“Linoleum? They still make that?” We hear it all the time.
In your head, you might picture your grandparent’s black and white checkered kitchen floor, or your groovy uncle’s house covered in orange and yellow linoleum topped with shag rugs.
- Finding High-Quality Linoleum Floors
- Brand Reviews
- Hiring A Pro Installer
- Wrapping Up
Why would anyone want that as their new floor?
It may have gone out of vogue for a while, but linoleum is back in a big way. This fun and funky floor covering got a chic makeover and is now gracing the homes and businesses of top designers and architects all over the world.
Linoleum isn’t for everyone, but it has become a popular and practical design choice for the everyday homeowner.
Let’s take a walk through of some pros and cons of linoleum flooring—paisley and platform shoes not required.
Linoleum Flooring Pros
- Low VOC
- Water-resistant and More
- Continuous Color
- DIY Option
Linoleum stands out as one of the eco-friendliest floors on the market. This floor is made of compressed natural resins, cork dust, wood fibers, mineral pigments, and linseed oil.
Linseed oil comes from the rapidly renewable flax seed. Yes, the same ground flax seed you put in your morning smoothie. The “lin” in linseed oil is where linoleum gets its name.
The flexible backing is typically made of woven jute or canvas and bonded with a natural latex.
It may seem strange to talk about throwing away your floor when you are in the process of buying a new one. The truth is you will eventually grow tired of looking at it in your home and want something new.
So, it may set your mind at ease to know that it will decompose completely and not hang out in a land fill for hundreds of years. Some people have even composted their linoleum.
2. Low VOC
It would also stand to reason that this eco-friendly floor would not emit potentially harmful chemicals once installed in your home.
Linoleum is naturally low VOC, which stands for Volatile Organic Compound. Some VOCs have been found to cause respiratory health problems in vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
You may notice a slight smell after the linoleum is first installed, but it’s just the natural smell of the linseed oil and will disappear over time.
3. Water-resistant and More
Linoleum is a true all-natural multi-tasker. It is naturally anti-microbial, fire-retardant, stain resistant, and anti-static.
It is also water-resistant. The keyword here is “resistant.” This means it can still be harmed if it’s exposed to excessive moisture.
Linoleum comes in a rainbow of colors, patterns, textures, and styles. You can find just about anything to suit your taste or design.
Most manufacturers offer wood patterns, flecked, solid, striated, and marbled looks. You can also special order custom die-cut inlays and borders to create a unique floor that your neighbors won’t have.
Linoleum belongs to the resilient floor family along with vinyl and cork. These floors are called resilient because they bounce back.
Linoleum is springy and soft underfoot and has a minimal self-healing property. Small dents can pop back up over time and small cuts may become less noticeable.
Most manufacturers will warranty their linoleum products for twenty-five years. With excellent care and maintenance, your floor can last up to forty years.
Linoleum is one of the oldest flooring types still in use today. You may have seen linoleum in your local doctor’s office, school, library, hotel, or favorite store and not even realized it. The durability of this floor has made it an excellent choice in many high-traffic places over the decades.
7. Continuous Color
Unlike sheet vinyl and laminate, linoleum features continuous color all the way through. So, dents and dings are less noticeable because there is no veneer to wear through.
This is one reason it is a prized floor covering for high traffic commercial buildings, schools, and healthcare settings.
Linoleum is very versatile due to its durability, many resistances, and multitude of style options. It is well suited for your open floor plan where you want something distinctive yet can coordinate with all your décor.
You can even have a custom linoleum monogram or logo inlay made and installed in your home entryway or office. How cool is that?
9. DIY Option
With the rise of the do-it-yourself movement, flooring brands are now creating easy-to-install products that appeal to the adventurous homeowner and seasoned professional alike.
Previously, you could only purchase linoleum in a sheet type that comes on large heavy rolls. This stiff material is difficult to work with and best left to the pros to install.
Now, linoleum comes in tile and plank formats with a click-lock mechanism that is put together like a puzzle. This floating floor can be installed without adhesives, nails, or staples.
Linoleum Flooring Cons
Traditional linoleum is a high-maintenance floor. To look its best and maintain durability, it requires frequent waxing, polishing, and needs to be stripped every so often. The frequency depends on foot traffic and cleaning schedule.
For example, linoleum in an entry hall of a busy home will require more sweeping and wet mopping and will lose its luster faster than a bedroom or home office.
