Paper Bag Flooring Instructions




Introduction: Paper Bag Flooring Instructions

About: I love accomplishing DIY projects. When things go well I like to pass on the information.

This is an amazing DIY project is sure to enhance the appearance of your home. It's a crazy cheap flooring project that only cost me $60 in materials to achieve a beautiful, durable floor. I laid it in my high traffic, 10x10 entrance and 12 (four foot wide) stairs! This flooring has been installed for 2.5 years now and is still beautiful and durable... despite my 4 children & their wet snowy boots, all kinds of friend traffic, and daily abuse.

Step 1: Clean and Prep

Clean & prep the floors. You can’t expect a nice finished product without prepping the area. It doesn’t take long… but DO IT.

•if you are planning to apply paper bag flooring over plywood, seal the cracks between the sheets of wood(see photo... seems are filled). If not, the seems WILL show through so fill the cracks. •we also applied paper bag flooring over hard vinyl tile with success. In this case scrub the floor with TSP to remove any dirt and grime that will hinder the paper from adhering. •vacuum thoroughly

Step 2: Method of Application

Decide on your method of application. Do you prefer a plank style, wood floor look? A tile look? A slate look…the sky is the limit… But for this instructable we'll just be looking at traditional slate style paper bag flooring(see photo). To see wood plank style paper bag flooring go to my website

Step 3: Tear the Paper

Tear the paper...Notice the randomly torn pieces of paper in the picture above ;they are less than 12" x 12". I was diligent not to have a bunch of straight pieces. The torn edge, all the way around blends better. I tore the paper in advance. Once torn, I bunched it all into a ball and flattened it out again. This gives the floor more texture as well as it helps the glue to soak into the paper and adhere better. NOTE: it is good to have some straight edges for against the wall.

Step 4: Lay the Floor

Now it's time to mix your Elmer's Glue All and water. 1 part glue/2 parts water. Stir. Submerge a few pieces of the paper in the glue mixture and squeeze the paper to get the most of the glue out...It will still be saturated. Lay it on the surface and smooth it with a brush and even run your gloved hand over it to make sure it's adhered to the floor. Lay the next piece, overlapping over the previous. See photo. Also, notice the variation in color... no need to panic... that's just the difference in drying. It completely evened out when dry!

See for the rest of the instructions, videos, supply lists and more!



  • Metalworking Contest

    Metalworking Contest
  • Fix It! Contest

    Fix It! Contest
  • Tiny Home Contest

    Tiny Home Contest

71 Discussions

Hi there. I love the idea. What kind of glue other than Elmers glue will work? I am from South Africa and Elmers is not available around here. I am looking at doing it on a concrete floor. Thanks for sharing all your hard work and tips

I love this

It seems you have seams and seems mixed up. Seems to me that seams might show up between the sheets of plywood. ;-) Got it?

1 reply

This looks great. I have a couple questions 1. How long does the polyurethane smell last? I am thinking about doing it in my kitchen where the tile is worn after 22 years. But. My fam tends to get nauseas from that smell.

2. Where do you get all the paper bags?

3. Would this be suitable for a kitchen floor?

4 replies

This product is water based and I did not find it strong at all!

I bought a roll of the brown paper... I have a supply list on my website

I have even seen this applied to kitchen counters! I have it in my high traffic entrance and it is exposed to my family of six, Canadian winters and tons of friend traffic! It had been on my floor in this area for 2.5 years and it still looks fantastic!

thank you for your replies. I am definitely tempted to try this. Maybe I'll start with a small bathroom and move on from there

Water based polyurethane, at least Varathane brand (the one I use) does not have a strong smell, at all!

As JoelB32 mentioned(thank you), there is no need to try to round up paper bags... you can buy the paper in a roll.

As far as using this on a kitchen floor... I would, for sure. I have seen it applied in bathrooms too. We have it in our high traffic entrance where wet, snowy boots walk in on it.

Hope this helps! You can visit my paper bag flooring website. I have tons of info on the subject.

I can put in my $0.02 in on some of these.

1. I don't remember the smell lasting all that long, of course we were still in construction when we applied.

2. My wife bought rolls of brown paper ( She ripped sections off, wrinkled them up and applied them.

3. We didn't, but I don't see why not.


2 years ago

Great idea! I think this should work on walls as well. Maybe I'll do my den in comic strips. Hmmmmm?

1 reply

Whatever you tackle with this technique...I believe it adds more texture if you crumple the paper, then smooth it back out again, to ad some creases. The glue mixture absorbs better, the stain (if you decide to use it) adds some beautiful character to the creases...


2 years ago

hi I love this flooring but will PVA glue work the same ?

Please can you let me know



4 replies

Hi Ozzy!

I personally would not use it... I have used Elmer's Glue All, with great success to lay almost 1000 sq' of paper bag floor. I really appreciate that it is non toxic and safe for kiddos seeing as I have four.

I found a helpful response online where a fellow was responding about PVA glue and Elmer's. Here it is. Hope this helps you. :)

~Technically, Elmer's Glue-All is a “PVA-based glue”, but it’s basically like all regular PVA glues. There isn’t much difference between Elmer’s and the regular PVA adhesives, in my experience. Elmer's Glue-All was probably modified from regular PVA glues to enhance its properties (strength, tackiness, viscosity, odor, etc.), ease of use, and safety.

