Building the Ultimate Green Kitchen

Not to be confused with vinyl, linoleum is an all-natural flooring product made of renewable materials like linseed oil, pine rosins, and wood that’s been ground up into a kind of flour. Often referred to as the “40-year floor” because of its durability, it was invented in 1860 by rubber manufacturer Frederick Walton, and remained popular until the 1950s, when inexpensive synthetic flooring (like vinyl) was introduced. Due in large part to the green movement, linoleum is back. It’s available in many colors, and because it’s sold in tiles, you can mix and match to create patterns.

Linoleum is durable, easy to clean, and should last you at least 40 years if maintained properly. If you get rid of it, it’s biodegradable. And the manufacturing process has little to no impact on the environment.

The downsides at the moment are that all linoleum is made in Europe, so it travels a distance to get here. And some people don’t like linoleum’s strong linseed-oil smell. The scent goes away as the oil oxidizes over time.

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This linoleum line was developed by the Swiss floor-covering manufacturer Forbo. It is the linoleum of choice for green retailers, says Taja di Leonardi, owner of EcoHome Improvement. Forbo controls 90 percent of the $40 million U.S. linoleum market, and has earned numerous awards and certifications for its sustainability practices. $5.50 to $7.50 per square foot.

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Marmoleum Click

Prefinished squares and planks built with a tongue-and-groove system allow you to “click” the panels into place. So, in theory, you could install it yourself with no glue. Only you’d have to cut the panels to make them fit when you got to the edges of your floor. $5.50 to $7.50 per square foot.

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In the late 1990s the flooring giant Armstrong bought German company Deutsche Linoleum Werke, the second-largest linoleum manufacturer in the world. Armstrong’s linoleum is sold in sheets rather than tiles, and must be glued down on an extremely flat service, so you’ll definitely need a professional installer. $2 to $3 per square foot.

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