The last time we talked about flooring, we dug all the way back through human history to the days when a floor was little more than a simple patch of dirt. Over time, humans developed the technology and know-how to turn these dirt surfaces into something more, going from primitive straw-and-cow-dung cement to wood planks to heated stone floors within a few millennia. Carpets and rugs began to pop up around the known world in Asia and the Middle East, eventually being brought back to Europe and beyond. But where did we go from there?
Interestingly, a lot of the flooring options other than stone and hard wood came to us largely by accident. You likely either have or know someone who has linoleum flooring in their kitchen. This material was developed in England by a man named Frederick Walton in the mid-1800s. At the time, rubber floors had fallen out of favor and had been so for two centuries. Walton was a rubber manufacturer and noticed that linseed oil formed a flexible skin when it solidified, not unlike rubber. Once he perfected the process of manufacturing sheets of this skin, we had our first linoleum flooring.
Along with Walton’s linoleum, materials such as cork and asphalt became popular in tiled floors in the late 1800s and continued to be so until the early 20th century. It was at this time that an American inventor named Waldo Semon accidentally created what we now call PVC, or vinyl. He was attempting to bond metal with rubber in the year 1926 and in the process, invented PVC. At first, his material was used in shock absorbers, synthetic tires, and wire insulation. After the end of World War II, however, it became a popular flooring material that you can still buy and install to this day.
The truly remarkable thing about floors these days is that nobody is limited to a single type of floor, and indeed, I’m willing to bet that you have multiple materials in your own home. What kind(s) of flooring materials are you interested in or do you already own?