Linoleum vs Vinyl

Need Help to Buy and Install Linoleum or Vinyl – Compare and Contrast the Similarities & Differences of Vinyl Flooring Vs Linoleum Flooring

Is linoleum vinyl? It’s a fair question. Ask some flooring dealers about their linoleum, and they may tell you about the vinyl flooring they sell. So many people use the term “linoleum” as a synonym for vinyl that retailers often assume that’s what they mean.

Do an Internet search for linoleum, and the top results will be about vinyl flooring. That’s how much confusion there is about the two, but we’re about to clear it all up.

While there are similarities in the way the two materials are installed and how they wear, the differences are just as stark. This brief linoleum vs vinyl flooring guide is designed to assist you in choosing which material makes more sense for your home or commercial flooring project.

How Vinyl & Linoleum Flooring Are Alike

Let’s start with the similarities between linoleum and vinyl.

They are sold in sheets, planks and tiles: Sheet vinyl is sold in rolls up to 14’ wide with 12’ the most common. Most sheet linoleum is 6.5’ wide, so you’ll be more likely to have a seam in the flooring field with it. Both materials are available in various size tiles and planks, though some vinyl tiles and planks are a thicker, more expensive product known as LVT (luxury vinyl tile).

Various thickness of each are made: Both flooring materials come in 1.5mm to 5mm thicknesses.

Cost is similar: The most commonly sold linoleum and vinyl products cost $2 to $3 per square foot. Both cheaper (as low as $0.50/sq. ft.) and more expensive (up to $6/sq. ft. or more) vinyl flooring products are available. Installation for both materials ranges from about $0.45 to $1.00 per square foot depending on the complexity of the work.

Cleaning is easy: Both can be vacuumed without an agitator bar rotating or swept with a soft broom or Swiffer-type product. A damp mop or cloth works well to remove light debris from both.

Both are resilient flooring products: This means that the material is both firm and flexible. Both resume their original shape after mild, short-term indentations are made by chair and table legs, and both can be installed over subfloors with small imperfections without cracking as tile would. Learn more about linoleum repairs.

Vinyl is waterproof; Linoleum is water-resistant: Both are suitable for use in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and other areas where water is common. If you choose linoleum, it’s best not to let water sit on it for longer than 10 minutes, especially on seams.

Repair techniques are similar: Clean tears and seams that come apart can be glued. Larger damage can be repaired with a patch that matches the floor pattern.

Neither helps resale and might hurt it: Prospective home buyers rarely get excited about these materials. In expensive homes, either might diminish the home’s value if buyers expect natural wood, stone or quality tile.

Heard enough? Get in touch with a local, trustworthy installer for further advice and free estimates for vinyl or linoleum flooring. And read through our complete Linoleum Flooring Guide to discover brands, installation costs and cleaning advice.

How Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring Are Different

One or more of these differences is usually the deciding factor in which product a homeowner chooses.

Vinyl is available in a greater variety: Vinyl flooring can be made to look like wood, tile, natural stone and more. Linoleum is a single color, sometimes with inclusions, throughout the flooring field.

Vinyl is plastic; linoleum is a natural product: Linoleum is made from linseed oil (linoxyn), wood or cork flour, pine rosin, mineral fillers and a canvas or burlap backing.

Linoleum is ecofriendly: Vinyl contains small amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that will leech out into the air in your home, and it is not recyclable. Most vinyl flooring ends up in landfills. Linoleum is made from natural materials, contains no VOCs, is biodegradable and can be composted or burned in a waste-to-energy plant.

Linoleum is a classic floor material: First made in the mid-19th C., linoleum was the most popular affordable flooring until gradually replaced by vinyl in the 1940s-1960s.

Linoleum lasts longer but tears more easily: Getting five to 15 years of wear from vinyl flooring is considered average depending on the quality and the amount of traffic it receives. Linoleum wears quite well and can last 30 years or more. The downside is that linoleum is not quite as tough as vinyl in standing up to sharp objects, heavy furniture dragged on it and other potential sources of damage.

Linoleum needs more TLC: Most people do little more than mop their vinyl as needed, and that’s enough. Linoleum should be cleaned with specialty cleaner and refinished a couple of times each year with a polish recommended by the manufacturer. Many of those polishes include wax to improve resistance to moisture and improve shine. Vinyl should be waxed only as a last resort to restore a bit of shine to a badly worn floor.

Vinyl installation is moderately difficult; linoleum installation is quite difficult: Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are fairly easy to install. Sheet vinyl takes experience to get the cuts right around the perimeter of the room. Linoleum is even more difficult because seams are more common and the entire flooring field is glued. Professional installation is recommended for either, especially for linoleum.

Choosing Between Vinyl or Linoleum Flooring

Here’s a quick-and-easy summary of linoleum vs vinyl to help you select your flooring type.

Choose vinyl flooring if:

  • You want to mimic a specific look such as wood, stone or tile
  • Waterproof flooring is essential
  • You don’t have time for semi-annual floor maintenance
  • Large dogs or kids with toys are part of the household
  • You intend to install the floor yourself

Choose linoleum flooring if:

  • You prefer a solid-color floor
  • An environmentally safer flooring is important to you
  • Having the type of flooring your great-grandmother probably had appeals to you

Ready to start your floor installation or still have more questions? Either way, contact a qualified contractor in your area to get fee advice and quotes on both linoleum and vinyl flooring.