Nick and I have dreamed of getting rid of the carpet in our house since before we moved in. As two allergy-ridden nerds, we are fans of anything that keeps dust and dander from building up in our house. We really like the way stained concrete looks but were not excited about the money we'd have to spend on the whole process (at least $700 after all the treatment and staining).
So when I saw this on pinterest:
This beautiful floor is made of stained brown craft paper and lots of polyurethane. I did a little research and found that this was not a completely uncommon way to fancify your floor. I showed a few of my favorite examples to Nick, and we decided to give it a go. (It was actually decided for us when water seeped in during the storms we had a few weeks ago and caused the tack boards holding down the carpet in our living room to rot.)
We decided to try it out on the bathroom first to make sure we liked it before committing to a more visible space. The bathroom took barely any time (about 12 hours combined including dry-time); so last weekend, we set out to tackle the living room. I received several requests to post a tutorial, so here goes!
NOTE: The pictures I am posting are mostly of the bathroom. I will post pictures of the living room soon, but we have to replace our baseboards first. There's now a half inch gap between the floor and the baseboards since we pulled up the carpet.
You will need:
-brown craft paper - we used about 1 & 1/8 of a roll on both rooms
-all purpose glue - we used a gallon of elmer's on both rooms
-water-based polyurethane (glossy will work, but satin is more forgiving) - we used 3 gallons on both rooms
-water-based wood stain - we didn't even use an entire gallon on both rooms
-face mask if you are working with carpet and have allergies. Seriously. It will save you lots of sniffles.
1.) If you have carpet, rip it out with all the joy of a kid in a candy store. Pry up the tack boards, and fill in any holes and craters with putty. If you have linoleum or tile, you can glue your paper right on top of it. We left the linoleum in the bathroom, but did have to rip up some surprise linoleum that was under the carpet in the living room.
|Surprise linoleum nightmare.|
|My wonderful husband scraping up the surprise linoleum... Took him FOUR HOURS. No Bueno.|
|Make sure you fill in ALL the craters. We missed a couple small ones, and they are really visible under the brown paper.|
|Casualty of me playing it fast and loose with the hammer whilst prying up tack boards. :( Luckily, we found some spare tile in the attic! Wee-hoo!|
2.) Vacuum and mop your floor thoroughly. Apply painter's tape to the baseboards/carpet/tile that borders your work area.
3.) Tear up your brown craft paper, and crumple up the pieces. It's nice if you have an adorable helper. :)
Separate your paper into regular pieces, edges, and corners (like a puzzle). We did 6-8 sq. in. pieces in the bathroom and a variety of sizes in the living room (anywhere from 6 sq. in. to 18 sq. in.). If the room is bigger: trust me, you'll want to use bigger pieces. We also didn't stick to just squares. We tore a variety of shapes. Obviously, go with whatever floats your boat.
4.) Mix glue with water in a big container using the ratio of 1 cup of glue for every 3 cups of water.
5.) Grab your polyurethane, a paint brush or roller, your glue mixture, and your torn paper. You are now ready to roll. Of course, you should be wearing clothes that you don't mind ruining. :) I also recommend some good tunage and opening a window or two. The polyurethane can give you a nasty headache.
6.) Toss a couple of your paper balls into your bowl of glue mixture. Stir them around a bit to ensure they are thoroughly coated, and let them soak for a few seconds so that the glue mixture really saturates the paper.
7.) Paint a small area of your floor with the polyurethane.
8.) Squeeze the excess glue mixture from your paper ball, un-crumple it, and smooth it down onto the wet polyurethane. (just like paper mache) Make sure to remove as many air bubbles as you can. If you miss an air bubble, stick it with a needle and squeeze out the air while the paper is still wet. Don't worry if your paper rips! Just cover the tear with another piece of paper.