As far as the mild acidity of Elmer's Glue-All, this shouldn't be a problem when used with paper. Cellulose, the main structural component in paper, wood and cotton, contains several hydroxyl groups on each of its monomers. This is ideal for acidic PVA adhesives because the PVA's acidic hydrogen ions (H+) will strip away hydroxide (-OH) groups from the cellulose molecules, and create water (H2O) molecules. With the H+ and -OH molecules removed, the PVA polymers will create strong bonds with the cellulose polymers. This is why Elmer's Glue-All is *mildly* acidic: the acid helps drive the PVA-cellulose reaction, but it's not acidic enough to adversely affect the cellulose or the PVA.

The acid will not break down the cellulose over time. Any remaining acid will become neutralized as the glue dries out and therefore the reaction will be complete.

Acids with pHs above 4 are considered to be mildly acidic. Elmer’s is designed to be safe for children. Listed below are the approximate pHs of many common substances. (Sources: various pH charts on the Internet while Googling for "common substances pH" and “beverage pH”)

pH = 7: pure water

pH = 6: milk, tea, well water

pH = 5: yogurt, brown sugar, Perrier, Aquafina, purified water, distilled water, coffee, Pepto Bismol, rain water

pH = 4: tomatoes, orange juice, grapefruit juice, red wine, Gatorade G2, Snapple Red Tea, acid rain

pH = 3: many sodas (Coca-cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Mt Dew, Red Bull, etc.), beer, Vitamin Water, Dasani Plus, vinegar

pH = 2: lemon juice

pH = 1: stomach acid

pH = 0: battery acid

I've used Elmer's Glue-All on many paper projects for years, and there's never been any degradation of the paper. If anything, Elmer's has made the paper STRONGER. (Note: Elmer’s Glue-All slightly “clouds” the paper but ALL glues do this. The slight clouding isn’t due to acidic deterioration. The clouding is because Elmer’s Glue-All is opaque white in liquid form, but it’s ~99% clear when dry. The clouding is barely noticeable.) I use Elmer's Glue-All because it's safe, inexpensive, strong, easy to use, and it can be found at many stores (Wal-Mart, Michael's, Office Depot, etc.). I've used several different PVA brands, but their properties are fairly similar to one another, so I tend to use Elmer's the most because it works well and it's inexpensive.

I don't claim to be an expert on PVA adhesives but I have a Materials Science background (B.S. and graduate school; my emphasis is in alloys and ceramic materials, but I've taken some polymer courses). While I’m not a PVA adhesive expert, I understand the chemical mechanism as to how Elmer's Glue-All reacts with cellulose. In addition, I know Elmer’s Glue-All is safe with paper because I’ve been using it for years.

Btw, I don't work for Elmer's (nor have I ever worked for any PVA adhesive company), so I'm not trying to sell Elmer's Glue-All. My main point of this message is that Elmer's Glue-All is a good, safe, general-purpose adhesive for paper projects. If you're afraid of Elmer's Glue-All because you think it's harmful or because you thinks it’s a cheap kids glue, then don’t use it. Also, if Elmer's Glue-All is in fact harmful then PLEASE PROVE IT with facts/science/experiments/experience/whatever.

(Note: The reason my message is long is because I wanted to write a full explanation as to why I think Elmer's Glue-All is safe for use with paper. Seeing as how I've come across this thread six years after it was created [via Google] and seeing as how this thread has been viewed over 170K times, this thread will continue to be viewed for many more years, with thousands more views. I don't have any interest in checking on this thread so I wanted to post my opinion and move on.)~

Thanks for your in-depth and very informative reply I live in the UK and I have look at the price of Elmer's glue-all in the UK it's £ 42.34 that's $60.63 and for the same amount of PVA is only £6.50 that's $9.32 so you understand why I was asking if it will work the same but I will shop around to see if I can get it cheaper somewhere else as it dose sound like the better stuff to use plus I also have kids and I don't want to risk using PVA if you don't think it's not as safe and as good as Elmer's glue-all
Thanks again for your quick reply

I went through the same thing when i was trying to find the gallon of Elmer's Glue All. I have to order online at $44 per gallon. I was scared to try anything else... it seemed to be one of the common denominators that led to success. Also, the glue to water ratio. I use 1 part Glue all, 2 parts water. In my first project, I only used have the gallon... it was 100 sq' and 12 stair treads. Hope this helps!

I will say... for those in the US, Elmer's Glue All is super cheap...

For those of us avoiding the linkbait, there's another fine instructable that takes you through the entire process without being an advert for personal profit.

1 reply

My search for a durable, beautiful and cheap flooring option is how I stumbled upon the idea of paper bag flooring. I researched like crazy and came up with a plan to accomplish the DIY. I succeeded! I recorded video of the process to share with a friend the "how to's" of it all. The easiest way to share the video was via youtube. After over 2 years of the video being on you tube, I was shocked with how many other people wanted to tackle this project but they were left with tons of questions. I decided to create a website to share all the info I collected, the videos I made, and the advice I have after laying almost 1000 sq' of paper bag floor on concrete, plywood, tile and wood. Yes, there are amazon links for the product. It's easy to order from them, great for rural folks like me that don't have all the supplies at their fingers and yes, I do earn a VERY small portion, which at this point, barely covers the hosting fees for my site, domain fees and not to mention the crazy amount of hours I have spent/spend on this project.

It's no cash cow. I'm a passionate DIYer that likes to teach and share ideas. I'm thankful so many people have appreciated and found helpful all the info on the site.


2 years ago

How would you remove it if needed

1 reply

You could lay flooring right over it. The texture isn't too raised to cause a problem.

I do hope this helps!