Being one of the cheapest and durable floorings, both linoleum and vinyl floors are a common choice to use by homeowners. Both floorings can look quite similar, and a few homeowners can’t tell the difference between the two. If you look closely and understand each floor’s characteristics, you’ll see that they are actually worlds apart.
So how can you tell the difference between vinyl and linoleum? Look at the floor on its side. Linoleums are usually thicker and its color goes all the way from the front to the back, while vinyl floors are usually thinner with its color occupying only a thin portion from the outer surface. They do differ in other aspects as well, so read on to find out more.
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Linoleum and Vinyl Floors Comparison Table
Here’s a quick summary of the difference of linoleum and vinyl flooring. I’ll explain more in detail in later sections.
|Material||– made from natural materials.|
– a green material; eco-friendly.
– depending on the type of product, the thickness can go from 1.5 mm to 10.0 mm thick.
|– made mostly from PVC.|
– not a green material.
– depending on the type of product, the thickness can go from 1.5 mm to 10.0 mm thick.
|Cost||– average of $2 – $8 per sq. ft.||– average of $1 – 7 per sq. ft.|
|Installation||– sheet types are difficult to install; normally installed by professionals.|
– there are tiles and planks click-together systems that are easier to install.
|– any variant types, from sheets to tiles or planks, are all DIY friendly.|
|Durability||– very durable.|
– will wear a lot longer compared to vinyl; suitable for heavy-traffic and commercial spaces.
– can last up to 40 years.
|– very durable.|
– has a thinner wear layer compared to linoleum; suitable for low to medium-traffic areas
– can last up to 20 years.
|Water and Stain Resistance||– is water resistant but is susceptible to water damage if submerged or soaked.|
– is stain resistant to a certain degree.
|– is mostly waterproof; will not get damaged even if submerged or soaked in water.|
– will not stain.
|Scratch and Dent Resistance||– has scratch and dent resistance to a certain degree.|
– can be dented or get scratched by heavy objects.
|– high-end vinyl products have hardened wear layers able to resist scratches better than linoleum.|
|Maintenance and Cleaning||– needs to be treated with sealer periodically to retain its water resistance.|
– exercising caution is necessary when using commercial floor cleaners; some floor cleaners can be harsh on linoleum floors
– exercising caution is necessary when mopping; mop should just be damp to the touch.
|– no special care or periodic maintenance necessary compared to linoleum floors.|
|Aesthetics||– commonly available as sheets but click-together tiles and planks are also available.|
– tinted with a natural pigment and color goes all the way through the material.
– colors and patterns are very limited; less design options compared to vinyl floors
|– offers more design options, using photo imagery on its top layer; broad collection of colors, patterns, and textures to choose from.|
– offers realistic image and texture of hardwood and stone floors.
|Good for Which Rooms||– can be installed in any room except for areas exposed to high humidity and moisture such as in bathrooms, or in basements.||– can be installed in almost any room, including bathrooms and basements.|
|Health Concerns||– naturally hypoallergenic|
– naturally antimicrobial
|– low-end vinyl can emit low levels of VOC but there are better products that have FloorScore certifications that pass indoor air quality.|
– some manufacturers offer antimicrobial coatings on their products.
Differences in Material Composition Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
Although both linoleum and vinyl floors are under the resilient flooring category, their material compositions are very much different. Resilient floors are floors that has some “give” to it; able to absorb the impact of a dropped object and then quickly bouncing back to its original shape.
Linoleum Flooring Material Composition
Linoleum flooring is a green product or a sustainable product. It is made from all-natural materials. Its base ingredient is linseed oil pressed from the flax plant. It is mixed with pine rosin, limestone, wood flour, ground cork dust, and with a jute backing. Its color also comes from natural pigments, making it entirely natural and eco-friendly.
Linoleum’s color looks consistent, going through the material from the outer surface all the way down the backside. So scratches, however deep it goes, does not readily show because the color blends well with the rest of the surface.
It is commonly sold in sheets, but tile and plank forms are also available. The sheet form is rigid, making it a bit difficult for someone without experience to handle and install it themselves. The tile and planks are more DIY friendly and often come in click-together systems.
Linoleum floors, although offering a variety of design and colors, has fewer options as compared to vinyl. They often come in solid colors. They also have designs that are marbled, flecked, or with patterns but they do not have design options mimicking other floor materials as vinyl flooring does.
New linoleum floors, because of its linseed oil, will have a yellow cast called bloom. It will eventually disappear when it gets exposed to light.
It has a low static resistance, making it anti-static. It can be laid on rooms with machines requiring floors with anti-static properties. Commercial spaces, even hospital rooms, with special machines often use linoleum sheet flooring because of its anti-static property.
