Paper Bag Floors That Look Like Wood. Paper bag floors are found all over the internet in a variety of styles & colours. They are surprisingly durable considering what they are made of… brown paper. Despite their name, paper bag floors are often constructed using a roll of brown builder’s paper or craft paper, rather than a bunch of recycled brown shopping bags. Perhaps in it’s earliest days paper bag flooring was created by those grocery bags, but these days, people mostly stick to a super cheap, roll of brown kraft or builders paper.
Why attempt this crazy project anyway? There are many reasons as far as I’m concerned. In this article I will cover a few of my top reasons… For me, the low cost hit me right away. You mean I can actually create a floor that looks that good, for that little? Yeah… that was the carrot for me. I had to research this to see if it were really true. Much to my surprise, I was pleasantly convinced that it wasn’t just a myth. Paper bag floors were real, cheap and they looked great. When you consider the low cost of applying these floors… there is nothing that even comes close, unless of course you plan to just slap a coat of paint on plywood… and for most people, that’s a no go.
Right away I was struck by the diversity in the styles that people created. Each floor looked similar, but they had their own personal style. I liked the character that these floors gave. That was a selling piece for me too… usually character comes at a steep price. My paper bag floor, the first attempt, was my entrance… there were old, loose, crappy tiles in my entrance that desperately cried to be torn up. I looked into new tiles and before I knew it that project would have cost me big time. I wasn’t prepared to do that. My paper bag floors, once completed, as well as the two sets of stairs (our home is a split entrance), cost me a whopping $60 in materials (100 sq’ + 12, 4′ step tops). Wow! As of now, that flooring has been in for almost 2 1/2 years and it’s still holding up fantastically. It’s crazy durable. We live in Canada and the winters are unforgiving. Snowy boots are often stomped in on the floors, school bags are tossed on it, equipment bags are thrown on it… and it holds up. We have four children and a multitude of friend traffic that abuse these floors regularly and they are surpassing our expectations, by far.
After the floors in our entrance survived almost a year, without a hitch, my wheels started turning again… I was tired of looking at the hideous, blue, vinyl tiles that were laden all over our lower level since we moved in. This included four bedrooms and a long hall way, about 800 sq.’ in total. I did consider painting them, but I just figured it wouldn’t have the durability & character I was looking for. I really liked my entrance floor but my vision for lower level space included wood… THEN it happened. I started to research and brainstorm how I could create a faux wood floor, with paper. After hours and hours of digging and researching I constructed a plan.
I decided to cut wood planks (out of brown builder paper) 5″ wide, painted a faux wood grain on them (this was actually fun), laid them as I did in my entrance, with the glue, mod podgy mixture. I applied them in a staggered way to simulate wood floors and by golly, it looked dang good. I didn’t stop there, I then stained them to look even more authentic and achieve a deeper tone. Once that dried, I topped it off with 7 coats of water based varathane (don’t freak out… that stuff is water based and it dries wicked fast.). Bam! It was the cherry on top. That stuff smoothed out my creation and gave it the hard finish… they say “diamond hard” finish I was going for.
Now… the flooring downstairs has been in for about a year and a half. They are super cool and many people are surprised it’s created with paper… now don’t get me wrong; I don’t tell everyone that walks in, what they’re standing on. I’m happy they turned out so well, look do good and withstand such high traffic. The cost to install was uber cheap and the durability is uber high so it’s a win/win, two thumbs up… whatever you want to call it… I recommend it.
We have been remodeling houses for over 6 years and have been doing DYI projects for years. One of the biggest expenses with any remodel is the flooring. So when you are looking for a flooring product you look at the cost and durability of a flooring material. The usual flooring products are carpet, wood floors, vinyl and ceramic tiles.With those products in mind, the easiest to use is carpet because it it quick and not too expensive. When we first started out we used carpet. The problem with carpet is that the tenants would destroy the carpet and you could expect maybe 2-3 years out of it depending on the wear , you may get lucky and it will last longer.