How will you know it’s time to strip and re-wax? It will be obvious when it’s time. The floor will look scuffed, dull, dingy, and grime will seem to stick to it.
Keep in mind that stripping, waxing, and polishing is a time-consuming process. This can be a deal-breaker if you can barely find the time to sweep and mop.
However, most manufacturers are now offering pre-finished linoleum that eliminates the need for stripping and polishing. The finish can be restored with a light buffing. Again, this is still more maintenance than other wash-and-go flooring options such as vinyl.
Natural discoloration called “ambering” is a common issue with linoleum floors. It is a yellowing or darkening of the floor caused by the linseed oil rising to the surface. Laying rugs or large heavy furniture on the floor or uneven exposure to sunlight can cause ambering and leave a discolored footprint of the item.
Avoid using chemicals or cleaners to try to reverse the process, it will only make it worse. You may be able to remove the items from the area and open the curtains to allow the floor to amber more evenly, but this is not guaranteed.
It’s important to note that ambering is a natural property of linoleum and is not a manufacturer defect, therefore it will not be covered under your floor’s warranty.
Factory-finished linoleum typically has a UV-resistant coating applied, but it will not keep it from discoloring completely.
3. Not Waterproof
It’s very important that you understand the difference between a floor that is “water-resistant” and one that is “waterproof.” These words are not interchangeable.
Linoleum falls into the water-resistant category. It can be wet mopped but avoid letting water sit on it for long periods of time or exposing it to excessive moisture from steam.
Linoleum is a popular choice for kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, and entries. However, an appliance or plumbing leak will damage your linoleum beyond repair.
If you have children that can’t seem to keep the water in the tub during bath time or prefer to hide their spilled juice instead of telling you about it, you may want to reconsider your flooring choice.
If you do plan on installing linoleum in a wet area, opt for a sheet linoleum. With this type, it is more difficult for moisture to penetrate it if the finish is maintained.
4. Not Pet-Friendly
Untrimmed cat nails can create many little surface scratches that will make your floor look worn and dull. At the worst, some cats find pleasure in using your linoleum floor as a scratching post because it’s easy to dig their claws in.
In addition, a pet accident left unattended can damage the finish. This can sometimes be repaired on a wax and polish type of linoleum floor by cleaning with a bio-enzymatic cleaner before stripping and polishing the floor.
5. Challenging Installation
Linoleum is sold in a traditional sheet-type, glue down tile, as well as a click-together plank or tile.
Sheet linoleum is a difficult install and best left to the professionals. It requires special tools and quality seams can be difficult to achieve even for a seasoned professional.
Intrepid DIYers can find success in a click together or glue down tile installation with minimal tools and expertise. However, several factors such as notching corners and undercutting door jambs may still make this an install best left to the pros.
Linoleum is a fantastic flooring, but it comes at a price. The cost is one of the major reasons that sheet vinyl has gained in popularity over the years and has overshadowed linoleum as a top flooring choice.
The cost to produce the material as well as the increased labor price can make this flooring option cost-prohibitive to the budget buyer.
How to Find a High-Quality Linoleum Floor
With all the options out there, finding a high-quality linoleum floor can seem overwhelming but doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to make things easier while you are navigating the linoleum-buying process.
The more homework you do, the less pressured the buying process is going to feel. So, when you walk into the showroom already having a good idea what you want, you can go right to picking out samples to take home.
With this tactic, you can also avoid unnecessary sales pitches and use that valuable time to ask your salesperson specific questions about the product.
Otherwise, some people may be more than happy to steer you towards the most expensive linoleum in the showroom. With any flooring, cost can be a good indicator, but a high price tag doesn’t always mean high-quality.
A high-quality sheet or tile linoleum will have 2.0 mm or more in thickness and feature a durable jute backing. On the other hand, a high-quality linoleum click plank will have an 8 mm or more HDF core with a 2.0 mm layer of linoleum bonded on top and an attached 2 mm cork underlayment.
One great benefit of linoleum is that quality doesn’t vary as widely across brands like other types of flooring (see engineered hardwood, solid wood, bamboo, vinyl, ceramic tile, etc). There are strict guidelines in place that determine what can and cannot be called linoleum based on the types and quantities of raw materials used.
Durability: What to Look Out For
As with any floor, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
With some companies now operating on the internet, it is easy to buy something that isn’t as described and not so easy or even impossible to return.
