Introduction: Paper Bag Floors

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Create the look of a custom floor in no time with nearly no expense! I did not create this technique, you can find tons of references to it via a quick internet search. However, never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think the end result would look as good as it does. 

There are loads of variations you can do.
  1. You can stain (or tint) individual pieces of paper.
  2. You can use different KINDS of paper (magazine pages, photocopied pictures, the only limit is your imagination).
  3. You can use other materials; fabric, tiles, whatever. 
  4. By controlling the size and shape of your paper pieces, you can create just about any look you want. Tile, stone, cork, et cetera.
Since this is a basic découpage technique, you can use this on floors, furniture, just about anywhere. If you're looking for a super-flush finish, you can omit the polyurethane and use polymer resin. (But, that would be a different Instructable.)

Step 1: Supplies Needed

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You will need:
  1. Paper Bags (If you want a more uniform look, you can buy rolls of craft paper. Personally, I liked the look of collecting lots of different bags from different stores. It gave different variations to the final project.)
  2. Polyurethane
  3. White Glue
  4. Water
  5. Tape
  6. Paintbrushes (The cheaper the better, we don't need fine brushes for this project.)
  7. (Once again, the cat is optional, be prepared to sacrifice some of your paper balls to give yourself some peace if you choose to use one.)

Step 2: Prepare Your Surface

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I did two bathroom floors. Fortunately, these are both more along the lines of "water closets" so the space was fairly small. 
On the "taupe" floor, I removed the peel and stick tiles completely.
On the checkerboard floor (also peel and stick) I couldn't get the tiles to come loose, so I went over the top of them. Fortunately, they were not "textured" tiles and the process worked well.

So, either remove the tiles or not, then clean your surface. When all is dry, cover the floor in a coat of polyurethane. Now you are ready to begin the tedious part. 

(Pro Tip: DO NOT polyurethane the paper, it turns the paper "crispy" and translucent, and you don't want that, just trust me.)

Step 3: Prep Your Paper

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If you have Tendinitis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, enlist help. (I'm not kidding.)
  1. Rip your paper into small pieces. I tried to use the pieces that didn't have any print or only had light print. (Be sure to put the print side down on your floor, unless you want it facing up.)
  2. Separate your pieces with straight edges from the pieces that are non-edged. 
  3. Put on a show, or a movie, or better yet hit that entire season on Netflix you've been meaning to catch up on. (You'll be here awhile, unless you can sucker in some minions. If you have kids, even better. I've found the cats and the dog really don't cooperate well when given tasks.)
  4. Crumple every piece.
  5. Straighten every piece out and then crumple it again.
  6. Straighten every piece out and then crumple it one more time, just for good measure. 
  7. Massage your hands, you deserve it!

Step 4: Remember How to Découpage?

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This is where the fun starts!
  1. Tape off your floorboards, counters, anywhere you DON'T want to get messy. 
  2. Take your white glue and mix it 50/50 with water (the stuff from the tap is fine) and blend it well.
  3. Using a paintbrush, "paint" the back of your first piece of paper with the glue (découpage) mixture. (Don't start with the edge pieces, start with the "floating stones" first.)
  4. Place your paper where you want it on the floor and paint over the top of it with the découpage mixture. 
  5. Repeat until you have covered the floor, but don't have any overlapping "stones" on the floor. 
  6. Wait for it to dry.
  7. Once dry, give it a coat of polyurethane.
(Notice the "texture" the crumpling gives the "stones.")

(Once Again.... Pro Tip: DO NOT polyurethane the paper, it turns the paper "crispy" and translucent, and you don't want that.)

Step 5: Let's Do the Time Warp Again...

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So, that thing you did in the last step, without overlapping? Now that it's dry, overlap it!
  1. Don't be shy with your glue mix!
  2. Let it dry.

Step 6: Make That Floor "shine Like the Top of the Chrysler Building!"

Picture of Make That Floor "shine Like the Top of the Chrysler Building!"
Almost there...
  1. Polyurethane your (now dry) paper floor.
  2. When that coat is dry, do it again.
  3. And then... When that coat is dry, do it again.
  4. And, maybe, just for good measure... When that coat is dry, do it again.
  5. Maybe even one more time, especially if you're doing this in a kitchen or bathroom.
  6. Also, just ONE additional coat; well, trust me when I say, it really wouldn't hurt anything.
Yes, I know I have more than one MASSIVELY straight-edged piece right at the front of this picture. (Don't follow my lead, thank goodness the floor mat covers it!)

