Linoleum flooring was the flooring of choice for schools, hospitals, residential kitchens and entry ways until the invention of vinyl (PVC) tile and sheeting. It’s relatively easy to maintain, especially newer versions, it is hypo-allergenic and doesn’t off-gas so it’s good for indoor air quality. It is a bio-based product made from linseed oil, pine rosin, cork and wood flours, limestone powder and colour pigments and is biodegradable at end of life. The backing can be jute or acrylic — acrylic offers more structure for the smaller tile product.
There are three main manufacturers of linoleum flooring, all of whom are based in Europe. The flax that produces linseed oil is grown here in Canada, shipped to Europe to be turned into linoleum sheets and tiles, then the final product is shipped back to North America for sale. But since linoleum is also sold in Europe and Asia, and there just isn’t enough demand for linoleum in North America to warrant manufacturing facilities, Europe actually seems like a good central location.
Linoleum care: One of the reasons vinyl tiles became so popular is because linoleum requires a little more care than vinyl flooring. Traditional linoleum needs to be waxed and polished from time to time, and occasionally, when the floor starts looking dull, the finish needs to be stripped and reapplied. Between polishings however, Linoleum is best cleaned by vacuuming and then going over with a damp mop. For some great tips on how to care for your linoleum tile, see this post I found on housecleaningcentral.com.
Best uses: Because linoleum is derived mostly from plant material, it tends to behave like wood floors do. It doesn’t like a lot of moisture, so it’s best to keep it away from damp basements, mudrooms with wet boots or pet-washing areas or even potting sheds that might see a lot of water. Linoleum absorbs water if it’s not mopped up right away and it will swell and buckle. Although it’s resilient and easier on your back than ceramic tile in a kitchen, if using in the kitchen, be conscious of mopping up spills as soon as they occur as it absorbs water similar to wood flooring. It is best used in residential settings in playrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens with care.
Benefits: Linoleum is hypoallergenic, so it doesn’t off-gas any harsh chemicals. In addition, because pigment is mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, if linoleum gets scratched, it’s difficult to notice because the entire thickness of the tile is the same colour. With vinyl flooring, the final design is sprayed or stamped on at the end of the process. As it wears, particularly in high traffic areas, the under coat (usually white), will show through.
Installation: Linoleum is best installed by a professional installer and one is usually recommended by the flooring company where you’ve purchased your product. You might also want to specify that the installer use water-based, low or zero-VOC adhesive to install the flooring in order to keep off-gassing to a minimum.
Cost: The cost of linoleum varies, depending on many factors, including whether it’s in sheet or tile form, but it can range between $3-8/sq foot just for the linoleum. This price excludes tearing up an existing floor or installation or cost of any additional products, such as a new subfloor, adhesives, or specialized installation such as inlay patterns. Talk to your installer about getting an estimate.
There are two manufacturers of linoleum tiles, with their manufacturing based in Europe:
Tarkett/Johnsonite: manufacturers of Harmonium xf sheet and tile linoleum and is available in a wide variety of colours and styles. The company adds a special coating so that the initial polishing step after installation, common with linoleum floor installations, is not required. In addition to Harmonium xf being a 95% bio-based product, the Allegro, Toscano and Veneto collections contain 37% pre-consumer recycled content. Tarkett also is a responsible manufacturer across all its flooring collections, continually striving to measure and and reduce the amount of virgin material being used, and decrease energy, water and waste. It is a member of the United Nations Global Compact, and explains:
Based on ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti- corruption, the global Compact aims at contributing to a more balanced and sustainable development and responsible commercial practices.
For more information on Tarkett’s corporate responsibility efforts, visit its website.
To find a distributor near you, visit the Johnsonite website.
Marmoleum: Made by Forbo Manufacturing, based in The Netherlands, Forbo is the largest manufacturer of linoleum in the world. All Marmoleum flooring contains natural pigments and 40% recycled content, in addition to 70% of the product being derived from rapidly renewable materials. Marmoleum is available in sheets and tiles and varying thicknesses, suitable for different uses and available in a wide variety of colours and patterns and is available at select retailers across North America.
It also is available in a “Marmoleum Click” floor — linoleum tiles glued to a composite backing that can be installed without glue.
All Marmoleum products are coated with Topshield a protective coating, no need for additional polishing. It is ready to use immediately after installation. Like all linoleums, Forbo recommends not mopping it for 5 days in order to let the adhesives (in the case of tile or sheets) cure first.
Forbo also continually strives to reduce its use of energy, water and materials and improve its recycling efforts. To read about its environmental sustainability efforts, visit its website.
Feature photo courtesy of Marmoleum by Forbo