In 1860, rubber manufacturer Fredrick Walton invented linoleum, the floor and wall covering often used in Victorian homes. Three years later, Walton received a British patent for his invention. Although Walton invented it, linoleum was really made famous by Scottish flooring manufacturer Michael Nairn in Kirkaldy Scotland, who introduced the inlaid patterning that linoleum is best known for. Forbo Nairn’s Marmoleum is still manufactured in Kirkaldy to this day.
Despite losing popularity against vinyl flooring in the 60’s and 70’s, Linoleum has returned to favour. Because it is made of renewable organic materials, it has excellent environmental credentials, is biodegradable, and is non-allergenic in nature. Linoleum is still in widespread use in contract environments, especially in non-allergenic homes, hospitals and health care facilities. Also, because of the wide range of colours (over 265 at the last count) and design options such as borders and feature panels available, it has become very widely used in domestic installations, particularly for use as a kitchen or bathroom floor.
Linoleum is also available in tiles, and can therefore be laid to various designs and inlaid with various colors to form patterns reflecting the shape and use of a room. It is probably the most flexible and adaptable resilient floorcovering available today.The two main manufacturers of linoleum today are Forbo Nairn (Marmoleum) and Armstrong Floors.
What is linoleum made of?
Linoleum is made of linseed oil, natural pigments, pine rosin and pine flour.
Firstly the linseed oil is heated until it thickens to form a thick spongy mass called linoleum cement . This mixture is then ground and mixed with the other ingredients where the pigments are also added, and. applied to a jute backing, which is then rolled smooth through heated steel rollers.
The degree of ‘marbling’ in the finished floor is determined by both the initial combination of natural pigments at the mixing stage, and by carefully controlling the temperature and pressure exerted by the rollers. The resulting lengths of linoleum are then trimmed to the correct width and suspended in 5 storey high drying towers for several weeks to thoroughly season. It is at this stage that the phenomenom known as 'stove yellowing' occurs.