Paper bag floors are found all over the internet in a variety of styles & colours. They are surprisingly durable considering what they are made of… brown paper. Despite their name, paper bag floors are often constructed using a roll of brown builder’s paper or craft paper, rather than a bunch of recycled brown shopping bags. Perhaps in it’s earliest days paper bag flooring was created by those grocery bags, but these days, people mostly stick to a super cheap, roll of brown kraft or builders paper.
Why attempt this crazy project anyway? There are many reasons as far as I’m concerned. In this article I will cover a few of my top reasons… For me, the low cost hit me right away. You mean I can actually create a floor that looks that good, for that little? Yeah… that was the carrot for me. I had to research this to see if it were really true. Much to my surprise, I was pleasantly convinced that it wasn’t just a myth. Paper bag floors were real, cheap and they looked great. When you consider the low cost of applying these floors… there is nothing that even comes close, unless of course you plan to just slap a coat of paint on plywood… and for most people, that’s a no go.
Right away I was struck by the diversity in the styles that people created. Each floor looked similar, but they had their own personal style. I liked the character that these floors gave. That was a selling piece for me too… usually character comes at a steep price. My paper bag floor, the first attempt, was my entrance… there were old, loose, crappy tiles in my entrance that desperately cried to be torn up. I looked into new tiles and before I knew it that project would have cost me big time. I wasn’t prepared to do that. My paper bag floors, once completed, as well as the two sets of stairs (our home is a split entrance), cost me a whopping $60 in materials (100 sq’ + 12, 4′ step tops). Wow! As of now, that flooring has been in for almost 2 1/2 years and it’s still holding up fantastically. It’s crazy durable. We live in Canada and the winters are unforgiving. Snowy boots are often stomped in on the floors, school bags are tossed on it, equipment bags are thrown on it… and it holds up. We have four children and a multitude of friend traffic that abuse these floors regularly and they are surpassing our expectations, by far.
After the floors in our entrance survived almost a year, without a hitch, my wheels started turning again… I was tired of looking at the hideous, blue, vinyl tiles that were laden all over our lower level since we moved in. This included four bedrooms and a long hall way, about 800 sq.’ in total. I did consider painting them, but I just figured it wouldn’t have the durability & character I was looking for. I really liked my entrance floor but my vision for lower level space included wood… THEN it happened. I started to research and brainstorm how I could create a faux wood floor, with paper. After hours and hours of digging and researching I constructed a plan.
I decided to cut wood planks (out of brown builder paper) 5″ wide, painted a faux wood grain on them (this was actually fun), laid them as I did in my entrance, with the glue, mod podgy mixture. I applied them in a staggered way to simulate wood floors and by golly, it looked dang good. I didn’t stop there, I then stained them to look even more authentic and achieve a deeper tone. Once that dried, I topped it off with 7 coats of water based varathane (don’t freak out… that stuff is water based and it dries wicked fast.). Bam! It was the cherry on top. That stuff smoothed out my creation and gave it the hard finish… they say “diamond hard” finish I was going for.
Now… the flooring downstairs has been in for about a year and a half. They are super cool and many people are surprised it’s created with paper… now don’t get me wrong; I don’t tell everyone that walks in, what they’re standing on. I’m happy they turned out so well, look do good and withstand such high traffic. The cost to install was uber cheap and the durability is uber high so it’s a win/win, two thumbs up… whatever you want to call it… I recommend it.