Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Paper Grocery Bags, Elmers Glue, Rit Dye & Polyurethane = Fabulous Floor! You're Kidding, Right?

As you know, I'm participating in www.lovelycraftyhome.com's "Get Your Crap Together Party".  I've been frantically working on remodeling my woman cave/craft area.  Although this room is not large, the project is taking much longer than I anticipated.  Typical for my 1888 house!

Anyway, the floor was AWFUL in this area.  I looked on the web for various flooring techniques and I opted for trying out the a brown paper floor.  I based what I did on The Ultimate Brown Paper Flooring Guide on Lovely Crafty Home.

I forgot to take a before shot but the first thing I had to do was to remove the old tile.

Look what I found!  Ugly tar that was used as the glue for the old tile.  It's spread across the entire subfloor!  UGH!  We may need to lay a new subfloor! :(

Here is the floor with all the tile removed.

The instructions at Lovely Crafty Home talk about applying stain to your papered floor (once the glue is dry before you apply your polyurethane) with a light hand.  I decided to try adding RIT dye to my glue mixture so I made a sample board.  You can see more about that here.

Anyway, I chatted with my husband about the tar issue and I decided to try out the paper bag treatment in a small corner of the room (glued & polyurethaned). Guess what!  It worked which means...no new subfloor needed!  However, a note to you.  Many of the other sites that discuss the gluing of the paper to the floor have your do so in this way

1.  brush glue/water mixture onto the floor
2.  lay your paper onto the gluey floor and smooth flat
3.  brush on a coat of glue/water mixture on top of the paper.

This is the method I did when I laid it onto my sample portion of the floor.  It stayed on well, however, I was able to remove it with a wall paper scraper and elbow grease.  My husband recommended that I soak the paper so that the glue goes through the entire paper:  this would help it adhere better.  Well, this is the method that lovely crafty home suggests.  So, let's get started with the real floor!

We had to finish preparing the floor.  This meant going around and hammering in any nails that were sticking up.  We also needed to screw down the floor boards a bit more to ensure that they would not move when people walked on the floor.  Then, we finished with putting down fiberglass tape (you use when working with drywall) along the floor board joints to help strengthen these areas.

Now, it's time to gather the supplies for the new flooring!

Paper grocery sacks (my room is 6' x 10' and took about 45 bags) or you can purchase a roll of kraft paper
1 gallon of Elmer's Glue All (NOT washable glue).  I found this at Lowe's
1 bottle of liquid Rit dye
1 gallon of Water Based Polyurethane (I found this at Home Depot)
Disposable Gloves
Large Paint Brush
Sponge (this is to have on hand in case you splash either your glue mixture or polyurethane on the walls)

The first thing you need to do is tear up your paper bags (or kraft paper).  Note with grocery sacks.  You can't use the part that has printing on it; the ink will bleed through.  Also, the area where the bag is double thick (glued together) will not work.  Regarding the parts of the bag where there are creases where the factory folded the bag, these creases will probably show through onto your finished floor so check these out on your sample board to see what you think of this look.

Okay, back to tearing up your paper.  My pieces were anywhere from 4" in diameter to 12".  Most were about 6-8 inches.  I like the varied sizes, I feel it adds more dimension to the final look.  Also, smaller pieces make the floor look more leathery...but will add to the installation time.  I placed my pieces into two piles:  pile 1 had edges there were straight so that I could put these edges up against the wall while pile 2 had all roughly torn edges for use in the middle of the room.

Now, I did not previously tear my paper and I severely underestimated how much paper this project would take.  As lovely crafty home suggests, I would spend an evening tearing up paper while watching TV and place the paper in two different large plastic bags.  I would also crumple up the paper before I placed it into these plastic bags.  Here's my pile crumpled up.

Back to the floor!  Next I mixed up my glue/water/dye mixture into a small batch:  about 1/2 cup of elmer's glue to 1/2 cup of water and a splash of Rit dye (about 1-2 tsp).    Note, I later switched to using an old quart yogurt container to mix my glue mixture.

I stirred this up and poured some into a bowl. I also crumpled up some paper pieces and placed them in the bowl to soak (notice in honor of lovely crafty home, I found a similar bowl to use!).

Once the paper has absorbed the glue (you can tell, the texture will feel different but don't let it soak too long or it will fall apart), wearing rubber gloves, pick up a piece and starting in a corner, lay out a piece and smooth it out.  Continue working by first adhering pieces toward the wall and then filling in with middle pieces.  Make sure the pieces overlap, the edges do not fold under and that the edges are laying flat.  Also work to see that there are no bubbles underneath the paper pieces: you want to make sure the paper adheres to the floor.

You can see that I switched to the yogurt container!  Also, see how the purple glue mixture is beginning to dry brown (look in the corner).  Yes, the dye looks purple when you first mix it but it does dry brown.  Continue to lay paper.

Here is my floor once it has been completely covered with glued on paper!  

Now you need to wait a minimum of overnight to ensure that your floor is completely dry.  Here's the floor the next morning.  It looks pretty cool so far and I'm getting pretty psyched.

Here's an up close picture.  You can see hows the dye darkened not only the edges of the paper but all the veining from where the paper was crumpled.  Pretty cool!

Now it's time for the polyurethane.  Find a larger disposable pan or paint tray (I used an old liner from a food purchase from Costco).  Pour some polyurethane into the pan.

Now if you were happy with the color of your floor, you could just use the polyurethane as it is and add clear coats.  I wanted a little darker floor so I added some Rit dye to my polyurethane and yes, it turned purple again!

In a lot of blogs they have you attaching your brush to a piece of pipe or something so that you can apply it while standing up.  Since I have dye in my polyurethane, I didn't want to risk splashing it on the walls so I got on my hands and knees and applied a coat.  Yes, it does look purple!

You will need to have your polyurethane dry between coats.  To keep from having to continually wash out your brush, you can wrap it in either a plastic bag or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out between coats.

Apply enough polyurethane until you get the smoothness and look you want.  I applied 5 coats. Here's the floor before we attached the baseboard.

Here is an up close picture so you can see some definition on how the floor looks!

Here's the floor with the base board attached.  I think it looks awesome!!

Now one of my main hurdles in completing my "get your crap together" challenge is the floor needs to finish curing....which means I still can't move furniture in!!  I will keep you abreast of how my project progresses.  I just didn't get everything done in the time frame I had hoped.  If you'd like to see the other before and afters from people who participated, go here.  You'll find some great transformations and hopefully some inspiration as well!

UPDATE:  August 27, 2012
I just did a paper bag floor in my bathroom that had cement leveler.  If interested, check it out here.

UPDATE:  September 3, 2014
It's been over 2.5 years and look how well this floor still looks!

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