So, we had this great idea to inexpensively replace our crap kitchen floor with an awesome paper floor. We like to do home renovation projects, and since we’ve done everything else in our house ourselves, we figured we could roll up our sleeves and give this a try. If it worked, great, if not, we were only out a little dosh and a lotta time. Cue foreshadowing…
We used this really awesome tutorial from Lovely Crafty Home. She’s taken the time to put together a very helpful guide for doing this technique, and the floors in her house look amazing. It’s really brilliant. We followed all the instructions as per the tutorial.
Here is our paper floor journey in pictures:
Ok. So are you with me so far? Researched and read all the interwebs. Found awesome tutorial. Followed all instructions. Used all the recommended products. The only divergence at this point is that we did 2 layers of paper, because it was necessary to get a smooth paper layer and not see the wood planks underneath, and we waited longer before polying so that the stain would dry as much as possible. Until this point, everything went BEAUTIFULLY. It took approximately 16 hours to do both layers of the floor, and probably another 2 hours to stain, but it all went smoothly and according to plan.
This is where I should have listened to my gut.
Although the tutorial says to put the poly on with a sponge applicator, we never should have put the poly on with the sponge pad applicator. I know that many people have done many floors in their houses and had great results with this. I know that it can work. BUT: I’ve poly’d a time or two in my day. I’ve never had a problem applying poly except for the 2 times when I listened to others’ advice on how to do it—once when I was told to rub it on with a rag (am having to completely redo all the woodwork in my dining room because of that bit of advice), and this time when I was told to put it on with a sponge pad. Never, ever again. Brush that shit on, people! I knew we should have brushed it on. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I cannot kick myself enough times for how dumb I feel for not listening to my gut on this one. Why? Because this happened:
It’s really, really important to me that you all understand that I am not blaming the tutorial, which is awesome, or saying that the applicator method is wrong. Clearly it works really well for some people. What I’m saying is, if in doubt, use a brush. It’s the best way to totally control the coverage. This happened within an hour of putting on the first coat of poly. I think that our particular issue was due to putting the poly on too thin. The tutorial really stresses putting it on super thin. I think that’s because usually when people jack up poly, it’s because they put it on too thick. But too thin can also be a problem, because the poly dries faster than all the moisture can escape it. There were a few areas where it came out clear, and that’s where it went on with an appropriate thickness. The next day I spent an hour at Home Depot talking with their floor expert guy and also on the phone with the rep for the poly that we used. Both of them said that they were surprised the method worked at all because we used a water-based glue + an oil stain + a water-based poly. All big no-no’s apparently. They also agreed that the ashy haze was probably due to it being too thin and that using a brush would have worked better. Neither of them liked the applicator pads. Again, clearly it can work, because it has done so beautifully for many people. However, for those of you for whom this technique did not work, it’s not a total surprise.
The sad part is that there was nothing to do to fix it. I read through all the comments on both the tutorial and everywhere on the internet that I could. Others have had this problem. Some tried sanding it off. I tried, but it just tore at the paper. One woman who had the same “too thin” problem, was able to successfully remove the entire thing with denatured alcohol. I tried, but it only helped in a couple spots and made others worse. Everyone else just had to re-lay the whole floor from scratch.
The good news is this: It’s a really cool technique and is gorgeous when done right. If I were to do it again, I would buff the floor with beeswax or butcher’s wax instead of polying it. I think that would work well. Also, this floor is in the kitchen of a family with two kids and a big dog. Even though it has only one half-assed coat of poly, after over a month, it doesn’t have so much as a scratch on it. It is still perfectly intact. I’m really impressed with how durable it’s been. And honestly, before the ruined poly, I thought it was the prettiest floor I’d ever seen—just like burnished antique leather. So pretty that I’d be tempted to try to redo the whole thing… except that I know I’d be totally heartbroken if it failed again. For now, I think it’s just going to become the fancy failed underlayment for a new floor.
Total bonus? Husband and I got to spend a lot of time together. It was fun, and we learned a lot. I don’t regret trying this floor at all. I know that at some point we’ll try it again. Next time it will work. :D