I am thinking of replacing tiled floor in my kitchen with linoleum (in Canada). I see a few benefits to it, 1) easy to wash 2) fallen glassware doesn't always break. However, there seems to be unexplained negative attitude towards linoleums. (At least from my experience.) What are real downsides of linoleum?

  • My wife uses the smoke detector as a timer. Linoleum melts. – lqlarry Apr 10 '12 at 5:40
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    The downside is the one you put the glue on. :) – BMitch Apr 19 '12 at 15:11

Do they still make Linoleum? lol. Today there are many types of sheet flooring goods. the most common is vinyl sheet flooring. The newest style which is gaining popularity very quickly is fiberglass sheet flooring. This fiberglass flooring is very different than vinyl. If has a padded backing and is set with removable adhesive or with no adhesive at all. Some of the tile patterns look so much like real tile, you have to get on your hands and knees to check it out. It also give you a softer feel under your feet. They are no wax and clean with simple mild cleansers. It comes in 12 and 16 foot widths, is very easy to work with even in cold temps, and best of all, it is very competitively priced.

If your tile floor is becoming unservicable or you really want to change it, you may be able to level right over it with a flooring compound. This will level the grout lines and allow you to put sheet goods directly over it without having to remove the tile or overcoat with plywood. If your existing tile is sound, it would make a good stable base if prepared properly.

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    I think when people come across vinyl and other sheet flooring, they mistakenly call it Linoleum. To the untrained consumer, all sheet flooring is Linoleum. – Tester101 Apr 10 '12 at 11:43
  • Ya Tester, I agree. I just love to make fun of the word Linoleum. It's such a funny word. – shirlock homes Apr 10 '12 at 14:22
  • I think Linoleum is actually making quite a come back. That and cork seem to be popular 'green' options these days. – DA01 Apr 10 '12 at 15:46
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    I just talked to the Mgr of the flooring dept at my local Lowes, (thanks Cameron) and the brand name of the one I have used with great satisfaction is IVCUS. They stock it at Lowes in a couple of patterns, but have many more that can be ordered. It is still classified as vinyl flooring, but new in that it is padded and has fiberglass. The one I used is a matte finish, non slip, and self laying. Love it, used it in my own kitchen. – shirlock homes Apr 10 '12 at 22:15
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    I have the fibreglass vinyl flooring on our ground floor and it is very nice. We have it in a kitchen and a laundry room. Great product: comfortable, warm, pleasing to the eye. Ours is a faux tile pattern. Many people think that it is tile. – tegbains Apr 11 '12 at 6:05

If the tile is nice tile, I'd strongly consider keeping that. People like tiled kitchens.

Linoleum is a bit like laminate counter tops. Has a bit of a 60s/70s stigma to it.

But also like laminate counter tops, they've gotten better and now come in a much wider range of looks.

Linoleum has the added benefit of being a 'natural/green' material, so fits into the green trend as well (which is a good trend, for the most part).

I suppose the biggest con would be that it won't wear as well (or last as long) as tile will...then again, very little will wear as well as tile.

You'll also need to decide if you want a surface that needs to be waxed regularly or has a more permanent top coat. I assume most products on the market today will have the latter, but you'll want to check into that.

The other con is that you'll likely have to either tear out your tile, or add a new layer of plywood to the top of it. Granted, you'll probably have to do that regardless, but also something to consider.

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As Tester101 said, what's usually called "linoleum" nowadays is actually made of vinyl, and falls under the general heading of "sheet flooring".

On the upside, lino's cheap, easy to install and easy to care for. You don't have to seal it like you do porous tile, grout and/or hardwood (but a shot of acrylic floor polish never hurt anything). It does have a LITTLE padding to it because of its inherent flexibility, but it's considered a "hard" floor unlike carpet. BTW, I've seen glasses not break, or only break on the third or fourth bounce, on a LOT of hard surfaces from tile to lino to laminate; it's more a function of exactly how the glass hits.

Anyway, the downsides are:

  • You get what you pay for. Even good vinyl flooring looks like vinyl flooring (though my parents were fooled by the vinyl in my kitchen; looks like blue slate with an acrylic finish and was convincing enough that they wondered where the stone had been sourced). It's kind of like a Formica countertop that's patterned like granite; it may look alright, but you can tell pretty easily that it isn't granite.
  • Vinyl abrades. You need to use and maintain nylon cushion furniture glides on any furniture or fixture that isn't on wheels, unlike with most tiled floors which are hard enough that wooden furniture won't have an effect. Otherwise, those chair legs will wear through the lino to the underlayment (or concrete slab), and when that happens the best fix is usually to replace the floor.
  • Vinyl burns and melts. Unlike ceramic tile which has a very high heat tolerance, dropping a hot pan onto a vinyl floor will get you a scorch mark.
  • Vinyl pulls up. Sheet flooring is simply laid down with some construction adhesive in the middle of each sheet to keep it from shifting, and around the edges to keep it from pulling up (hey, it's stored in rolls). This adhesive doesn't last forever, and eventually pieces, especially in high-traffic areas, will begin to pull away at the seams.
  • Vinyl ages poorly. Even if it doesn't get torn up and doesn't pull up, UV light will discolor plastic more than pretty much anything else with the possible exception of wood. This means the floor will yellow over time with sunlight exposure, or even just the UV light from florescent tubes (every kitchen I've ever seen has either used tubes or tracks to light it, with tubes being the more common choice for full-area lighting). You can mitigate this by using a darker-color flooring, or by choosing an off-white to begin with which will look like it's supposed to be yellow (but really that second option never really works).
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    It's important to distinguish between Vinyl flooring and Linoleum. They look similar but are entirely different products. I agree that most people confuse the two and use the term interchangeably. – DA01 Apr 10 '12 at 15:46

Nobody mentioned this but the EPA has ingredients of vinyl on a red-list of products that are known or highly suspect of causing cancer. You will definitely NOT hear this from the vinyl manufacturers. Check for yourself by searching for epa phthalates vinyl.

Linoleum is made from linseed oil. It is a natural product. Cork as someone mentioned is another one. I have not heard of fiberglass flooring unless they mean a backing or something.

Vinyl is very different, a rigid material by its own nature, which requires phthalate plasticizers to keep it from getting brittle. They leach out, eventually leaving it brittle anyway. Every formulation is different, some have phthalate emission levels that are lower than others, but there does not seem to be a test everyone agrees on, so anyone can say theirs is safe it seems. But the EPA has a plan to somehow address it - if and when THAT ever happens.

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Linoleum isn't Vinyl!

It has and retains some flexibility like vinyl, but where vinyl is made of petroleum (generally in layers that will rip), and breaks down relatively quickly, linoleum is made of linseed oil, sawdust, etc. in a slurry that holds the color all the way through and is biodegradable. And it LASTS!

If you remember your grandma's or more likely great grandma's kitchen floor it was very possibly real linoleum which, with an occasional waxing, will be around for 30 to 60 years.

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