What Ever Became of…Linoleum


Awhile back I went to a work conference, and there were some folks there from several other countries, so being a typical American I observed and was amused by some of the things they said. My favorite new phrase was spoken by a British fellow, expressing, well, disbelief at the way a certain process worked, how overly complicated the layers of bureaucracy were to get something important done. He said, “It beggars me why…” I promptly amused myself for the next 10 minutes or so thinking about how much more colorful of an expression that is than just saying, “I don’t understand why…” Perhaps we should rename this series ‘It Beggars Me Where…Went!’

Once upon a time we lived in a few houses with fancy linoleum floors in the kitchen. Smooth, seamless, easy to clean, what wasn’t to like? But somewhere along the way, covering your floor with sheets of plastic has fallen out of favor. Or, at least, proudly admitting such with a brand name is out of favor. Now it is laminate, or maybe, maybe, vinyl flooring, but likely it will be given some other name to hide it’s true linoleum nature. What ever happened to linoleum?

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  • OA5599

    It's still used commercially. It is made from renewable resources, so it adds "green" cred to a project. Linoleum also is antibacterial and antistatic, so it is used in environments where those are of concern. The seams can be plastic welded to tie big pieces together or to make repaired sections less obvious.

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    • nanoop

      I wanted to point out that it's used in new ESD environments, and it's surprisingly expensive. As a replacement for stairway step surfaces they're gone, though.

      And: I always tend to perceive it as "It buggers me.."

      • I think you're correct. I've heard a few Brits declare, "I'm buggered if I can figure out why…". 'Beggared' might just be the polite version.

        • Buggary is the worst possible outcome of any situation

          • monkey_tennis

            That's easy for you to say: Obviously you have never been 'beggared'!

          • skitter

            We've all been beggared: Economic Policy
            The twisted English also made a card game out of it, which is basically Egyptian Ratscrew without any of the fun.

  • Ah, Linoleum. Sounds like it should be the ancient Roman site of something; the flooring capital of the Empire, maybe.

    We used to make linoleum prints in art class. Thick, gray slabs of Linoleum about 1/4 inch thick. We'd cut them with woodcutting tools; cheaper than buying planks of wood for 80 little pre-teens.

    You really had to make sure no moisture at all got through to the substrate on those Linoleum floors, 'cause it wasn't gonna leave once it got in there. As nanoop mentioned they can be plastic welded these days, but that's a new technology.

    • OA5599

      The ESD floor where I used to work was plastic welded when the building was built in 1996. That might not be vacuum tube ancient, but a lot of desktops then were still using Windows 3.1 and if they got online at all, it was with something like AOL dialup and a 28K modem.

  • skitter

    We had textured linoleum, so my parents beg to differ about the easy-to-clean part, especially after I ground an entire red-crayon into it while illustrating a bus at an early age. I didn't know then that you're supposed to spray graffiti on the bus, not draw the bus on things.

  • cruisintime

    Linoleum is made from renewable materials, Your newer flooring is PVC based.

    • sawer-massey

      Yup, polyvinylchloride is SO environmentally responsible. Everything is renewable if you wait long enough…like coal for instance.

      • B72

        True linoleum is made primarily from linseed oil and compressed sawdust. PVC flooring is much cheaper to make than true linoleum.

        • By the way, why do they call flax seed linseed? You never see flax called "lin."

          • Slow_Joe_Crow

            best guess is the association with linen (made from flax) so linseed is short for linen seed

  • chrystlubitshi

    While I remember a number of houses I grew up in having linoleum floors (and a number of apartments I lived in after I moved out) and selling rolled vinyl flooring while I worked at mynards (menard's)…. my father, a former flooring master (carpet, hardwood, tile, linoleum) was a much bigger fan of the vinyl peel and stick 12" square tiles as they are much easier to replace and pull up completely, to say nothing of the ease of trim to fit, as long as you planned a bit in advance. I've also pulled up kitchen carpet laid over linoleum, and had to pull that up, sometimes a couple of layers, to get down to flooring….. nasty sh*t…. give me pull up tiles with proper sealing any day

    • B72

      Having removed a linoleum floor, I concur. That stuff was tough. Whether that was an advantage or a disadvantage depends on whether you wanted it to stay or go…

      • chrystlubitshi

        True true, but one layer laid on top of another, and then carpet on top of that was just gross

        • B72

          That's a lot of stuff! Were the doors an inch short when you finished?

