Last week a very capable and talented crew spent two days replacing our kitchen floor. We chose the same material: linoleum tiles made by Forbo. We returned to this material for two reasons: it’s historically appropriate for our 98 year old house and we like the more muted and natural colors of Frobo’s linoleum line. And we also found out that the kitchen floor of the Gamble House was recently redone with Forbo linoleum.
“Linoleum” has become a generic term associated with all kinds of sheet flooring materials, but real linoleum refers to a product made with solidified linseed oil, wood flour. Forbo’s product is backed with jute.
Fifteen years ago I installed the linoleum in our kitchen myself. This was a big mistake. Installing a floor like this is a highly skilled job best left to professionals. The crew, certified by Forbo, did a much better job getting the tiles snug, while leaving room at the edges (covered by quarter-round molding) for expansion. They also sealed and buffed the floor.
While the installation I did looked good for a few years, the details I missed (using the wrong sealing products and poor maintenance) led to stains and peeled tiles. Some things I learned:
- Forbo linoleum should be dry mopped with a special Forbo cleaner. We were wet mopping and this caused the floor to peel up prematurely.
- The floor should be stripped, sealed and buffed every 1 to 3 years (every year if you have pets or heavy traffic).
- The subfloor needs to be completely flat. The crew used a thin cementitious material to level the floor. Linoleum is not very flexible and will crack if the floor isn’t flat.
Properly maintained, linoleum should outlast vinyl flooring and, in my opinion, it looks a lot better.