Sure, it may be more of a hassle to visit a flooring showroom or home improvement store but being able to see and feel the product can mean the difference between spending your money on a floor you’ll love versus one you’ll regret.
With a flooring sample in your hand, you will generally be able to tell the difference between a durable product and one that will just fall apart.
For maximum durability, look for a thicker linoleum. The added heft will provide more dimensional stability to resist humidity changes and will wear longer.
Also, it’s helpful to choose a pre-finished linoleum that features a stain and UV-resistant coating that is applied in the factory. This durable finish will keep your floor looking better longer and require less maintenance over time.
Linoleum Brand Reviews
Many flooring manufacturers that once made linoleum have since stopped production in favor of making less expensive and increasingly popular vinyl products. As a result, there are now only a handful of linoleum brands.
On the bright side, this may make your brand decision-making that much easier.
Who knows? Maybe with the rise of the eco-friendly building trend, more companies will choose to make linoleum again or with new innovations.
Perhaps one of the most well-known linoleum brands is Forbo. They are the creators of their proprietary product called Marmoleum. It’s important to note that Marmoleum is still just linoleum but you will often hear these names used interchangeably.
Forbo boasts an impressive range of linoleum products in their catalog. You will find traditional sheet goods, glue-down modular tile, commercial-rated linoleum, artistic custom inlays, and click-together tiles and planks.
With a whopping 300 options to choose, they have one of the largest color and pattern selections on the market.
If you are specifically looking to for a DIY linoleum floor, consider Forbo’s Marmoleum Click. This floating floor system goes together without adhesives or fasteners much like a laminate or vinyl plank floor. The drop-lock format provides a quick and easy installation.
Linoleum itself is already a great acoustic insulator, but when installed with Forbo’s underlayment, this floor will provide noise reduction down to 21Db.
All Forbo’s products whether sheet, tile, or click feature their proprietary Topshield finish that adds an added layer of UV, wear, and moisture resistance.
Expect to pay a little more on average for this UK brand due to their high-quality linoleum, variety, and specialty items.
Johnsonite Harmoneum XF
Tarkett’s subsidiary Johnsonite is perhaps better known for their vinyl products, but when it comes to linoleum, this company is no slouch. Johnsonite Harmoneum XF was the first linoleum to be Cradle to Cradle certified, using 94% raw natural materials. That’s about as sustainable and eco-friendly as a floor can get.
A product worth noting is the Harmoneum XF Veneto Acoustiflor. This product was designed for large buildings for noise reduction. It features a 1.3 mm polyurethane underlayer, urethane-ceramic wear layer, and is durable enough for rolling loads up to 5000psi and heavy foot traffic—think hospitality or healthcare applications.
Perhaps the only downside to Johnsonite Harmoneum XF is the limited color range and no custom options. The largest is the Veneto collection with 62 marbled colors. Their other collections have even fewer options.
However, if you are looking for something more budget-friendly, the Harmoneum Etrusco collection has a limited color range, but doesn’t sacrifice durability.
Armstrong caters more towards commercial customers, but their products are also well-suited for residential applications. Their linoleum products are specified by architects worldwide and are known for high-quality durable floor coverings.
Armstrong LinoArt has a small color range and four patterns including solid, marbled, linear, and flecked. Lino Art is available in glue-down tile and sheet formats with no click together option.
All LinoArt products are finished with Armstrong’s NATURCote high-performance coating that is stain, soil, wear-resistant. It is also specially formulated to withstand damage from alcohol-based sanitizers.
The LinoArt Granette tile is most often seen on classroom floors and hallways. However, many designers and homeowners have co-opted this trend to create punchy and whimsical flooring designs for homes. This modular tile comes in 3 sizes and 24 high-impact colors, so you can create a budget-friendly and durable custom flooring design.
Nova Distinctive Floors – Linoleum Floating Floor
Nova flooring is a smaller boutique brand with dealers located throughout the United States and Canada.
They offer a click-together linoleum in a square or rectangle size in a handful of rich colors in monochromatic marbled patterns.
With what Nova lacks in options, they make up for in a high level of quality. Their linoleum floating floor features a 7mm HDF core with a deep channel angle lock for a tight fit and an attached cork underlayment for superior noise reduction.
Nova stands behind this product and offers a 20-year residential and 10-year commercial warranty.
