Sunday, April 1, 2012

Paper Covered Floor

To answer the question, "What did you do over spring break?" I have many answers, but the largest is:

If you've been in my house for longer than ten minutes, you'll no doubt hear all about my deep, dark hatred for carpet. I think it's dirty. And ridiculous. And even though it's nice to walk on and muffles sounds well, I still feel like I'm wiping my shoes off on a ten year old towel that's never been washed. Over and over and over again...

7 years ago, we re-financed the house and pulled out some cash and got bamboo floors installed downstairs. LOVE!

But alas, there's no more money falling out of the sky and I was left to lie in bed at night, dreaming of ripping out the upstairs carpet and replacing it with...well? what? What doesn't really cost much? What could I manage to do by myself?

It may surprise you, but Sean and I are two of the least handy people around. Changing light bulbs? Check. Hanging pictures? well---how many attempts and nail holes count? Re-wiring the lamps when we felt they hung too low? Uh...let's just get creative with paper coated twistie ties...

So installing something "real" like new carpet or vinyl or even tile was out of the question even if we could afford it.
But THEN!! THEN! Then just when I was in full-tilt Mod-Podge mode, I saw this on Pinterest.

And my world s-p-u-n! It's paper. PAPER and Elmer's glue.
I was beyond excited.
So long story short, I convinced Sean to let me tear up our bathroom carpet as an experiment and lay down some paper. It looks wonderful. And as I was sitting there, using pretty much the same technique as I did for the baskets, I realized I've been doing this all my life! From grade school decoupage to glue-soaked muslin   for theatre sets to covering walls in Maddy and Evan's baby room with fabric and glue.
It's full circle baby. And I have no more allergy inducing, dirty and humiliating carpet! AND it looks amazing.

This link is where I got the directions, although I outlined my process below. READ BOTH before you start this in your house. The project cost me only $70 since I have an enormous stash of paper and a gallon of glue in my art room ("Of course you do"--- I can hear you saying it). I only bought stain and Varathane.
I used a thick cream colored paper that I had left over from my art teaching days. It came from a printer in huge sheets and I have rolls and rolls of it. I did NOT let it sit in the glue very long at all...dip, squeeze, take out. The paper seemed to break down and fall apart if it got too soggy, so I had to move fast and/or not get so much wet at once.

Here is my project:
Nasty, filthy 10-year-old carpet

It actually doesn't look as horrible in these photos as it was in real life.

If you look carefully, you can see the place where  Evan spilled black paint (BLACK!!) and the other place where he decided to burn a letter he didn't want and dropped it...on the carpet. Genius.

This photo alone should convince everyone to abandon carpet. That is dirt my friend. There was SO MUCH DIRT that the carpet pad was cemented to the wood underneath and had to be scraped off.

Sweep! Vacuum! Remove all nails and staples! Then I filled the holes and gaps with Fix-All. (I decided to paint the wall while I was at it...and dried off the roller on the floor...not part of the project!)

OK, here we go. Mix 2 parts water to 1 part glue. It should look and feel like whole milk.
Tear off a piece of paper. Wad it up.

Dunk in glue.

Squeeze out well, but not too tightly.

Drop on floor.

Wet floor with glue.

Open out paper and shimmy under the baseboard.

Press and smooth down with brush. Overlap paper and when done, let dry over night.
Don't be alarmed at the uneven color of the paper---things seep through and parts look lighter or darker--it matters not.

Stain time. Never a fan of dark flooring, I chose grey.

Slop on a small area.

Let sink in a few seconds...or to the darkness of your choice.

Wipe off with a rag. Let dry over night. This looks a little light. Maybe I better stir that can of stain again...

This is the bathroom floor after 4 coats of Varathane. It will get 4 more coats. And I'll need to add a 1/4 round bit of trim to compensate for the now "too short" baseboards.

Night time photo with flash.

Same spot. Day time photo no flash.

I like this area best.


The paper I used was very thick. Not as heavy as card stock, but way thicker than xerox paper. The paper should NOT fall apart after the glue dunk and squeeze. I would use the brown craft paper recommended in the original link unless you feel you are a paper authority. ;-)

When you put it on, it won't look too great. The paper swells and there are wrinkles---these are mostly ok. Try to get any obvious folds or air bubbles out, but after drying over night, the paper really pulls down tight. After it is dry and there are trouble spots, say a big wrinkle, you can re-wet the spot with the glue mixture and fix it or patch it. Staining and coating it with Varathane will plump it up again, but not like the first step of glue and water.

After you pull up the carpet, you will need to sweep, and vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. There is a fascinating amount of construction debris under the baseboards. Remember, I put this paper and glue down on wood. I have NO IDEA if it would work on vinyl flooring or concrete or anything else.

I used Elmer's Glue All. It is NOT Elmer's Washable School Glue. You all know how I hate washable glue...
I also used Minwax wood finish stain in Classic Grey and Varathane High Traffic floor formula (water based) in Satin.

I am so thrilled with the way it's turned out.


  1. I saw this a few years ago and lost my mind! I live in an apartment so it was not an option. I can't wait to see what it looks like in real life! I also wondered what it would be like to cover with a layer of crepe paper or tissue paper for color in like a kids room once the initial layer was put down. Like for borders or patchwork, checkerboard effects, color textures. Great work.

  2. I think you could absolutely use colored papers, do patterns etc. I was going for that uneven concrete look, but I'm sure so many more effects can be achieved with different cutting or tearings, papers or even fabrics.

  3. I've seen your finished work, and it is amazing. I think what needs revising is the idea that you're not handy around the house.