About Linoleum Flooring

Although some kitchens and bathrooms have natural tile floors, wood or even carpeting — one the most popular flooring material for these rooms is linoleum.

Linoleum flooring first came into use in the mid-20th century, but has largely been supplanted by its synthetic counterpart, vinyl. The word “linoleum” is often used generically to refer to all such flooring, but the two are very different in composition.

Linoleum is made from natural materials like recycled wood flour, linseed oil, limestone, mineral pigments, resin and cork dust. It is mounted on a jute backing, which is also an all-natural material. The combination of these naturally sustainable materials makes linoleum an eco-friendly flooring option that’s also biodegradable.

Today, linoleum is once again coming into favor as a popular flooring choice.

Thanks to modern technology, modern linoleum flooring features more vibrant shades than in the past. The colors of linoleum are very vivid and saturated, and are offered in any color or pattern that one would want. If none of the existing designs are ideal, the linoleum can be custom cut and installed in tile-like pieces to a homeowner's exact specifications.

Similar to tile flooring, you can also add borders to the edges of a linoleum floor for a more finished or interesting look, while insets can be inserted to create unique patterns. There are solid colors, marbled patterns, flecks or graphic designs. There are also softer earth tones that actually allow some of the organic qualities to show. Keep in mind that the protective surface coating will affect the amount of gloss, making it appear very shiny or somewhat muted.

Advantages of linoleum flooring

The colors in linoleum flooring are homogeneous, meaning they extend the whole way through the linoleum, as opposed to just sitting on the surface like they do on vinyl. Since the color penetrates the whole way through, repairing any signs of wear or scratches is not too difficult. The process involves mixing some wood glue with shavings from a scrap piece of linoleum and then applying it evenly over the blemish. Therefore, it is a smart idea to keep extra linoleum pieces after the installation. 

Linoleum flooring will last for at least 40 years. It is not uncommon to see homes that are fifty or sixty years old with the original linoleum floor. Homeowners with period houses that want to recreate the older look today often choose linoleum flooring. However, linoleum will also fit in very well with modern homes that feature contemporary furniture and cabinetry.

Linoleum is also a good option for households with members who suffer from allergies, since it is anti-bacterial. The continual oxidation of the linseed oil means that there are no micro-organisms in the linoleum. It also contains anti-static properties that reduce the potential for electric shock. Linoleum is warm and soft underfoot, making it nice to stand on and for children to play on the floor.

It’s also highly durable and resistant to scratching and gouging from dropped items. Cleaning linoleum floors is easy. Simply use a broom or a damp mop. This makes linoleum ideal for high traffic areas like the kitchen, laundry room, mud room and bathroom.

Disadvantages of linoleum flooring

There are some disadvantages with linoleum flooring. Linoleum is not considered a high-end material, which is why many people do not want it for their homes. It may also negatively impact the resale value of the home or the assessed property value. Although it is easy on the feet, it is actually a hard surface. Therefore, it tends to reflect sounds, rather than absorbing and softening noises.

While daily cleaning is minimal, linoleum should be resealed with an acrylic sealer every year. Linoleum flooring may also fade if exposed to direct sunlight. Additionally, areas underneath appliances, like the stove and refrigerator, can take on a yellow tint. 

Buying Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum flooring can be purchased as sheets, square tiles or in planks similar to wood flooring. Sheets are usually 12 feet wide and can be cut to length from rolls. Tiles can come in a variety of dimensions. The most common sizes are 12-inch and 18-inch squares. For example, they are easier to fit around obstructions such as cabinets and toilets. They often have an adhesive backing that does not require the use of glue or other adhesives.

However, there are some disadvantages to consider when selecting tiles. First, the edges of the tiles can curl over time, causing the tile to lift and separate from the floor. Additionally, dirt and grime will collect at the seams between the tiles. The subfloor on which the tiles are installed needs to be clean, dry and level at the seams. Moisture, dirt and grease will inhibit adhesion during and after installation. However, tiles will give the homeowner more options in design and repairs are easier to make.

Less common is the linoleum plank floor. These have interlocking planks that click into place without the need for adhesive.

Overall, linoleum is less expensive than other types of flooring like hardwood, ceramic tile and stone tile.

Linoleum Installation Tips

Linoleum tiles come with a self-adhesive backing that makes installation quick and clean. The paper sheet is peeled from the tile, exposing the adhesive. The tile is then placed carefully next to an adjacent tile. Care should be taken to make sure that the joints or seams are tight. The subfloor must be very clean and dry so that the tiles will adhere properly.

When cutting out around bathroom fixtures or cabinet edges, testing the trimmed tile before removing the protective backing will help to ensure a good fit. While the center of the room is usually where tile layout is started, the homeowner may have to make adjustments so that the edges against the wall are equal on all sides.

Linoleum tends to be stiff and is more at risk of breaking, so it is rather hard to manipulate and maneuver. In addition, installation requires special tools. For instance, to create and seal up the seams in the linoleum, a heated linoleum rod is used to melt between the sheets. This is referred to as the heat-weld method.

As a natural material, linoleum has an innate proclivity to shrink in length and grow in width, over time, which must be taken into account during installation.

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