Linoleum flooring, whether in large sheets or tiles, isn't completely ruined by an accidental tear or gouge. With a few common tools, it's possible to cut away major damage and install a patch that is virtually undetectable when sealed properly. Minor damage may not even require a patch, and a little heat and contact cement can make the floor look new.
A small tear may be glued back into place if all of the material is still intact. This method works best when the tear is less than about an inch and the torn piece is still attached like a small flap. Clean out the hole to remove any dirt and dried glue or putty. Heat the flap with a hair dryer and smooth it into place. If it remains wrinkled, a patch is necessary; otherwise, lift the piece back up just enough to spread a thin layer of vinyl flooring cement in the bottom of the hole. Press the flap back into place and roll with a seam roller. Spread liquid seam sealer around the edges to seal and blend the repair.
For anything more than a small tear, the best way to repair the flooring is to cut out the damaged area and install a patch. This requires a spare piece of flooring large enough to fill in the damaged spot, a sharp utility knife, a putty scraper, vinyl cement, a seam roller and seam sealer. As long as the replacement piece is carefully matched and the edges of the seam are sealed to keep out dirt, the repair should be nearly invisible if completed correctly.
Ideally, the patch can be cut from a spare piece of linoleum that was set aside specifically for repairs after initial installation. If there aren't any spare pieces, look under appliances and cabinets to see if there is enough linoleum extending underneath that a small patch can be cut out without affecting the visible areas of the floor. If the flooring is not too old, it may also be possible to find the same color and pattern at a flooring store; however, it may not be an exact match, because the color may vary slightly.
Cut a patch that is larger than the tear, and also slightly larger -- at least 1/4 inch -- than the final size of the patched area. Stick the patch to the floor, directly over the tear, using double-sided tape. Make sure that any pattern on the linoleum is lined up exactly on all sides of the patch. Cut through both the patch and the linoleum on the floor at the same time with a sharp utility knife, making sure the cut is smooth and even. Remove the cut patch and set it aside.
If the damaged flooring did not pull away with the patch, pry it up with a putty knife. Remove the double-sided tape from the patch. Clean out the empty space in the flooring where the damaged linoleum was removed, making sure to get out all dirt and any remaining glue or putty. Spread a thin layer of vinyl flooring cement in the empty hole. Press the patch into place and roll firmly with a seam roller.
If glued properly, the patch should stay in place without sealing the seams. Dirt and grime may collect along the edges, however, making the patch visible. Use a clear seam sealer designed for vinyl flooring to fill in the hairline gaps between the patch and the surrounding linoleum. This will create a smooth, even surface that won't trap dirt and can be easily cleaned, keeping the patch invisible except upon very close inspection.