How Marmoleum Works

How Marmoleum is Made

To understand how linoleum is made, first we need a chemistry lesson. The film that Walton found on his can of paint was the result of oxidation. In essence, oxygen molecules in the air mingled with molecules in the paint, causing a chemical change and forming a thin film.

But linseed oil doesn't oxidize overnight. Forbo speeds the process up by heating the linseed oil to high temperatures. The resulting material is mixed with rosin to create linoleum "cement." When the manufacturer adds wood dust, limestone and pigments, it creates colorful granules of linoleum.

These granules are blended together to make the linoleum base, then are passed through a rolling machine called a calendar to produce sheets that can be marbled, flecked or single-hued.

The Marmoleum sheets, which are about 0.1 inches (2.5 millimeters) thick, are pressed onto a jute backing. The patterns and colors extend throughout the thickness of the material and don't wear down. Vinyl flooring, on the other hand, contains only a thin layer of pattern on the surface, which can wear away with heavy use.

The finished sheets cure in huge, heated rooms called stoves for several weeks to dry. The chemical process also produces a yellowing or "ambering" effect. The coloring is temporary and disappears once the flooring is exposed to light, either natural or indoor. Recently, the company began drying some of its products in greenhouses, and the natural sunlight helps to dissipate the yellowing [source: Forbo].

As a last step in the manufacturing process, Forbo applies a water-based finish called Topshield to protect the product, keep the colors bright and help make cleaning and maintenance easier.

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