What type of flooring was originally installed in 1940s kitchens?

jlc102482May 13, 2010

I think I already know the answer to this, but I'm still hoping I might get lucky... Does anyone have any idea as to what the standard flooring (if there is such a thing) might have been in a kitchen that was constructed in the late 1940s? I'm guessing the answer is almost certainly linoleum and not wood.

Sorry if this is a silly question. :) I know next to nothing about homes of this era!

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Either linoleum or some kind of vinyl composition tile that needed to be waxed were pretty common.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 8:45PM
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What does it look like (or are you asking about whether it contains asbestos or not)? I would say that any basement tiles would, but not sure about the kitchen tiles.

Anyway, the subfloor is wood (ours is from 1947 and it has boards on a 45 degree angle to the joists). A flooring guy can change it to whatever you like. If the floor is not too high, they can just put new flooring over it after the necessary leveling, etc.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 8:46PM
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Thanks for your help, palimpsest and homebound! I think we may have the linoleum that needed to be waxed, as I found a large quantity of mysterious faux marble linoleum tiles in the loft of our barn. They must have gone someplace - the kitchen seems to be the likeliest place, I'm afraid. I guess I'll have to tear up a little bi of the floor to make sure!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 8:27AM
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The linoleum used in the 40s weren't tiles. It was a room-sized sheet rolled out over a wood floor.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 9:12AM
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The most common - sheet linoleum over a wood subfloor.

However, like now, individual owners were free to choose the materials they used. There were certainly kitchens with wood floors in the 1940's even if they weren't the most common. If you are redoing the area and want to put in wood, that wouldn't be out of place as long as you stay away from the modern high gloss finishes.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 9:35AM
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The tile you found is probably vinyl composition tile and depending upon its age may have asbestos in it. If you leave the floor undisturbed its not a problem but if you start breaking the tile up you will release asbestos particles.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 6:25PM
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Forties kitchen flooring options included (least expensive to most) Unvarnished scrubbed softwood, varnished softwood, hardwood, oilcloth, printed linoleum/congoleum, solid color lino, inlaid lino, ceramic/quarry tile, stone tile, terrazzo.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 9:49PM
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Vinyl Asbestos Tile (VAT) was made from the mid 50's to the mid 80's and consists of limestone, asbestos, binder (filler), plasticizer and pigment.

Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) is took the place of VAT in the mid 80's consists of a limestone/clay/talc mixture with a binder (filler), vinyl (resin) fiberglass, plasticizers and pigment.

Sheet Vinyl Flooring is similar to VCT but contains more vinyl resin and less limestone filler, giving it greater flexibility.

Linoleum is a sheet flooring that consists of linseed oil mixed with powdered wood and/or cork, ground limestone, resins, drying agents and pigments applied to a jute backing.
Asbestos can be found in this kind of flooring, especially when the linoleum is a rigid crest type of material. In the softer version asbestos is less commonly found. The backing of this flooring is normally green colored, and it's most of the time negative for asbestos testing.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 5:53PM
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My grandparents had to re-do their kitchen in 1942 after the house was struck by lightening and the kitchen caught on fire. They had linoleum put down, over the existing wood floor. (The wood floor was discovered when my uncle moved into the house in 1989 and decided that he didn't like the linoleum, which was still in pretty good shape.) It was one large piece that covered the whole floor, mottled soft grey, with a black and red border all around the room.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 4:09PM
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Camlan, that's really interesting - I wonder if maybe, just maybe, that's what my kitchen has? Fear of asbestos has kept me from peeling all the way down to the original floor. Yesterday curiosity got the better of me and I did take a peek under the floor. Sure enough, under the existing 1980s sheet vinyl I found faux marble tiles, the same kind I found in the barn. I kept what you said in mind, Palimpsest, and didn't cut into or break any of those up. I guess we'll have to have someone come in to test the floor before I dig any further. I know we probably don't have wood under there, but the price of installing a brand new wood floor has got me hoping for the near-impossible ;)

Thanks for your help, everyone.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 9:31AM
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If it'st ile...it's most likel;y not from teh 40's.
There was that wonderful stuff called "inlaid linoleum"...which ws a heavy linoneum that was put down....sort of like wall to wall carpet for the kitchen!
The houses I lived in as a kid has "inlaid linoleum" one built in about 1935 and the other in 1903...but I think the floor was a "modern" update.
My grandmothers had the linoleum rug....and I remember going into the hardware store and seeing those rolls in various sizes standing in the back room. Some people used them in other rooms of the house as well as the kitchen.
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 12:44AM
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Linoleum of that era was sometimes cut into squares and installed like tiles.

Other patterns of "inlaid linoleum" was made by joining and inlaying solid pieces of linoleum. Cheaper patterned linoleum was printed but is often mistakenly called inlaid linoleum.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 12:32PM
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Assuming asbestos is not a problem would you consider removing the linoleum you have now and go back to the faux marble tiles? In my old house we had a faux brick linoleum that was absolutely hideous and dirty looking. Under that we discovered black and white tiles that were 100% better than the orange linoleum. There was a closet built on top of the floor and in there we saw that under the tile there was a beautiful fir floor so we ended up ripping the tiles.
I know faux marble tiles is not what you are after but it might look better from what you have on top.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 8:53AM
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Alexia - I wish we had black and white lino under our ugly floor like you did! Unfortunately, the faux marble is really not a good look. It's a rather unnatural shade of forest green and black, and you really have to look at it a while to realize it's supposed to resemble marble. ;)

I really wanted a wood floor in the kitchen, and since there is none under all that lino and vinyl, it looks like a new one will have to go in. I am going to try and see if my city's ReUse center has enough old wood floorboards I can salvage before I install brand new. I think there will be plenty of old floors to choose from, given the amount of old homes my city demolishes every year...sigh.

I do feel better, though, knowing that there is more of the original faux marble lino in the loft of our barn, just in case some future owner wants to look at or use it. I'd feel terrible ripping it out and not having a trace of it left for future generations, even if it is ugly!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:51AM
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We found the leftover faux marble tiles from the upstairs kitchen in the original box in the cellar. Proudly proclaiming their asbestos (fireproof) content. That room is our future bedroom and we do want to pull them up. Needs lots of caution though. You may be able to bring a tile somewhere to be analyzed. And mine are not attracive either. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 6:38PM
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