DIY Stained Brown Paper Floor Awesomeness!~ Under $30 Do It Yourself Hardwood/Laminate Floor Alternative

My new favorite thing ev’ah.

What an odyssey this was for me!  Starting with the ugly grey vinyl and transforming the floor into a BEAUTIFUL glossy masterpiece!  There were a lot of sites that inspired this floor, and I would like to mention some of them.

Here is where it all started: An Oregon Cottage blog, which has a video tutorial to start those creative juices flowing. Of course, with two pugs, a cat and 7 year old boy in the house, I wanted to see how the durability of this floor treatment stood up.  I found that answer here: Yankee Magazine, where in the comments, the project owner comments on how the floors held up in Alaska melted snow and ice.  Finally, I had issue with the contractor paper color.  I really wanted a dark floor, so finding this site was a total game changer for me: Lovely Crafty Home. Finally, I had issue with the “satin” or matte finish of all the paper flooring sites I saw.  After a bit of research, I felt confident in my choice to do a HIGH gloss “piano-finish” after looking photos like this dark espresso hardwood floor.  I would constantly be trying to make my floor super shiny with Mop-n-Glo, so why not just make is permanently shiny to begin with!?

So let’s begin….

(please forgive faded blurry video stills below)

SUPPLIES USED: Some from Lowe’s, some from Home Depot…

This is what we started with. Ick.

Before we started, we made a decision to try removing the vinyl without taking off the baseboard trim even though we were going to paint it all white later.  Luckily, the vinyl came up easy breezy!

We used the air vent as the starting point since I wanted to save the transition piece between the vinyl and carpet under the door.

The whole process to remove the vinyl took maybe 10 minutes total.

There were some splotches of leftover adhesive we just scraped it off.

Be sure to sand down any leftover adhesive that you can’t pry up to avoid bumps under the paper and give the floor a good vacuuming. We didn’t tape off the baseboard trim because we were going to paint it white afterwards anyhoo, but we DID bluetape off the toilet base.

(Note: photo shows paper grey, but is actually a light brown)

Prepare your paper!  Tear pieces into whatever size you like (I used mostly cantaloupe sized ones with smaller accents) putting the straight edged ones in one pile and the middle sections in another.  That way you can save the straight edged ones for using against the wall.  Crumple each really well, and then open and lie them flat in a pile. The more you crumple them, the more color texture the floor will have.

I laid out the edge papers so I could make sure I had enough to do the job…..I didn’t want to have to stop and tear more paper pieces in the middle of the project.  I put all the “straight edged” pieces in one pile, and the “torn all around” pieces in another pile.   The “straight edged” pieces were saved to use against the straight edges of the wall around the perimeter of the room.

Put about 2″ of water in the bottom of a plastic dish tub, then add enough glue to make a nice mixture that has some pull to it when you stir it.  I ended up using about half the bottle of glue with that much water.  During the process, I used anywhere between a 50% mix of glue/water all the way up to a 30%glue/70% water mix and they both worked equally well.

Take your rings off and get ready for the fun part!  Dunk your first piece of paper in the glue mixture and get it all wet.

When you pick it up, use your fingers “scissor style” to help pull the glue off the paper so it isn’t so drippy.

GLUE FINGER PAINTING!  Some people in their blogs had recommended using a paintbrush to apply the glue to the floor prior to laying the glue soaked paper, then using a brush to spread the glue, but  I did it differently.  No “pre-glue” application on the floor and I’m all for using your fingers to put the paper on for a few reasons: 

  •  1. It feels awesome.
  • 2. You can really feel if there are any wrinkles or bumps under the paper that need dealing with.
  •  3. Later, once you’re done and it dries, it’s fun to peel off your skin!  

Next, smooth down the paper with your fingers, paying special attention to the edges. I recommend wiping from the center out so you keep the edges nice and flat.

CORNERS: Some folks have recommended cutting corners of the paper with scissors, but I like the more texturized version I used.  This is what I did… Lay your first piece down and smooth, then take your second piece and overlap it with the straight edge meeting in the corner. Easy breezy and no scissors needed.  Continue with the pieces, overlapping each just a bit to ensure full coverage.  Don’t forget to attend to the area behind the door before you run out of room to do so! 

