When we first told family and neighbors we were considering old fashion linoleum flooring for our new kitchen floor, we got all sorts of weird looks and concerned comments from the older generation. A few of them mentioned how terribly ugly they thought linoleum was. Really? Okay, I understand retro, mid century, and vintage decor isn’t for everyone, especially if they already lived with it the first time it came around, but to me, real linoleum has a timeless appeal. I am not decorating or doing home improvements based on what the next home owner might prefer. Plus, linoleum has lots of benefits, especially in a home like ours where we strive to incorporate environmentally friendly home improvement products into our home whenever we can afford to. Now that the new floor has been in a while, I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of those same folks, after seeing the floor installed (but that’s another post,) actually had some really nice things to say about it.
Here are the reasons we put in an old fashion 1940s style Linoleum floor in our kitchen in 2012.
Advantages of Linoleum:
- Genuine Linoleum, like Marmoleum and Marmorette, provides cushioning for standing on, unlike tile or hardwood. I spend a lot of time every day standing in my kitchen and laundry room, and comfort was high on my priority list in a flooring product. I actually liked our old vinyl flooring for this very same reason and I was reluctant to switch to a harder surface like tile or wood. I didn’t want to have to use foam mats in front of the kitchen sink, the stove, and the laundry sink, just to avoid feeling too tired on my feet, so linoleum made sense to us.
- Linoleum colors and click planks can be mixed and matched to create custom floor designs, similar to the inlaid, striped, and geometric kitchen floors I love from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
- Linoleum flooring is more environment-friendly, in comparison to hardwood, laminate flooring, or resilient vinyl flooring because linoleum is made from natural products and is bio-degradable. It also won’t off gas toxic fumes to affect the air quality in our home and it is made from renewable resources. It does have an linseed odor the first few weeks, but it was actually kind of pleasant smelling and it eventually dissipated.
- Linoleum is durable and has a long life, and can last in good condition for many decades. There are linoleum floors that were installed a half a century ago, still in use today. My son’s high school, which was built in 1920, still has a number of areas with the original linoleum floors.
- One big advantage of linoleum over vinyl is if it gets a tiny gouge or deep scrape from a dropped knife or similar object, it can be sanded and filled in to match the rest of the floor.
Other considerations we had to make prior to choosing to install Linoleum flooring…
Picking a Linoleum Material Manufacturer: Once I decided on the basic colors and design, the next part was which manufacture to go with. I sifted through dozens and dozens of good and bad reviews at mainly at gardenweb, but a few on the manufacturers websites, too. I looked at linoleum hundreds of samples from Armstrong, Forbo, and Johnsonite. I really liked the Johnsonite Linoleum the best, but there weren’t a ton of ratings on their linoleum from homeowners to support my impressions of it. If I recall correctly, Consumer Reports did list Johnsonite the highest overall in their ratings, but Johnsonite didn’t have a pattern that I felt looked 1940s enough. Most of their stuff would work really well for late 50’s to early 1960s floors or later. The Forbo Marmoleum had the most color choices by far, even a few that looked really authentic, but it also seemed to be the thinnest of the three materials I looked at. Consumer Reports also rated it 3rd, behind Amstrong Marmorette. When I did my real life conditions / abusive “drop a knife tip” test on it, the Marmorette was more forgiving and looked better when I repaired it. The Forbo Marmoleum was more noticeable that I had repaired it. I settled on the the Armstrong Marmorette linoleum. To be specific, I pick a soft mottled green color called Home Turf and a black for the border called Obsidian.
Sheet vs. Click: I liked some of the fun patterns made with the click squares and planks, and I had a pattern and color scheme all picked out, but we were a bit concerned with the possibility of water spills or damp towels on the ground around the laundry or the refrigerator door ice dispenser dropping ice chips on the ground. A little too much water left on a click floor for a long time could possibly swell open the seams. Sheet linoleum seemed like it would be a better choice for our home and lifestyle. Unfortunately, only the linoleum click flooring is DIY. Once we settled on sheet linoleum, it was no longer going to be a DIY project.
Price: Turns out, unlike vinyl, marmoleum was one of the most expensive flooring products we considered. The marmoleum sheet cost per square foot was pretty standard from one retailer/ installation contractor to the next, at approximately $5.30 a square ft. for the materials. Continuing our 3/4 inch x 2 1/4 inch red oak throughout the house was $4.90 a sq ft. Tile would have been a little less than $3 a sq ft., and we could have done it ourselves to save a little money. Demolition and removal of the old vinyl flooring, new 3/4″ plywood sub-floor, labor to install, and a rubber base molding added even more to the price tag. Nevertheless, because we had waited fifteen years to get around to this project, we decided to splurge and get a floor that could possible outlast our home ownership. Hopefully the new floor lasts until new owners way down the road decide to rip it out.
Finding a Marmoleum Flooring Installer in the Greater Long Beach / Los Angeles Area: We were surprised this was actually a big challenge, even though we live in a metropolis. We contacted a dozen different places whose websites listed linoleum. Not every place that said they carried linoleum, carries linoleum. Some of those only have vinyl mistakenly referred to as linoleum. A couple flooring installers mentioned how they didn’t care for linoleum and that high end luxury vinyl flooring was a better choice. We later found out, it is much easier for them to install the luxury vinyl, but not necessarily a better flooring product for us. We ended up getting quotes from four local flooring companies. The quotes were all over the place in terms of price. Glued down sheet linoleum is a difficult flooring to install, and if done by an inexperienced installer, it is not forgiving.