How to Lay Linoleum: DIY Instruction

Linoleum is hardly a modern flooring – it was invented in the late 1800s – early 1900s, and its production has begun at the same time. Yet it’s not going to lose ground, as it can still compete with innovative types of flooring, often even beating them by some properties. Its popularity can be easily explained with its low cost and easy and fast laying procedure that can be easily done manually.

These criteria often become the defining ones for the homeowners to choose linoleum. However, there’s still one problem to be solved – how to lay it down properly? This article is intended to give you the most capacious answers on the main questions considering laying out this type of flooring.

The art of proper linoleum laying can be divided into three important components:

  • Making a proper choice: You must choose the linoleum not only by its design and décor value, but also by its properties, operational and ecological characteristics;
  • Making the correct measurements: No need to buy more linoleum than you need. Make the correct measurements and you’ll know exactly how much linoleum you’ll need;
  • Adherence to recommended technologies: This is the third and final step.

This is how the article will be composed.

What Linoleum Can Be Laid in Your Apartment

You can easily bet that most people associate the word “linoleum” with something highly synthetic. Maybe that’s why there’s a strong prejudice that this material is hazardous for your health and not ecologically clean.

It’s amazing, but the term “linoleum” by itself defines the naturalness of the material. The term was invented in the late 19th century. It is made of two Latin words: linum (stands for linen or cloth) and oleum (stands for oil). That’s how the early prototypes of this modern flooring were made – dense linen or jute cloth was soaked in processed vegetable oil. Then small cork was pressed into the surface. By the way, the technology remained virtually unchanged through the centuries.

Classification by Base Material

Natural Linoleum

Natural linoleum is the first representative of modern linoleum floorings. It is made only from the natural components: refined linen oil, linen or jute textile, shredded wood, including cork, wood resins, natural dyes, etc. Even despite the abundance of synthetic materials, the people were still interested in natural materials, and the production of natural linoleum has reborn in the late 1980-1990s.

In addition to being ecologically clean, natural linoleum also has the following advantages:

  • Very durable and abrasion proof, able to withstand heavy mechanical load;
  • Fireproof and incombustible;
  • Linen oil, one of the components of natural linoleum, makes it bactericide;
  • Very easy to clean, does not absorb any dirt;
  • Does not accumulate static electricity;
  • Natural dyes used during the production do not burn out under UV rays.

However, several factors prevent the natural linoleum from taking over the market:

  • Very high price, comparable to the cost of high-quality parquet;
  • Freshly laid natural linoleum has a specific smell that may not be pleasant. It usually disappears in a few months;
  • Natural linoleum is very susceptible to high humidity. Prolonged use in high-humidity environments may cause it to rot;
  • Natural linoleum isn’t very elastic. It can be hard to install;
  • Variety of colors and designs is limited due to production technology. In most of the cases, natural linoleum is completely monotonous.

However, natural linoleum is a perfect choice for living rooms, children’s rooms and bedrooms. It’s still unadvisable to install it in kitchens or lobbies.

Natural linoleum with inlay // blogger.com

PVC Linoleum

PVC based linoleum is an undisputed leader among the other types of this flooring. Its structure is very diverse:

  • Cloth based (natural or synthetic) with thick (up to 5 mm) upper PVC layer;
  • Non-cloth based (i.e. felt) PVC linoleum. Higher noise and heat insulation is an advantage, but it is very susceptible to moisture and high load. Therefore, it cannot be placed in kitchens and lobbies;
  • Foamed PVC substrate linoleum. It is the most popular type of PVC linoleum. Foamed PVC can withstand heavy mechanical load and is tolerant to small floor surface flaws.

PVC linoleum may be uniform – it is then called homogenous. It is immune to wear, but you can’t find a lot of designs for it. It is usually a monotonous surface with rare color additions. It is a good flooring for high-load, high-intensity areas, such as kitchens and lobbies. However, it’s quite expensive and many people can consider its price to be a drawback.