This is what the floor will look like after you’re just finished.  Creepy looking with giant white wrinkles and gooey and bumpy patches and you will think you might have messed up somehow, but don’t worry! Don’t freak out about the wrinkles! All is well!  It’s supposed to look this way at this point, and it will look awesome later….you’ll see.

SEE?!!  Here is the floor after 24 hours. It looks SO COOL!  Kind of like ostrich leather mixed with cork mixed with stone.

Here is another closeup. (sorry so yellow, it’s my camera.) I was tempted to just leave it this color and  apply the polyurethane and call it good, but the buff camel color of the contractor’s paper was just not going to work with my décor vision.


THIS is the original culprit.  Not knowing what kind of stain was used in Rachel’s blog, I assumed it would be the water based variety (why? I have no idea). This did NOT end well, as you will see.

I was trying for a super dark espresso color, so I originally went with a custom tint, trying to get Bombay Mahogany, but it came out milk chocolate (baby poop). Ick. THEN I figured I’d have them make it darker at Lowe’s and although the next version was a better color, it did not go on smoothly at all.   It was all gloopy and streaky and marked up, just HORRIBLE!  Ugh, this was turning into a nightmare!  Not knowing what to do, I thought perhaps it was just the color, and that maybe a DARKER color would look better. 

I re-papered over the mess. Same technique as before, tear, wrinkle, dip, flatten and 10 minutes later, voila!  It was just like hitting the reset button! Hooray!


WHAT TO DO?!  I decided to contact Rachel from the Lovely Crafty Home blog and discovered that she used a lambs wool applicator and OIL based stain.  OhhhhH!  This time it will look PERFECT!  Or so I thought….

And this time, let’s try EBONY. THAT should be dark enough, right?

Aaacckkk!! Noooo! You can’t really see from this photo, but it looked like someone took a bunch of soot and smeared it on the floor.  It was GREY! Ick!  This paper staining was an entirely different animal than wood staining! Looks like I needed a warmer toned stain to achieve the effect I was looking for.  :::sigh::::   Time to repaper …….again.

That was easy!  Turn Mr. Fan on and we’ll be ready to re-stain in no time.

… forward two weeks later……

FRESH NEW STAIN: Ooooooh! JACOBEAN! THIS is the color!  Let’s try this!

(Note: I bought mineral spirits to clean all the Ebony color off of the lambswool applicator, and not having worked with mineral spirits before, I figured it would only take a bit of the $6 bottle to clean it.  OHhhh I was so wrong! It took the entire bottle and the applicator was STILL not clean!  I could have just bought a new one for the same price had I known.  Oh well, live and learn!)

So, the first coat of stain went on easy breezy, but then I was a little skimpy in my application and realized that the center area needed more to blend the color better, so I waited two hours and tried to “even it out” in the middle by daubing on additional color.  WRONG IDEA.   (Sorry for washed out video snapshot.)

I even left KNEE prints from trying to fix things.   ::::sigh:::back to the internet for more research on what to do!!

I slept on it and decided upon waking that I just needed to repaper just once more.

This time though, I decided to get on my hands and knees and run my hand across the paper to feel for any lifted bumps or issues after so many re-papering attempts.  There were a few gappy bumps that I had to glue down.  If there is a dried bump, you can sand gently to remove the knob before staining.   Then I just applied the first coat of stain correctly this time.

 It looked GREAT!  I really loaded up the stain on the pad and let a really thick coat sit on the paper for a good 3 minutes before gently blotting/wiping off with a soft old towel rag.  To avoid smeary marks, I just daubed it over those areas.  

 Let it dry overnight. I found that the oil based stain never dries fully and will feel tacky to the touch.  The poly application is a little tricky, but be sure to put on a pair of dark socks and then you should be able to walk on it gently with socks now for the poly topcoat application. CAUTION! DON’T TRY walking with barefeet!  You’ll end up pulling up the stain and have to repaper the whole thing again! 

NEXT: The high gloss poly coat!  

