The Paper Flooring Experiment, Part III – Sealer Options

Today’s post contains more information than you ever wanted to know about different sealers. Seriously…feel free to skim. Although this particular part of the paper bag floor experiment is the one I have the most interest in, since my floor is having some sealer problems, not to mention that and most of the questions I get about paper flooring have to do with sealer. Not for long though!

(If you missed the first part of this series, go HERE to read about paper and HERE to read about stain.)

Sealer options for flooring

At this point in the experiment all the combinations are getting a little crazy and my brain is turning into mush… I’m going to need a good creative project soon to balance out all this science. I’m not used to over analyzing things…for this project I had my scientific notebook near and madly scribbled notes as I worked, took way too many pictures, and labeled everything with permanent markers to try and keep everything straight. Suffice it to say that I’m glad this project is behind me, and I’m glad to have a sealer solution for everyone!

So here are the contestants…

experimental sealers

What I did was try each sealer with a water based and an oil based stain, and applied two coats. This experiment (unlike the others) is really hard to describe with photos….all the products in this post are clear, and while could tell a difference in person those differences are hard to photograph. So bear with me.

To test the durability I applied two coats of sealer to my sample boards and let it cure for a few days. Then I grabbed a couple of items and gave them a years worth of abuse in about 30 seconds.tools of destruction

I scratched them with a fork, beat them with a rock, tried to pull up the sealer with tape, and poured water of them. Some of the sealers really impressed me….some not so much. Also, in order to keep your sanity please don’t think about the different kinds of paper or horrid looking stain…all we are worried about here is the sealer and oil based and water based stain. Don’t make it more complicated than that. Your brain thanks you.

Lets get right to the results, starting with the ones you should avoid.

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#8

Parks floor poly

Parks (RustOleum) Water based Poly for Floors – $40 a gallon

Look familiar? That’s because it is…this is the sealer that I used to seal my boys floor. It finished dead last, much to my horror. Although there is a silver lining – I was somewhat impressed with it after a year of use, so if the worst performer held up alright then you really can’t go too wrong when you pick a sealer.  And in its defense this bottle is a year old, so that may have affected its performance a bit (though some of the others are old as well). Basically it scratched really easily, came up with tape, and is cloudy.

RustOleum floor poly scratches

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Comments

  1. You somehow managed to make that easy to understand, and entertaining. Good job!
    Sam Pereira recently posted..Nervous WaterMy Profile

  2. Marina Garcia says:

    Bona Traffic is the KING of all sealers – I put it over my penny floors as a sealer (was a bit afraid screwing the application of epoxy) and it looks and wears fantastically. Love it. I am glad your experiment yielded it a winner too :)))))

    • That is so good to hear! I loved it as soon as I tried it and it’s great to hear success stories. Also…you did a penny floor?! How did it turn out? Where is it in your home? Do you have a blog where I can read all the details and not annoy you with questions?
      Ashley recently posted..Rustic Glam Foyer LightMy Profile

      • Marina Garcia says:

        Haha. I annoyed you last year about your butcher block countertops and then decided to go for a penny countertop. Hubby got scared and suddenly came home with a gorgeous slab of granite that became the countertop… I didn’t want to roll the pennies again, so I used them. On the floors ;-)) I don’t have a blog. I only steal other bloggers’ ideas and apply them at my home :-))))

  3. Ash, you ROCK!
    I absolutely appreciated your careful and very thorough research into floor sealers all ON BEHALF of your readers. Thanks for the time you put into the applying, waiting, re-applying, sighing,applying, grumbling, re-buying, re-trying, sighing, cheering, photography, notes and finally the fabulous post ALL TO HELP US lowly DIYers!
    I hope you get some great sponsors out of all this work.