On one of the first houses that we renovated we put carpet in it. It was a single story house with a concrete slab floor. The tenants decided not to pay and we had to evict them. After we got them out we went to change the locks and inspect the property. We went into the living room and looked at the floor. Well the tenants decided that they wanted to have what looked like a cook out on inside of the house. They had burned a hole through the carpet to the concrete floor.
We had just spent like $1000 to carpet this house six months earlier. So we were not happy at all. At that point I decided that we need to look to alternatives to carpet. We looked at vinyl and ceramic but we were concerned that the same thing could happen to that. We wanted something that was durable but inexpensive. we meet another investor that had used OSB on the floor.
OSB is that chip board that Lowes or Home Depot sells in the building department. He glued it down,sanded it and put a couple of coats of polyeurathane on it. That wasn’t a bad idea at all but the problem was he did it over a plywood floor and we guess it glued down easy. We were looking at a concrete floor and saw that gluing that down would be a big hassle. Then of course it would have to be sanded and then sealed, so that involved a lot of work. The main thing that we didn’t like was that it was UGLY!
When you are looking to get renters into a house an ugly floor does not cut it, so we decided that wasn’t the way to go. I thought about it for a while and was discussing it with a guy that worked at Lowes and we were brainstorming ideas and he said that he went to a bar down in Fort Lauderdale that had used brown paper bags on the floor.
He said that he had been going to that bar every time he visits and that the place got lots of foot traffic. I figured that if a bar used it then it will have durability. I asked the guy how it was done and he didn’t know. At that point I was intrigued and decided to do some experimenting. I took pieces of plywood and started to try different methods of using the paper bags and after many trials I finally got it to a working process. It wasn’t hard to do, you just have to watch out for a few things, so to get it the look right took the most time of all. I must have cut up 3 sheets of plywood in 2×2 pieces and tried a different approach every time. I wanted it to look cool, with a faux effect, I finally figured out how to do it to make it look like marble.
We tried lots of different bonding agents and finally got one that worked great and gave us durability and flexibility to adapt to changing temperatures without cracking with a nice pattern to it. The very first floor that we did was with brown grocer parer bags, that is why we called it the paper bag flooring. We also tried lots of different papers besides paper bags to see what type and thicknesses worked best.
When we did the first one we added up our material cost and it was very cost effective. We bought a bundle of heavy duty brown paper bags from a paper distributor and the rest from Lowes. Here’s an over view of the costs:
Paper Bags $ 45
Bonding agent/glue $ 40
Urethane $ 80
Miscs. $ 30
Total= $ 195
We used the paper bags as well as several other papers so if you can’t get paper bags in quantity without printing on them, there are alternatives. We mentioned that because most paper supply companies won’t sell to you unless you have an account with them and there is no point to open up an account for one project. We had very good success with kraft paper in rolls.
We ended up doing about 900 square feet on that first project with the materials mentioned above. After we were all done, the test was when we were showing the house for rent. We ended up showing it about five time before we got a qualified tenant. Everybody that we showed it to loved the look. That most important feedback we got was from the first tenant, she said that she grew up with wood floors and loved that cool hard wood on her feet with the smooth urethane floors and that this was as close as you can get without hard wood floors!
She said it felt very nice to walk on and was very smooth and soft and it was as hard as a concrete floor! So it was very durable. After that we did all of our floors that way, we did it over concrete as well as plywood. After she moved out 2 years later, we didn’t even need to do anything to fix it. Well not really, there was a couple oh scrapes it it from a desk that was dragged on it, but we repaired it very easy ! we just re-did that spot. That is so much easier than a whole house.
We ended up doing over 15 houses that way and never had a complaint. We ended up doing several other projects with this style of covering, we did walls as well as ceilings. We had one home owner we met put it in a wine cellar and it gave the floors a rich brown marble effect that contrasted the wine bottles.
So this is a multifaceted decorating medium, we called it the “faux” paper decorating method and is only limited to your imagination.
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