Picture of How Vinyl Flooring Is Made
Who isn’t charmed by the rich warmth of a polished hardwood floor? And when it comes to bathroom elegance, it’s difficult to pass up real ceramic tile. Living room luxu-ry? It’s wall-to-wall for most. All of these flooring solutions have their place. But, if you want to be practical too, there’s an essential alternative you shouldn’t leave out—plastic.

That’s right. Covering your floor with plastic—just like homeowners have been doing for the past 40 years—is the low-maintenance, high-performance solution to just about any well-trodden area. Of course, we don’t call it plastic flooring, we call it vinyl flooring. And if you think it sounds bland, utilitar-ian and just a little too industrial, it’s time to take a closer look. Today, there are vinyl flooring options for every budget, every decor and every taste. The key to all the variation is in the manufacturing process.

The great thing about vinyl flooring is that it provides a relatively continuous covering without the gaping seams and natural absorbency of wood or the grout lines of ceramic tile. It’s this skinlike quality that makes vinyl flooring so attractive from a maintenance standpoint. However, vinyl wasn’t the first material to come to the rescue. Another solution had been around since the mid-19th century—linoleum, and it’s making a bit of a comeback today. Made from linseed oil, powdered cork and wood, resins, limestone and pigments, linoleum was produced in both sheets and tiles, and was a popular solution for kitchens and baths up until the ’60s. The downside to linoleum was that it needed to be waxed periodically—the major reason it gave way to the more maintenance-free vinyl coverings.

This project was originally published in the December 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics. You can find more great projects at Popular Mechanics DIY Central.