Heterogeneous linoleum has a complex multilayer structure. The contents and thickness of each layer may vary, while the use of photo printing allows for a multitude of designs and pictures.

PVC linoleum is perhaps the most applicable for domestic use:

  • It is highly elastic, making the installation very easy;
  • Surface protection layer makes it very easy to clean the linoleum;
  • Wide price ranges and various decorations can satisfy virtually any customer;
  • Quality linoleum from a known manufacturer is environmentally safe, provided that it comes with a hygiene certificate.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks, with high linear expanse coefficient being main of them. Severe temperature drops may cause the PVC linoleum to “go in waves”, especially if it wasn’t laid very carefully.

PVC linoleum // pinterest.com

Alkyd Linoleum

Alkyd linoleum is made only on cloth surface. It is known by its perfect sound and heat insulation, it’s quite durable and resistant to load. However, it loses all its elasticity and becomes brittle if the temperature goes down.

In addition, alkyd linoleum is more flammable than PVC linoleum. It should be laid by certified specialist. As such, it is not as popular as PVC linoleum, but it may be used in houses and apartments nevertheless. However, it is mostly used in public transportations (buses, railway carriages) and public buildings.

Alkyd linoleum // pinterest.com

Alkyd linoleum // pinterest.com

Colloxylic Linoleum

Colloxylic linoleum is a known fire hazard. It is not used in households or public buildings.

Rubber Linoleum

Rubber linoleum is an another type of linoleum that is rarely used in homes. It is meant to be used in production facilities, warehouses and tech buildings. Even despite its high operational capabilities, it cannot be used in homes as it can release hazardous fumes into the air.

Rubber linoleum // linoleum.ru

Rubber linoleum // linoleum.ru

Classification by Coating Durability

Linoleum material isn’t the only criterion of choice. Most of the models in the middle price range are usually made from PVC. You must pay utmost attention to the durability class.

Most people are dividing the linoleum into three classes: domestic, semi-commercial and commercial. But if we go deeper, we should adhere to the EN 685 classification adopted in the EU countries. It strictly defines operational parameters of the material that is broken down into several classes. The following pictures are usually used to denote the class of linoleum and its designation:

EN 685 classification // floorsymbols.com

EN 685 classification // floorsymbols.com

Each linoleum class is denoted with a two-digit number. The first digit indicates its main designation, while the second digit indicates its resistance to dynamic load.

  • Class 21 to 23: Domestic linoleum, only to be used in households.

According to EN 685 standards, density of domestic linoleum must be around 1,25 ~ 2,25 kg/m2. Its thickness is around 3 mm, water absorption must not be higher than 1,5%. It must bend for 22,5 mm without breaching the surface integrity. Noise absorption must be around 15 ~ 18 dB. Maximum allowed shrinkage is 0,2 mm per running meter.

This linoleum is quite affordable. Even the most expensive models from leading manufacturers rarely cost more than 10 euros per square meter.

  • Class 31 to 34: Often called “semi-commercial linoleum”. EN 685 defines this type of linoleum as commercial. It is best suited for malls, offices and service buildings.
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Commercial linoleum is thicker, denser and more elastic compared to domestic linoleum. Its soundproofing capabilities, abrasion and pressure resistance are better. Maximum allowed shrinkage is 0,1 mm per running meter.

In the past manufacturers had to sacrifice the ecological safety of commercial linoleum to increase its operational capabilities. Luckily, it is no longer the case today. Commercial linoleum is more expensive compared to household linoleum, but most homeowners will still be able to afford it. Class 31-32 commercial linoleum will be a good choice for lobbies, kitchens, balconies, lodges and other areas with high load. Class 33-34 will be an excessive purchase.

  • Class 41 to 43: Often called “commercial linoleum”. EN 685 defines this type of linoleum as industrial. It is best suited for production facilities, warehouses, factories and other areas with extreme load.

