How to Install Linoleum Flooring

linoleum flooring family room
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Linoleum is a durable and attractive flooring option for hard-working rooms.

If your decision to install a linoleum floor is based on research, you probably know that linoleum and vinyl flooring are two different things. Even though the installation procedures are similar, you have to take an important difference into account: vinyl flooring is waterproof while linoleum is only water-resistant. Even though linoleum was originally designed for ships, it isn't as good a choice as vinyl for utility areas, below-grade locations or on concrete subfloors where moisture is likely to be a problem.

Whereas vinyl flooring is a completely synthetic material, linoleum is made from natural ingredients, including linseed oil, pine resin, wood dust and a jute backing. The construction method makes linoleum slightly heavier than vinyl but also more scratch-resistant, so it's ideal for heavy-traffic areas, like hallways and entryways. Because linoleum has a backing, it doesn't need an underlayment, and you can install it over any existing flooring, provided the surface is flat and smooth. You can even install it over tiles if you apply extra grout to fill in the gaps.

Like vinyl flooring, linoleum comes in tiles and in 7-foot-wide rolls. It is usually glued down, although it's possible to install sheet linoleum without glue and allow it to float over the subfloor. When it comes to installing sheet linoleum, whether you glue it or not, the keys to doing a great job are accurate measurements and careful cutting.

Preparing for Linoleum Installation

You need a flat, smooth subfloor for any flooring material, but it's especially crucial when laying linoleum sheets or tiles. Linoleum is thin, so you feel every defect in the subfloor, and the flooring can crack when it bends over a bump. You can check for flatness with a level, a straightedge or a straight board. The floor does not have to be level, as in perfectly horizontal.

Leveling a subfloor.
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The subfloor must be flat and smooth, because you can feel every defect under linoleum.

Here are some essential procedures you need to follow to get ready for linoleum installation:

Remove the baseboards. Pry them off with a hammer and pry bar. Number the pieces if you plan to reuse them, and store them outside the installation space.

Clear the floor. Remove all furniture and anything else that's movable, such as cabinets that aren't attached. The fewer obstructions in the room the easier the installation will be.

Measure the room dimensions with a tape measure. Purchase enough linoleum to cover the space plus about 10 percent of overage, so you'll be sure to have enough material for complete coverage.

Removed damaged flooring. You can install linoleum over existing hard flooring (including vinyl, linoleum and some tile) as long as it's in good condition. If it's cracked, or pieces are missing, though, you need to remove it.

Prepare the subfloor. Screw down any loose areas of the subfloor. If there are large depressions or other low spots, you can fill them with leveling compound. If there are high spots, you can sand them down with a belt sander.

Check the subfloor moisture. Use a moisture meter to check the moisture level of the subfloor. If you plan to glue the linoleum, the moisture content should be no higher than 13 percent. If it's higher, wait for the subfloor to dry out before proceeding.

Acclimate the linoleum. Bring the linoleum into the installation space and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours to give it time to come into equilibrium with the room conditions.

Installing Linoleum Tile

Man's hand wipes clean rag across freshly installed vinyl flooring tiles.
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Be sure to clean glue off the tiles while it is still wet.

Choosing linoleum tile gives you the opportunity to create your own pattern, using two or more tile colors or styles. In this case, you should start the installation in the center of the floor, just as you would if you were laying ceramic tile. Alternatively, if all the tiles are the same color and style, it's fine to start laying them against a wall instead.

Things You'll Need

  • Chalk line (Optional)

  • Tile adhesive

  • Utility knife

  • Jigsaw

  • Notched trowel

  • Damp rag

  • Floor roller

  • Caulk (Optional)

Step 1 Dry-Fit the Tiles

Lay the tiles in the desired pattern before you actually glue them. This is a good thing to do even if the tiles are all the same color, because it allows you to address alignment problems before it's too late. Don't forget to leave a 1/4-inch expansion gap around the perimeter of the floor. If desired, make marks to represent the edges of the tiles, and snap chalk lines through the marks to serve as guidelines for the installation. You can do this at the center of the room or along one or more edges.