Step 7: Step Back and Enjoy Your New Floors

Picture of Step Back and Enjoy Your New Floors

Just some before and after shots to give you a better idea of the change. 


jtysinger (author)2015-02-05

I just did mine in the rose colored paper and it looks amazing! I just need to let the spots I patched dry and polyurethane it!! Kind of looks like mahogany or marble... or both... lol

Nsaneldy (author)jtysinger2016-06-01

This post is over a year old, but I hope jtysinger gets this...

what type of paper did you use? This is absolutely stunning!

I LOVE IT!!! It looks fantastic! Great job and thank you for sharing it. :)

lwbuchholz (author)2016-05-23

I have seen this done but not with glue. The person used the poly and tinted it and soaked the paper in the poly then put it down. Then squeegeed it out and let it dry well then poly over it all. It might eliminate some to the problem I have seen in the comments below. I don't remember if the poly was thinned for the paper placement but it might be worth experimenting.

BridgetL7 (author)2016-03-27

Gonna have to try this! You did a great job & thanks for passing it on!

IsaacV1 (author)2015-06-03

That came out pretty dang cool. I might have to give it a shot in my garage when I finally get my lazy butt out there to redo the flooring.

chumbug34 (author)2015-03-13

hmmmm gives me idea for sheets of music!!

If you have time to bring those ideas to life, I'd love to see it! :)

Faultytooth (author)2014-11-22

I am going to have a go at this. I've been wanting a unique style of floor for a small WC. Instead of paper bags though I'm going to use the pages from comic books, larger pieces to allow for some of the page to be read.

I'd love to see your final project. :)

Still not got round to doing this yet. It's proofing to be more difficult than I expected to get hold of old fashioned comics. Not given up hope though.

Have you considered scanning and printing them? I don't know if it would have the same look, but it might work. Just a thought.

good idea

I agree! I hope Faultytooth is able to share some pictures when it's finished. :)

Bookrestore (author)2015-01-23

this is a very cool idea! I've laid carpet, tile, hardwood, concrete - marble and Corean counters and shower installations and this strikes me as very clever! Perfect and infinitely repairable for a rental property floor that you know will require repairing between every rentor (no one treats your property like you...(?).

I have only one note of experiential caution now that I was in such a hurry to get a place done.. That is simply.. 'Don't try to do ALL THE BATHROOMS at the same time!!!' You end up spending an inappropriate amount of time in potty runs to nearby shops and fast food places... (Oops! First time mistake)

Ha! Great advice! Fortunately, we weren't in a hurry when I took this project on. I was able to do one bath at a time.

Lee Wilkerson (author)2015-01-04

I had heard of people texturing walls with paper bags before (looks like leather), but not floors. Great Idea.

Lee the Geek

Thank you!

attyschack (author)2015-01-04

Did this on our kitchen floor a few years ago. It looked great for a while but didn't remain waterproof. Even though we thoroughly applied many layers of urethane, I think that small particles under foot create pinholes. Any moisture on the floor finds its way to the paper underneath which then softens the paper under the urethane. We ended up replacing the floor with ceramic tile. I wouldn't suggest this for a floor that gets any real foot traffic and that has any exposure to water or moisture unless you're willing to take the risk that it won't hold up more than a few months. It could work better and look great on a wall. Wrinkling the paper up and then smoothing it out when applying it can create a surface that looks like leather.

Thanks for the feedback. We had this floor for over a year before selling the house. Fortunately we didn't have the same problems you mentioned. I haven't heard from the new owners about any issues either. (Which is good, since they have two little boys and a baby.)

Cheese Queen (author)2015-01-04

4 points: 1) it is not necessary to do the initial glue-down in more than one step. Do it all at once, laying down your paper so it overlaps but don't make a discernible pattern with it. Large pieces alternate with small, squarish with triangular-ish, and so forth.

2) Don't bother to crumple your paper before hand; crumple it AFTER you've wet it with the glue mixture; much easier. Rather than a brush, I prefer to have a container of the 50:50 glue and water mix and dip the paper, then wipe off excess. Don't need to be super careful at this point, more glue is better (to a point)

3) Make sure the subfloor is as smooth as humanly possible; every tiny bump or seam will show through.

4) Give the floor at least 24 hours to dry completely before putting on the first coat of polyurathane.

Your floor will turn out gorgeous!

Thanks for the tips. If I have an opportunity to do this again, I'll try them out. :)

alice.buchanan.79 (author)2014-09-25

Love this idea. I think I am going to have to do my floors in this fashion. I have carpet at this time and I hate it, but this would be so neat to do.