It will be an overkill to purchase industrial linoleum for home use. Its highest operational capabilities will never be put to good use in ordinary apartment.

Density and durability of the linoleum often depends on the thickness of its transparent protective layer:

  • 0,15 mm and less – This linoleum is only suitable for areas with low load, such as bedrooms or home offices;
  • 0,20 mm – This linoleum can be laid in living rooms or children’s rooms;
  • 0,25 mm – This linoleum can be laid in kitchens, lobbies and hallways;
  • 0,30 mm – This linoleum is designated for offices with intensive load;
  • 0,50+ mm – This linoleum is designated for areas with extreme load.

Making the Right Purchase

  • Before going to the shop to purchase the surface, measure the room you’re going to install linoleum in. Length and width aren’t the only parameters. Make sure to include all niches, doorways, complex areas. This way you’ll be able to lay all the area with a single sheet;
  • Drawing the room layout will be the smartest decision. This way, you’ll fully understand what job needs to be done and how many linoleum you’re going to need. No need to buy excess material – for example, if you have a complex niche that will require a serious excess of material, it would be more profitable to make a junction of two sheets.

Double-check if the walls are perpendicular. Those who ignore this advice often end up buying more or less material than they need. It would be a wise idea to make some reserves – around 100 mm for each side – but if the walls are curved, you’re going to need much more. Measure the room by two diagonals and compare the results. If they are approximately equal, then your calculations are right.

Take the layout to the shop. In good stores, the assistants will be able to make a pattern of the flooring. If you only need a few inches of the material or if you’re going to buy additional material for niches, the store may have the clipped fragments. They are usually offered with a solid discount.

Last but not least, if you’re going to buy several sheets of the linoleum, make sure they are from the same batch. Sheets from different batches may have different tint or color.

  • Linoleum is issued in 1,5 ~ 4 meters wide rolls. This should be enough for a standard room. If you’ll need two or more sheets, the best option would be to make junction in parallel with the windows.
  • Do not be humble! Ask the store assistant to show you the hygiene and brand certificates.
  • If you’re not buying an entire sheet, the piece of linoleum you’re purchasing must be rolled out completely. This way you can ensure that the surface is not damaged or defective.
  • Pay attention to the images on the rear side of material. They may indicate that the linoleum has additional properties:

Linoleum markings // self-made

  • Purchased linoleum must be curtailed in a cylinder roll with flat edges. DO NOT fold it in any way! It may only be stored vertically before laying out. Storing it horizontally will cause it to take the ellipsoidal form, creating the hardly smoothed waves.
  • Keep linoleum in well-heated area. Temperature and humidity should match with the room you’re going to use it in. Do not store linoleum in garages, balconies or storage rooms! If you don’t have any storage space, better buy linoleum immediately before laying it out.

Manal Linoleum Laying

Preparing the Floor

Before laying the linoleum, you must prepare the floor. While some materials can “forgive” small flaws on the floor, this isn’t the case with linoleum. Any flaws of the floor, however small they might be, will show up on linoleum over time, no matter how thick it is.

Preparing the Concrete Floor

If you’re planning to lay linoleum on concrete floor, make sure it’s completely flat. Any surface protrusions must be brought down. Make sure to close up any cracks, fissures and holes with repair mortar. You must get a flat surface.

Even the excessively large fraction of concrete filler can ruin the look of surface. If you want to play safe, use the leveling screed by using self-leveling mixes.

Finished surface must be thoroughly cleaned. It must not have even the smallest fractions of dust. You will have to use powerful vacuum to clean the surface.

After the cleaning, the surface must be primed with penetrating primer. It will provide good adhesion with the glue and prevent the concrete from accumulating dust. If you will not do this, the surface will begin to squeak, and the dust will infiltrate the room soon enough.

Preparing the Wooden Floor

There will be even more of troubles if you’re going to lay linoleum on wooden floor. The floor must be checked for stability. Any unstable boards must be replaced. You might have to pick up the boards, repair or replace logs and old floorboards.

