The History of Flooring

When you walk through your home or business these days, you probably don’t think twice about the flooring or carpeting beneath your feet. If anything, the subtle upgrades in materials and installment that Knox is proud to continue to introduce, probably go unnoticed. But if you were to time travel from centuries past, you’d probably be in awe of the scientific advances that have been made in flooring.

Let’s take a step back. If this was 1500 BC, you would definitely be walking on dirt. You definitely wouldn’t be wearing socks or shoes and the soles of your feet would definitely be significantly tougher. Today this is still the case in many parts of the world. Hey, dirt is a good and inexpensive surface. It’s the main component of many compounds that are used in building structures. When hay, straw and cow dung are mixed together, it creates a surface just as hard as cement.

Early homes in North America utilized a layer of sand on top of whatever dirt floor was in place. When the smell became too much to handle, they could sweep the layer of sand out the door and spread a new one. Native American Yokuts created quite an advance building their dome homes from branches and reeds and using mud for a roof. They would walk around their homes with bare feet and the oil from their feet ensured that the dirt was airtight, and also easy to clean.

1The Egyptians were the first to utilize stone construction and slowly stone and brick floors became prominent. The Greeks used pebble mosaics in their floors. This idea spread to Spain, Italy, Northern Europe and France. Tiling was revived in 1843 in a more modern way by Herbert Minton in England.

The earliest wood floors were big in the Middle Ages. At first the planks of wood were rough under the feet, but it was quickly noted and these were sanded down with stone or metal. Stains were also added to create beautiful patterns to the floor.

The earliest woven rug ever found dates back to 400 BC in Siberia. Based on the craftsmanship it can be inferred that this technique was also used in Asia, the Middle East, Egypt and even Mesopotamia. These were greatly admired by Marco Polo the Italian explorer when he was making his way through China and Turkey.

Woven rugs led to floor cloths, first used in France in the 1300s. They were popularized by sailors and soon mass produced in factories. They went out of style when linoleum was introduced.

When linoleum was first introduced, all bets were off. It was categorized as “resilient flooring”, as were other pliable surfaces like rubber and vinyl. These were easy to clean, cheap to produce and extremely well-liked. You can thank Frederick Walton, who learned that mixing linseed oil would form a leathery skin that you could use on top of paint. He’s responsible for the majority of surfaces that you see today.

And there you have it! A crash course in the history of flooring. Bet you’re thanking your lucky stars that you’re not walking on a layer of sand today, right?