Period-appropriate flooring?

paucieJuly 16, 2008

We live in a home that was built in 1897. Although I am not planning to decorate in full-blown period style, I would like to somewhat remain true to the home's history.

Previous owners put an ugly vinyl down in the kitchen. I want to replace it, but with what? We have hardwood throughout the rest of the first floor, which I think is oak. However, matching that would be cost prohibitive.

Would you recommend a laminate? Tile seems like it would look odd unless we had a historically accurate reproduction floor, which I think I can safely say would also be cost prohibitive.

Any suggestions? What is your kitchen floor?

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In a lot of research I've done I notice a trend of putting the vinyl over the original wood floors. I've seen examples of several layers of flooring over the wood floors in fact!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 11:50AM
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blackcats - We hoped maybe that was the case, but we think the kitchen was added later. Without fully ripping up the floor just yet, we think it looks like there is just subflooring down under the vinyl. I wish the hardwood was there!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 11:57AM
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What about putting down brick or using tile in simple black and white colors in classic designs?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 12:10PM
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Linoluem would absolutely be a period choice for 1897:

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 3:13PM
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This should have also been included in my above post, as it's a better article:,,202857,00.html

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 3:20PM
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I put down sheet Marmoleum in my 1922 kitchen. It comes in a zillion colors, it's tough as anything, very easy to clean and (this was the final selling point for me) it's a green product made from sawdust and linseed oil. It doesn't get brittle and yellow the way old lino did, and, although much is made of "ambering," it's nothing. (When the floor initially goes down, it has a yellowish cast. This disappears in a matter of hours. No big deal.)

If you choose Marmoleum, make sure that you get an installer who knows what s/he's doing. It takes special training, I understand.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 10:46AM
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I, too, vote for linoleum. I just put it in my kitchen remodel. I'm very happy. It's not as hard as brick or stone in terms of standing on it for long periods of time, and it is holding up well to a dog and two young kids.

I also considered end-grain lumber. I loved the look, but it was cost prohibitive.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 1:22PM
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Oh that is sad! Well, with that in mind, I agree with the linoleum and marmoleum for sure!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 3:42PM
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Definitely Marmoleum. I've had it for about a year and I love it not only for all the reasons everyone else mentioned, but also, it is a JOY to sweep! It's completely smooth, and the broom just glides across it. Everytime I sweep I think of Mater from Pixar's Cars..."I'll bet the roads on the moon ain't this smooth". (And as a bonus, it's fun to slide across it in sock feet.)


    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 5:56PM
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Wood flooring was probably installed in over 90% of kitchens of houses built in 1897. Linoleum was rather expensive, and since only the hired "girl" spent much time there, the homeowners determined what was good enough for the help. After wwI, when good help got hard to find, mother moved in to the kitchen, and the advance of the hygiene principle resulted in wood falling into disfavor. Linoleum manufacturers undertook aggressive marketing at this time and stressed the cleanliness and decorative properties of their product which quickly took hold of a receptive audience.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 7:42PM
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Marmoleum or wood - those are the only 2 period accurate flooring materials I've ever heard of in kitchens.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 7:45PM
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We discovered pine under about 3 layers of filthy ugly vinyl in the kitchen. It's lovely, and when you drop a glass on it, the glass doesn't break. Linoleum or marmoleum are also great choices, and look beautiful in the old houses I've seen with it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 12:58AM
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It is probably considered total sacrilege and everyone will throw tomatoes :-) but if real lino is out of the budget, a lady named "kgwlisa" put a downright gorgeous kitchen floor in her Queen Anne using vinyl composition tile (VCT) from Armstrong. It is dirt cheap (something like 69 cents per 12x12 tile) but has very much the look of lino tile, and her design is right on target. I've linked to a thread over in Home Decorating showing photos of it, they're down at the end of the thread. This is most likely what we're going to use in our kitchen once we've scraped together the money to redo it since we'll be on a bare bones budget.

BTW, although it was less common than wood (which OP has already said was not an option) tile was indeed used in kitchens in homes of that era for reasons of "sanitation", and the obsession with same was in full swing by 1897, since it could be scrubbed with harsh cleaners. Most common were small mosaics (hexagons, octagons, or squares, which can be obtained quite cheaply if you hunt, and gray grout please) but 6-8" unglazed/matte-glazed quarry tiles (also can be had inexpensively, unglazed quarry tiles need periodic sealing) were also used. Daltile also makes a lovely brick-look tile that I would consider for a floor if it were appropriate to the rest of the kitchen; the style name is "Union Square". I don't know how expensive that is though.

The oft-suggested (and also oft-debated about whether it's actually period correct) black-and-white checkerboard is a beeyatch to take care of. Every bit of schmutz shows up - the dark crud is obvious on the white, light-colored debris glows like a beacon on the black.

Jane Powell's "Bungalow Kitchens", like "Bungalow Bathrooms", is poorly named - the information in it doesn't just apply to bungalows, it covers pretty much the whole period from 1890-WWII, and there is a TON of meticulously researched information in it. I strongly recommend it.

Here is a link that might be useful: kgwlisa's kitchen floor

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 3:28PM
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I presume you have already looked, but if you head into the basement and look up you will see if you have hard wood or not. That is how we found ours!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 7:05PM
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I 2nd whitebarn. Under our two layers of vinyl was a sub floor which was stapled onto the black glue layer from removed lino and under that was the original maple which we repaired and refinished.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 3:42PM
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I have an Victorian Cottage circa 1895. And my floor is just done in a black and white checker board pattern. You know those cheap tiles you put down.

But I really like it for the time being, it looks very dramatic.

I have a picture of the floor in the photo galleries if you care to see it. My kitchen and dining rooms are combined and very large. One of the selling points for me.

Go to photo galleries click "Home Galleries" then click my Favorite pictures. And the picture of my room is the eleventh picture. Just click it and it will be large.
I am not quite finished with the room as you will see. The quilt is not hung high enough. etc. etc.

Also, if you are interested I have a bedroom in the same home galleries (sixth picture) I think. The cream colored bedroom with the bed curtains.

I would love to see a picture of your house.

I need on the job training in order to learn how to put pictures in photobucket. lol

Good luck with your flooring.

Jane from Alabama

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 9:42PM
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