The 2nd floor’s floor is finished! I wish I could say the entire 2nd floor is finished, but we still need to re-install the baseboards and put a coat of white paint on everything that is currently white. Except the wall outlets. Those are white enough :)
We mentioned our crazy-sounding plan to put paper bag flooring down in this post. The method I used came from an excellent tutorial post at LovelyCraftyHome. One difference in my case was my concrete sub floor. I tried a few of the suggestions on LCH’s tutorial. Elmer’s glue worked perfectly for me, but Stain/Polyurethane alone did not; it would not adhere to the concrete.
Another special consideration for concrete sub floor is preparation. We had nail holes every few inches along the border of the room from the carpet tack strip. We patched those and a few low areas with Vinyl concrete patch. (It didn’t want to work very well, but we forced it to.) The paper did not adhere to patches as well as to concrete, but it was sufficient. Then we scraped the floor to remove the ridges in carpet adhesive, old drywall mud, etc. Even after being scraped level, the carpet adhesive on the concrete slab affected the color (slightly) of the paper covering it. Luckily it does not deter from the overall floor.
We used 15 ounces of Elmer’s glue for every 2.3 cups of water. You could thin the glue/water ratio down more. I do recommend using a food scale instead of a measuring cup. You just put the bowl you’re using on the scale, tare it to zero, and pour the glue straight into the container it will be used in.
Per LCH’s tutorial, I ripped the paper into pieces (I aimed for 5×7 inch rectangles), wadded them up into balls, and separated the straight edges to use along walls.
We started around the border of the room with the straight-edge pieces. Immediately after we placed the pieces, they wrinkled up. I optimistically ignored it, and luckily for me, almost everything flattened out after drying.
Some other concerns for me during this step were that you would be able to tell that I worked left-to-right around the border (can’t tell at all), that the hazy glue mess on top of everything would still be visible after drying (nope), and that my left knee would never be the same (it made it!).
See how hideous and wrinkly that mess is? It worked out pretty well in the end. I would estimate this step took 40 hours. Luckily, there were 5 of us, so we got it done in one day.
Once the glue dried (overnight), it looked like this: (Sorry for the poor picture, I only have pictures of the huge gaps at this step)
I was happy with the floor at that point, but I 100% wanted it darker. We patched the larger gaps, let the glue dry, and then spent about an hour staining the floor (2 people). We used Stain/Poly mix and ripped-up t-shirt rags. I felt exactly like Cinderella. The rags worked great. I’m still not sure about the Stain/Poly.
Everywhere that we overlapped layers of stain, there is a visible transition. In other areas, the stain looks smeared on; you can see the pattern in the floor where the rag was pushed.
My theory for the smeared areas is simply an over-soaked rag in those places; it was some of the last areas done and I was getting sloppy. As far as the overlaps; learn from my lesson. Do not overlap the stain at all. My instinct is that the stain/poly blend is less forgiving than stain when it comes to overlaps.
There were also little gaps all over the floor. The brown sharpie was too red, and the black sharpie was way off… So, I filled them in with a brown sharpie, and then put a few lines of black sharpie over the brown, and then smeared it in with my finger.
Anywhere there was a wrinkle on the edge of the paper, stain seeped under and turned it significantly darker. Note to the next person; if you don’t want sporadic darker patches, smash those wrinkles after the glue dries the first time, and glue them down again.
We tried some gel paint stripper and a toothbrush in a few of those areas to lighten up the floor.
The floor dried for 5 days after this step, mainly because we didn’t want to polyurethane the floor after work :) We used a 6″ cabinet/foam roller on a broom stick to apply the floor polyurethane (Worked like a charm). We just followed the directions on the polyurethane.
The floor dried in the sunlight much quicker during the glue step, and we wanted to avoid that during the poly. We just so happened to have some contractor paper lying around :), so we covered the sliding door while the poly dried.
The instructions specified 4+ hours to dry between coats, but it was 9 hours before the floor lost it’s tackiness for each coat we did. We got 4 coats out of the gallon of poly with some leftover for patches as needed. The polyurethane step took about 3 hours spread over 2 days.
It’s been 3 days since then, and we’re still not really walking on it. It still smells though :)
For the transition between the floor and the railing wood trim, I taped off the wood, and glued the paper right up to the wood itself. Once the poly dried, I took a razor knife and cut the paper along the joint.
For a 280 sq foot room, I used
- (most of) a 450 sq foot roll of Contractor paper ($10.98)
- 1.25 gallons of Elmer’s All purpose glue ($12.33 ea.)
- (most of) 1 qt Mini-wax Polyshades in “Mission Oak Gloss” ($11.85)
- 1 gallon of oil-based floor poly ($37.50)
We got everything from Lowe’s.
I also used the help of 3 family members (priceless) and 1 spouse (conscripted service).
That’s about $80; $.29 a square foot installed. Less than vinyl tile :)
So far, it’s a floor. You could call it faux cork floor. It’s warmer and less gritty than bare concrete. You can feel the texture of the floor through socks. I’ll post back with how it handles our 50 pound puppy. (Update; after four months, our hyperactive 50 pound dog hasn’t been able to scratch the finish on this floor. It still looks brand new.)
I think after finishing this first area, if we do it again (like those carpeted stairs, perhaps? I hate the carpet stairs) we’ll be better at it. We’ll know to crush any ridges after the glue dries, and to be very cautious with the stain.
The 2nd floor is still pending the baseboards, and another coat of white paint on all the trim. The we can finally put stuff back in here. It’s starting to look like the mood board I was aiming for months ago :)