Paper Floors on Concrete- Put that Paper Down!
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Oh my gosh, aren’t you so excited about this part? This is where the rubber meets the road….or the paper meets the concrete, I guess. If you read my previous post, you know that we did our floor on a concrete slab and read our suggestions for prepping the floor and for getting the paper ready. If your floor is prepped and you’re ready to go, let’s lay a paper floor on concrete! Otherwise, you might want to go back and check out Part 1. I’ll revisit prepping the paper below too.
MUST have, can’t do this without it: (and if we recommend something specific, I’ll put it here and also how much we used for 1400 square feet)
Paper- (1 x https://amzn.to/3G0w13z)
Glue- (2 x https://amzn.to/3Eh29iZ)
Bucket for glue mixture- doesn’t need to be too large and ours was calibrated, which was nice
Bucket/small trash can for scraps
Paint brushes- these were great! (https://amzn.to/3cYbcZS)
It can be done without them but I wouldn’t recommend it:
Knee pads- life saver! (https://amzn.to/3nZSesh)
Multi tool- (https://amzn.to/3nZIwWC)
Comes in handy:
dustpan and brush- (https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/blaska-dust-pan-and-brush-assorted-colors-70170329/)
Key Point # 1: Tear and crumple the paper before you start, or at least a big batch of it.
I recommend tearing and crumpling your paper in advance. That became our TV watching activity in the evenings. My hubby would tear and crumple and I would uncrumple and bag them up in a garbage bag. We purchased a 900 foot roll of 24 inch wide, 40 lb paper and it was just right for the ~1400 square feet we were covering. Initially, we started by tearing them into roughly 12” x 12” squares. We found these to be good for smaller spaces but quickly decided to go with larger pieces (at least 24 inches on one side).
Be sure to leave the factory edges on some of the pieces to lay against the wall, along the perimeter of your room. You can always tear the edge off later if you need it for a different location. If you choose to stain your floors, the edges of the paper pick the stain up much darker and some pieces tend to stain darker too. When you have a lot of smaller pieces, this makes the appearance of the floor much busier. It’s a matter of personal preference. Also, needless to say, it goes down faster with larger pieces, so that was a plus for us as well.
So many options
I should note, at this point, you have multiple options for the look you want to achieve just by what you decide to do with the paper. The size and shape of the paper, rough or straight edges and the pattern you choose to lay it in can give you floors that look like anything from stained concrete, tile, hardwood, stone and even leather. There are many examples online of some really beautiful and creative paper floors that do not look like paper! Here are a couple that really stood out to me: http://corninmycoffee-pot.blogspot.com/2012/02/faux-wood-floor-paper-decoupage-floor.html and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2E22lhcb1s. If you need inspiration, do a little searching online. There are so many variations. One post I found used brightly colored construction paper that looked like a mosaic! In the right space, how fun would this be?!
Ready Your Floors
Key Point # 2: Sweep and mop the floors thoroughly before you begin.
The concrete slab had all kinds of small particles that remained, no matter how much we swept and it also created a kind of chalky dust. So immediately before starting in an area, we would sweep it as thoroughly as possible, run a damp mop over it and then give it a few minutes to dry. (This is a great time to mix the glue.) I also kept a damp dish cloth within reach and would wipe each section of floor before laying a piece of paper on it. No matter how tiny, and sometimes completely unnoticeable, these pieces are, they are very obvious once the paper is laid on them so do your best to get them out. We found the handheld dustpans and brushes from IKEA very helpful during this step too.
Mixing the Glue
Key Point # 3: Mix 1 part glue with 1 part water.
We started with a 1:1 (glue: water) mixture but, after some practice, thought that a 1:2 mixture was ideal. WE WERE WRONG! After living on the floor for over a year, the area with the more concentrated mixture has held up much better. The diluted mixture would be good on subflooring, but it does not fare well on concrete over the long haul. Pour the glue in, add an equal amount of water and stir it up. We used an old dowel for this- nothing fancy. And, taaa daaa! You’re ready to go!
The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For
Key Point # 4: Wipe the area of the floor with a damp cloth, coat the floor and/or the back of the paper with the glue mixture, apply the paper as smoothly as possible and saturate the top of it with more glue.
I recommend starting in a room that is less visible. This gives you the opportunity to get the hang of it. We started in the laundry room. Begin in the corner or spot farthest away from the door and work towards the exit so you don’t trap yourself in the room.
To avoid my floors looking like a fish scale pattern, I laid pieces randomly around the room then went back to the starting corner and filled in the spaces. After more practice, this seemed unnecessary. Instead, I found it better to start in two spots and meet up somewhere along the way or just randomly fill in spaces, making sure to mix up the overlaps. It is helpful to lay out a few pieces at a time to determine placement before gluing. I would also tear off any straight, factory edges that would be exposed.
Prep each spot
Wipe the spot with a damp cloth to remove any small pieces and dust. No matter how small the particle, almost everything shows up once the paper is down. Try to clear everything from the spot you’re about to cover. Using a thick, sturdy brush, paint the glue mixture over the area where you will lay the paper down and/or the back of the paper. Place the paper down and then thoroughly coat the top of the paper in the glue mixture. Find your next piece, determine where you will place it, making sure there is overlap with the piece that is already down so no concrete is visible and repeat. The paper should be saturated with the glue mixture. This saturation will cause the paper to bubble up but, don’t worry, it will go back down when it dries.
Key Point #5: Bubbles in the wet paper are normal and will smooth out. Wrinkles and raised creases will not and need to be corrected while the paper is still wet.
However, if there are wrinkles or small folds in the paper, those will not flatten so you should readjust the paper as needed to work those out. These raised wrinkles are almost guaranteed to rip eventually unless they are under furniture or in a low-to-no traffic area. The wet paper will tear easily but the good news is that this is a very forgiving project and, if it does, the imperfections only give it more character. Just make sure that none of the tears leave exposed slab. If they do, no worries, just patch it with a smaller piece of paper and keep going. Now just put on your favorite music and repeat until your floor is covered.
Note when covering large areas: when you get to the staining stage, sections done at different times stain differently. So, in spite of your best efforts, it is likely that you will be able to see a difference. If this is going to make you crazy, take this into consideration. For example, for our largest room, we moved all the furniture to one side, did half the room and then, when it was finished, moved everything to that side and did the other side. As a result there is a clear delineation down the middle of the room, however, our couch covers most of it so it’s not obvious.
Let the paper dry thoroughly before staining. You should allow for at least 24 hours but this can vary depending on temps and humidity. We put fans on ours to speed up drying times. Be sure to check the perimeters as the paper dries. If you notice the edges lifting up, re-wet them with the glue mixture and make sure they stick down. We didn’t take them too seriously because we were going to install quarter round at the baseboards and thought that would secure them down. However, that didn’t pan out so well. It is well worth addressing that issue now! Once you see that there are no wet areas remaining on the paper, you can move on to the next step.
See you next time for the final step, staining and sealing! Hooray!!
- Tear and crumple the paper before you start, or at least a big batch of it.
- Sweep and mop the floors thoroughly before you begin.
- Mix 1 part glue with 1 part water.
- Wipe the area of the floor with a damp cloth, coat the floor and/or the back of the paper with the glue mixture, apply the paper as smoothly as possible and saturate the top of it with more glue.
- Bubbles in the wet paper are normal and will smooth out. Wrinkles and raised creases will not and need to be corrected while the paper is still wet.