Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So Crazy It Might Work

The Troll and I are in the process of refinishing our basement. Actually, we've been in the process more or less ever since we bought the house 18 months ago--tearing out paneling, repairing walls and ceilings, installing new lighting. But the current stumbling block is the floor. The floor's not quite level, so carpet, tile, or laminate would require the installation of a subfloor. In addition to the expense, this would eat up about half an inch of space from an already low-ceilinged room, and there might not even be room for it under the baseboard heaters. So my idea was to stain the concrete--until we got around to ripping up the old vinyl floor and saw what the concrete looked like underneath. Not pretty.

So my next thought was to paint the concrete, but I was uncertain about what type of paint to use and how to apply it. I wanted something environmentally benign, not too expensive, and easy to use--and of course, I wanted it to look nice too. Then yesterday I came across this bizarre yet intriguing idea: paper-bag decoupage. Basically, you tear paper bags (or brown kraft paper) into irregular pieces, apply them in overlapping layers to the floor (various sources have suggested using wallpaper paste, water-based polyurethane, or a 50-50 dilution of Elmer's white glue), and seal the whole thing with five or six coats of poly. The finished product has been described as looking like natural stone (but much softer underfoot) or distressed leather. You can apply a stain, too, if you want a color other than the natural brown paper-bag finish.

It sounds crazy, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like exactly what we need. Of course, our grocery store doesn't have paper bags, so we would actually have to buy the paper. But it seems like, for an investment of a day's labor and the cost of a gallon of poly and a roll or two of kraft paper, we could have an attractive floor finish that would also make a great conversation piece. And the beauty part is, if we didn't like it, we could always paint over it, which is what we were planning to do anyway.

So where is the glaring flaw in this plan that I'm overlooking?

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