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Last edited 10 Jun 2020
Linoleum (usually abbreviated to ‘Lino’) is a traditional, smooth, seamless floor covering that is made by combining linseed oil, rosin (solid pine resin), flax, cork flour, wood flour, pigments and other ingredients. The name is a combination of two Latin words: linum (flax) and oleum (oil). During the manufacturing process, the oil is oxidised, a process that is aided by heating and which makes the oil solidify into a resilient, tough sheet.
The process of combining renewable, natural ingredients and pressing them onto a canvas backing to form sheets was invented in England by Frederick Walton in 1860. By 1869, the product had become so popular that Walton began exporting to Europe and the US. He continued to refine the process right up to the early 20th century when he invented an inlay machine that could produce patterned linoleum which proved to be extremely durable.
From its invention right up to the 1960s, linoleum was a popular floor covering which, being seamless, provided a surface that could be hygienic, easy to lay and easy to clean. Originally used for hallways and corridors, it soon spread to kitchens, bathrooms and even living rooms.
Lino is still made today but by a fast-tracked process. However, it is not made in the same quantities and has been largely superseded by synthetic floor coverings such as vinyl and wood laminates. Vinyl has become very popular and has around the same flexibility and durability, but it is less flammable and is supplied in colours which can be brighter and more translucent.
Another differentiator is that while linoleum has the design embedded throughout its constituent materials, modern vinyl coverings have three layers, one of which is an image layer which can carry a pattern or representation of stone, wood etc. Linoleum may also require a protective seam sealant to avoid water penetration.
Despite falling sales since the late 1960s, linoleum sales started to rise in the first two decades of the 21st century. In the UK, it is chiefly manufactured under the trade name of Marmoleum by Kirkaldy-based Forbo Nairn. Hailed as CO2 neutral from cradle to grave, it contains 97% natural raw materials, 72% rapidly renewable and 43% recycled content. It is available in a range of colours and designs which include marble and concrete.
Benefits of linoleum.
- Environment friendly.
- Low VOC content.
- Provides a cushioned, relatively comfortable floor.
- Water resistant.
- Easy to clean.
- Relatively easy installation, especially in tile format.
- Availability in a variety of colours and patterns.
- Continuous colour can mean dents and scrapes are less conspicuous.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
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- Insulation for ground floors.
- Raised floor.
- Resilient Floor Covering Institute.
- Resilient flooring.
- Resin flooring.
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