Tips

You can cut a linoleum tile by scoring it with a utility knife and breaking it along the score line. You can also cut curves with a utility knife, although a jigsaw with a metal-cutting blade is faster.

Step 2 Start Gluing

Go back to the starting point, remove the tiles and spread adhesive on the subfloor with a notched trowel. Spread a thin, uniform coat, then lay the tiles in the glued area, and press them down firmly. Immediately wipe off excess adhesive from the tiles with a damp rag. The glue is much more difficult to remove when it hardens.

Tips

Work in small sections—about 10 square feet—at a time so it is easy lay all of the tiles in the section before the adhesive starts to set.

Step 3 Roll the Floor to Set the Tiles

Go over the floor with a weighted floor roller after you've set the tiles. It's a good idea to double-check for adhesive just before rolling each section, so you don't roll over any glue.

Step 4 Install the Baseboards

You can reuse the old baseboards or install new ones. If you're going to paint the baseboards, t's a good idea to do it before you install them. Install the baseboards so they touch the new flooring but do not press down on it too hard. If desired, run a bead of caulk along the top of the baseboards, but not along the bottom; you want the flooring to be able to move.

Installing Sheet Linoleum

Installing PVC floor
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Make a template so the linoleum is cut to size before you lay it.

When installing linoleum sheets, you want to make accurate cuts. The best way to do that—and get it right the first time—is to make a template. You also need a large, empty space where you can unroll the linoleum to cut it. This could be the basement, the garage or an outdoor area, such as a patio or deck.

Things You'll Need

  • Kraft paper or newspaper

  • Tape

  • Utility knife

  • Notched trowel

  • Damp rag

Step 1 Make a Template

Lay kraft paper or old newspaper (in good condition) over the subfloor and tape the pieces together. The paper should overlap the perimeter of the room by at least a few inches at all walls. Cut the template to the room dimensions with a sharp utility knife. Be sure to make accurate cuts around cabinets, door jambs and other obstacles. Alternatively, you can assemble the template one piece at a time by placing each piece against the wall and then tape it to the neighboring piece; this method requires no cutting, and you can overlap pieces as needed before taping.

Step 2 Cut Out the Linoleum

Unroll the linoleum faceup on a flat surface. Give it time to lie complete flat. Place the template on top and cut around the perimeter with a utility knife. If the room is wider than a roll (most rooms are), leave one side of the roll intact so you can make a seam, and cut the rest of the perimeter on a second sheet.

Tips

The seam should occur no closer than 6 inches to joints in the subfloor. Measure the distances of joints from the walls with a tape measure and adjust your cutting accordingly.

Step 3 Dry-Fit the Linoleum

Lay the linoleum in place to check the fit. Make sure the seams butt cleanly with no gaps or overlaps. When everything is in order, roll back the linoleum about 6 feet to expose the subfloor.

Step 4 Glue It Down

linoleum glue
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Spread the adhesive with a notched trowel.

Spread adhesive on the floor with a notched trowel, starting at an end wall and extending out about 3 or 4 feet back from the wall. Unroll the linoleum over the adhesive, then roll the opposite end back to the edge of the glued area. Continue by spreading adhesive in 3- or 4- foot sections at a time, unrolling the linoleum over it as you go, until you reach the opposite wall.

Tips

If there are seams on one or both sides of the roll, be sure to match them exactly to the adjacent sheet as you unroll the flooring. Wipe adhesive that oozes through the seams with a damp rag while it is still soft.

Step 5 Roll the Floor

Go over the freshly glued linoleum with a floor roller to seat it in the adhesive. Do this immediately after you finish gluing the sheets to the floor to make sure the adhesive is still soft.

Don't walk on the linoleum or move furniture back into the room until 24 hours after rolling the floor.

Step 6 Install the Baseboards

You can reuse the old baseboards or install new ones. If you're going to paint the baseboards, t's a good idea to do it before you install them. Install the baseboards so they touch the new flooring but do not press down on it too hard. If desired, run a bead of caulk along the top of the baseboards, but not along the bottom; you want the flooring to be able to move.


Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.