Concrete Floor + Paper Bags + Polyurethane + RIT Dye = Another Fabulous Floor

Isn’t the web an amazing place for inspiration?  One of the blogs I follow is Lovely Crafty Home.  Rachael shares tons of great ideas on how she makes her home truly beautiful.  It was her Ultimate Brown Paper Bag Flooring Guide that inspired me to create this awesome floor in my woman cave.

Now at the bottom of Lovely Crafty Home’s flooring guide, Rachael tells us that her technique won’t work on concrete floors.  However, she says others have had success using polyurethane only, no elmer’s glue.  The downside is you won’t be able to dye your papered floor.  I wonder….RIT dye worked for me the last time.  Would it work in a polyurethane only method?  Read on (hint… does).

I’m doing my bathroom remodel (down stairs half bath) and the floor is HIDEOUS!  Take a look!

So the first thing I have to do is remove the old tile.  I always hate this step but at least the flooring is old enough that the tile comes up fairly easily.

Here’s what’s below the tile.  Old pine flooring.  U.G.L.Y.!  We definitely need to be getting this covered up again.

You need to make sure that all your boards are securely fastened down.  If you have boards that move you run the risk of them cracking your new flooring if you skip this step so don’t!

Next, you need to brush on a barrier product to make sure that any gaps in your floor while also providing a water barrier (since this is in the bathroom).  We used Redgard.  You can find it here.

Once your floor is sealed (and dry) it’s time to apply some floor leveler.  I have found that even though houses are built with flat floors, as houses settle they may not be flat anymore.    We used a concrete leveler that is inexpensive and fairly easy to work with.  You can get it here.

So, we’ve now gone from an UGLY tile floor to an UGLY pine floor to an “eh” concrete floor.  Time to make it beautiful.  This time I used powdered black RIT dye.  I added the entire contents of the dye box and added 1/2 cup HOT water:  mix THOROUGHLY!  (note:  I would recommend you use the liquid dye as I did in my previous floor).

Wearing disposable gloves, pour some polyurethane into a disposable tray (I used a small paint roller tray) and add some RIT dye.  I used a ratio of about 1 cup of polyurethane to 2 Tbsp of dye.  Mix.

Now add your crumpled paper (see notes at the end of the post) to the polyurethane mixture and allow the paper to become soaked with polyurethane.  It won’t take too long. The paper will feel different when totally wet, a bit more flexible.

Starting in one corner, begin covering your floor with your paper pieces.  Make sure they are flat with no bent sides and no air bubbles underneath.  You really need this layer to adhere to your floor.

Continue working until your entire floor is covered.  Here are two pictures of the floor after the first layer of paper.

Let your floor dry overnight (12 hours or more).  You will need to sand between coats.  I put down about 10 coats of polyurethane since this was going to be in my bathroom…a very high traffic area.   I added black RIT dye the polyurethane for every coat I added.  I wanted a uniform black finish.  However, whenever your floor is the color you like, continue with just straight polyurethane.
Here’s my finished floor (my sweetie added black cove base).  Doesn’t it look awesome?  I LOVE it.

Now, you can’t really see the texture of the floor so here is an up close picture with flash.  The floor has a nice leathery look.
Let’s see how far we’ve come.  Here’s the before and after.  What a difference!  It took a long time but it was so worth it.   
  • Note, these steps are for adding a cement leveler in a bathroom.  If you already have a cement floor, you may be able to skip some of my preliminary steps.
  • Use a water based polyurethane if you are mixing RIT dye (oil based will NOT work)
  • When adding RIT dye to your polyurethane, do not add too much.  If you do, your polyurethane will thicken up and achieve an almost gel like texture.
  • I would tear/crumple up my grocery bags the night before while watching TV.  Place pieces with straight edges in one bag (these make great edge pieces) and place the other pieces in a second bag.
  • You can use the printed side of your paper grocery bags. However, when you dye your polyurethane, you will find that it is difficult to determine which side of the paper has the printing since the dye will have really soaked into your paper.  Do NOT use the parts of the bag where it is two layers thick (glued together).
Update July 17, 2013:
It’s been almost a year and the floor has worn perfectly.  It hasn’t faded or lifted away from the concrete. 
{Click here to read more}
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  1. says

    I have a huge bag of torn bags that I did after I read your post on the other floor. I have just been too chicken to do my bathroom. I wasn’t sure if it would stick! Thanks for this post. I think I will finally do it this weekend since it’s a long weekend.

