Laying and Repairing Linoleum

NEW linoleum is usually fitted by professionals employed by the retailers of the material, but when one is changing room furniture, etc., and when moving house, the programme generally includes taking up and re-laying linoleum.

This is not a difficult business, but, on the other hand, it is not as simple as might be supposed from watching experts at the job.

A knife with a stiff blade is needed, and it must be sharp. A shoemaker’s knife is excellent for the purpose, and it may be bought for a shilling or so; a broken table-knife, properly ground at the point, is a good substitute. Knives, specially designed for cutting linoleum are, of course, generally available, but the amount of this kind of work in the ordinary household hardly justifies the purchase of a special knife. A wood straight-edge is indispensable as a guide for long straight cuts. A tack hammer is required, and an ounce or two of those small headless brads used by shoemakers.

Begin by examining the floor boards for faults. First, the heads of protruding nails should be punched down, and all tacks extracted. Then see that the boards are flush, using the plane where necessary.

If the floor is of cement, fill in any holes or cracks with a mixture of one part cement to three or four parts of sand. Wet the holes thoroughly first, then fill them in flush and allow the cement to harden and dry before laying the linoleum. Linoleum should never be laid on a damp surface or it will be liable to rot. On wooden floors put down one or two layers of the specially made thick felt paper under the linoleum. Not only will this level out any unevenness, but it will soften the tread and reduce wear.

Fitting Linoleum

Cutting and fitting the linoleum into awkward corners and round the hearth will present the greatest difficulty to the amateur, but there are one or two methods that will simplify the procedure. The first is exactly the same method as is used by dressmakers when cutting out a frock. Take a large sheet of paper and cut it out with scissors until it fits exactly into the awkward place. Then transfer this pattern to the linoleum and mark round the edge with pencil and cut accurately to the line. An.other method, especially useful when fitting linoleum to a curved or crooked wall, is called ‘scribing’.

Cut a short piece of wood about six inches in length and square on both ends and in one end cut a small ‘v’ just large enough to hold steady the point of a pencil. Lay down the linoleum about five inches from, and parallel to the wall, then, holding the wooden block against the wall, move it steadily along marking the linoleum at the same time. Be careful to keep the pencil steady and the block square to the wall. Having lined out the whole of the profile of the wall, cut accurately to the pencil mark and the linoleum must fit exactly to the wall, however crooked.

When laying patterned linoleum, match the pattern at the joints which occur in the middle of me room and make sure that it rermins in the right place while marking and cutting it to fit the walls and comers.

At doorways, the edge of the linoletim should come just halfway under the door when shut. Difficulty may be encountered in fitting accurately round moulded architraves and door stops . The easiest way out for the house owner is to take a saw and carefully cut the thickness of the linoleum off the bottom of these mouldings and stops and so allow it to be slipped underneath.

After being laid, new linoleum will always spread to some degree, according to its thickness and quality, and provision must be made for this before finally fixing it down or it will buckle up into folds and wrinkles. A patterned linoleum must be matched and fixed at the centre joins and a gap of about a quarter-of-an-inch left round the edges of the room until spreading is finished, when these edges may be fixed. A plain or Jaspe linoleum should be fitted close to the walls and allowed to overlap at the joins so that it may be trimmed and fixed later. The mottled or Jaspe linoleums are a useful alternative to either plain or patterned types. They do not need matching, and their plainness gives an appearance of space.

Fixing Linoleum

Linoleum cements may be obtained for fixing linoleum to cement or composition floors but their use is not recommended for wood floors as the consequent sealing of the floor may encourage dry rot or mildew in the floorboards and joists.

Linoleum squares patterned in the same style as carpets and available in various sizes do not normally need fixing down. They are often much thinner than linoleum bought by the length, and benefit by having two or even three thicknesses of thick felt paper laid beneath them.

Since it is as difficult to fit and lay cheap linoleum as it is a good one, it pays in terms of labour as well as cash to buy the best you can afford. In living rooms and kitchens, where the traffic is heavy, it is important to purchase inlaid linoleums as the pattern is solid right through and there is no danger of the ‘bald spot’ one so often sees in printed linoleums after a year or two of heavy wear by the kitchen sink or living room door.

Cleaning Linoleum

Frequent washing is injurious to linoleum apart from the chances of water finding its way between the joins and setting up rot or mildew. A good wax polish is much to be preferred. Not only does a well-polished linoleum present a smart appearance but the wax protects and preserves the material.

Patching Linoleum

After laying or re-laying linoleum, save carefully the larger cuttings as a useful reserve for patching later on, especially if the linoleum is patterned and difficult to match. It may be, of course, that a larger patch than can be covered by the trimmings may be needed, and in this case it is sometimes worth while to remove a piece of sufficient size from under, say, the piano or sideboard, and to replace this (where it does not show) with two or three small pieces, or even with one piece of the right size but a different pattern.

Consider the method to be adopted in this case. With the wood straight-edge and a sharp knife, cut out a rectangle round the damaged place. Cut right back into sound linoleum and cut right down to the floorboards. The worn piece may then be lifted up intact. Carry it over to the place from which it is decided to cut the replacement and lay it down so that the pattern exactly coincides. Fix it down temporarily with one or two brads. Now cut all round the edges right down to the floorboards. Then remove the brads and lift out the patch. If care has been taken to cut clearly and accurately, it will fit exactly into its new position and the pattern will match correctly. It may be found that as the patch has had very little wear in its old position, it will be thicker than the linoleum in its new place. If it is an inlaid linoleum set the plane to a really fine cut and carefully chamfer the edges of the patch until they are flush; if it is a printed linoleum, pack up the worn linoleum around it with a suitable thickness of folded newspaper before fixing.

Sometimes, the repair is a small one, necessitated, maybe, by wear from a chair castor. In this case cut out a new patch first of all, but instead of making it rectangular, cut it to an irregular shape. It will be much less conspicucus, especially in plain linoleum.

Having prepared the new patch, lay it down over the worn place in such a way that the pattern, if any, matches, and secure it with two or three brads. Cut all round the edges, lift out the old piece, and the patch will drop into place.

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