From its invention in 1863 up until the early 1950’s, linoleum was one of the most popular flooring materials in the world. However earlier forms were more brittle than today’s linoleum and tended to crack and curl. That, along with the sale of a variety of substandard linoleum and faux linoleum products, led to it developing a reputation as a low-quality material.
In recent years innovations in the way that linoleum is manufactured, as well as a realization of many of its inherently positive benefits, have caused a resurgence in the popularity of this versatile and durable material.
Characteristics Of Linoleum Flooring
- Durability: Linoleum flooring is extremely resistant to scratches, dents, and mars in the surface of the material. For the most part cracking damage has been mitigated with new manufacturing processes and curling can be prevented with a proper water tight installation and regular sealing maintenance.
- Colorfast: The hues and patterns found in linoleum flooring actually extend down through the wear layer, so you do not see fading and marring of in the surface of the material over time.
- Anti-Static: Some flooring materials tend to collect dust and dirt, holding them, and then radiating them back into the air when walked upon. This can trigger allergic reactions or breathing problems in asthmatic individuals. However, linoleum has an antistatic property which inherently causes it to repel these harmful particles from its surface.
- Anti-Microbial: Linoleum naturally inhibits the growth of germs and microscopic organisms, which makes it a popular material in schools and hospitals.
- Moisture: Linoleum is a porous material and can be damaged by water if not properly sealed. However, a properly installed and regularly maintained linoleum flooring application is impenetrable and resistant to damage from water and moisture, making this material suitable for use in bathrooms and kitchens.
- Comfort: Linoleum flooring is soft and comfortable underfoot, and tends to stay warm even in cold temperatures.
- Installation: Linoleum is relatively simple to install and does not require the use of grout. It can often be installed as a floating floor so that adhesives are not necessary. Tile and plank linoleum tends to be much easier to work with than sheet materials.
- Style: Because this material became popular during the Victorian era it has a sense of history which allows it to blend more comfortably with antiques and other classic style furnishings than some of its contemporary counterparts such as vinyl or rubber.
- Upgrades: More expensive linoleum tiles and planks will feature hardened surfaces or a thicker body which can increase many of the positive benefits of this flooring material.
Linoleum is manufactured using all natural, easily renewable materials including linseed oil, cork powder, and other organic additives.
Some linoleum installations require adhesive, however, the majority do not, and can be installed as floating floors without the need to use toxic adhesives in your home.
A linoleum floor can last for 20-40 years or even longer, depending on the environment and level of traffic in an area. At the end of its life cycle, these materials can either be incinerated in order to produce a relatively clean energy source, or they can be entered into a landfill where they will biodegrade without harmful noxious off-gassing.
Linoleum Flooring Precautions
While the surface of a properly installed linoleum floor is impervious to damage from most liquids, if moisture is able to either penetrate the surface or come up through a concrete subfloor in order to interact with the bottom of the material, it can cause warping and curling.
That is why it is vital to properly install a linoleum floor, with tiles and planks butted tight up against one another. Sheet linoleum can be hot-seam welded along the edges to create an airtight seal.
In moist environments, it is recommended that a water vapor barrier seal is installed below the surface of the material. Generally, linoleum is not recommended for subgrade installations in environments that are below ground level.
- Expense: One of the major drawbacks to linoleum flooring is that it can be more expensive than some similar alternatives such as vinyl and rubber. Further, the importance of proper installation may require hiring a professional which can increase the price of an application even further.
- Yellowing: Stove yellowing refers to a sheen of hazy yellow hue that appears on the surface of certain light colored linoleum materials. This is a temporary discoloration, which disappears after several hours of exposure to sunlight. In dark subterranean areas such as a basement, this effect can last for several days after installation.
Linoleum Flooring Options
Linoleum is available standard in 12”X12” tiles and in 12”X36” planks. Sheet linoleum is also available but is much more complicated to install and will generally require the assistance of a professional flooring contractor.
Most linoleum is sold in tongue and groove click paneling that allows you to install it as a floating floor without the need for adhesives. In the case of sheet linoleum, and certain tile or plank configurations, adhesives may be necessary. Check with your retailer or manufacturer for more details about your specific linoleum product.
The natural surface texture of linoleum is a grainy matte finish; however, it can be buffed to a smooth honed surface, or polished until it takes on a glistening sheen.
One of the great things about linoleum flooring is that there are a wide variety of colors and patterns that are available for you to choose from. This material can take and maintain very deep, rich colors, giving you a wide variety of attractive visual options. Aside from solid and multi-colored pieces, linoleum also comes in marbled and other faux stone finishes, as well as streaked, flecked, and mottled patterns.
In some cases, you will be able to purchase linoleum flooring that has intricate patterns, motifs, or emblems within the surface of the material. Border patterns can also be purchased to act as accents around the main application. However, these intricate designs often require the expertise of a flooring professional in order to properly install them.
Caring For A Linoleum Floor
Linoleum is a scratch and stain resistant material that tends to repel dirt and dust particles, making it particularly easy to maintain. Cleaning should only require regular vacuuming and occasional mopping to remove surface debris.
When cleaning a linoleum floor avoid harsh alkali chemicals and ammonia-based cleaning agents.