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Historic Preservation - Technical Procedures

Spectitle:

Linoleum: Characteristics, Uses And Problems

Procedure code:

0966002S

Source:

20Th Century Building Materials (Ed. Tom Jester, Nps)

Division:

Finishes

Section:

Resilient Tile Flooring

Last Modified:

02/24/2012

Details:

Linoleum: Characteristics, Uses And Problems



LINOLEUM: CHARACTERISTICS, USES AND PROBLEMS


This standard includes general information on the characteristics
and common uses of linoleum and identifies typical problems
associated with this material along with common causes of its
deterioration.


INTRODUCTION

Characteristics of linoleum:

-    a resilient sheet flooring material

-    ecologically friendly, made of natural materials

-    composed of oxidized linseed oil, powdered cork and wood
    flour, pressed into sheets with a burlap (jute) backing

-    water resistant

-    heat- and sound- insulating

-    very durable and flexible

-    typically imitated other flooring materials, including tile,
    slate, wood planks, parquet, and even carpets

-    distinguished by type (plain or inlaid) and gauge (battleship
    or A-E gauge)

-    battleship gauges were the thickest type, ranging from  light
    battleship (.142" thick) to very heavy battleship (.25"
    thick); burlap backing was unpainted; typical colors included
    brown, dark gray and green

-    A-E gauges of linoleum were thinner than the battleship
    gauges; burlap backing was painted; typical colors included
    brown, dark gray, light gray, blue, tan and green


TYPICAL USES

Typical historical uses for linoleum include:

-    residential flooring: for kitchens, hallways and bathrooms

-    institutional flooring: in schools, showrooms

-    originally installed over a wood subflooring.  Later, a layer
    of felt was sandwiched in between

-    heavier battleship linoleum was common in offices, stores,
    hospitals, banks, lodge rooms, elevators and battleship decks

-    thinner battleship linoleum was common in light traffic areas
    and where cost was a factor

-    'A' gauge plain linoleum was common in apartments or offices
    with moderate traffic levels

-    'B, C, and D' gauges were common in residential applications

-    'E' gauge linoleum was common in the automobile industry

-    the use of linoleum was surpassed by vinyl tile after WWII


NATURAL OR INHERENT PROBLEMS

Chemical Corrosion:

-    with age, the linseed oil component of linoleum oxidizes,
    resulting in brittle linoleum; for linoleum with a high
    proportion of filler material to linseed oil, this problem is
    aggravated

-    linseed oil darkens over time, causing a change in the overall
    color and appearance of the floor; exposure to ultra-violet
    rays can further alter the color value of the floor


VANDALISM OR HUMAN-INDUCED PROBLEMS

Mechanical or physical deterioration:

-    abrasion in heavy traffic areas

-    indentation from heavy furniture or high heels

-    water damage to backing can cause the backing material to
    separate from the linoleum

-    exposure to alkalis found in cleaning agents (such as ammonia)
    can cause pitted and abraded linoleum; the alkali softens the
    linseed oil, and destroys the cork

                         END OF SECTION