    With much admiration and appreciation,
    Melanie

    • Were you spying on me? Because you nailed it. You are more than welcome…I just want everyone’s floor to turn out well and not into a giant disaster that they regret trying. Also, this will save me time in the long run, as far as answering questions, comments, and e-mails. So it is a little selfish ;) Thanks for the encouragement!
      Ashley recently posted..The Paper Flooring Experiment, Part II – Stain OptionsMy Profile

      • wow!!! I am in sitting in front of my screen in absolute amazement!!! that is awesome. i mean really really interesting, unique, eclectic, cheap, conscientious, green, user-friendly and wow. really really wow. I have an event center that we are slowly building up and i’m so excited. i have horrid carpet over a concrete floor and now a fabulous way to refinish that will also create amazing discussions amongst my patrons. all i can say is FABULOUS!!!
        And kudos to you for all the hard work and time…. i completely agree with all the comments of thank you for all your research and willingness to share info. way to go!

  4. Wow! That stuff sounds amazing! I wonder how it would work over paint on a table top? Any guesses or reviews that you read on that application?

    Thanks for all your hard work on this LOL

    Erica
    http://www.fortheloveofdecorating.com/

  5. Wow. What a lot of work! Floors are a mighty big project, and it’s great to have this kind of knowledge going into it. And the post was great – clear and readable. Thanks so much, and enjoy your next project! :)
    Jan Elizabeth recently posted..A bowling ball with a history, and big plansMy Profile

  6. Thanks so much for this extensive review on sealers. This is the best info yet! I have done two floors using about 10 coats of the Varethane floor water based. It’s OK but did cloud just a bit and is slippery. I was afraid to try the Bona because of the cost. I’m starting another room soon and I will definitely try the Bona in the anti-slip formula. This gives me hope I can eventually do the entire house. We are in our fifties and I am concerned with how slippery the first two rooms are and I was hesitant to try this technique in a higher traffic area. You are an inspiration! Thanks again!!!

  7. We are thinking of doing something like this. After looking at just the paper, and the paper that people have made look like wood, we are going to try to make it look like rock. Thank you SO much for doing all the prep work on the 3 boards, 4 different stains, and so many different sealers. I think we are going to give it a go, but I would like to try watercolor for the rock color. Has any one else tried any watercolor for something like this? I hope it doesn’t run when we put the bona sealer, or the glue, over the top, and that it looks like real stone. Trying to decide if we should “paint” the paper before we lay it on the floor, after we rip it into rock like shapes, or after or as we glue it on the floor. Any suggestions out there? I think we are going to try it on a board first, just to be sure our idea can work.

  8. I’m hoping to do something like this in our nursery, and we have concrete flooring. I was wondering what your opinion would be of using not using a stain and using one of the brighter colors of art paper (the same type that you linked in your paper section)? I was also wondering if you thought that the bona traffic would seal over the paper itself, or if I do need some type of stain down? I love all the research you did, it’s all been SUPER helpful!

  9. Lori Mikula says:

    Thank you so much for researching and experimenting with the sealer. I did several floors using oil based stain and the Pro Floor water based poly and have been disappointed how sensitive it is to wear and tear. I have 2 questions… Can I use the Bona Traffic poly over these floors I’ve already done since they are needing some touchup anyway and just for better durability? Also… am I understanding that the Bona Traffic poly at Lowes or Home Depot is different than what you ordered and not as good?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Yes, the Bona Traffic you find at hardware stores is different. The stuff I tried and comes in two parts and you have to mix them. As far as going over an old sealer with Traffic…I’ve actually been wondering the same thing. I need to reseal the floor in my boys room (that was done with oil based stain and water based poly) and am not quite sure what to do. I would think that since they are both water based it would be perfectly fine, but the poly in my kids room isn’t adhering to the paper well, so I don’t want to Put traffic over something that is peeling up. If yours is in good condition I think you could seal right over it, but I would test it out on a scrap or in a corner first just to be sure.

