My Brown Paper Bag Floor

My Brown Paper Bag Floor

Tim and I had a ceramic tile floor laid in our kitchen as a wedding gift from a friend.  Although this had been his trade for 25 years, for some reason our tile didn’t adhere well and soon cracked.  We lived with cracked tile for years, then finally plywood!  I know it’s strange, but I just didn’t know what I wanted and everything we looked at was $3,000!  It’s a huge commitment when you don’t know what you want!

One day I searched DIY inexpensive kitchen floors and I found Paper Bag floors.  I fell in love with them, but wasn’t sure how well it would do, especially in a kitchen. I researched more, and finally decided to do it.

There are many tutorials and lots of examples.   Here is one that most people follow.  We did a few things a little different and I’ll explain.

bagfloor My Brown Paper Bag Floor

Floor Prep Is Important!

Preparing the floor is one of the most important things your can do!  We had dried adhesive on the floor from the original tile and grease and other stains from years of working in the kitchen.  First pull off all your trim Tim sanded the entire floor with a belt sander and even replaced a small square of underlayment where water had wrinkled it.  If you have mold or anything that won’t come up, be sure to paint Kilz over it to seal it in.

Now comes the fun part!  Tim tore all the paper for me and really worked to get interesting shapes.  I used larger pieces so it would look more like stones.   IMPORTANT:  The straight edges work great on the wall edge, but everywhere else must be torn edges so it blends and sticks well.

– I don’t know if there is a right or wrong side to large rolls of Kraft paper, but we did draw a pencil line on the inner side of the paper, assuming if there was a back side, that was it.  That way all the same side was showing on the floor.

The ONLY local store I found that sold gallons of Elmer’s glue was at Lowes.  Michaels, Home Depot, & Hobby Lobby didn’t carry gallons, and you do want the gallon size!

floorprep4 My Brown Paper Bag Floor

Almost Like Puzzle Pieces!

Most tutorials will tell you to crumple and dip abut 5 pieces at a time, take them out, and have them ready.  Since I was going for a larger stone look, I kept my pieces dry, looked for one that I thought fit well, then crumpled, dipped, squeezed, and laid it down.  Then I looked for the next shape that fit well.  It was like a puzzle!

I also brushed straight glue on the floor, before laying the paper down, instead of brushing the water and glue mix.  I think it helped it stick better!

– Be prepared!  It hurts your back and knees!  You also get full of glue, so wear old clothes.

floorprep5 My Brown Paper Bag Floor

It Will Bubble!

Just keep gluing and laying down paper.  It doesn’t have to be done all at one time.  I have a big room and it took two days to paper.  The paper will wrinkle and bubble as it drys!  This is normal, DO NOT TRY TO FIX IT!   When it drys it flattens and drys hard and tight on the floor.

It goes fairly quickly and you will soon see your floor taking shape!  We did have to vacuum before starting each time.  With dogs in the house, the hair just seem to keep finding it’s way onto the floor.

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Lots of Gluing!


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Whew! Paper Is Done!








When the papering was done, I waited until the next night, about 24 hours to stain.  I liked the color of the plain paper, but since we have light logs, I really wanted a dark floor.  I chose Minwax Dark Walnut.  Oil based is what must be used.  I don’t know why, I just followed what everyone else said!

I really thought it would be best to get on hands and knees and brush it on and wipe it off exactly the way I wanted too.  However, after reading in large rooms the stain dries to fast and will leave lines between areas.  So we used the staining block and extension pole.

bagfloor2 My Brown Paper Bag Floor

Dark Walnut Stain

Staining was easy.  I did have dark edge marks from my applicator.  I’m not too worried about them though.  I tried feathering in arch motions, and there were still some.  We just call things like that “character” and move on.  I worked my way out of the room and called it a night.  At night it looked really dark, but I knew the day would be different and polyurethane would bring out more colors.

Be sure to let your stain a minimum of 24 hours.  It will be tacky, even then.

Time for Polyurethane!

We put socks on, and zip lock bags ties at the ankles, as the socks alone were leaving lint.  Once again, it was necessary to vacuum.  Where does all that come from??  We have a central vacuum, so we used the hose and crevice tool to pick up what was needed.  Do not run a regular vacuum over the floor at this point as it could leave marks in the stain.

Follow this one suggested tip – get a thin coat of poly on the floor and let it dry.  Then worry about cutting in around walls and trim when you can walk on the floor.  You will be using water based poly, so it dries in two hours or less.

