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Linoleum Flooring Lifecycle

The lifecycle of linoleum flooring begins when the linseed oil and other materials are first sourced, all the way through to the disposal of the post–consumer, final product. In this section we also explore the origin of the resources used to make the flooring as well as the manufacturing and installation processes. Understanding the linoleum flooring lifecycle is essential in determining the product's carbon footprint and total ecological impact. A carbon footprint is the impact an entity (i.e. person; business; product) has on the environment measured in units of carbon dioxide (CO2). Use this section on™ to learn more about the lifecycle of linoleum flooring.

Linoleum Products

Origin of linoleum flooring:

Globe or Earth image representing Origin

Linoleum is made of materials like linseed oil, pine rosin, and wood and cork flours. All of these materials can be sourced without harming the natural ecosystems. Linseed oil is pressed from flax seeds, the rosin is harvested from pine trees, and the wood and cork flours are, in most cases, recovered industrial waste. Many of these materials are sourced in Europe, where most linoleum floors are made.

How linoleum flooring is transported:

Frieghter illustration representing shipment of product

The vast majority of the linoleum flooring sold in North America is manufactured in Europe. It is transported by freighters, trains and trucks. The use of freighters is a relatively efficient form of transportation as they carry so much cargo at once. Of course, trains, freighters and trucks are still capable of emitting a large amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, which can account for a larger carbon footprint.

How linoleum flooring is processed:

Factory illustration representing the production process

The process used to make linoleum flooring first involves pressing flax plant seeds to create linseed oil. The linseed oil is the base and main ingredient of the mixture used to make linoleum floors. The linseed oil is then exposed to oxygen or heated until it thickens into a rubbery mass. After it's properly hardened, it is ground up and mixed with other ingredients that have been pulverized (i.e. wood flour; pine rosin; cork flour; in some cases ground limestone). The resulting mixture, referred to as "linoleum cement," is then rolled onto backing, such as jute for sheet goods, and hung to dry. The drying, or curing, process is very important as it helps give linoleum floors their resiliency. The linoleum is then cut up in tiles or planks, or left in roll form.

How linoleum flooring is installed:

Illustration of tools representing installation

In sheet goods and tile form, linoleum is glued directly to the subfloor with a full–spread adhesive. Click–lock flooring is connected into floating floors without glue or other fasteners. These floors "float" between the walls of the room, inter–connected but not attached to the subfloor. Linoleum floors are recommended for on– and above–grade installation, as well as below grade in some cases. It can also be installed in areas that are susceptible to moisture (e.g. the bathroom and kitchen).

Disposing of linoleum flooring:

Green Recycle Symbol

At the end of its useful life, linoleum can be recycled, incinerated, or sent to a landfill. When incinerated in an energy recovery system, linoleum produces roughly the same amount of energy that was used to create it. Linoleum is fully biodegradable and decomposes in landfills without releasing harmful gases (the way vinyl flooring does).