      • Thanks for the advice Ashley! I am going to give it a try and put 2 coats over the previously polyed floors. Im not having issues of the poly coming up UNLESS something is dropped on it then it leaves a spot of broken seal and begins to peel. At this point, I feel like I don’t have much of a choice other than to recoat it with the Bon Traffic in hopes it will make it stronger and more durable to hopefully alleviate any additional issues. We’ll see…

  10. Kim Gray says:

    Thanks so much for all the information and research you’ve done. I have been scouring the internet to see how this floor would work in a dining room and kitchen and can’t seem to find too many people who have done that. I’m worried mainly about the scraping of chairs. What do you think?

  11. I just laid and stained copying you (over sealed concrete). How long to dry on stain? 2-4 days? And how long between bona coats that you say are fast drying and how long before we can put furniture back in? I’m lookinb forward to this but anxiety is setting in!

    • I’m doing another room in my house right now, and I let the stain dry overnight and did both Bona coats in the same day. I’m going to give it about a week to cure before putting furniture back in. Well, at least a few days…I’m really ready to get all the extra furniture out of my living room. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine! It IS scary adding the stain after spending all that time papering though.

  12. Ashley, just wanted to let you know that I finished my floor project (20×22) and so totally awesome! I spent $11 on paper, $30 on glue, $18 on stain, $15 on concrete sealer and $103 on Bona Traffic. Very labor intensive on your knees for two days but I wouldn’t trade this floor for nothing! Thanks for your guidance and support!

  13. Hi Ashley, I’m about to buy the Bona Traffic, but it says it needs to be mixed right before application. Did you have to keep mixing to a certain ratio as you went?

    • I just finished using the Bona Traffic on my new floor this weekend..it’s actually still curing and all my furniture is in my living room. According to the bottle you have four hours to use it after you mix the two parts, and I just mixed it all at once. That might not be the best idea though, because it goes WAY further than I thought it would. After two coats on the floor in my guest room I had a ton left over and ended up emptying our my kids room and resealing that floor as well. I ended up doing three coats in both bedrooms and still had a bit left over. About 24 hours later I realized there were a few bugs stuck in the poly, so I peeled them up and touched up the areas with the leftover Traffic, and it worked and dried just like it did when it was freshly mixed.

      • Ashley,
        I’m curious what steps you took to prep the paper before applying Bona Traffic. Also, what tool did you use to apply?
        Thanks for the great work, and detailed instructions!

        • I didn’t do any prep work before applying the Traffic, just let the stain dry a few days. I don’t know if that was the best way, but thats what I did. To apply it I used one of those rectangular deck pads by Shur-Line.

      • We applied the Bona Traffic Anti Slip over our minwax oil based stain and it does appear to have the poly looked finish I hoped it would have. I can still feel the paper in spots with 2 coats. Any suggestions on what we should do? We had let the stain dry for 4 days before applying poly and the paper bubbled in areas also. Not sure where to go from here if I should get a different kind of poly or apply more coats of this same one?

        Any suggestions would be great

  14. Alright . . . I have my paper on the floor, but decided not to stain it because I LOVE the way the color turned out. I am ready to put on my poly. I bought the Bona product that you recommended. I think I can handle the mixing of the two different products together, but I only have one question at this point . . . when I read the instructions on the bottle, it says that the floor needs to be sanded smooth – do I need to do this step with the paper bag floor? If I skip it and just put the poly on, will it be ruined, or will the poly smooth out the roughness of the paper?

  15. This is by far, the most interesting D.I.Y., Home Improvement/Craft project that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I am absolutely floored! Thank you so much, for sharing your experience with us! Hopefully I will get to try my hand at this, someday.

    Thanks again!
    Sarah recently posted..Permanent Table Cloth- Wipe-away Clean!My Profile

  16. Fabulous work on all your research! I am so excited to attempt this in my guest/grandkids play room. I wondered if you have tried or even heard of my all-time favorite sealer. Envirotex Lite. I use it on all kinds of projects. It is a two part epoxy product that gives a gorgeous deep shine finish. The box claims one coat equals 50 coats of varnish. I even refinished my kitchen and bathroom counter tops and used this magical stuff well over two years ago and they are holding up incredibly. WhAt are your thoughts?

