Choosing the Best Linoleum for Home

The modern abundance of floorings can make everybody who is in the process of repairing their apartment or home confused. Many eminent manufacturers with perfectly built ad campaigns are recommending to buy their products. Most of the times, the products are good, but unfortunately, sometimes they cost a lot more than you can spend. Many people undeservedly forget the existence of linoleum, considering it a cheap flooring for the poor. However, in reality, it has many advantages probably unknown to the customer. Maybe it is time to raise your awareness about that popular flooring and discover what type of linoleum is better suited for home.

A Historical Reference

It is wrong to think that the linoleum is a modern, all-synthetic flooring. The word linoleum consists of Latin words linum (stands for linen or cloth) and oleum (stands for oil). The linoleum was patented in 1860 by an English inventor Frederick Walton. Initially, linoleum consisted of the woven base made from linen or jute and covered with vegetable oil and cork flour. As the technologies were perfected, the manufacturers discovered how to draw on linoleum. It quickly became one of the most popular flooring materials in early 20th century.

Thanks to the advances in the field of chemical synthesis and the high price of natural resources, a new type of synthetic roll flooring were invented in the 1960s. It was called linoleum, even despite it bore no resemblance with the natural linoleum. It was only in the 1990s when the traditional linoleum industry returned to life. Its volume of production is constantly raising, as there is a steady demand for inexpensive and natural flooring. Therefore, the “linoleum” is actually a wide class of floorings, both natural and synthetic.

Types of Linoleum

To make it easier to navigate in an ocean of various offers, you should know about different kinds of linoleum. Which ones will be better for your home?

Natural Linoleum

Natural linoleum is one of the best choices on the market. Only natural components are used in the production of this flooring, among them linen oil, wood flour, jute or woolen cloth, natural wood resin, and limestone. A rich pattern of natural dyes in duet with modern technologies allow you to pick any color for this beautiful flooring. Natural linoleum has a wide range of advantages:

  • High durability. Natural linoleum can withstand pressure up to 16 MPa;
  • Linen oil, one of the components of natural linoleum, makes the flooring bactericidal;
  • High abrasion resistance allows the linoleum to last long. Average life time of natural linoleum is 30 to 50 years;
  • Exclusively natural ingredients make the flooring ecologically clean;
  • Natural linoleum is dirt-proof and can easily be cleaned with various detergents;
  • Natural linoleum does not accumulate static electricity;
  • Natural linoleum is UV-proof and resistant to color burnout;
  • Natural linoleum is a low-flammable material.

Even with such a formidable list of advantages, a few disadvantages can draw you back from purchasing natural linoleum:

  • Natural linoleum is expensive, its price is comparable to parquet;
  • The base of natural linoleum may rot. Natural linoleum should not be used in high-humidity environments;
  • Low elasticity of natural linoleum makes it hard to install, especially in cold buildings;
  • The choice of colors and patterns may be limited due to limitations of production technology;
  • Freshly laid natural linoleum has a specific smell that may not be pleasant. It usually disappears in a few months.

Natural linoleum will be a perfect choice for ecology-conscious consumers who are ready to pay a premium. It is a perfect flooring for living rooms and bedrooms, but its low moisture resistance makes it impossible to use natural linoleum in kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways.

Natural linoleum with inlay //

Natural linoleum with inlay //

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Linoleum

PVC linoleum is one of the most widely used types of linoleum on the market. It can be both baseless and with base made of different materials:

  • Cloth base. It can be made from either natural jute or synthetic fibers, such as fiberglass. The upper surface containing an image is made of PVC. This kind of linoleum is usually very thick (up to 5 mm).
  • Non-cloth base from natural felt or synthetic fibers. It increases the thermal insulation of linoleum, but it also limits its areas of application. The porous base is very susceptible to moisture and pressure. Therefore, it would be unwise to use of such kind of linoleum in buildings with high attendance or humidity.
  • Foamed PVC base. Developed in the 1990s, it is one of the most popular types of substrate. The main porous PVC layer can withstand any pressure and can be installed on slightly uneven surfaces, while the reinforcing fabric preserves the geometrical shape of the cloth. Foamed PVC can be applied by chemical or a more progressive mechanical method. The latter is better, as the linoleum won’t crumble under high pressure.
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Some kinds of linoleum combine several types of the aforementioned layers. Such kind of linoleum is called heterogeneous. If there is only one base layer, the linoleum is called homogenous. A number of layers and their designation may differ in different types of linoleum.

