What is linoleum flooring?

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Linoleum is a specific kind of flooring, not to be confused with vinyl. This durable product is made from flax and is ecologically sound.

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Do you really have a linoleum floor?  Maybe, but the term has been used generically for so long that maybe what you have is something completely different. Even though linoleum is not a brand name, it is not proper to use it as a generic term, since many sheet flooring materials are now made of other substances such as polyvinyl chloride.   

In 1863 an Englishman by the name of Frederick Walton invented this flooring material from the flax plant.  The name, linoleum, comes from linum, which is latin for flax, and oleum, which means oil.  Linseed oil, which is derived from flax, was oxidized, creating a substance called linoleum cement.  This was then mixed with pine resin and wood flour and poured over sheets of jute backing material.  The material he created could be made into big thin sheets and attached to floors.  Later a Scotsman named Michael Nairn improved on the material, figuring out how to apply textures, color and design.  

The product wears much longer than vinyl flooring and costs roughly what an excellent quality vinyl costs.  It was still the primary sheet flooring product until the 1960s, but when less expensive and easier-to-install vinyls became readily available in the 1970s it diminished in popularity.  However, it is making a come back as home owners and designers being to appreciate its value as a cost efficient, durable product.

Linoleum is a highly durable, ecologically friendly substance.  It can last fifty years and more and still be an excellent flooring.  In fact, it continues to become more durable after installation due to the oxidation of the flax oil. And it does not release PVCs into the air like other flooring materials do.  But because it is more expensive than many vinyls, and very difficult to install, few people are using it in new construction today. In addition it isn't being made in the United States and must be imported, adding to the cost.