    • Teresa m says:

      I’m curious about envirotex lite for kitchen countertops. You used the sealer & it was not sticky etc?

      • I have had zero problems with my countertops in over a year. The Envirotex has maintained a deep glossy finish. I simple scrubbed to remove all dirt/grease. Basecoat with a latex primer and roll down a coat of basic (quality) acrylic. Let that dry. Using a wadded up paper towel I layered in color until I was happy. I allowed this to dry 48 hours. Then mixed and applied Envirotex according to directions using a foam brush as an applicator. Love it!

    • I’m intrigued. Anything epoxy is basically bulletproof, I did this penny countertop a few years ago with an epoxy sealer and it is indestructible. It would be great on a floor, though I didn’t consider it because it is expensive and I would need a ton. I’ll have to look into the Envirotex for future projects though!

  17. Teresa m says:

    Perfect! I thought I would have to porch paint my plywood floors but this is so much better. A friend did her bathroom walls using colorful tissue paper. Turned out grea t but she did not seal it properly. Wslls did not hold up. Your post is much appreciated by me. Thanks for the useful information. Your kids & hubby are cute!

  18. Chelsea says:

    So I was reading over your post and wondering just how hard you dug in your fork? I’m asking because I have a 150 pound great dane that scratched my floors up really bad!!! I’m not ready to scrap them because they are so beautiful! I was really wanting to just peel up the poly and reseal. When I was researching it kept pulling up your number 1 sealer choice as well. I’m not afraid of the work and would like to give the floors one more try before spending thousands on the ceramic tile that looks like wood.

    • I dug it in fairly well, but not great dane well. I actually just papered the floors in my guest room and used used the Bona Traffic. It was SO great on my test boards, but its not quite as great on my floor. I’m pretty sure it’s my own fault though, because I was in a hurry and didn’t wait long enough between coats. I should have waited about a day, but I only gave it about 15 minutes and you can tell. I need to write a post about it. Anyway, I’m sure that only confuses you more…but Bona is the best, just make sure you don’t mix it all at once and rush the process.

  19. Heather says:

    I am getting ready to start this project on my sons floor in his room. I have been researching the process for about 3 months now and find for the most part everyone’s procedure is similar. I guess my main concern and question is….I am going to be covering over cement floors, do I need to seal the cement first? The other question I have is do you suggest the Elmer’s glue 50/50 for cement? Other suggestions have been a product called weldbond. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Definitely polyurethane the cement floor first. I missed a spot and the paper came up there right away. Make sure you get it right up to the walls or the edges will come up. I did a 50/50 mix and it sticks great. I had some air bubbles after it dried so I just sliced them with a razor and slapped some more glue on and they sucked flat. Can’t even tell where they were

  20. can you do this over linoleum which is multi-colored??

  21. We have applied the regular grade (one part), cheaper Bona floor poly twice to hardwood floors in two different remodels. Both times it has held up fantastically. Friends that have used other sealers complain about scratching, but my floors have been able to take massive amounts of abuse from my five kids. So even the cheaper stuff is amazing. I am going to try and use it on the paper bag floor my boys just put down over the concrete in our basement. First we poured self leveling concrete over the old concrete, sealed it with an expensive commercial grade sealer and the paper/glue sticks to it perfectly. I’m happy to know about the more expensive two part stuff, I will definitely search it out next time we need floor sealer.

    • Wondering how the less expensive stuff worked for this project, am wanting to do this soon and was wondering if it still wroked as well!

      • It looks great and has held up really well.

        • So did you go ahead and use the regular grade (one part) Bona floor poly on the paper bag floor over concrete? If so, how is it continuing to wear? I am considering going with this product rather than Bona Traffic due to the amount of square footage I am trying to cover. Also, did you do 2 coats?
          Thanks!

