Illustrated Guide to Faux Leather Floors

Update:  Click here to see how the floor wears and why not to put it over vinyl.

I posted last year about putting in a faux leather floor in my guest bath.  I love it so much I put the same floor in the children’s bathroom.  This time I took lots of photos to show you more clearly how easy it is.  We plan to put the same floor in our living room and hallway as soon as our kitchen remodel is finished.

The good things about the floor:  It looks great!  It is durable and wet moppable.   You can do about 800 square feet for only $65!  Since it is a thin layer on the subfloor you can lay a new floor right on top when you are ready for a change.  It’s easy to patch if the floor gets damaged.  It’s easy to customize the look and color with different wood stains or paints.

The downside to the floor:  It takes 3-7 days to complete plus 7 days to cure.  The polyurethane doesn’t smell very nice while it’s drying.

You will need:

1 gallon or less of Elmer’s Glue ($10)

1 roll of brown paper (found in the painting section at Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Walmart) $10

A pair of rubber gloves (or several pairs)

An empty bucket and paint stick (An old ice cream pail works great.)

A small can of wood stain, ($5) I used Minwax oil based in Mahogany

A gallon of floor grade polyurethane ($40)  I used clear gloss from Minwax

1-2″ wide sponge brush

3 3-4″ wide sponge brushes

There is enough paper, glue, and poly in this supply list to do about 800 square feet for $65.

1.  If you want to do any painting on walls or trim, do that first.  We removed old vinyl stickers from the formerly blue walls, sanded and painted the worn wood trim and vanity white, and painted the walls a light tan.

2.  Remove old flooring as much as possible.  I was able to get down to a paper backing that was fairly smooth and started there.

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3.  Vacuum the area really well, then use a wet rag to pick up any fragments of dust.  If you have had mold or other yucky stuff in there, bleach the area well, let it dry and prime with Kilz.

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4.  Tear the factory edges off your brown paper.  Keep them in a separate bag for edging the room.  Tear the inside paper into 8-12 inch squares.  Wad the torn paper into balls and keep them in bags.  Kids are great help here.

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5. Before you start make sure the room is well ventilated.  There are no windows in this room, so I turned on the exhaust fan. 

Mix one part of elmer’s glue with 3 parts of water in your empty bucket.  (For example, 1 cup of glue to 3 cups of water .)  Stir well.

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6.  Start with the edge pieces and dip a crumpled ball into the glue mixture.  Squeeze it tight to accentuate the wrinkles and remove excess glue.  Carefully open it flat and place it along the edge of the room.  Use your gloved fingers to smooth it flat.  It’s important to take time here to get a good smooth adherance to the floor.  Work from the middle towards the edge to force out large air bubbles.

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7.  Continue in like manner overlapping each piece so there are no gaps.  Work only as far as you can reach and then stop.  Lots of glue is not a problem.  It will dry clear, absorb into the paper and seem to disappear when dry.  A lot of glue is better than some sections not adhered completely.

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8.  If you have a lot of glue on the floor, it’s a good time to take a break and let it dry a few minutes.  If you were good at squeezing out the glue, you can start with the stain.  Dip your 2″ foam brush in the stain and paint it on the floor.  Since the stain is oil based and the glue is water based, the stain will be easy to move around to the areas you want it.  Blotting with a paper towel will absorb and remove stain if necessary.  A nice blotchy appearance is great.  Keep in mind as the floor dries it appears lighter in color.

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9.  Continue by laying another glue and paper section as far as your arm can reach, then stop and stain it.  I used scissors to cut a clean edge around the floor vent.  The nice thing about using elmers is it washes out of clothes and off the scissors even after it dries.  My pants were stiff with glue by the time I finished, but they washed out great.

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10.  Finish the floor in this manner and then turn a box fan on it from the other room if possible to help it dry.  It will need to dry overnight (mine took 2 nights since it was very humid and I used a LOT of glue.)

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11.  When the floor is dry enough to walk on, use a 3 or 4″ sponge brush to apply a thin coat of polyurethane.  I did this barefoot to keep from tracking lint onto the floor.  I found it handy to have a wet paper towel in my hand to wipe any oops poly off the wood work.  Check for dryness after 4 hours.  If it is dry enough to walk on, add another coat.   Repeat until you have 5-7 layers of poly on the floor.  My brush held out for 2 coats.  I put it in a zip lock baggie to keep it from drying out between coats.  When the brush fell apart I tossed it and grabbed a new one.

You can walk on it and use the bathroom 24 hours after the final coat.  Don’t place rugs or furniture on the floor for 7 days to allow it to cure.  We were able to reset the toilet after 3 days.

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Click here for another paper bag floor tutorial, including working with a concrete sub floor and adding shimmer.

5 thoughts on “Illustrated Guide to Faux Leather Floors

  1. Aimee says:

    I did this in my bathroom with stone-look wallpaper crinkle cut to look like tiles. It looked great and lasted about 7 years before I was ready for a change. Watch out for wet rugs in front of the shower/bath. The poly will wear really quickly there. Your “leather” floors look great!

  2. Shelley says:

    I have five kids under the age of 8. Will this last? 🙂 I have nasty carpet in my living room and we can’t afford anything to replace it, but I want something that will be durable.

  3. Angela says:

    It’s too soon for me to tell you if it will last since we have just tried it, but I have heard good things about it online. I have 5 kids 10 and under and am putting this floor everywhere. I figure even if it only lasts a couple of years it is better than nasty carpet and will get me a little longer to save for another floor.
    So far in the bathroom it has lasted well. I wish I had put the quarter round down right away and then caulked the line to the floor. We had some water seep under the trim near the sink and wet the floor from the underside. I dried it out with a fan and if I have to can cut out that section of paper and replace it without too much notice.

  4. Angela says:

    Shelley, It’s been over a year now and the floor is doing great! I love it; it’s easy to clean; looks fabulous, and there is a lot of kid traffic in this bathroom.

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