It’s no secret that linoleum isn’t the most budget-friendly floor out there.
Linoleum is an investment floor, or a floor that you plan to spend more money on because it lasts longer. People typically choose linoleum for their long-term home.
Expect to spend on average $2.50-$3.50 per square foot for sheet linoleum and modular tile. Click together linoleum planks cost $4-$6 per square foot on average.
Where it starts to get expensive is when you factor in sundries such as adhesives, underlayment, floor patch and trims.
You can’t use just any multi-purpose glue for your sheet linoleum or modular tile. If you don’t use a manufacturer recommended adhesive, you run the risk of voiding your warranty and ruining your new linoleum. These specialty adhesives can run anywhere from $25-$50 per gallon.
A high-quality floor patch won’t break the bank, but it is a necessary extra expense. Expect to pay $20-$30 for a 5lb bag.
Trims and transition strips are a difficult item to estimate because the type and cost needed vary from job to job. To give you an idea of this range we could say that for a small area and a few transitions $40-$75 and upwards of $200-$400 for a whole home.
Also note that flooring stores rarely stock linoleum. It is a specialty item and you will often have to do a special order to get it. Depending on freight charges to your area, the shipping for this bulky and heavy item can get expensive. Sometimes, shipping alone can cost up to $2 per square foot.
Then, there’s the installation cost. Linoleum sheet installation is tricky and requires skill that goes beyond what most floor pros do to install other sheet goods.
You can expect to pay around $4-$5 per square foot to lay down the linoleum. Modular tile and click linoleum typically cost a little less to install on average. You will also want to add a few more dollars per square foot if you need your existing floor removed, require heavy subfloor prep, subfloor replacement, or removal and reinstallation of your base moldings.
If you are handy and want to tackle the glue down tile or click plank linoleum options, you can save a lot of money by doing the install yourself.
A few handy linoleum tools to have include: a speed square, scribe, utility knife, floor scraper, tape measure, flat trowel, hammer, notched trowel, chalk line, chisel, and a small pry bar. For a click linoleum, you will also need a circular saw, tapping block, wedge spacers, and a rubber mallet.
A flooring roller is also needed for sheet goods and many home improvement stores rent them in their tool rental department. Otherwise, purchasing one can be a couple hundred dollars.
If you’ve survived the sticker shock and decided that linoleum is your must-have floor, let’s talk about installation.
General Linoleum Installation Tips and Tricks
Remember to remove base moldings and undercut door jambs if needed. Check for height differences between your new floor and floors in the adjoining rooms.
This way, you can order necessary transition strips ahead of time or install an additional plywood layer to make up for height differences that are too much for a regular reducer trim. There is nothing more frustrating than completing your floor and realizing that you have no way to transition it to the other rooms.
Always perform a moisture test to make sure your subfloor’s relative humidity or RH is within recommended guidelines.
Linoleum is thick and stiff. Make sure to acclimate the product and adhesive in the area between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours ahead of time and maintain this temperature during the install. This will make it much easier to work with.
Prep, prep, prep. Linoleum is not the most forgiving material and subfloor imperfections can telegraph through, become more visible over time, and make your new floor wear down faster.
Sand your subfloor if needed and use a high-quality patching compound to make your substrate smooth and flat. Fill any screw holes, gaps, and ridges. With proper preparation, your linoleum almost lays itself.
It can be helpful to have a sample piece of linoleum to lay over areas you have prepped. It will show you what areas need more attention as you go.
Linoleum Sheet Installation Tips
Always do a dry layout. Without adhesives, lay out your linoleum and figuring out which way you are going to run your pattern and account for seams. If you have fixtures to cut around such as a toilet or pedestal sink, it’s helpful to make a template.
Linoleum expands and contracts like other resilient floors. So, you’ll want to leave a small expansion area around the perimeter free of adhesive and not place the edge right against the wall. Your base molding will cover this gap.
This is also true of joining seams. Placing seams too tightly can create a ridge or bubble as the floor expands and contracts with temperature and humidity changes.
Using a scribe, you will need to double cut the edge at a 45-degree angle with the adjoining piece overlapped underneath. Work slowly, cut through both the linoleum and the jute backing. This is the trickiest part of the installation because a cutting error can ruin the whole piece.
To heat weld or not to heat weld? This is entirely up to you. Heat welding the seams is required in commercial settings, but it the home it is largely considered overkill.
