DIY: Brown Paper Floors

We have carpet in our house... and pets. Anyone with allergies (like me) can tell you that is a terrible combination. I finally decided something had to be done about the carpet in our dining room... and I had read online where someone had used brown contractor's paper as flooring and it looked almost like stained concrete...Say whaatt???
So on a whim, I told the hubby to do his demo magic and rip out that carpet. He was done in no time!

From here, I took over and want to share the process with you.

Let's get started!
Materials Needed:

Box cutter (for removing carpet)

Twine (for binding rolled carpet)

Elmer's Glue All

Rit Dye in Dark Brown

Water Based Polyurethane - designated for floors (NOT OIL BASED)

Disposable gloves

Paint brush

Brown contractor's paper

Stain pad

Extension pole (I unscrewed mine from my broom and just used that)

Large bowl or pan

Measuring cup


1. Remove the carpet

I'll be honest, I don't do this part. Remember when I told you about my demo hubby? He is THE best! He went to the store and got a box cutter and twine and had this step complete in about an hour! If you have trim/baseboards that need to be removed, do that first. Next, cut the carpet in about 3ft strips. This allows you to roll the carpet and padding up into manageable sized rolls. Secure the roll with twine and haul it to the trash.

2. Prep the sub-floor

Now that the carpet is out of there, it's time to remove the tack strips, staples and hammer down any nails sticking up. Once that is complete, I rolled Killz over my entire floor. This is not necessary if you don't have any stains, but I wanted a clean slate. It helped too when placing the paper, because the unpainted sub floor would get dyed very easily and blend in with the paper, so I didn't realize there were some spots that were not overlapped enough.

**Foreshadowing alert, this was one of my issues!
3. Rip up the paper

Iron Man 3 was on, so I ripped paper while that was playing. I won't lie, my hands hurt! I may wear gloves if I do this again. I ripped pieces anywhere from 6 inches to 16 inches, then crumpled them up and laid them out flat again. Be sure to have 2 separate piles. One for edges and one without. You'll place the pieces with edges around the perimeter of the room. It takes A LOT of paper, so when you think you finally have up some more! Then, get a good night's sleep because you are going to need it.

**Please note: There is a front and back side of the paper. Using dye or stain will help with making it more uniform. If you don't use either, make sure you know which side is the front and which side is the back because one is more absorbent and it may appear splotchy depending on your paper. This is why the test boards are important.

4. Mix the glue/dye mixture

Put on disposable gloves (you'll thank me later for this one). The ratio I used for each batch of glue/dye mixture was the following:

2 cups of warm water (I found that the glue dissolved better in warm water)

2 cups of glue

2 TBS of Rit Dye

Once I combined all of these, the dye turned the mixture purple. I would have 100% freaked out, but I had read to expect this, so I kept on going.
5. Start placing the paper

Begin in a far corner of the room and work your way out, through the doorway. Our dining room has 2 doors, so I just made sure I didn't block myself out of any areas. I took each piece of paper, dunked it in the mixture long enough for it to get saturated, but not so much that it would fall apart. Pulled it through two fingers to get any excess off and placed it on the floor. Be sure to overlap each piece about an inch because it will dry and shrink!
After about an hour on the floor, my knees and back were killing me, so I went out in the garage and pulled out my rolling garden cart. It's fantastic! You sit on it and it has wheels, so you just roll from side to side. I love it! I just had to make sure that I only rolled it on the exposed sub-floor and not any parts that had already been papered.
Are you ready for this? It took 8 hours of non-stop work. I did this all myself...take my advice, get a partner. For real, it will make the time and work go twice as fast.
As the paper begins to dry, the purple fades and a beautiful dark brown color shows through. After 8 hours, I was beginning to see the edges and certain spots take on a personality of their own, with the dye gathering in the areas where I had crinkled up the paper. I was loving it.
Then I went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning and walked hobbled in to my dining room, I gasped. It was BEAUTIFUL!! The floor turned out so much better than I had ever imagined! I wanted to finish it up that day, but OMG I was so sore! I decided I would pull a Scarlett and worry about it tomorrow. I spent the majority of the day laying down and watching movies with my sweet kiddo.
The next morning, I couldn't wait to get the polyurethane on it!!! I did see a few spots where the paper had shrunk and the white Killz floor was showing. No problem, I thought...I'll just mix up some extra glue/dye stuff and create a patch. Here are all the places I put patches.