Vinyl Flooring Material Composition
Unlike linoleum, vinyl floors are made from synthetic materials, mostly PVC and some additives. In the past, vinyl can be toxic and will emit volatile organic compounds, it has improved and become less toxic. Most high-end vinyl products even have FloorScore certifications, validating that it passes the standards for indoor air quality.
Just like linoleum floors, it is available in sheet, tile and plank forms as well. Plank and tile forms are often used because of the variety and versatility of the design options available.
Vinyl sheets are flexible and much easier to manage and handle than linoleum sheets. So in any form, whether it be sheets, tiles, or planks, they are DIY friendly flooring. They can also come with self-adhesive, or peel-and-stick forms, or more rigid click-together systems.
Vinyl flooring has several sub-types under it including luxury vinyl tile (LVT), luxury vinyl plank (LVP), rigid core hybrid floor, vinyl sheet, and vinyl tile. All of which are manufactured and made in layers.
Vinyl floors, whatever sub-type it is under, normally consist of 3 to 4 layers. The first layer is the top wear layer, which is a transparent coating, usually a urethane-based coating, that protects the floor from normal wear and tear, scratches, and stains.
The second layer is the image layer. It is computer printed and often mimics highly realistic look of hardwood, and stone. Textures are sometimes added, matching the image, making it tactile and more realistic.
The third layer is the core and adds stability to the whole vinyl floor. It can be flexible like in vinyl sheets, or much firmer like in some rigid core products with click-together systems.
Sometimes, a fourth layer is added, and underlayment, which adds a bit of cushion and makes the floor quieter to walk on. The underlayment also helps with installing vinyl on subfloors with some imperfections like bumps, or dips. Imperfections would otherwise get telegraphed to the floor if an underlayment is not present.
Since colors and patterns don’t go all the way through the backing, unlike linoleum floors, deep scratches show up easily.
Most homeowners usually prefer vinyl floors though as compared to linoleum floors because of the broad range of design options that are available. They also perceive it as being more modern than the latter.
Cost differences Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
Cost-wise, both linoleum and vinyl floors are relatively inexpensive as compared to other flooring types. Linoleum floors are a little bit bit more expensive than vinyl floors per square foot costing but the difference is not that far apart.
Linoleum floors cost an average of $2 to $8 per square foot, while vinyl floors can cost an average of $1 to $7 per square foot. Both have cheaper and high-end products of course that offer different characteristics.
Installation differences Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
Both linoleum and vinyl floors need the same kind of preparation before installation. The subfloor or surface where they will be installed should be clean, smooth, and level. It should be free from imperfections like bumps or dips on the surface otherwise this can telegraph to the flooring.
If the subfloor or surface cannot be smoothed out, an underlayment is required. If you allow subfloor imperfections to telegraph through the surface, it may wear the floors faster.
Linoleum Floor Installation Aspects
Linoelum sheets are cut using a utility knife or a heavy-duty curved linoleum knife. Because of its density, it can be difficult and tiring to cut.
Most Linoleum sheets require a full-spread adhesive to secure it well to the subfloor. The seams should be applied with a protective sealant to protect the floor from possible water penetration. Some products allow the seams to be heat-welded which makes the flooring seamless-like with better protection.
Linoleum sheets are not DIY friendly and most often need professional help to properly install it. Improper installation may decrease the lifespan of the floor.
There are linoleum manufacturers that offer click-together systems in tile and plank forms. These are more DIY friendly and much more easier to install than the sheet types. These types often just need a thin foam underlayment and doesn’t need any adhesive anymore. They lock together into a “floating floor” above the foam underlayment.
The sheets are often used for heavy-traffic or commercial areas that need more protection against wear and tear, and the occasional exposure to moisture. The tile and plank types with a click-together system is most often used for low-traffic to medium-traffic areas, often in residential interiors.
Vinyl Floor Installation Aspects
Vinyl sheets are thinner compared to linoleum sheets. They are also more flexible which makes it easier to cut. It can be cut using a utility knife or shear.
Like linoleum sheets, vinyl sheets require a full-spread adhesive to secure it to the subfloor or surface. Because it’s flexible, it can be easy to position. You can actually DIY the installation. Some products also offer heat welded seams to add better protection against water penetration.
Vinyl tile and planks types have peel-and-stick or self adhesive options that are easy to install. They are also flexible and can be repositioned easily if you made a mistake.
There are better and more durable vinyl products that have a rigid core and are installed via a click-together system. Tiles or planks snap together to form one “floating floor” over an underlayment. These types of vinyl floor don’t need adhesive and are also very easy to install on your own.
Durability Differences Between Linoleum and vinyl floors
Both linoleum and vinyl floors are very durable and will last a long time.
