Question

Is marmoleum the best non vinyl choice for my kitchen remodel?

Asked by kathleen
Santa Cruz, CA

I am remodeling my kitchen & want to know what else might be available.

Answer

Kirsten Flynn

Answered by Kirsten Flynn

Palo Alto, CA

Sustainable Home

September 28, 2011

Marmoleum, which is a brand of linoleum, is a great choice.  

  • It is made of wood dust or cork dust, linseed oil and mineral colorants on a woven base.
  • If the woven base is natural fiber, the flooring is all natural, and can biodegrade at the end of its useful life.
  • Lino is also very long lasting, the old term for linoleum in the 20's and 30s was "The 40 year floor".
  • Interestingly, it is also naturally anti bacterial, as the Linseed oil ages it creates linolic acid, which kills germs. It is the only natural flooring that is rated for use in hospitals.

Three questions I use to evaluate products

I have three questions I ask when evaluating green products:

  1. where did it come from?,
  2. what does it do while you have it?, and
  3. where does it go?

Linoleum does well in this evaluation. It is made of renewable materials although it has to be shipped from Europe. It is water resistant, long lasting, healthy, and comfortable while you use it, and it can biodegrade without emitting harmful chemicals at end of life.

Aesthetics

Of course you should pick a flooring that you like the look of, this is a primary consideration in a kitchen. Linoleum has a distinctive marbled look, and has a slightly retro association. However I have seen it in many kinds of kitchens, from vintage, to zen, to modern.

A dressier look might be tiles or hardwood. For a more modern look, I like XCR flooring.  It is a sheet flooring made with recycled rubber and reclaimed cork.

How much do you cook?

If you cook a lot the linoleum and the rubber flooring are both resilient, unlike tile or stone.

  • This would make it easier on your legs and feet to stand while you cook.
  • They are also sheet products, that roll out over the floor when installed. This means that they create a seamless floor, and are very water resistant.

Hardwood

Hardwood is often used in kitchens these days, and is somewhat resilient to stand on, but less water resistant.

  • If you like the look of hardwood, think about how you use the kitchen, can you minimize spills?
  • The worst failures of hardwood floors tend to come when an appliance breaks. If your dishwasher leaks, or your refrigerator's ice-maker fails, the moisture can be fatal to your floors and they might require replacement.

If you do want hardwood, select one made from sustainably harvested wood.

  • Eco Timber is one great brand, but there are many!
  • Strand wood flooring products, like this one from Sustainable Flooring are made of strands of wood or bamboo encased in a polymer and pressed into a floorboard.
  • Because the wood fibers are encased in a resin, they are durable, and less moisture sensitive than other wood floorings. If you like the look of wood, this might be a flooring to look into.
  • Eco-timber makes a strand product, as does Teragren.

Tile

Tile is hard, but very durable, water resistant and cleanable. It has an elegant old world look, and is probably one of the longest lasting floors you can select.

Hope I have offered some clarity, rather that just confusing you with choices.

Have fun with your project! I love remodeling kitchens. 

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