  22. Hi! THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this! Three years ago, I did my first paper floor room, and eventually did my entire main floor: living, dining, family, hallway and powder room. It has been awesome for the cost, and some rooms seemed to hold up better than others, and now I know why because I used an inferior poly in one of them. Will be touching them up and reapplying poly, so will definitely get the Bona. THANK YOU! Next is the guest room upstairs, so this will be perfect. Here is my experience with the paper floor situation: http://mossisawesome.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/stained-paper-floor-awesomeness-under-30-diy-hardwoodlaminate-floor-alternative/
    Kim at Mossisawesome recently posted..DIY Brown Paper Floor Awesomeness……Room #2 Complete with Mistakes!My Profile

  23. Before we spend 100 plus dollars for sealer I need to make absolutely sure the Bona Traffic works on cement floors providing they’ve been sealed prior. And your suggestion on the best brand of cement sealer?
    I live in Alabama and my son’s business was flooded when we had the rare 100 year flood a few months ago (2 foot of standing water) . Since this is a hurricane zone few have flood or wind coverage anymore (not affordable). Having said that I want to make sure this won’t be money ill spent and will work well long term.
    Thanks in advance for any and all advice!

  24. Robynne Catheron says:

    I am so thankful for your R&D for this project! I am getting ready todo the walls in the main bathroom. I was going to use the paint and tissue paper method, but since your brown paper method looks so much like old leather, I’m cconsidering it instead. The bathroom is already done in a western cowboy motif, and I think this finish on the walls would be perfect! However, there’s no fan or window in this small bathroom; how resistant is this to condensation? It’s just hubby and I, so we never close the door all the way, but there’s still some fogging on the mirror. The room is tiled halfway up each wall and the tub/shower surround is completely tiled. We’ll only be doing this finish on the upper half of three small walls. What modifications do you recommend to ensure this method holds up?

  25. Question… Do you know if this would work well applied over an existing sealer? We did our floors about a year ago and find the poly isn’t holding up too week. Curious if I could add a few layers of this on top.

  26. Dernie Waikiki says:

    Building a new home in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and flooring options have me going crazy. Can you tell me if you or any of your readers have done the paper floor in a humid area? My husband is worried the glue may attract molding. The climate is very humid and can make such things as MDF crumble to saw dust is what we are being told.
    Love your review on the sealants. You made it simple, entertaining and made the task of selecting one (should we decide on the paper floor) much easier for a simple mind like mine.

  27. Hello! Thank you so much for all your research! Just received the bona traffic today in the mail! I am applying it the site stairs, where I did the brown bag floor. They are stained and dried, do I need to sand them before applying the bona traffic? And what do you recommend applying the bona traffic with?

    • You don’t need to sand them, and I used a deck pad to apply mine. I do have to tell you though (I learned this lesson the hard way) is that you need to to apply it in thin coats and let it cure for about 24 hours between coats. Don’t mix the whole bottle at once and them be in a hurry to finish, it will only lead to a floor that isn’t fully cured and will peel up (like a blister) when scratched.

  28. This may sound like a really dumb question but my hubby and i are new at this diy thing. But all the polyurethanes say for wood floors. We are interested in papering our family room that is cement. Would any of them work?

  29. Hi, I’m using the minwax oil based poly. How many coats did you use on your test floor??

  30. HI there, you have great information and I wish I would have seen it sooner! I used the poly for floors that you listed at 8. LOL I do have some clouding in the first room that I had done and I had just finished my third room and now I am paranoid. is there a link on where you showed how you repaired the poly that started bubbling?
    Thank you in advance, I am going to look around some more at your info in case I missed it.
    Adrienne

  31. Amazing posts! Your hard work has saved me hours! I can not thank you enough. I am looking at doing this to my counter tops. Would you happen to know if I could still use the bona traffic as it would be coming into contact with food?

  32. Hi Ashley, thank you for all the info and demos. You have amazingly helpful blog.

    I have a floor that is incredibly uneven and rough. It is concrete. Will this flooring work wonders? Can it hold? Thank you very much!

