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Product Guide

A Fresh Look at Linoleum

A natural and sustainable alternative to conventional flooring materials, linoleum promises cost-effective pricing, longevity, and good looks

Interlocking plank-linoleum floor

In 1855, an Englishman named Frederick Walton made a lucky discovery. He forgot to seal a jar of linseed oil that he was using as paint thinner and discovered that it formed a flexible, rubbery skin. Peeling it off, he began to wonder about potential uses. His thoughts went to flooring, which he knew could be improved. Many houses at the time relied on homemade floor cloths, made from heavily oiled sheets of canvas, wool, or cotton, to add insulation to cold stone or wood-plank floors. These were thin and smelly, did not wear well, and tended to crack with use.

A trend takes off

Walton’s subsequent experiments yielded a new material that he called “linoleum,” a portmanteau of the Latin words linum, which means flax, and oleum (oil). This material blended oxidized linseed oil with pine resin, cork dust, powdered limestone, and wood flour to create a granular mixture that was rolled out and pressed onto a canvas or felt backing. Used as flooring, it became enormously popular, quickly overtaking its competitors thanks to superior durability and water resistance.

Linoleum enjoyed predominance for many decades, until evolving technologies and tastes knocked it off its pedestal in the mid-20th century. The post–World War II era ushered in new synthetic polymers, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which manufacturers discovered could be blended with asbestos and made into a solid, durable flooring that was cheaper, lower maintenance, and more vibrant-looking than linoleum. Vinyl took over (the asbestos was eventually removed), even appropriating its competitor’s name at times. This resulted in a generation of people not knowing the difference between the two, let alone understanding that real linoleum is, in fact, one of the greenest flooring materials that exists.

Fast forward half a century, and linoleum is making a comeback.…

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  1. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #1

    Good post! I've been spec'ing Marmoleum on projects for 20 years--not all projects, but ones where my clients want a continuous surface--and think it's a great option for flooring.

  2. anonymoususer | | #2

    Which color forbo marmoleum is least likely to show dirt from muddy boots, dog paws, etc:

    1) granada, 2) oyster mountain, or 3) corktree ?


    1. LLOYD ALTER | | #3

      Millie likes the red Marmoleum in our kitchen. It's 30 years old but still looks good

      1. anonymoususer | | #9

        Thank you, Lloyd. Red is a nice color. Millie looks like a real good girl

    2. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #4

      Darker colors like Oyster Mountain tend to show more dirt than sandy colors. I believe this one is Marmoleum "sand." It's been in place since 2017 and the homeowners are still happy with it.

      1. anonymoususer | | #8

        Thank you, Michael. This is helpful

  3. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #5

    I installed Marmoleum click in my own basement and cannot recommend it.

    First, it is much, much less tolerant of any imperfections in the subfloor than other click flooring products. If there is the slightest unevenness the joints come apart.

    Second, while it was sold as being water-resistant -- not suitable for deep or prolonged wetting, but resistant to occasional wetting -- it isn't. The substrate swells when exposed to moisture and it never recovers.

    The result is a bumpy, irregular floor. I will probably rip it out and replace it with something more suitable like LVP. Considering it was roughly twice the price of similar products I was very disappointed in the way it turned out.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #6


      I put down a small laminate floor from a BB store in a backyard office a couple of weeks ago, and was shocked by how shoddy the substrate was. Too bad the Marmoleum Click sounds the same, as sheet Marmoleum is such a nice flooring.

      1. Expert Member
        DCcontrarian | | #11

        I've had great results with the "Lifeproof" LVP that Home Depot sells.

        1. Expert Member
          MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #14


          Good to know. I suspect the stuff they had me put down won't be there long.

    2. anonymoususer | | #7

      Sorry to read this. Are these the “forbo cinch lok” interlocking (no adhesive required) tiles?

      1. Expert Member
        DCcontrarian | | #10


    3. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #12

      Yeah Marmoleum does not do well with sustained moisture. I don't recommend it for potentially damp floors, or bathrooms that kids (or messy adults) use, or for other areas that get a lot of moisture. The click tiles have an MDF substrate, and even the sheets, which are solid linoleum, swell around the edges if they are exposed to enough water.

      One other caveat with sheet goods is that they come in narrow rolls, around 5-6' wide. To seam them, the installer cuts out a 1/4" slot and lays in a meeting strip that is color-matched but that is NOT invisible--you can clearly see it. The discontinuity in the pattern bothers some people.

      1. Expert Member
        DCcontrarian | | #13

        It seems like the principal distributor (perhaps only?) of Marmoleum in the US is Green Building Supply. On their website they have a page about the new "waterproof" Marmoleum.

        Reading between the lines, they admit that it's not really waterproof, and that the previous incarnation, which was sold as "water resistant" wasn't really water resistant either.

        For instance, there's this: "If you have kids, dogs, or tenants, however, waterproof floors offer an added layer of protection." I would estimate that maybe 10-20% of households in the US don't have kids, dogs or tenants.

      2. user_8675309 | | #16

        Marmoleum sheet is just over 6 1/2 feet wide. I guess it depends on the installer on the seam, as my seams are virtually invisible as the installer did a great job of butting up the edges where the rolls met(no slot cut out). I have to say I really like the sheet good product as I used it exclusively in our basement, both bathrooms, kitchen and an office. Now let's talk about those who use wood on their kitchen floors!

        1. Expert Member
          MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #17

          User ...309,

          "Now let's talk about those who use wood on their kitchen floors!"

          Perhaps oddly, that got me thinking about basements again.

          We decide what flooring is appropriate for kitchens based on it being likely that food and water will be spilled on it.

          We choose appropriate flooring for basements based on the possibility of them being subject to immersion in a flood. Isn't it strange that we design living spaces into a house that we fully expect to (or at least are not surprised when they do) flood?

        2. Expert Member
          DCcontrarian | | #18

          "Now let's talk about those who use wood on their kitchen floors!"

          My last house had oak plank floors throughout the first floor, including the kitchen. I lived there 19 years, the finish on the floors was worn but not appreciably more than the rest of the house. It looked a whole lot better than the Marmoleum in my current basement after two years.

          My current house has Marmoleum in the kitchen, we'll see what it looks like after 19 years.

  4. graygreen | | #15

    I like EVA foam tiles in the basement. Even if it was flooding just take them up and dry them out. And a great insulator and great for kids play. LVP gets damaged in a basement flood.

  5. vpc2 | | #19

    We installed, ourselves, rolled Marmoleum flooring in part of the basement and it has worked great over 35+ years. Was not hard to install, very similar to vinyl. Very durable and environmentally beneficial. Also the floor has life long natural antibacterial qualities. One issue some have is the mild smell the first few weeks. I have read this flooring gets stronger over time which seems to be the case for us. We also installed some in a bathroom and no issues.

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