Linoleum Modular Tile Installation Tips
You install linoleum modular tile similarly to vinyl composition tile or VCT. It is easier to install than sheet linoleum and more suitable to DIY.
Again, a dry layout is helpful here. Start from the center of the room and work your way to the walls. Make sure you evenly place your tiles to avoid tiny cut pieces near the walls that not only look strange but tend to lift or create a ridge.
No double cutting is necessary at the joints. These tiles are butted against one another. Make sure your joints are straight and the tile pattern is facing the correct way as you go.
Don’t underestimate the power of the trowel. Always use the correct size notched trowel when working with flooring adhesives. This can mean the difference between a lumpy floor that never dries and a smooth floor that’s ready to walk on in a day or two.
With both sheet and tile linoleum, don’t skip the floor roller. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for floor roller weight and adhesive set up time. Rolling the floor gets rid of air bubbles and ensures proper adhesion.
Linoleum Click-together Plank Installation Tips
Linoleum click planks and tiles are by far the easiest to install of the three formats. There are no adhesives or fasteners needed to create a beautiful floating floor. No adhesive also means that it’s ready for foot traffic immediately after install.
You can install linoleum click flooring on top of any clean, dry, firm and even subfloor. It may go without saying, but do not attempt to install it over carpet.
If you are installing on top of concrete, you should use a thin plastic sheet or roll-on type vapor barrier to protect your floor from the effects of moisture.
Prep is always necessary, but not as crucial with a floating floor. The thick HDF core keeps subfloor imperfections from telegraphing through. However, large lumps and uneven spots can cause the joints to peak or valley which could make the click tabs break and separate.
For planks and tiles, always purchase 10-20% more flooring than your net square footage. This will allow for cuts, waste, and cull.
Work from 4-5 boxes at a time to minimize any shade variances or natural ambering.
Linoleum click is designed to be a drop and lock installation. Although, sometimes the planks don’t want to join completely. Try not to force it and use a gentle tap with a tapping block and rubber mallet.
With all these installation formats, it’s always smart to sweep or vacuum your new floor clean immediately after the installation is complete. This keeps any construction dust from becoming like sandpaper underfoot and ruining the finish.
After a thorough dust removal, mop, polish, or seal the floor per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Now, bask in that new floor shine.
Tips for Hiring A Pro Installer
Does linoleum installation sound too tough to tackle on your own? Maybe you have odd shaped rooms or notched areas. Save yourself the headache of a botched flooring job and hire a licensed linoleum professional.
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear. Not all flooring pros do linoleum. So, it’s important to ask and communicate that you want linoleum–not sheet vinyl, but actual linoleum.
We have already discussed here that linoleum is tricky to install. It takes patience and practice to get it right.
When hiring a pro, you can ask them how much linoleum they have installed? Do they have pictures or a portfolio you can see? If not, have they recently completed any linoleum installation certification courses offered through a manufacturer or company specific contractor training.
You may be tempted to get as many quotes as possible then choose the lowest one. This will only waste your and the professionals’ time. It will also waste your money if you must pay for an estimate.
Here’s what to do instead.
Get three quotes, maybe four. Ask lots of questions when you meet with the pro and get a feel for the company and the way they do business.
It’s a huge red flag if the contractor is rude, condescending, or doesn’t answer your questions. If this is what they are like during the selling process, imagine how they will act if you have an issue with the work they performed and need to file a claim.
It’s not always smart to go with the lowest bid. There’s often a reason they are cheaper than the other guys. Unfortunately, there are companies out there that don’t pay their installers enough to care and do a good job.
It never hurts to read reviews online before accepting a bid. You can also check with your state’s contractor licensing board to make sure your pro’s licensing is current and people have not brought claims against them.
When you do find that amazing professional, treat them like gold. If they do a great job, make sure to leave them a good review and refer them to your friends. They will truly appreciate it.
What do you think now? Is linoleum outdated or eco-chic?
Linoleum is durable, sustainable, water-resistant, anti-microbial, low-VOC, and versatile. There is a reason it has been in use for over a century.
Whether you want to keep it simple, make it funky, or glam it up, you can do it with linoleum.
Should you choose to DIY your install or hire a pro, check out reviews, message boards, and manufacturer’s install videos for guidance.
Even if you want help to recreate your uncle’s groovy basement rec room, we won’t judge.