  33. I feel like a stalker I have been to your page so much! Lol! I am so greatful for your research, honesty, and sharing!!!!! Now to the question at hand! I’m getting ready to do this to the basement floors (concrete). Before I apply one stitch of paper, the floors must be sealed, so I would use this as the base and top coat of my floor?!?! Or is there a different sealer needed for the base. Once again thanks for all the insight.

    • Anonymous says:

      I used a cheaper poly on the cement because you’ll never see it. Just don’t miss a spot. I did a giant area in my basement and all I can say is make sure your not going to have issues with water getting under the edges near the walls. I had a pipe leak and just about ruined the whole floor since its one piece and replacing sections doesn’t work as well as I hoped. They don’t match quite right.

  34. I’m wondering if you could apply the paper and then paint it with a semi-gloss or high gloss paint? Honestly, I don’t care about the textured look. I just need something inexpensive for a floor redo in a boys bedroom (with OSB subflooring). Thanks!

    • I have wondered this too! Did you try it? I want to paper and then paint some stairs, rather than use the staining method, but I am not sure if that will work.

  35. Marie Carrell says:

    I love that you came back to this and did such a thorough job explaining it! I was a bit hesitant to take this on and didn’t know if they would stand up to the traffic over time… I really appreciate you coming back to it! You’ve answered every question I had and I love the product detail… This is extremely helpful! I think I will tackle this later this month!!!

  36. tonyabott says:

    I have query here, Is this protection is suitable for commercial projects.

  37. I thought Bona mega and traffic are finishes? Why are so many calling it a sealer? It does not soak/seal into the wood pores, it is plastic and it lays on the top. Wood pores are (especially with hardwoods) tight and compact. Those particles of poly are too big to fill them in, that’s why there are sealers and there are finishes.

  38. Ashley, Thank you so much for all the information you have so generously shared. I am about to do the paper bag floor in a large bedroom over a plywood floor. I have cut out various shaped leaves from the same paper and I plan to glue them down randomly over the crumpled brown paper. I do not plan to stain. Can I apply the bona directly over the glued paper?

  39. Norma Lawrence says:

    This article is so super helpful!! Lots of work on your part, but I appreciate all the info. My question now is…I have water based satin varathane over my paperbag floors now…must I take this off the Carthage before applying this Bona product? I would be grateful for your insight. Thanks so much.

  40. Shawn Maher says:

    I just put the bag floor down and glued it. Other posts said to use a 3:1 glue mixture. I tried that and all but a few of the papers pieces came up as it dried over night. Was the 3:1 mixture of the glue to thin or did I do something else wrong. I put it over a brand new plywood subfloor. I am in the process of taking it all back up, and any help you could give me would be great.

  41. I’ve never papered over plywood before, just concrete, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I used a 50/50 mixture and pretty much saturated the paper. My floor has been down for a couple years now and the paper isn’t even thinking about coming up. I’m sorry it don’t work for you the first go-round, taking up all up after spending all that time putting it down would be pretty frustrating.

  42. I am about to paper bag a bare concrete sub floor. I have put two coats of water based waterproofing concrete sealer on and hoping I don’t need to apply a coat of polyurethane as well before I start the paper gluing. I also experimented with a traditional wheat paste to see if that would work as its much cheaper than buying glue. I found that the paper stuck well where I really saturated the wheat paste but not where it was thinner- the paper “shrunk” and peeled up in those spots. I bought some elmers and will try your 50/50 recommendation. Thanks

  43. I am about to paper bag a bare concrete sub floor. I have put two coats of water based waterproofing concrete sealer on and hoping I don’t need to apply a coat of polyurethane as well before I start the paper gluing. I also experimented with a traditional wheat paste to see if that would work as its much cheaper than buying glue. I found that the paper stuck well where I really saturated the wheat paste but not where it was thinner- the paper “shrunk” and peeled up in those spots. I bought some elmers and will try your 50/50 recommendation. Thanks
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  44. oops sorry didn’t mean to double post!

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