Homogenous linoleum’s picture is present throughout the depth and it would not wear off with time. Homogenous linoleum is 1,5 mm to 3 mm thick and is designated for buildings with high attendance. It may be impractical to install it in flats or houses because of its high price. In addition, complex images cannot be placed on homogenous linoleum.

PVC linoleum has a range of advantages that explains his high popularity:

  • PVC linoleum is highly elastic and can be easily laid;
  • Lots of images and textures allows for multitude of designs;
  • PVC linoleum is offered at a reasonable price;
  • PVC linoleum can be easily cleaned;
  • PVC linoleum from known manufacturers is toxin-free and supplied with a hygienic certificate.

However, there are a few drawbacks:

  • PVC linoleum can shrink in high-temperature environments;
  • Freshly laid PVC linoleum has a specific smell which may not be pleasant. It usually disappears in a few months.
PVC linoleum //

PVC linoleum //

Alkyd Linoleum

Alkyd linoleum always consists of cloth base covered with modified alkyd or glyptal resin with special fillers that improve the surface properties. Pigments or dyes are also introduced during production, making the linoleum monochrome or multicolor. Its advantages are:

  • Better heat insulation and soundproofing;
  • Extreme abrasion resistance. Alkyd linoleum can last for 40 to 50 years;
  • Easier to clean compared to PVC linoleum.

However, there are a few drawbacks:

  • Low elasticity in cold environments;
  • Qualified laying service is required to install it correctly;
  • Insufficient level of fire safety may make it dangerous to install alkyd linoleum at home.

Alkyd linoleum is widely used in transport. It can be found as a flooring in railway carriages, cabins of sea transport, and airplanes.

Alkyd linoleum //

Alkyd linoleum //

Rubber Linoleum

This is a two-layer linoleum. The bottom layer is made from recycled rubber, while the top layer comprised of painted synthetic india rubber. These layers are connected with bituminous mastic. The advantages of rubber linoleum are:

  • Extremely humid-proof, can be used even in bathrooms;
  • Highly elastic and durable;
  • Anti-slip surface;
  • Long term of service.

Rubber linoleum can be installed near swimming pools, in garages, workshops and gyms. However, it releases hazardous materials in the air and therefore cannot be used at home.

Rubber linoleum //

Rubber linoleum //

Nitrocellulose Linoleum

This is a single-layer base-free flooring made from nitrocellulose and various additional components, including gypsum, saturnine red, plasticizers and dyes. Nitrocellulose linoleum is a known fire hazard and is no longer used.

Nitrocellulose linoleum //

Nitrocellulose linoleum //

Choosing the Best Linoleum for Home

Feeling even more confused after learning about such an abundance of types of linoleum? Nowadays linoleum is usually heterogeneous and can consist of several combined layers. That’s why European manufacturers had developed EN 685, a standard that divides linoleum into several classes depending on their durability and areas of application. Each class is denoted by a two-digit code and a corresponding pictograph:

EN 685 classification //

EN 685 classification //

The first digit denotes the area of application:

  • 2 – This linoleum is designated for domestic use;
  • 3 – This linoleum is designated for commercial use;
  • 4 – This linoleum is designated for industrial use.
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The second digit denotes the maximum load that the linoleum can withstand:

  • 1 – Light load;
  • 2 – Moderate load;
  • 3 – Intensive load;
  • 4 – Very intensive load.

