Sick and tired of your old crummy wall-to-wall carpet? Don't want to spend big bucks on hardwood? Here's a solution - Kraft paper flooring. I found out about this while I was searching for inexpensive flooring ideas on the internet. A paper floor sounded crazy so I decided to try it out on the smallest area of my house - the hallway. It worked so well I kept expanding, to the bedroom, den and living room so I now no longer have any wall-to-wall carpet in my house. The beauty of this solution is that if I do want to install hardwood (or any other type of flooring) in the future, it can just be installed over top of the paper.
The basic steps to achieve this look are to crumple up kraft paper, glue it to the subfloor, stain with gel wood stain and then cover with several coats of polyurethane.
Step 1: Floor Preparation
The first step is to rip out the carpet and prepare the subfloor. I had to remove the baseboard mouldings and rip out all the carpet tack strips and staples holding down the carpet and the carpet underlay. I then added a few more nails to the subfloor and filled in the cracks with wood filler and sanded it all down when dry. In the hallways there was quite a bit of water damage to the subfloor due to overfilled bathtub, so I used a lot of wood filler!
Something I had to take into consideration was, the baseboard would need to be repositioned lower on the wall as there was a 1/4 inch gap from the subfloor once the carpet was removed. Mostly I was able to just fill in any holes with polyfiller and paint a small strip to match the wall. Another solution, if you can't or don't want to remove your baseboard, would be to fill in the gap with 1/4 round moulding.
Step 2: Cut Kraft Paper
A lot of people like to just rip up the kraft paper, but I experimented with different shapes and decided to cut the paper into circles. I used 70 lb kraft paper that I purchased from an art supply store and a circle cutter which has a snap-off razor edge that pivots around a centre point. I could cut up to 5 sheets of paper at a time tapped onto a self-healing cutting mat. In order to maximize the number of circles from one sheet, I cut large, medium and small circles and used the straight edges on the perimeter of the room.
I didn't have any good method of calculating how many circles I would need so I just laid them out on the floor.
Step 3: Crumpling the Paper
The interesting, leather-like texture in the floor comes from crumpling up the paper. I found that by lightly misting with water makes it much easier to crumple the paper.
Step 4: Gluing the Paper to the Subfloor
Dilute white glue with water so it is of a heavy cream consistency. This will allow the glue to fully saturate the paper. I experimented with different methods of applying the glue and the best results came from first spraying the paper with water, letting the water soak in for a few seconds, then painting the floor with the diluted glue mixture, laying the paper on top of the glue and painting over the paper with more diluted glue. You may get a wrinkle or two but it will flatten out once the glue is dry. The glue may take a couple of days to dry. I discovered that if you let one area dry and then overlap the paper you will get a lighter area. If you want a totally consistent look, try to do all the gluing in one session. I glued the rectangular pieces of paper around the perimeter of the room so I didn't have to deal with gaps with the circles.
Step 5: Staining the Paper
Staining the floor will bring out the wrinkled/leather-like look. I experimented with a lot of different kinds of stain. DO NOT used water based stain - you will get a blotchy mess. Oil based liquid stains work OK, but can make the paper look a bit muddy. Gel stain works the best and are necessary if you want to create a design with the stain, as I did in the closet. (liquid stain will just seep under masking tape, even Frog tape). In the picture above, the left and right of the triangle are 2 parts Minwax Antique Maple and 1 part Mahogany, the top and bottom triangles are unstained and the cross/border is Mahogany. I decided to do the main part of the living room with the Antique Maple/Mahogany mixture as it gave a nice depth to the floor without being too dark. I used an old T-shirt to apply the stain. You need to work fairly quickly and not let the stain dry. Wipe the stain on and immediately off. The stain will probably need a couple of days to dry.
Step 6: Protective Coat the Paper
Coat the paper with several layers of polyurethane finish. I used water based satin Varathane which will dry so you can walk on it in about an hour (which is very helpful when you are coating the only entrance to your house!) I experimented with various applicators, including brush and roller but the best solution is a painting pad pictured above which I attached to a long handle. The brush works OK for smaller areas but takes too long in a larger room. Even though the paint store said I could use a roller.... don't - it leaves bubbles. In the hallway I actually put 14 coats of Varathane and in the living room 7 coats. I think between 7 and 9 coats is sufficient.
Step 7: Wear and Tear
So far this finish has held up very well, however, I had a couple of mishaps. I bought a plastic mat to protect the area under my office chair, but it had a very sticky side and when I tried to move it, it pulled up the paper (ironic) and I had moved the bed into the den but I didn't realize the box springs had some nails sticking out which gouged the paper (this would have wrecked any floor...). Luckily this was easy to fix, I just glued more paper over the damaged areas, stained and Varathaned them. It resulted in more variation in the colour but I think it looks nice. I've also spilled water on the floor and the Varathane turned cloudy but then when back to normal when it dried out.
Step 8: Embellishment
I purchased a piece of OSB (Oriented Strand Board), which is the type of sub-floor I have, to experiment on. I tried various stains and stencils on this board. I decided to go with a subtle look in the hallway, using metallic acrylic paint over which I put Varthane. I also made a design in the closet using Frog tape and gel stains. There are so many ways you could be creative because you really could use any kind of paper, including coloured paper and book pages.
Step 9: Stains
Here are the results of the stain experiments. Gel stain works the best.
Step 10: Miscellaneous
1) I built a bridge to reach the bathroom while the glue and stain were drying, although it probably wasn't necessary as the water based Varathane dries to walk on in about an hour.
2) I painted the risers on the stair case which saved a lot of time.
3) If you let the glue dry and paper over it, the stain will not saturate the paper as much, resulting in variation.
4) I clean with dry and wet Swiffers.