When the RMS Titanic set sail in 1912, many of its public spaces featured linoleum flooring, and nearly 100 years later, an expedition to the famed wreck discovered those tiles—still intact. Patented by Frederick Walton in 1863, linoleum remains one of the longest-wearing and most versatile flooring materials a homeowner can choose. "The material itself hasn't really changed, but it now comes with a durable factory finish, so there's a lot less maintenance," says Joel Hirshberg, president of Green Building Supply, in Fairfield, Iowa. Pigments have improved too, allowing for a broader palette of some 170 stay-true tints.
Linoleum's smooth, water-resistant surface is comfortable underfoot, and its natural ingredients shrug off dirt and bacteria, making it the floor of choice for hospitals, schools, and libraries. All that in an easy-to-clean, budget-friendly package that's priced comparably with higher-end vinyl but has green cred that newer material can't match.
Here's the lowdown on lino and how to put this hardworking surface to use in your home's most demanding rooms.
Shown: A third color adds a twist to the classic two-tone checkerboard pattern in this kitchen. Forbo Click in Van Gogh, Sky Blue, and Silver Shadow, starting at about $7 per square foot;