Domestic Linoleum

EN 685 Class 21 to 23 linoleum is called domestic linoleum. It must have the following properties:

  • Specific gravity: 1,25 to 2,25 kg/m2;
  • Thickness: 0,15 to 3 mm;
  • Flexibility and elasticity: Linoleum must not crack when coiled on a rod with a diameter of 45 mm;
  • Sound absorption: No less than 13-18 dB;
  • Water absorption: No more than 1-1,5%;
  • Shrinkage during operation: No more than 0,2 mm per 1 meter.

The average cost of domestic linoleum is 3 to 10 euros per square meter.

Domestic linoleum //

Domestic linoleum //

Commercial Linoleum

EN 685 Class 31 to 34 linoleum is called commercial linoleum. It must have the following properties:

  • Specific gravity: 1,6 to 2,5 kg/m2;
  • Flexibility and elasticity: Linoleum must not crack when coiled on a rod with a diameter of 10-40 mm;
  • Sound absorption: No less than 12-16 dB;
  • Shrinkage during operation: No more than 0,1 mm per 1 meter;
  • Guaranteed service life: No less than 7-20 years.

The average cost of commercial linoleum is 5 to 15 euros per square meter. Negligible price difference allows it to be installed in houses. Areas with high load, such as kitchens and lobbies, will certainly benefit from installing commercial linoleum.

Commercial linoleum //

Commercial linoleum //

Industrial Linoleum

EN 685 Class 41 to 43 linoleum is called commercial linoleum. It must have the following properties:

  • Hardened (up to 0,8 mm) protective cover;
  • Shrinkage during operation: 0,02 to 0,1 mm per 1 meter;
  • Guaranteed service life: No less than 10 to 25 years.

The average cost of industrial linoleum is 10 to 40 euros per square meter. High price, in addition to excess specifications, makes industrial linoleum impractical for home use. Some industrial linoleums may have specific designations:

  • Sports covers must be soft and elastic enough to provide full contact with sports shoes;
  • Medical covers must be resistant to chemicals and bacteria;
  • Anti-slip covers must be humid-proof. They are usually installed near swimming pools and other areas with increased humidity;
  • Antistatic covers must not accumulate static electricity.
Industrial linoleum //

Industrial linoleum //

Protective Cover Thickness

The majority of modern linoleums contain a durable protective cover made from PVC. Its thickness is a major factor when choosing the linoleum. The thicker it is, the more load it can withstand:

  • 0,15mm-thick cover is suitable for bedrooms and living rooms;
  • 0,2mm-thick cover is suitable for children’s room;
  • 0,25mm-thick cover is suitable for kitchens, lobbies and hallways;
  • 0,3mm-thick cover is suitable for offices with moderate load;
  • 0,5+mm-thick cover is suitable for buildings with intensive and very intensive load.

Linoleum Marking

When choosing the linoleum, ask the seller to provide the technical details and certificates of conformity and hygiene. Quality linoleum manufacturers always leave their logo on the back of linoleum, along with additional information that may be of value:

  • EN 685 class;
  • Batch number (it is better to buy linoleum from the same batch if you’re going to buy it in large quantities);
  • Date of production.

The manufacturer can also place additional markings denoting that the linoleum has some special properties. Some of them can be found below:

Linoleum markings // self-made

Linoleum markings // self-made

Making the Right Choice

Now that you know the existing types of linoleum, it’s time to make a choice. Keep these tips and tricks in mind as you’re preparing to buy the flooring:

  • You should only buy linoleum in specialty stores where all storage conditions are met. The store must have all accompanying documents confirming the products’ compliance and safety;
  • Choose linoleum depending on the area’s designation. Have a reserve and buy a better class of linoleum;
  • Pay attention to the thickness and durability of linoleum. Make sure it has the protective layer;
  • Make sure that the color or texture blends nicely with the design of your house;
  • Buy glossy linoleum if you intend to use it in areas with a lot of dirt;
  • Make sure the linoleum is in mint condition before you buy it;
  • Incorrect base preparation or flooring procedure may ruin all the experience. Invite a specialist if you’re unsure!

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