Vinyl is clearly the most versatile flooring option available. There are literally hundreds of styles and colors to choose from, and pricing options that make vinyl workable for most any budget. Vinyl floors are known for their easy care and cleaning, and are generally wear-resistant, which makes them a sensible choice for the kitchen and bath, or any other room in your home. They're also resilient. They "give" when you walk on them, which creates a soft, comfortable feel underfoot, and also reduces the chances of plates and glasses breaking when dropped.
You can choose from sheet vinyl, which comes in 6 and 12 foot roll widths and in almost any length, or from vinyl tiles, which depending upon the manufacturer, may be available in 9, 12, 14, 16 or 18 inch squares.
There are two basic types of vinyl materials you should know about as well. The majority of vinyl floors literally have a photographic image that is printed on the material and protected by a wear layer. The other type is vinyl with Inlaid ColorTM, which is an exclusive to Armstrong. Vinyl with Inlaid Color is built from the backing up, and involves the layering of millions of vinyl color granules, on top of one another, through hand-cut stencils. The result is a handcrafted look of extraordinary depth and richness of color.
Genuine linoleum is the original sheet flooring material, first patented by Englishman Frederick Walton in 1863. Although some people still call all sheet floors "linoleum," the real thing is quite different from the vinyl floors that gradually replaced them a century later. Its name derives from the main ingredient, linseed oil. (In Latin, linum is the word for linseed, which comes from the flax plant, and oleum means oil.) The oil is boiled, mixed with melted resins, and combined with powdered cork, wood flour, resins, ground limestone, and other natural materials. Mineral pigments provide the color. This mixture is formed into a durable sheet by applying heat and pressure.
Today, genuine linoleum is manufactured only in Europe and is imported into the United States. Recently it has enjoyed resurgence in popularity among homeowners because of its natural look and physical properties. Genuine linoleum is quiet and comfortable underfoot and contains no synthetic chemicals. The antistatic surface rejects dust and makes it ideal for rooms with electronic equipment.
Genuine linoleum is primarily available in roll form, approximately 6'6" wide in lengths up to 98 feet long. Some manufacturers also provide linoleum in the form of large squares to make it easier to create custom floor designs using more than one color. Linoleum squares measure 18.9" x 18.9".
In the '30s and '40s, linoleum was created in a great variety of designs; many embossed to resemble other types of floorings, such as ceramic, slate, and marble. Today's linoleum visuals offer overall effects that provide a more neutral background for decorating.
Genuine linoleum is extremely long-wearing, and some have observed that it actually gets stronger with age as the linseed oil oxidizes.
Maintenance & Care
The linoleum surface is more porous than vinyl floors, so it's important to protect it with a high-quality polish, such as Armstrong S-480 Floor Polish (available at flooring retailers). This will prevent spills or dirt from penetrating and staining the surface and will add an attractive low-level gloss. Two thin, even coats should be applied initially. Add an additional layer for a higher gloss. The floor should be cleaned regularly using a neutral detergent solution such as Armstrong S-485 Floor Cleaner (available at flooring retailers) or Armstrong Floor Cleaner (commonly found in supermarkets) diluted to ¼ cup per gallon of water. Because linoleum is made of natural materials, the use of harsh alkalis or high pH products such as ammonia should be avoided. From time to time, it's a good idea to re-apply two thin coats of the floor polish; to avoid polish buildup, don't over-apply to areas that are not walked on, such as along the walls.
Linoleum floors are known to "bloom." Bloom is the term given to the minor color adjustments linoleum flooring makes when exposed to light. It turns its true color. Because genuine linoleum is made from natural raw materials, oxidation of the linseed oil in your floor may result in a yellowish cast when not exposed to light (under the range, rug or refrigerator, etc.). This visual discoloration is only temporary. Once exposed to light, the yellowing disappears and your genuine linoleum floor will "bloom" again.