A Complete “How To” Guide for Paper Bag Floors

Taking on a DIY project can be daunting. If you are anything like me, I MUST scour the internet, read and plan till the proverbial cows come home! I decided all my hard work and gathered information should not just be lost at the end of my successful DIY paper bag floor project…I should share it with you.  This website will continue to grow with more details as time allows. 

This is the process I used to lay almost 1000 sq’ of paper bag floor in my home. This is your “how to”:


Clean & prep the floors.  You can’t expect a nice finished product without prepping the area. It doesn’t take long… but DO IT.

  • if you are planning to apply paper bag flooring over plywood, seal the cracks between the sheets of wood. If not, the seams WILL show through.
  • we also applied paper bag flooring over hard vinyl tile with success. In this case scrub the floor with TSP to remove any dirt and grime that will hinder the paper from adhering.
  • vacuum


Decide on your method of application. Do you prefer a plank style, wood floor look?  A tile look?  A slate look…the sky is the limit…

Paper bag flooring, wood plank style, see below OR  paper bag flooring, slate style, click here

    • cut the strips of paper. I chose to use a straight edge across the full length of the paper roll (36″). I chose a plank width of 5″. You can use a piece of wood for a template and place a cutting board underneath.  Use a utility knife to cut the planks. You will need to have calculated your dimensions to know approximately how many stripes you need to cover your space.  This step is demonstrated below:


Paint the wood plank effect on the strips of paper. The wood grain technique is very simple providing you buy a wood grain tool. I watered down dark brown paint (add water slowly until you feel less drag with your stir stick). Quickly brush it on one paper strip at a time, then immediately, while the paint is wet, drag the wood graining tool over the paper using the “teeth” side.  Next, turn the wood grain tool over and use a rocking motion while pulling the tool down the strip of paper, to achieve the desired grain. It may sound hard… but it is very easy!
This step will requires a dark brown paint, a paint brush as well as the wood grain tool.  The wood grain tool gives amazing results and this step is quite fun and rewarding.  It can be used for paper bag flooring as well as a number of other crafts.  As I painted the strips of paper I carefully laid them flat to dry (I used the room I was about to makeover as my drying spot). They dry very quickly since the paint is watered down.  A demonstration is below:



Now it’s time to apply the floor. I suggest you watch these short these videos to learn the process of applying the glue (Elmers Glue-All).  All the research I have done points to a common denominator in a successful paper bag floor. The common denominator is Elmer’s Glue All. If you’re like me, I live in an area where the only size bottle I could buy was a small school size…not good for my flooring project. I had to order online to buy it in a cost effective gallon size. Trust me, it’s worth the few days it takes to arrive. I have had many people ask me if they can use another glue product…I would NEVER. Many glue products are toxic and I’m unsure that they will work. I only use Elmer’s Glue All for paper bag floor and I have successfully laid almost 1000 sq’ in my home! Check out the amazing reviews of this product by clicking here.


Dry time. Let it dry for 24 hrs.


Apply stain. Using stain comes down to personal preference but I find by staining the planks it gives them a richer, realistic looking tone.  I prefer to to use a lint free rag and rub the stain on. It dries faster and I found I had much more control with color. Simply rub on the stain and wipe excess off as you go.  Applying the stain is a quick process.  You can checkout the various Minwax stains available by clicking here 


DRY TIME. Warning, the stain will never really feel completely dry. I was very careful at this stage. I only wore thick socks and walked softly. After drying approximately 1.5 days I proceeded the the next step.


Varathane. I apply seven coats. Yes, seven. Don’t panic. This went fast as I was no longer on my knees. The water based varathane I used (under the shopping list tab) dries crazy fast so I was able to apply a coat every couple hours! Watch here:

Here is a picture of the finished product where my slate style paper bag floor meets my paper bag flooring that looks like wood:

Paper bag flooring

Below is a picture of our entrance downstairs where we applied the same process to put paper bag flooring on concrete (a great option for the basement where you might not want to spend a lot of money but you don’t want it to look like you didn’t):


To see a complete supply list on what you need to complete this project yourself click here