The "patches" dried a completely different (lighter) color and where the glue/dye went past the edges, it turned super dark. I was crushed, I ruined it. I was so mortified that I didn't even take any pictures. Hours of tedious labor, down the toilet. I tried darkening it very precisely with a paint brush, but no luck. Finally, I went to my toolbox and pulled out my box cutter, then proceeded to cut out all of the patches and original paper under those patches. I remixed and re-papered the patches and waited overnight. It was an improvement, but I still was not satisfied. My hubby (being the level-headed man he is) said, "let it sit for a couple of days, think about it and move on from there." I love him. :)
6. Apply the polyurethane

After 2 days, I decided to go ahead and put the first coat of polyurethane on the floor. If the spots were lighter...then so be it. I was going to put a rug down anyway and no one would really notice. I read where a lot of people brush the poly on with a paint brush... there was no way I was getting back down on that floor! I used a sponge applicator made specifically for finishing floors (about $6 at Lowes) and just screwed it in to my broom handle. It was fast and it worked perfectly! Here's the other thing, after the first coat of poly, it looked better! The spots were still visible, as you can see below, but it was definitely an improvement.
I waited a full 24 hours before putting the 2nd coat of poly on because, I had an idea that I thought would work. Now that I had one full coat of polyurethane on the floor and nothing was being absorbed by the paper, what if I added some of the leftover Rit dye to my next coat poly. And that's exactly what I did, it blended all of the spots beautifully! I added a 3rd coat with more dye and the patches are now, not noticeable at all. The last two coats of polyurethane were dye-free, so that's 5 total.
Tip: Looking back now, I should have taken the time to sand between my first and second coat of poly. There are a couple of places on the floor that are a bit uneven where a corner of the paper must have raised up.

7. Wait

I waited 7 days before I moved my furniture back in to the room and when I did, I didn't move all of it back. I really like the open feel of the room. The dark floor and white board and batten made the room look much larger. This also gave me time to order a rug for the space.
After the last coat of polyurethane, I installed trim around the bottom of the board and batten. I also bought new 2" white blinds today and am going to put those up tomorrow. Then I'll be able to keep the panels open and it will show off the DIY Craftsman trim I installed around the window (it use to be all dark wood trim in this room).

All in all, I really like this floor. I'm so glad the carpet it gone. Would I do it again? Yes, but I would want company so I don't lose my mind. I'd also NEVER patch spots with large pieces of paper, small is definitely the way to go.

Have you considered brown paper floors? What other flooring options have you used? As far as cost, this room is 12x12 and the total cost was less than $100! I still had a ton of paper left over, but I used all of the glue and the polyurethane (poly was about $50).
Check out the full tutorial at the link below!
Karrah @ Mrs Do It Herself
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 65 questions
  • Pat Oakley Blauvelt Pat Oakley Blauvelt on Sep 29, 2021

    Have done this on wall without the polyurethane and is lovely! Wondering if this can be done on a bathroom floor. How do you clean the floor? What does getting wet do to it??

  • Lee Lee on May 19, 2022

    Is it possible to do this project and use light or no stain? Would this make the finished project turn out a lighter brown?

    I saw a video in which a person used colored construction paper. I don’t think she tore the the pieces of paper. I thought it looked so fun just like that. She choose to darken the floor so it would be more muted I guess….


  • Luther Kindle Luther Kindle on Feb 24, 2023

    how well does it hold up with heavy traffic ?

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  • Lady Jane Lady Jane on Oct 14, 2022

    Yes, I would try it, but I think I like the crinkled look best. And the suggestion of using a concrete sealer sounds best.

  • Snooks1948 Snooks1948 on Oct 19, 2022

    I did a couple walls in my house without any stain just crinkled brown paper bags. I put thumb tacks that looked like they belonged on Upholstered furniture around the edge on one wall. Really looked nice.