    Your floor looks AMAZING!!

    • says

      It might. You should probably find some sort of outdoor polyurethane. then I would try it on a sample, say a concrete block. Also, FYI, you came up as a no-reply blogger so I couldn’t respond via e-mail. Have a great day!

  2. says

    OMG this is taking DIY to a whole different level – what a fabulous job ( and tutorial ) absolutely loving it.
    Your newest follower – would love to have you drop by for a visit and follow back when you can

  3. Luann says

    I have tried this technique but brushed te glue mixture on the front and back of my pieces of brown paper. Now I am faced with alot of wrinkles and after let it dry overnight I began applying poly with the wrinkles set in because I had seen on another site that they would eventually smooth out. It has been several days and I still have some big wrinkles. Luckily I only did a small area. Should I start over? What would be your suggestion? I am applying this over vinyl. Should I use poly instead of glue? HELP!

    • says

      First, Luann, I hope you receive this message because you came up as a no reply blogger on my e-mail so I could not respond directly. A couple of tips from my experience. I usually start off doing a technique with a sample board so that I can experiment before I begin my big projects (I have learned this the HARD way!). Anyway, I did not experience many wrinkles but that may have been because I soaked my scrunched paper balls in the poly (with this project) and a glue/rit dye mixture in a previous project ( The paper was not falling apart but very pliable when I soaked it resulting it to lay very flat. Good luck with your poject! I hope you can work it out!

  4. says

    I linked over from Lovely crafty Home. Love your floor. I don’t have any floors that need refinishing but, I’ve got a desk top in my craft room and office that will be getting this makeover! I’m now following your site- great job!!!!

  5. Anonymous says

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  6. says

    Such a simple way to remodel your bathroom floor, ideas like this are always welcome, i never thought that it would be damn easy to make your bathroom floor nice and clean.

  7. Julie says

    I have concrete floors and really love this look. Can you tell me if you did multiple layers with your poly-RIT soaked paper. Or is one layer enough? Also, how many coats of poly do you recommend? Thanks you! From Julie

  8. says

    It is nice to see that this can be accomplished using concrete floors. Concrete floors are just so versatile, durable, and inexpensive. Now it can also be stylish! Especially for high traffic areas I would always choose concrete over any other floor type. Your bathroom looks amazing and durable now! Thanks for sharing!

  9. says

    Fantastic blog! I don’t think I’ve seen all the bags of this subject the way you’ve pointed them out. I love seeing websites that realize the value of providing a quality information. Thanks for sharing this!
    Paper Bags

  10. says

    While I’m not crazy about dark colors in small spaces the quality of instructions and step by step pictures are wonderful! I’ve been looking for something this detailed for weeks now. Most people post about covering wood floors so your post on covering concrete is very welcome.
    I’ll be referencing you on my site Crafty Swaps when I write a post about this treatment. Thanks and enjoy the new floors!

  11. says

    I love your floor. I did mine somewhat different, but here are the things I think I learned. Use a leveler like she did on her bathroom. Two dilute your glue! If using the new improved from the hardware store in smaller containers, use a little more water so it’s about the consistency she recommends, 1/2 and half or thin cream and when you’re almost out, get more! Don’t try to do one more piece this will lift. 3 use varathane for floors with a floor applicator.

  12. says

    Has anyone done this on concrete floors. I want to do it in the kitchen of an older concrete block home.
    It is just concrete, NO WOOD. Right now it has vinyl peel & press tile but I have a hard time with it being damaged since this is a rental house.
    Please help.

  13. says

    Has anyone done this on concrete floors. I want to do it in the kitchen of an older concrete block home.
    It is just concrete, NO WOOD. Right now it has vinyl peel & press tile but I have a hard time with it being damaged since this is a rental house.
    Please help.

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