Builders Paper 101: Selecting the Right Cardboard Roll
Back when I first started out in the construction I used to get really frustrated with trying to keep my jobsites clean. At one point it seemed like every time we got close to completing a project the more and more messy the workers became.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned was that keeping your jobsite clean is an ongoing priority that must be closely managed. And it’s easier to consistently keep the jobsite clean all the way through the construction or renovation project instead of trying to do all the cleanup at the end.
One of the products that I, as well as many other contractors and tradesmen, have come to rely on is builders paper.
What is Builders paper?
Builders paper is a generic term for heavy paper (usually brown) that is used most commonly used as a temporary floor covering to protect surfaces on construction and renovation project job sites. Builder’s paper also known as floor protection paper comes in several different thicknesses and price points, but they are all sold as brown paper rolls.
When is Builders paper Used?
Builders Paper can be used at any time during a construction project or really any time that you need a protective layer over horizontal surfaces and sometimes even vertical surfaces. Its most commonly used as temporary floor protection during construction.
Partial Renovation or Repair
If you are completing a renovation or remodeling project it may make sense to install the paper before ANY work begins. In projects where only part of a home or property is going to be “worked on” you need to work to keep the dust from the work area from being tracked into the non-work areas.
If you are performing a new construction project from the ground up you likely won’t need builders paper until you begin the finishing work such as flooring and paint. New tile floors or wood floors are always a joy to keep clean. If you keep them covered, you can save yourself some major headaches on the backend by limiting their exposure during the completion of the project.
For large renovation and remodeling project the builder’s paper can often wait until the ladder stages of the project. However, if you are working in an area where you plan to save or reuse certain building components, its best to cover them. One situation that comes to mind is refinishing existing hardwood floors.
Repairs: Some repairs get messy and require going from the affected area to another. Installing builders paper can make everyone’s life easier.
What does builder’s paper protect from?
On construction and remodeling sites literally, all types of things go on. The builder’s paper at a minimum is a guard against construction dust and dirt. Dust and dirt come from a variety of sources such as foot traffic and construction work.
Activities that can create construction dust: painting, tile work, wood flooring refinishing, framing, painting, sawing or drilling wood, drywall hanging and finishing, electrical wiring, HVAC work, plumbing work. Basically, everything on the jobsite creates dust including the traffic from inside and outside. Even just leaving doors and windows open can create dust in certain situations.
Builders paper can also protect against paint spills and mud and wet foot traffic. Now the big question is how much paint, mud, and water? This will depend greatly on which builders paper that you select. For big paint spill and large amounts of water and mud, you will want to use the heavier thicker paper because the thinner less expensive paper is not going to stand up to the moisture and protect your surfaces.
Where do you install Builders Paper?
You can install builders paper on anything that you want to protect.
The first and obvious surface is flooring. The most delicate of all floors are wood floors. But it is also wise to cover tile floors whether they are porcelain, ceramic, or stone. Covering floors protects them from dust and can help prevent scratches. This is true for newly completed tile work as well as existing.
Builders paper can also be used to cover vertical surfaces. Sometimes it makes sense to cover wall tile in bathtubs or showers. In certain paint projects, it may also make sense to use builders paper on walls. The thinner lighter weight builders paper is usually the best option for this type of use because its much lighters and should be easier to make it stick to the walls without fall down.
Builders paper can also be used to cover or block vents located in the work area in order to minimize spreading dust. This is true for ceiling, wall, and floor vents.
Are there different types of Builders Paper?
There are four main types of builders paper. Rosin Paper, Builders Paper, X Board, and Ram Board. They each have different properties and prices. Let’s discuss each option starting from the thinnest and least expensive paper and work our way up to the thickest and most expensive paper option.
Rosen Paper is the least expensive option. It’s light pink color gives it a different look from the other three types of builders paper we will discuss. Rosen paper is also the thinnest of the four builders papers that we will discuss. See it on Amazon.
When is rosin paper used?
Rosen paper is a good option when you are covering
vertical surfaces that will be left alone and won’t be tampered with. It can also be used on the floor for very light projects like painting. It makes a good painting paper. However, anytime it’s used on the floor it should be for as limited a time as possible.
How much area does a roll of Rosin Paper cover? There are 501 square feet of red rosin paper on a roll at 3 feet wide by 167 feet long.
How long does red rosin Paper last?
It can last for a longer time if it is not tampered with and it is not subjected to moisture. If it’s going to be installed on the floor and walked on, I would really limit it to a day or two. This time estimate can be affected by how many people are walking on it and how careful they are.
Okay, this is going to be a little confusing. But this level of builders paper is actually called Builders Paper. It is available on Amazon. The two products that we will discuss below are thicker than builders paper and have different names. Builder’s Paper is slightly more expensive per roll than Rosen paper, but it’s quite a bit more durable. Like rosin paper, It also works well as a paint paper. Builders paper is the color of a brown paper lunch bag. Its thick enough to use on floors in areas that will see light traffic.
How long does builders paper last?
