How to Install Linoleum Flooring

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It's durable and can last for decades with proper care, so linoleum is a practical choice for high-traffic areas in your home. This type of flooring has been around since the 1800s and is prized by some homeowners as a more eco-friendly alternative to vinyl. Installing linoleum flooring yourself can be a fairly simple task when using tiles or panels that click together like puzzle pieces.

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Basic Guide to Linoleum Flooring

When you're just starting the process of comparing your options, make sure you're clear on the differences between linoleum and vinyl flooring. There's a common misconception that these names can be used interchangeably. Linoleum is made from natural materials (primarily linseed oil and wood flour) and is mounted on a cork base. Vinyl flooring is made from synthetic materials and is often sold in sheets with adhesive backing.

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From a maintenance perspective, cleaning linoleum is a lot like cleaning hardwood floors. This kind of floor can be damaged by harsh cleansers and standing water. Clean linoleum with a pH-neutral cleaner unless manufacturer instructions say otherwise.

There are only a small number of companies that make true linoleum flooring these days, with most DIYers using Marmoleum-brand linoleum made by Forbo. While professional flooring installers might use a glue method, using tiles or panels that click together with a tongue-and-groove design is the easiest way for homeowners to install linoleum. The process is as simple as sketching out a plan, putting down an underlayer as a moisture barrier, and putting rows of tiles together until your entire floor is covered.

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Things You'll Need

How to Install Linoleum Flooring

Step 1: Sketch Out a Plan

Linoleum commonly comes in 12 x 12-inch tiles and 12 x 36-inch panels. Measure your floor and draw out a plan to determine the number of pieces you need. Because linoleum comes in a variety of colors, you may also want to alternate colors to create a pattern, and that should be mapped out in advance too. You can do this by hand with pencil and paper, but online tile calculators make it easier to determine how much material you're going to need.

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Step 2: Let the Tiles Acclimate

Move boxes of linoleum tiles or panels into the room where they're going to be installed. Let them sit there for about three days (or six days in winter) to adjust to the temperature and humidity in the room so they don't swell or shrink after you've installed them.

Step 3: Put Down Underlayment

Roll out underlayment to cover the entire floor in a single layer using a utility knife to cut off any excess that runs up the walls. Check the instructions provided with your linoleum tiles for guidance about putting down underlayment for your specific subflooring type.

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Step 4: Install the Tiles

Lay out one tile as a temporary guide. Click another tile into the bottom left edge of the temporary guide. Next slide the top edge of another tile over the bottom right edge of the temporary guide. Slide it over to meet the first tile, holding the bottom of the tile up at a 45-degree angle. Then drop it into place so it clicks together with the first tile. (Check Forbo's website for installation videos that demonstrate this process.)

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Move the temporary guide over to the top edge of the new tile and repeat the process until you have nearly a full row. You'll probably need to cut the last tile to make it fit perfectly in place. Slide the row into place against the wall, putting tile spacers between the floor and wall to create a consistent 3/8-inch expansion gap on all sides. Measure the distance between the last tile and the wall and then subtract 3/8 inch to account for the gap. Wearing protective safety glasses, cut a tile to fit using a jigsaw and click it into place.

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Use the leftover piece from the first row's last tile to start the next row or cut a tile in half to start the next row, thereby ensuring the rows are staggered so the edges don't line up between rows. Complete the process, leaving a 3/8-inch gap all the way around the floor and staggering each row.

Step 5: Cover the Expansion Gap

Install quarter-round molding to cover the expansion gap, or in a potentially wet area, like a bathroom, seal the expansion gap with mildew-resistant silicone.

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