Linoleum floors, because their color, design, and pattern are consistent all through its whole thickness, from its outer surface all the way to the back, it will wear out longer than vinyl. Practically you’ll have to thin out the whole thickness of the linoleum floor before it’s considered worn. Linoleum floors can last up to 40 years considering the normal wear and tear of floors.
Vinyl floors on the other hand will last as long as its top wear layer lasts. The top layer, usually a urethane-based coating, is a tough finish that protects the floor against scratches and stains. Once this wear layer gets worn, it will only take a couple of weeks before the floor gets damaged. Although most high-end vinyl products have a tougher wear layer, it can last up to 20 years considering its normal wear and tear.
Because linoleum sheets holds up better against wear and tear, they are often used in heavy-traffic areas such as in commercial spaces, hospitals, and schools.
Vinyl floors on the other hand are usually chosen for residential spaces most often over linoleum floors and will last longer in low to medium-traffic areas.
Water and Stain Resistance Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
Linoleum floors are water-resistant to a certain degree. They are susceptible to water damage though if it becomes soaked or submerged. Some commercial cleaning products are harsh and could cause damage to linoleum floors. Some could soften the floor if left sitting for a very long time.
Protective sealants are required to protect linoleum floors against water and stain. It makes the floor water-resistant. The sealant will get worn overtime though which is why you would have to reseal linoleum floors periodically to keep it protected. Skipping this periodic maintenance may cause its water-resistance to fade, and can cause its edges to start curling up.
Vinyl floors on the other hand are 100% waterproof. Since it’s mostly synthetic, it does not get damaged by water, and it does not get stains, even when soaked or submerged. You still need to seal the seams though and avoid standing water over the floor for a long time. Standing water may find a way, through an unsealed seam or crack on the floor, to get to the subfloor where it can cause damage.
Unlike linoleum floors, vinyl doesn’t need periodic sealing.
Scratch and Dent Resistance Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
Both linoleum and vinyl, being resilient floors, have some degree of scratch and dent resistance. They can still get scratched and permanently dented but it will take a hard and heavy object to make these. There are methods you can do though to remove or minimize scratches and dents from both types of floors when they do happen.
Though both are resilient, most vinyl floors are more resilient against scratches, dents, and dings as compared to linoleum, with some of the products designed to have a harder wear layer, providing maximum scratch resistance.
The good thing with linoleum floors is if deep scratches do occur, since the color goes all the way through the material, the scratches are not easily visible and will still blend well with the rest of the floor surface. Accumulation of multiple scratches on its surface may dull the look of the floor though.
Maintenance and Cleaning Differences Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
Both linoleum and vinyl floors are very easy to clean. Linoleum floors does need some special care though because of its sensitivity to harsh cleaning products and susceptibility to water damage.
In most cases, for both floors, all you need is regular cleaning by sweeping, vacuuming, and periodic mopping with a damp mop. Especially with linoleum floors, to minimize the risk of it getting damaged by water, the mop should just be damp to the touch, not soaked, when you clean it.
Vinyl floor basically has no other regular upkeep besides the regular cleaning mentioned above. Linoleum floors on the other hand need to be reapplied with its protective sealant or coating to keep it water-resistant and protected against stains. Here’s an article on some methods you can follow on cleaning linoleum floors.
Aesthetic Differences Between Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
As mentioned previously, vinyl floors offer more color, patterns, and design options than linoleum floors.
Linoleum often offers solid colors, marbled, flecked, or with patterns in one shade of color. Vinyl on the other hand offers much more, since it’s color and design are computer printed, the designs they offer are endless. They also offer highly realistic images of hardwood and stone. This is the reason why most homeowners choose vinyl over linoleum. It is also perceived to more modern than the latter.
Which Rooms are Linoleum and Vinyl Floors Good for
Linoleum floors, since they hold up better against wear and tear compared to vinyl, are more suited in areas with high-traffic. They can also be installed in almost all interior rooms inside the house but they are not recommended in rooms that are exposed to extreme moisture and humidity like in bathrooms, and basements.
Vinyl floors on the other hand can be installed in any space, even in rooms and spaces that are exposed to extreme moisture and humidity.
Health Issues Concerning Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
All linoleum floors are safe and non-toxic. They are naturally antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, a good flooring material to use with people who suffer from allergies and are sensitive to other indoor toxins.
Vinyl on the other hand are not all toxic-free. Some cheaper vinyl floors may still emit low-levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) but most credible manufacturers already have their products certified as safe to use indoors.
Although not all, some vinyl floors are also designed with an anti-microbial coating, specially made for areas that have special needs such as in hospitals.
Popular Brands of Linoleum and Vinyl Floors
If you’re interested in getting either linoleum or vinyl flooring, here are popular brands you can check out. Their products follow high standards and they will be able to help you choose the correct flooring for your needs