Sometimes one of the toughest decorating challenges we have when we are on a budget is replacing old, worn, or ugly flooring. If you have linoleum flooring that has seen better days, or you just want more of a natural or luxurious look in your rooms, hold on to your hat! I am going to show you how to create a DIY leather or concrete look floor from ordinary paper bags from the grocery store! Any beginning crafter or decorator can do this.

Tools Needed:

  • Paper bags or a roll of brown Kraft paper from the postal supply aisle (enough to cover your entire floor, with some overlapping)
  • Gallon of water based polyurethane (I recommend Minwax Polycrylic, or Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane) Lowes, Home Depot, or Walmart
  • Scissors
  • Old work clothes
  • Strong Knees and Back!

Step One

First off, put up the “Room Closed” sign! I did my kitchen in the evening so the last coat of sealer would have a chance to dry well before the kids and the dogs hit it in the morning. Even better if you can keep it closed off for 24 hours or more.

 Step Two

Now, clean the floor thoroughly…tsp is a great idea here, and can be found in the paint section. It is normally used on glossy paint surface, but will work well for these purposes. Rinse well. Let dry.

 Step Three

Tear your brown paper into irregular sections in a size that is easy to handle. It is important to tear, and not cut, as that will give the natural edge you need for the look. Only use the scissors to create a straight edge on some pieces to line up against cabinets, walls, or a change in flooring. Now crumple each torn piece tightly, then smooth out. This will give it texture.

 Step Four

Pour a small amount of polyurethane onto the floor where you will place your first piece, and smooth it out with a brush, although I preferred to use my hands. Lay the piece of paper down, add a little poly to the top of the paper, and smooth down. Kind of like decoupage! Now continue to lay down papers each one slightly overlapping the other. Smooth out bubbles as you go. Your hand is the best tool for this!

If you find bubbles forming underneath as the poly starts to dry, poke the bubble with a pin, add a little more poly, and smooth down. Keep smoothing, it will also flatten out after it dries and people have walked on it a bit.

Step Five

Once you finish covering the whole floor with paper, let the poly dry. If you want a darker color, you can stain this with wood stain and a soft rag at this point. Recoat the poly once each hour until you have 4 to 6 coats of poly protecting your floor. This should be allowed to dry hard, at least overnight, longer if possible.

Tips:

When you notice the floor getting dull, clean and add a maintenance coat of poly. Repairs are easily made with another torn piece of paper bag laid right over the existing treatment. Seal with poly.

Damp mop when necessary, and it should last you years! Definitely not your neighbors floor, and all for the price of some polyurethane and some hard work! Budget Decorator readers have also used this floor treatment successfully over ceramic tile and wood subflooring.



19 Comments

  1. Laurie September 14, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Were you able to coat your entire kitchen floor 5 or 6 times with a single gallon of poly?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard September 23, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Hi Laurie,
      My floor was not too large, so yes, I was… I would follow the instructions on your can for square foot coverage, but it coats thinner than paint, so it one gallon goes farther… hope that helps!

      Reply
      1. Laurie September 26, 2014 at 4:20 am

        Thank you, Kathy, it does. I’ve done a small area of my kitchen floor and I have a couple of observations.

        1.) Typical brown paper bags are the color of dark chocolate once they’ve been polyurethaned. It’s not a terrible color, but it’s VERY DARK. It makes the area I’ve done look like a dark pit from the corner of your eye so I’ve paused the project until I find something more suitable. (Which is a shame, because it took me months to save these bags.) Where does one find light colored paper bags? I’ve never seen any that were lighter than those I used.

        2.) Any folds in the original bag appear darker after the poly and show up as darker, straight lines.

        3.) Smoothing bubbles and blisters is more difficult than it seems in larger pieces, and they don’t always flatten out after the poly is dry.

        Reply
  2. Heather September 29, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Could this be painted over or atleast whitewashed?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard March 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      I believe some of our readers have painted and then sealed it, although I have never tried that…

      Reply
  3. Laurie October 3, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Kathy, what type of bag did you use for your floor?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard November 19, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Grocery bags!Heavy bags, not thin ones…

      Reply
      1. Laurie December 4, 2014 at 8:31 am

        Hmmm…. I saved standard heavy-duty bags from Whole Foods for almost a year, they appear to be the very same paper that grocery bags have always been made from. The difference in color between our two projects is significant. I’m in New England, and I wonder if the bags used in your area of the country are made of different paper than those used here.

        I’m currently exploring using a different paper altogether, and I still love this idea. I think it may just need some modifying for my purposes.

        Reply
  4. Darcie June 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I wonder if this could be done over my ugly builders-grade formica countertops? Im thinking of maybe white butcher paper might add a grey concrete look..??
    What do ya think??

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard July 9, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      I have seen it done on counters… just make sure you use a Poly or sealer that is food grade, and don’t cut directly on it! Let us know how it turns out!

      Reply
  5. Sandra Lierle August 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Just wondering if this works on concrete floors too? I have seen instructions for this but using white glue to glue it down first and then seal it with the poly! Sounds like this would glue it down tighter and probably be more durable. I am taking out all the carpet in my house and need something cheap but not look cheap. About how much does this cost a square foot, do you have any idea?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard December 14, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      We have not used it on concrete, but have heard of others doing it successfully! Let us know how it turns out!

      Reply
      1. Danielle December 17, 2015 at 4:11 am

        I’ve read tutorials for this project on concrete floors. The recommendation is to seal the concrete first and let it dry thoroughly before beginning the papering. Apparently, if you don’t seal concrete first, it’s porous nature causes all the paper to lift.

        Reply
    2. Nancy November 3, 2017 at 11:48 am

      My sister did this when her carpet wore out ( 3 dogs… yikes! ) we did the brown paper floors in the whole house. Just clean and reapply once a year. She is so happy that after 7 years she still has those floors and they look great. 😊

      Reply
  6. Vicki August 8, 2016 at 9:54 am

    The photo looks like it is a cream/off white color. I was thinking of using white kraft paper to do a white paper bag floor in my kitchen. What did you use to achieve the light color?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard September 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      I actually used brown kraft paper, like the kind you can buy for wrapping packages… Hope that helps!

      Reply
  7. Louison October 23, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Laurie, have you thought of adding a little white paint to your poly, as a white wash alternative? I would try that in the same area you already tested, without covering the whole thing, to be able to compare…

    Reply
  8. Scott November 16, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I have a kitchen with ugly ceramic tile and I was wondering if I could apply this paper bag floor over the tile and what prep would be needed?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard December 5, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      I have never put it over tile, but I would assume you would want to putty in the gritted areas first so that the surface would be smoothened not show the grout lines through the paper bag treatment. Other than that, I would think it would be the same as for any counter… Has any of our readers tried with ceramic tile?

      Reply

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