If you’re laying the linoleum directly on floorboards, make sure there’s no holes between them. Any holes must be thoroughly closed up with putty. Painted boards might be resistant to glue; in addition, the paint itself might peel off over time. You will have to clean the old surface by using special detergents or heating it up with industrial dryer. Make sure there’s no protruding nail heads. Drown them in if there’s any, and close up any holes with putty. If you have a wood scraper, scraping the whole floor would be an ideal option.

There is another solution for rooms with wooden floors. You could cover the entire floor with plywood. Lay the plywood sheets in a descent and fixate them with self-tapping screws each 100mm. Drown the screw heads in and close up the resulting holes with putty. After the putty has dried up, you could grind the surface with belt sanding or disk grinding machine. Manual grinding is also an option.

Laying New Linoleum on Old Linoleum

Many people ask whether new linoleum can be laid directly on old linoleum. Well, that’s definitely an option. It would even increase the heat and noise insulation of the room. But there’s a few nuances. If old linoleum is very thick, the new surface will be very permeable under pressure. In addition, the new cover will repeat every flaws of the old one, if there were any. This approach is only usable if old linoleum did not had any flaws, except worn-off image. However, most of the masters recommend removing old linoleum completely before laying new one.

After the old surface is completely removed, let’s move on to the next stage.

Laying the Linoleum: Possible Options

The first step is to create appropriate temperature conditions in room where the linoleum will be laid. Do not start any works if the room temperature is below 15 degrees Celsius, as the linoleum will not be elastic enough. In addition, it might go in waves after the temperature returns to normal. Excessive heat (30+ degrees Celsius) is also not recommended, as the linoleum might shrink and come out from under the baseboard. Stratification is also very likely to happen.

Read also:  How To Remove Old Linoleum Or Glue When Replacing Flooring

Let the roll “acclimatize” to the room it will be installed in. It should stay in the room for 2 to 3 days to let its internal temperature and humidity become equal to the room conditions.

The next step is to roll it out on a floor. As you remember, you should buy linoleum with a small reserve (min 100 mm). Let it be on a wall. However, there are some limitations – for example, if your room is 3,2 meters wide and you bought a 4 meters wide roll, leaving 30-40 cm on each wall will be an overkill. In addition, it won’t let the linoleum take its normal shape. Cut the surpluses until there’s only 80-100 mm of linoleum left on each side.

If there are two adjacent walls in a room and they are completely flat, without any heating pipes, niches and protrusion, you can roll the sheet and use them as supports. Be sure to leave a 10 mm gap near each wall to let the linoleum take its normal shape.

The linoleum must “lay” on the surface for at least 1 to 2 days, but the actual time may differ. It depends on room, material type and thickness, its level of bruising and other factors. Your main task is to let the linoleum flatten out and let all the waves disappear. Sometimes you could “help” it flatten out by pinning down the most bulging regularities with wide boards or other heavy items with flat surfaces. Be sure not to warm it up with dryers – you may damage and the protective layer, irreparably damaging the surface in the process.

If the laying process requires you to lay 2 sheets, make sure to match the pictures (if it is needed) and leave a small (up to 100 mm) overlap to cut out the conjugated fragments later.

After the sheet has flattened out, it’s time to move to the most responsible step of the whole process – making the final cut of the linoleum in accordance with the room size. Most mistakes are done during this stage.

The only principle here is to leave a small compensatory gap at the edges. It shouldn’t be very wide, 8 to 10 mm must be more than enough. This is the most difficult part. Too short gap might leave linoleum rest against wall, and it can later create a wave. Too long gap will be visible from beneath the baseboard.

Your main task is to cut the sheet correctly around the corners. Release any external corners if there are any. It will be best to cut the internal corners with two accurate diagonal cuts using sharp construction knife. Both surfaces that are adjoined to the wall will then be released. It will be easier to cut them afterwards.