This paper can last on the floor a week or two with light traffic. This paper does well when its attached in long runs with overlapping seams. However, I don’t advise using it for long straight runs like hallways (unless you can tape it to the floor on both sides) because the paper can shift and move around when it not attached to anything on the sizes.
How many square feet does Builder’s Paper cover?
There are about 406 square feet on a roll. One roll is 35 inches wide by 140 feet long.
Let move on to the first of the two thicker options.
X board is substantially thicker than brown builders paper. In my opinion, moving up from brown builder’s paper to X Board is the biggest jump in durability between products. It marketed as being 3 times thicker than rosin paper. 2.5 times thicker than builders paper. X Board is best for covering floors due to its thickness, stiffness, and weight. X Board also has a spill barrier for added protection against moisture. Available for purchase on Amazon.
More X Board Options
The company that makes X Board also makes an even thicker floor covering paper called Floor Shell that is thicker than standard Ram Board (which we will discuss below). This product is available on Amazon.
How long does x board last?
If properly installed this paper can easily last a month or more with moderate traffic.
How many square feet does a roll of X Board cover?
There are 297 square feet of paper on a roll at 35 inches wide by 100 feet long.
And now for our fourth and final option.
Ram Board is the thickest of the 4 products. It is thicker than X Board but its not a night and day difference in thickness. They advertise that the paper is good for protecting floors against paint, water, and mud. See it on Amazon.
They also say it’s reusable. Ram board can handle relatively high traffic and more wear and tear than the X board. I would install this paper in areas where you know there’s going to be moisture and ongoing foot traffic.
How long does ram board last?
This will really depend on how much you abuse it. Ram board can easily last for a few months in moderate traffic applications. It is advertised as being reusable, so you should be able to get lots of mileage out of it.
How many square feet does Ram Board cover?
There are about 158 square feet of paper on a roll of ram Board. The roll is 38 inches wide by 50 feet long. Ram Board is also sold in a 100-foot roll at the same wide giving you almost 320 square feet.
More Ram Board options
Ram Board also makes an even thicker version called Ram Board Plus (see it on Amazon). And they also have a
product that is available on Amazon that is thinner than their regular ram board called Ram Board home (which is 15% thinner than the regular Ram Board).
How to install builders Paper
At a minimum, I would recommend using general 1.5 or 2-inch tape to tape to hold the overlapping seams of the paper together. The basic tape will do a good job for short term builders paper installation.
If you are planning to keep the paper installed for an extended period or you plan to do some more extreme tasks with the paper in place it may be a good idea to upgrade your tape. If your project falls into this category then you should also consider installing a heavier paper.
Any heavy duty tape that will stick well to paper will be fine. With that said, both the x board and ram board sell their own tape for the rolls.
Both tape options are extremely wide and should add durability. The need for a thicker more durable tape will depend on the amount of traffic and the amount of time you will have the paper installed.
Regardless of the type of tape you use, I would recommend at least a 1.5-inch overlap of paper. Just be aware that the cheaper tape will wear out before the paper does, so you will have to periodically repair and replace the tape at some of the seams.
If you are protecting hardwood floors, NEVER tape directly to the floor. The adhesive in the tape can remove the polyurethane finish from the hardwood floors.
The x board and ram board are thick enough to lay pretty flat on their own and not move. This is where the x board and ram board stand out from the rosin paper and regular builders paper.
If you are installing the X Board or the Ram Board over floors without shoemold or quarter round, you can stick the end of the paper underneath the edge of the baseboard. You can then use tape to bridge from the paper to the baseboard. In some cases, the gap will be small enough to create a snug fit that will hold the paper in place.
However, if you need to tape any of these papers down, always tape to the baseboard or shoemold. If you are concerned about the tape damaging the paint, you can take things a step further by using a green or yellow tape to further minimize the likelihood of damaging the paint.
However, always remember that the longer the tape remains in place the stronger the bond becomes, so the likelihood of the paint being damaged increases the longer its attached.
If you are painting baseboard and shoe molding and HAVE to tape to a hardwood floor, then put your paper up to the wall as close a possible to get the minimum amount of tape to touch the floor as possible and take the paper up immediately once you are complete. Also, remember that you can use the green or yellow tape for more assurance.
Builders Paper Repairs
Regardless of which option you go with, remember that this is just paper. So this is not an “install it and forget it” situation. You need to monitor you covered areas regularly to ensure that nothing has gotten under the paper that could damage the floor.
If you see an area that is ripped, torn or damaged, cut that area out and replace it, or reinforce it with another piece.
You can increase the lifespan of the builder’s paper by keeping it clean. Sweeping, vacuuming and removing dust and debris on an ongoing basis can definitely help decrease the likelihood of tears in the paper as well as avoiding any dust and damage.
Also, know when it’s time to pull it all up and replace it.
Do your best to keep that cleaning and dust under control because it can get out of hand. And it may be a bit much for the average maid service. There’s a reason why construction jobsite cleaning is a growing industry.
Good Luck out there.