I loved it and the new owners thought it was fantastic as well.

alice.buchanan.79 (author)2014-09-25

I am going to try this. I love these floors. I wonder if you could make the floor a little dark and then maybe do a couple walls lighter in this. Or maybe do the half way up the wall thing matching the floor I am thinking of maybe trying to do that.

That sounds great! Please share photos if you like your results.

oilitright (author)2014-09-21

I'm thinking of doing this on the floor of the tack room. The cold hard concrete look and hiding it for little cost would be great. Now all I got to do is get up enough steak to clear out a couple tons of stuff. Any thoughts on how to do this one section at a time that way I could just move stuff around.

It should work as long as you do a little bit of overlay between sections to mask the transitions.

sabu.dawdy (author)2014-05-07

this is marvelous

Thank you! :)

Spyridoula Nemesis (author)2014-03-31

Best of luck to you. It's a tool that I've always coveted, but I've never been able to buy. It would be an amazing prize to win!

Spyridoula Nemesis (author)2014-03-29

Thank you, I was very excited when I found out! I'm keeping my fingers crossed and thinking positive thoughts! :)

keitre (author)2014-03-28

how would the glue and paper react on cold or moist? i had tried white glue before on my guitar and every time it would rain hard outside, the dried glue turns to white.

What did you use to seal the glue after it dried the first time? White glue is essentially hygroscopic, for lack of a better term. It needs to be sealed otherwise it will react with water and moisture. That's why I used the polyurethane in this project over the dried glue.

Doc_Cottom (author)2014-03-25

I have a massive collection of COBAL code I wrote, wonder how that would look on my home office floor?

Haha! I would say that it would look "appropriate." But seriously, I think you should do it! Please send me a picture if you do!

yodaandmoody made it! (author)2014-03-26

My Wife did this just a few weeks ago in our bathroom. I helped her finish the poly on the paper bags. We totally love the look and are currently planning to extend it into our bedroom in conjunction with a Murphy bed project. only difference we did was due to the wife's allergies i choose a water-based poly as it was easier to clean up between coats. we applied 5 coats just because it was in a bathroom. Great job.

Awesome! It looks great! Thank you so much for sharing! :)

rlove4 (author)2014-03-25

great result Spyridoula Nemesis , I wonder how this would work with Autumn leaves because it would look fantastic. thanks for the inspiration - not that I have any plans for such a project, it's been "filed" away for later though.

Thank you!

Hmmmm, I'm not sure how it would work on a floor. I would suggest trying it first on a piece of backerboard or plywood on a small scale and turn it into wall piece. If it seems stable, then try it on the floor. Just be sure to use very dry leaves and a lot of the glue découpage. Anything natural like that which isn't découpaged first may rot if not properly sealed.

yeah, it'd pay to try it on a piece of ply and let it sit for a few months as a doormat to see how it wears and weathers. I have a friend that has tried various ways of preserving leaves sandwiched in leaded glass but they all rotted. I suppose to be sure it would pay to get Autumn coloured papers and pinking shears then take the time to cut out leaf shapes.

rlove4 (author)2014-03-25

sorry it didn't go up as a link

No worries. :)

workislove (author)2014-03-24

Thanks a lot for posting this! Sadly I have no floors to paper, but I'm currently making some photo-backdrops and was looking for interesting textures - this has sent me in a whole direction I'd never thought of.

Thank you! I'd love to see how you use this in your work, if you're interested in sharing. :)

mbills (author)2014-03-22

I actually did a paper bag floor as well. Mine turned out absolutely beautiful, but due to stupid mistakes ended up redoing the paper 3 times. :) But I'm so thrilled with the end results. Take a look at my paper-bag floor adventure here.

I love your story! This part really resonated with me. "On one of Bob's many trips to the Home Depot/Lowe's, I had him pick up my supplies." We have a saying in our house. It is not possible to make only one trip to Home Depot for any single project; regardless of how well-prepared you (think you) are!

This was another part I loved, "Even my husband, who normally doesn't love my projects, was a huge fan of the end result." My husband is usually very happy with my random need to change things. This was the first time I got any kind of... "Hmmm, I'm not so sure about this..." from him. However, when it was all said and done, he loved it!

:) Hahaha, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing.

nfarrow (author)mbills2014-03-23

wow that is golden

mbills (author)nfarrow2014-03-23

Thank you!

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