Paper Tiger

Some days, no matter how hard you try, your toilet just ends up in the backyard.

Oh sure, like it's never happened to you.  It started out innocently enough.  Deeply in love with our new brown paper bag flooring, the Fam and I decided that the next area to get the treatment had to be the downstairs loo.  Never has a floor been in more desperate need of help than in that room.  The same room that every guest to our home ends up visiting.  So embarrassing.  Phillip to the rescue (note the unwavering trust in his eyes):

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He indulgently removed the commode, then tore up the ghastly old vinyl.  Observe the gag-inducing ring where the throne used to be.  Classy.  This is such a small amount of flooring that it fit into our normal trash pickup.  No removal fees!

I then filled a plethora of nail holes and gaps in the subfloor with joint compound ($4).  Smooth, baby!  While that dried, the Smallies and I tore pieces off a big roll of brown kraft construction paper ($11).  We separated the pieces into two piles: "straight edges" and "centers", depending on where they had been torn from the roll.  Then we crumpled each piece up, smoothed it out, and re-crumpled it.  This is the crucial step that gives the interesting depth and texture to the finished floor.

While the Smallies finished crumpling, I lightly sanded the joint compound.  After crumpling, each paper piece got dunked in a mixture of 3:1 water and white glue ($12), then smoothed onto the floor with a brush.  I painted more of the glue mixture onto the floor under each piece as I went along.  I used the pieces with straight edges along the walls, and the center pieces in the middle.  I decided that the more randomly-chosen and placed each piece was, the better the pattern looked.  It took about 20 minutes to cover the whole powder room floor.

Then we let it dry overnight, with a fan blowing it from each end of the room.  This was the hardest part for my weapons-grade impatience.

After that, we put on 5 coats of floor oil-modified polyurethane floor varnish ($47).  It sounds like a lot of work, but each coat only took 5 minutes to put on with a plain old 4" paintbrush.  If I were doing larger areas at a time, I'd probably look into a different tool for the varnish application, but since it's only small bits at a time, the brush is just fine. 

Since the toilet was already out of the way, we decided to go ahead and hang new baseboards while we were at it.  Aren't they sexy?  5" high and gleaming white.  I painted them with spray paint ($4) on sawhorses in the backyard between varnish coats.  Once I had them installed, I only had to fill and paint nail holes.  Another advantage of doing one small area of our floor at a time: The ridiculous cost of $20 per stick of sexy baseboards is easier to bear.  This room took 2, with some leftover.

And that's it!  If you are keeping track, the materials for this project so far add up to $118 (or so my calculator tells me *insert math joke here*).  We have enough paper, glue and varnish left to do about half the remaining ground floor.  So if we weren't upgrading the baseboards (could have re-used the old ones, if I hadn't hated them like a tent full of mosquitoes), I estimate that our whole lower level would be re-floored for under $250.

Do you have any idea how much yarn I can buy now?

P.S.  Please don't think I came up with the notion a papier-mache floor all on my own.  My sister saw one in a shop 6 years ago and told me about it.  In the interim, others have installed and blogged their own brown paper floors.  If you're interested in trying this yourself, a simple internet search will tell you all you need to know.  Or, of course, drop me a line!