought would work. Now that I had one full coat of polyurethane on the floor and nothing was being absorbed by the paper, what if I added some of the leftover Rit dye to my next coat poly.  And that’s exactly what I did, it blended all of the spots beautifully!  I added a 3rd coat with more dye and the patches are now, not noticeable at all.  The last two coats of polyurethane were dye-free, so that’s 5 total.

Tip:  Looking back now, I should have taken the time to sand between my first and second coat of poly. There are a couple of places on the floor that are a bit uneven where a corner of the paper must have raised up.  

7.  Wait
I waited 7 days before I moved my furniture back in to the room and when I did, I didn’t move all of it back. I really like the open feel of the room.  The dark floor and white board and batten made the room look much larger.  This also gave me time to order a rug for the space.  I fell in love with this one from Target.

After the last coat of polyurethane, I installed trim around the bottom of the board and batten.  I also bought new 2″ white blinds today and am going to put those up tomorrow.  Then I’ll be able to keep the panels open and it will show off the DIY Craftsman trim I installed around the window (it use to be all dark wood trim in this room).

All in all, I really like this floor.  I’m so glad the carpet it gone.  Would I do it again?  Yes, but I would want company so I don’t lose my mind.  I’d also NEVER patch spots with large pieces of paper, small is definitely the way to go.

Have you considered brown paper floors?  What other flooring options have you used?  As far as cost, this room is 12×12 and the total cost was less than $100!  I still had a ton of paper left over, but I used all of the glue and the polyurethane (poly was about $50).

I’m linking up from these FAB link parties:

I installed the blinds today.  Below are two of the final pics!  I am FINALLY ready for my boy’s party tomorrow.  After that, the table and rug will go back to the middle of the floor.

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  1. I'm speechless! This is awesome! After all the work, I think the waiting would be the hardest. I am curious… how does the floor level match up with the next rooms? Do you have transition pieces in place to smooth that out? What a fabulous project – you rocked it completely!!!!

  2. Thanks Jen! There is about a half inch difference in the paper floor and the wood floor in the entry. My plan is to get a piece of reducer molding and stain it to match the floor. Have you seen those? You can find them at Home Depot and Lowes. They are made specifically for transitioning uneven floors. I'd say that will be one of my next posts because I hadn't seen much on how to fix the issue, until I did a little digging.

  3. You did an amazing job! It's beautiful! Love the board and batten too.

    I've tiled a floors and the aches and pains are almost unbelievable. Not enough Tylenol in the world. 😉

    Jake's a Girl

  4. It is hard work, but oh, so worth it. Great job!

  5. The floor looks beautiful! I think I would have lost my mind, though! We are currently pulling out carpet and I'm going to have to cover the seams somehow between the kitchen tile floor and the restored hardwood floor… unfortunately the kitchen tile floor is slightly higher than the hardwood floor. I want the transition to look nice. So thanks for the idea!

  6. Yes, try the reducer molding for thresholds. You can get wooden ones that you can stain to match your floor. That's my plan for this Sunday.

  7. Truer words have never been spoken!

  8. Thank you so much!

  9. Love the floor!! You have a great beginning to your blogging career!

  10. hi can you put paper floor over tile floor?

  11. i really am being lazy. can i put paper floor over tile floor?

  12. I love your floor too. The colour is too dark for me but the effect is awesome. You seem like a younger version of me. I give anything a go and have learned a lot of skills, probably now more knowledgable than half the men population. I would like to subscribe to your blog by email but I can't find a button/link.

  13. I'm not sure. I don't know that I would try that because it would sink down into the grout lines.

  14. Thank you so much!!

  15. CleverBlonde, I have since changed my blog around a bit. I not have a subscribe button and a Facebook page. Check them out!

  16. this is utterly awesome xx

  17. Thanks so much! By the way, your before and after furniture pieces are absolutely stunning!

  18. So it's been a little while since this floor was completed. How much traffic has the floor seen and has it held up?

  19. Looks awesome! If you get inspired to do another floor, I would recommend adding dye to the kilz.

  20. Karrah,
    My gosh, it's a year later and you are still getting people contacting you! I just commented on Hometalk as well. Love the floor and I've been thinking about how to cover up the horrible floor in my apartment. I was thinking about this technique and there it was in my inbox this morning. Question, I would need the floor to be a bit lighter. Would I be able to lighten it up by using a different color dye? Or maybe no dye at all? I also have horrible back issues and I could see myself getting hurt doing this. Would I be able to put the pieces down by just letting them float to the ground and moving them with some sort of pole. Like how you did with the poly? I need a young person to do the first part LOL!

  21. It's seen a ton of traffic! We host poker parties in this room and our friends have trampled all over it, spilled things and it cleans right up. My husband has a treadmill in this room as well.

  22. If you don't add dye it will be lighter. But make sure you know which side of the paper is the top and which is the bottom. I had a friend try this, she didn't pay attention to which side she was using and didn't use dye, now her floor has light and dark patches. I would not recommend using a pole, you have to lay these pieces, flatten them out and make sure they stick. You may want to recruit some neighbor kids!

  23. This looks awesome! How would you clean and care for this floor?
    Would it have been a good thing to use some of the underlayment? It is cheap, but covers a multitude of things, and help the leveling from floor to floor.

  24. I just mop it with my steam mop!

  25. Your floors turned out great! I did my kitchen floor two years ago . The only thing I did different was to put the dye in the poly and not the glue mixture. With three dogs they still look great.

  26. What would you now recommend doing for the paper that peeled up?

    • Mrs. Do It Herself says:

      The great thing about this technique is that you can patch it and re-polyurethane it. If the pieces are coming up and you can simply wet them and glue back down, then poly, that may be an option as well. Otherwise, I’d cut out the pieces that are coming up and patch.

  27. Hi, hope you still are taking questions on this topic. We did the paper floor technique a few years back in a house we don’t own anymore. We did the kitchen, a small full bath, and a very small half bath. We loved the look of it. It held up best in the two bathrooms, I guess because we didn’t really walk on them quite as much. In the kitchen, after about a year water spots would show up if we accidentally splashed water on the floor from the sink. We put on more polyurethane, but after many coats still never reached a level where the water spots didn’t show up. I’m considering doing this type of floor in the one bathroom of our current house. I’m wondering how you feel about the method now. Do you still have the paper floor? Would you do anything different? Thanks so much, and glad to find your blog.

    • Mrs. Do It Herself says:

      What kind of poly did you use? I had my floors for about a year and a half and they held up great… even when my fur-babies decided to pee on them. They cleaned up beautifully and I never had an issue. The Varathane that I used (picture in the post above) was amazing.. be sure to use waterbased.