APPLICATION TIP: Take your 4″ synthetic paintbrush and duct tape it to the end of a broom handle. 

This is the topcoat I used. About $50 from Home Depot.  Make sure you get a FLOOR FINISH poly so it is durable enough.  Now comes the choices: satin, semi-gloss or high gloss?  Every paper flooring project that I could find online had used satin or semi-gloss finish for their poly topcoat.  I wanted to do the super glossy “piano finish” because I just adore that shine!  The good news is that if I ever get bored with the high gloss, I can just apply a coat of satin or semi-gloss over the top for a new finish! 

FYI: During research the pros recommend NOT trying to put high gloss on top of satin or semi-gloss because it will create a cloudy effect.

OH MY GOSH, applying the polyurethane topcoat is so easy!  Cut into the edges well to seal the whole thing down. If you’re not going to paint your trim like we are, be sure to keep your blue tape on! 


Apply with back and forth strokes. Don’t worry, the brush marks won’t show, they melt into a shiny hard finish.  Put on thin coats and they only take about 10 minutes to dry before you can add another.  I did 7 coats in the bathroom.  


Time to remove the blue tape!   You need to cut through the poly coat to release the tape. When you cut, make sure your blade is parallel with the floor so you are more cutting under the toilet edge. If you try to remove the tape without cutting through the poly topcoat, you’ll peel up the entire finish!

As you can see, I could have used a wider tape here, but cleanup was easy breezy with a disinfectant wipe. 

Next: sealing and making that edge look nice and clean.  Some pros caution about sealing around a toilet base because if the toilet wax seal underneath ever fails, it could cause a bunch of floor damage before being detected. 

Pshaw! My reasons for sealing:

  •  1. It looks better and will cover the raggedy edge from cutting.
  • 2. I have a bunch of boys under the age of 9 that pee there regularly and do not like the smell of urine that pools at the bottom of the toilet when they miss their target.
  •  3. I’ve never had a wax seal fail on my in my 43 years and our house is only 7 years old.

So, if you are going to seal things, you have some choices such as those shown above.  I’m all about silicone for it’s 100% waterproof quality, BUT we didn’t have white silicone, so I applied the paintable latex white caulk first to make it look pretty, then put the silicone over the top once it was dry.

Nice and tidy white line makes Mommy happy.


SOOOoooo shiny!  Well, I still have the trim to do, but LOOK AT THAT! Nevermind the stain that seeped into the carpet, ’cause that baby is gettin’ all tore out and we’re putting this floor throughout the house!!!

Add a little white painting of the trim and this will be perfection!

Voila!  We added shoe molding to our trim and it gave it a sharp and finished look. Fantastic!

More pictures of the texture:




Total cost of this floor treatment: $27.00!!

(Calculated $ based on % of product used. Barely made a dent in the roll or paper, gallon of Varathane and stain.)

UPDATE: August 2011: We’ve lived on this over a week with dogs, cat, little boys, guests, water, spills, etc. and it’s looking still perfect! No marks or scratches whatsoever!  We’re so impressed that we’re planning on tearing out our entire house of carpet and vinyl and putting this instead!  The only difference will be our son’s room, as he is going with a PiratesofTheCaribbeanKrakenFish theme and the contractor’s paper original color looks like sand, PLUS it will be easier to do any repairs if needed due to no stain matching required.

UPDATE: October 2011 : Been a good couple months, with TWO toilet overflows that sat for a good half hour each before Mommy was told about them.  NOT ONE PROBLEM!  Still looks good as new.  Waterproof deluxe! 

UPDATE: MARCH 2021!! TEN YEARS LATER! You guys, we DID end up doing our entire house with this paper floor treatment. Over 2000sqft!!! We ended up having most of the house like this for about 4 years with GREAT wear. We figured we would have it for a year, tops, but it just ended up working out fine and next thing you know, 5 years passed! We have since just put in wide plank wood laminates over the top of every single room we did this in, except our powder room. The original room that we first tried this in. IT STILL HAS IT IN IT!! I’m going to post a video update on YouTube about it, so find me there at

More updates on how this is holding up: PAPER FLOORING UPDATE AND REPAIRS