Squeeze the remaining parts to the corners. It will create a visible cutting line. Some masters prefer to draw the lines with markers. It is a matter of habit. But everybody agree that you shouldn’t leave a long “tail” of cut surface. Better cut them with small, 250-300 mm patches. Rush is unacceptable – better spend more time than spoil the material. Use long steel or wood ruler or wide (around 500 mm) putty knife. One more rule: the knife should remain sharp at all times. Don’t forget to change or break off the replaceable blade.

If this stage has been successfully completed, congratulations – the hardest part is now behind you. You only have to consolidate the linoleum on floor surface. There are several ways of doing it.

  1. People often don’t use any consolidation. They just press linoleum to the surface with baseboard or adapter bars. It would be better to use plastic flexible baseboards – they will compress the material good enough and hide any possible rough spots. Connect them to the wall (never connect them to floor!) with anchor screws or special brackets that are usually included in the base package.

This approach is very fast. It does not require any additional materials. However, the linoleum will remain unstable. Any accidental move of the linoleum will lead to wave formation. The waves will be very hard to remove, and sometimes you’ll even have to lay all linoleum from scratch to get rid of them.

  1. Lay the linoleum on double-sided tape. Stick the tape to the prepared surface beforehand without removing upper protective layer. It must be placed around perimeter and in places of junctions of separate fragments. You may add several more stripes across the room.

After the linoleum lies and flatten down, cut it, take up the places where the tape is glued, remove the protective layer and get the linoleum down. That’s it!

  1. The most optimal way, according to masters, is to use the special glue. A lot of glues designated for linoleum can always be found in stores. Polyvinyl acetate glue is also an option.
  • Bend the linoleum inside out before gluing it. Apply glue with putty knife, equally distributing it on the surface.
  • Put the linoleum on the glued surface carefully. Make sure all air bubbles are out and the linoleum is tightly lying on the surface. You can use self-made smoothing device. Smooth bar or plank covered with soft cloth will do the trick. If you have a heavy roller, this would be an ideal option. Move the air from the center to the edges.
  • Do the same with the opposite side.

There is an alternative solution for large rooms. Roll the linoleum back after cutting it down, but be sure to do it carefully without offsetting it in any side. Start gluing it from a small area near the wall. Then go in the opposite direction from the roll, consistently smearing the base with glue and unwinding the roll.

One important moment: be sure not to walk on the floor until the glue dries completely.

What To Do With Junctions?

If you had to lay two or more sheets of linoleum in the same room, there will be a problem with junctions. Usually these problems are resolved by inviting a specialist with the appropriate equipment who will weld the junctions. However, you can make a strong connection yourself.

As we already told, overlap the adjacent sheets – it will help you create a smooth junction.

  • If linoleum is laid on concrete, put a plywood or thin cardboard gasket underneath the cutting line. This step is not required if you’re laying linoleum on plywood base.
  • Place a ruler at the designated line of cutting. Make an accurate cut with a sharp knife. Be sure to cut both sheets of linoleum.
  • Remove the remains from the upper and lower sides. The sheets should now match perfectly. Now you’ll have to fixate them. You could use tape for the first time, but it won’t last long. Your best bet would be to use “cold welding” technology. You’ll need a special glue and a standard painter’s tape.
  • Put a stripe of painter’s tape across the surface of junction. Make an accurate cut right on the spot of junction.
  • Connect a narrow nozzle to the tube. Squeeze out the glue in the crevice you’ve cut. It will connect two sheets with virtually invisible seam.
  • After waiting for the time denoted on the glue tube, remove the painter’s tape. Check the seam, remove any overflows and correct any flaws if necessary.

Last warning – please let the linoleum stay for at least a day after laying it before “cold welding” any junctions.

Well, that’s pretty much it. If you’re accurate and don’t afraid of manual work, nothing listed here will be difficult. Good luck!

How to Lay Linoleum Flooring DIY Video

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