          • chrystlubitshi

            Ha! Doors… that's funny, there were empty hinges on every doorway except for the exterior doorways… no idea where they went… presumably sold/used as scrap wood… house was built on 1953, we were doing the work in 2004.. the owner bought it "no doors/as is"

  • It's amusing how fashions change. People are ripping up their nice, comfortable, warm living-room carpets in favour of cold, sleek wood or laminate flooring. I suppose the truly determined will throw out their nice, plush, cushioned sofas and replace them with park benches.

    • B72

      Yep. I've always associated carpets with musty odors, stains, and generally serving as dirt retention devices. To each his own I guess. That said, I'm not a couch hater!

    • Felis_Concolor

      Having seen what sorts of nastiness lurks beneath wall-to-wall carpeting, I made certain the only houses I shopped were equipped with wood flooring. If I want a squishy surface, I always have the option of adding some nice Persian or sheepskin rugs.

      And I look forward to the day I can torture the kids by recreating that amusing "I'm just sanding my floor" scene from Real Genius.

      And having spent many hours relaxing in an Eames molded plywood chair, I fail to see any superiority the overstuffed thrones claim. That said, I do have one double love seat recliner in the media area mainly because it gives the cats somewhere to perch that's not our laps when watching movies together.

    • <img src="$%28KGrHqF,!icFDLrhIitNBQ1z!piykw~~60_19.JPG">
      Well, we're getting close. The above photo is from a current Ebay auction with a $1,600.00 Buy-It-Now price. I've had a nearly identical mid-century Steelcase sofa (except that mine has avocado green vinyl on the cushions) in my basement for 18 years. I got it free from the parking lot behind a doctor's office, where it was discarded next to a dumpster, despite being in perfect shape. I guess it was just too ugly and outdated. In the last couple of years, several guests in my home have flipped out over it, one even wondering why its not upstairs in our (rustic farmhouse style) living room.

  • alex

    Last Summer I removed 7 layers from my kitchen floor. The original and bottom layer was an asbestos-laden linoleum glued to a tarpaper that was glued to the beautiful pine sub floor. The entire thickness I removed was 5/8". It was the worst and hardest job I've ever done. 300+ square feet.

    After my house was built in 1937, it settled a bit and there's a hump in my kitchen floor. When the house settled, the linoleum tiles started to lift, so the original owner nailed the edges down. While scraping off the 7 layers, I also pulled over 400 small nails.

    Paid a pro to come in and sand and poly the pine. Looks spectacular, but a miserable job to get there.

    • sawer-massey

      Damn, if that is not a testament to determination then I don't know what is.
      I pulled up crappy laminate flooring which was on 3 layers of peel and stick 12'X12" tile plus pulling all the nails out that had been bent over to lay the tiles! I pulled at least 8 nails per square foot of tile. I reckon that they REALLY wanted something to stay down.

  • SSurfer321

    My current home came with the entire 1st floor covered in ugly sheet vinyl. The previous owner put Pergo (ugh!) in the living room.

    We put cork in the kitchen/dining room.

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    This was my 1st attempt at laying flooring. After living with it for almost a year, I love it, but realize where I insufficiently prepped the existing floor/slab. There are a few small spots that slab is too low and the floating floor is not resting on it. Makes a slight noise when stepping there.

  • Andy Cook

    The expression “it (or he/she) beggars belief” would still be recognised in England. And would never, ever be applied to anyone hoping to be US President – or UK Prime Minister!
    Linoleum is still manufactured, notably in Switzerland. I thought it was made from linseed oil and a mixture of cork particles and wood dust, but it seems they have dropped the cork in favour of other fillers.
    I read somewhere that it is still considered the finest surface for a writing desk (!)