Floor Coverings - Linoleums, Etc.

( Originally Published 1931 )

For kitchen, pantry, and frequently bath, a smooth-surfaced covering of linoleum or substitute for linoleum is desirable, and its use is spreading to other than these service rooms. These coverings can be obtained in solid colors or in designs and can be made an important feature of the room's decoration.

Linoleum is a product of finely ground cork mixed with linseed oil and pressed on a burlap backing.

In the best grades, the ground cork is colored, giving an evenness of color through the product, and sufficient linseed oil is used to make it pliable, thus minimizing the danger of cracking.

Where designs are employed there are three processes of manufacture; the straight-edge inlay, which is constructed like a tile mosaic; the molded inlay, which is built up in forms, and the printed, which carries the design merely as a surface veneer.

Solid color linoleums are the best made because the pressing and curing processes can be fully carried through. Where designs are used, the straight-edge in-lay is the best, as this method of manufacture permits the treatment to be carried further than in the case of the molded inlay, and produces a clearer pattern. The weakness of the printed linoleums is, of course, that the surface design wears away long before the linoleum is worn out.

The use of linseed oil is so important that a law has been passed in Great Britain, fixing the minimum amount of oil which may be used. There is no such provision in the United States, but the better grades of domestic manufacture compare favorably with the British product. In fact, this is one industry which has conformed pretty generally with the U. S. Bureau of Standards' official specifications for Navy use. As a result "Battleship Linoleum" has become popular; it comes in three gauges, or thicknesses: Grade A, which is approximately 2/16 inch thick; 3/16 inch battleship; and 6 m/m (millimeter) battleship, which is double the thickness of Grade A. Below Grade A there are in the Domestic market Grade 13 and Grade C. These are thinner than the Navy finds it is practical to use, and they do not conform with the Navy specifications as to materials.

As substitutes for linoleums, there have come on the market certain so called "felt-base" floor coverings. These are made by dipping a thin sheet of felt into a tar solution enough times to produce the desired thickness, and the design is then stamped on this product. In some cases paper is even substituted for the felt. These "felt-bases" are marketed under various trade-marked names. They naturally cannot be expected to give the same service as a well-made linoleum will.

Laying Linoleum : The method of laying linoleum is important. The use of linoleum is generally restricted to that type of service room kitchen, pantry, and bath where the building contractor has saved on construction. In other words the floors of these rooms are often of less-seasoned wood and are less carefully laid than in the dining room, living room, and bed-rooms. The uneven surface which frequently results will crack the linoleum and make it wear out rapidly unless great care is taken in the laying.

Most stores which sell linoleum also maintain service departments for laying it and charge for this service. Until recently the accepted practice in laying linoleum was to make the floor surface as even as possible and inspect for any protruding nails, then lay a felt covering and finally put down the linoleum. It was left for a month and finally fitted and tacked down.

The newer method does the job all in one visit, thus eliminating among other things the inconvenience to the housewife of a month's wait. By this method the felt padding is fixed to the floor with a special cement and the linoleum is then cemented to this padding. This procedure makes for an absolutely water-tight floor and for a linoleum which will not bulge and crack. It also eliminates the use of tacks which rust and damage the edge of the material. Although thus doubly cemented it can be taken up by an expert at any time and used elsewhere.

Caring for Linoleum : Once laid, linoleum requires reasonable care. Sometimes the surface is shellacked but the difficulty here lies in the fact that rooms in which linoleum is used as a floor covering are subject to spots of especially hard wear as, for instance, in front of stove, sink, or wash basin. This wear requires renewed applications of shellac which must be applied to the whole surface, and the result is that the coats pile up in the less used parts of the room, clouding the design of the linoleum.

For this reason, the better method is to wax the surface, as this permits localized applications where the wear comes. In waxing, the whole floor should be treated once a month for the first three months; there-after the wax can be applied where needed and the entire surface thus kept uniform.

But even more important than the shellacking or waxing of linoleum is the matter of the day-to-day cleaning of the floor. Here the essential is to avoid the use of cleaning fluids having a strongly alkaline con-tent. Ammonia, for instance, should never be used.

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