Is my kitchen floor real linoleum?
February 17, 2007 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to tell if my kitchen floor is real linoleum, or vinyl?

It's one big sheet, not squares. The house was built in 1964 and the floor is original. There is one place where it's pulling up, and I can see that it has a paper-like backing. I can't pull it back far enough to see any stamp or writing without ruining the floor.

I am thinking it's vinyl, but it's so hard to clean and keep clean that we've started to wonder if it's linoleum and needs to be waxed.

Is there a definitive way to tell? Is 1964 late enough to know for sure that it's vinyl?
posted by peep to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I freely admit, I don't remember.
If it has black paper/fibrous stuff on the back, it's probably linoleum.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2007

Real linoleum is much harder and chances are if it's from 1964 it will probably break if you try and bend it too far. I don't think vinyl is a brittle as old linoleum and should be far more flexible.
posted by fire&wings at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2007

Is the paper-like backing felt-like?

It's probably vinyl, although linoleum was produced until 1974, but died out after WWII. Linoleum is usually laid on top of a felted product that is glued to the floorboards.
posted by stefnet at 1:38 PM on February 17, 2007

I think the pattern on linoleum goes all the way through, while vinyl is only printed on top.
posted by smackfu at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2007

Linoleum is stillmade.
Here is a link to read about it.<a
posted by JayRwv at 2:00 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

If it's one big sheet I'd wager it's vinyl... I've only seen linoleum in square tiles.
posted by glip at 2:38 PM on February 17, 2007

Like JayRwv says you can still buy linoleum, it's enviromentally friendly so popular in green building markets. It also comes in rolls just like vinyl or in flat sheets.

As to the question, looked at from the edge linoleum is a single composite with a cloth backing, vinyl tends to have a definate top and bottom layer seperated by a visually different middle.
posted by Mitheral at 3:55 PM on February 17, 2007

glip, my parents' 1948 vintage-house had linoleum that was all one big sheet. I don't know if it was original to the house or later, but it was definitely pre-1967 when we all moved in.
posted by litlnemo at 4:53 PM on February 17, 2007

You can buy Linoleum and Marmoleum in large sheets/rolls, not just tiles, so that's not a defining characteristic. I seem to remember there was some test you could do with acid and / or scratching the surface, but I'll be damned if I can google it up.
posted by luriete at 6:00 PM on February 17, 2007

My vote is you have linoleum. Sounds like what we have in our 1957 craftsman. It is in large sheets, that curve up the base of the wall about 6 inches or so. My wife swears it is the absolute worst to keep clean (it killed a Hoover Floormate), and is begging me for tile or even vinyl.
posted by tdischino at 7:02 PM on February 17, 2007

Yes, ours curves up the wall, too! Instead of baseboard, right? Apparently it's difficult to do that well, and ours is perfect and seamless. Very impressive, but it's going to be a huge pain in the ass to replace the floor if we ever want to - it runs throughout the kitchen, dining room, laundry, and powder bath.

I was just thinking it has to be vinyl because of the backing. Maybe I'll just wax it and see what happens. One more thing to mention, the surface is textured, sort of "pocked." This is what makes it so hard to clean, and I don't know if this is ever a feature of true linoleum.

Even though there's so much of it, I've just given up on the mop and I clean it on my hands and knees, and then follow up with a Magic Eraser. Otherwise it just looks filthy even freshly mopped.
posted by peep at 7:38 PM on February 17, 2007

You have linoleum porosity try painting it
posted by hortense at 9:25 PM on February 17, 2007

I once dealt with some incredibly old, porous vinyl tile (VA back then) by cleaning it to the bone and varnishing it. I seem to remember a maintenance guy of some sort originally telling me that. It looked like high gloss floor wax when done, but suddenly a lot easier to keep clean.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 12:22 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

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