Please note, the two bowls of glue mixture you see below were WAY more than we needed for the bathroom. So don't think you need to make quite that much if you're doing a small room.
|I also would not recommend starting in the middle of the room, but Nick spilled some polyurethane. We only put down enough paper to cover the spill, and then we started at the back end of the bathroom and worked our way toward the door.|
9.) After your floor is covered, allow the paper to dry. Some of the tutorials I read said you needed to wait 24 hours for the paper to dry; but we aimed a couple of fans at our floor, and it dried in about 4 hours.
|Still wet & with hopping spots. Although "hopping spots" is very misleading. They were "stepping spots" for Nick and "LEAPING spots" for me.|
|Dry & post hopping spots|
10.) If you are going to stain your paper, now is the time. Again, make sure you have some ventilation because stain has a very strong smell. Here is something I learned about stain: it stains - your skin in particular. I definitely recommend using a water-based stain. The oil-based stain is really hard to clean up and takes FOREVER to dry. I still have stain on my legs, which I'm okay with because I rarely wear mini-skirts to work. :)
We ended up applying our first coat of polyurethane before the stain was completely dry which worked out fine. (Polyurethane dries FAST, so it sealed up the wet stain in about an hour.) But I had to wear a pair of my favorite, old flip flops that no longer have a discernible tread so that I could walk on the damp, sticky stain to apply the polyurethane without leaving prints.
|sad day for a very loyal pair of flip flops|
|Hopping spot fail.|
11.) Once your stain is dry (or dry enough to work with), apply a coat of polyurethane. The directions on the polyurethane recommended waiting two hours between coats; but again, we aimed fans at the floor and waited 30 minutes to an hour each time. We were only able to work after Kade went to bed, so we were on a tight schedule!
ANOTHER WARNING: If you are using a roller, make sure to apply a few coats around the edges of your floor using a brush or a mini roller to really seal it up - ESPECIALLY in the bathroom. The big roller leaves about a quarter inch around the baseboards uncovered.
We did eight coats of polyurethane in the bathroom to account for post-shower water droplets and seven coats in the living room. Make sure the polyurethane is completely dry before you put any furniture on it - about 48 hours after you apply the last coat. (You can walk on it before then, but avoid pivoting as this can lead to unsightly swirls in your poly. If you think I'm being funny, come visit and I'll show you my toe swirl.) If your furniture is heavy, use wood-floor-friendly furniture sliders (you can buy them at Lowe's) or towels.
12.) Once your floor is dry, use an exacto-knife or a box cutter to break any seals that the polyurethane may have formed between the painter's tape and the floor. If you don't, this might happen:
|Luckily, a little polyurethane fixed that right up!|
13.) Touch up any spots on your baseboards, walls, etc. where stain seeped through.
|Very Bare Living Room|
The final verdict: I LOVE IT!
The supplies for both rooms only cost about $200 (including the linoleum scraper, the filler putty, the caulk and caulk gun used to seal the leak in the living room, two cans of glue remover, and the wood-floor-friendly furniture sliders), and it looks awesome.
And the upkeep is so simple: if it tears, we'll slap on another piece of paper (and stain and poly). If it starts to dull, we'll slap on another coat of polyurethane. How wonderful is that?
However, I really can't tell you enough how much more pleasant of an experience this would have been had we used water-based stain. In fact, I'm so bitter at the oil-based stain that we're not even going to stain the hallway. (We were already planning on putting down paper floor in the hallway, but we fully committed to it after I spilled stain on the carpet. Oops.)
I'm just not willing to mess with water-based stain even though I'm positive it would be a much better experience. The oil-based stain is sticky, and it smells - well, like oil, and it is so hard to clean up. There are little stain finger prints all over our house; and while it comes off of many surfaces, it doesn't come off easily.
As with any project, there were unforeseen challenges (ie. the surprise linoleum, the insane amount of dust that resulted from scraping up the surprise linoleum, the fact that the baseboards no longer reach the floor now that the carpet is gone, the broken tile in the dining room). But in the end, I am 100% satisfied with this project. It was a big-time money saver and looks fantastic - a HUGE improvement over that nasty, off-white carpet that came with our house.
NOTE: I'm convinced that carpet is one of the worst inventions of all time. And this is coming from a girl who spent money on this:
I will take and post better pictures with an actual camera after we get the living room set up again. We currently have a sick baby (sad day) and haven't had the energy to dust off all the furniture and put it back in the living room. Seriously, look at this face.
Heart-breaking. Good thing we have the beautiful new floors to comfort us. :)