I had to vacuum in between coats, you may not have to hopefully!

I did have one part that was cloudy for a reason that I don’t know.  After two coats of poly, it was starting to bother me.  I applied stain over the poly on the cloudy part and let it dry.  After the next coat of poly, there was no more cloudy spot!  This is what is looks like after three coats of poly.

floorpoly1 My Brown Paper Bag Floor

3 Coats of Poly

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Love the Colors

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Looks Like Stone!

bagfloor12 My Brown Paper Bag Floor

Grooves Add Character

Our plywood underlayment was pretty worn from being exposed for so many years.  It had lots of grooves and worn spots in some areas.  They don’t bother me, I think it adds to the character!

Whoops!  Everything was looking awesome and the last coat of poly dried rather cloudy – ugh!

We got on hands and knees and wiped down the entire floor with mineral spirits.  I guess that took enough of the finish off and made the floor really clean.  I applied one more coat of poly and it has turned out beautiful!
UPDATE:  The floor has been down a couple months.  It is in a high traffic area with a house full of people and pets.  It has been scraped when putting the oven back in, dogs claws, and not sure what else.  However, it is an easy fix!

At first I was a little scared, but I just sanded a little and brushed multiple layers of poly over the scratch, letting it dry in between layers.  Good as new!

I did make the mistake of not stirring the poly enough during initial application so I am getting little white marks that are almost like a blister.  No worry on those either!  Peel the white off, sand the edges, and poly some more!

Do I still love my floor?  It takes a little TLC, but I still absolutely love it!

SECOND UPDATE:  Oh No, Scratches on My Brown Paper Bag floor!

PinExt My Brown Paper Bag Floor


  1. Looks great!! Thank you for the link back. You did a beautiful job, and I’m so happy you are pleased with the results!

  2. THANK-YOU! I have found the answer to my exact same problem! We ripped the carpet out and put down laminate which bubbled up. I have been on plywood for a while b/c I couldn’t figure a not so expensive flooring I liked.

    • Ha ha, we had plywood for years! I just didn’t know what I wanted.

  3. Your floor is gorgeous. I have linoleum in my kitchen and bathrooms, can this process be put over linoleum?

  4. I would think so. Try it out in a small room like the bathroom to see.

  5. This floor is beyond awesome!!!!! I wish I’d had this information a long time ago!! It is beautiful and worth every second of your work!!

    • Thanks, yes I still love it. I had no idea how it would turn out, but I would do it again. I am going to do my hall next.

  6. This looks great and I love that you went dark. It is a really nice contrast with the walls. I think the cloudiness came from using a water-based poly over an oil based stain. Usually it is best to either do both the same (oil over oil or water over water) or do oil based over water based. Not sure why, I am sure it has something to do with the chemicals. I am glad it went away though. because that would have been a real drag.

    It looks amazing!

    • Thanks! All the tutorials I read said to make sure to use water based poly even over oil. I really only had a problem with cloudiness when I forgot to stir it. That is important to do throughout the process.

  7. Don’t use water base poly and you won’t have the cloudy problem. The water base is great for painted stuff as it dries clear with no amber tint but with the wood stain the amber doesn’t matter and a marine spar or oil base varathane will be way more durable and truly water proof–you can even use it on a porch or deck. I’ve had it in my farm kitchen for years and years and it wears forever.

    • Everything I read said use water base poly. I also read that if you don’t stir it frequently, that is when the cloudiness happens. I may try the oil base when I can open all the windows!

  8. LOVE the job you’ve done!!! And the helpful hints, too.

    I’d like to do this in planks. The idea is NOT to cut them into strips but glue the paper onto the floor first and then use a heavy marker for the plank out lines.

    What do you think …

  9. That looks awesome. I am curious can this be done on concrete floors?

  10. just curious . i applies my first thin layer of water base poly and there is some new bubbling in the paper . This was not there after the papering and staining. Any suggestions?

  11. Love the look… fact, it looks much like mine, which is 1/4″ vinyl and cost $1200, including a new sub-floor using white plywood. I absolutely love it!! I wanted something that would hold up over time, and this is the one. I’m not sure yours would, especially with my husband, who is really tough on floors. Maybe in a less trafficked area, I would consider trying it – and I do have a room like that. Thanks for sharing this idea!!!


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