The Difference Between Linoleum and Vinyl Flooring

a person laying down linoleum flooring

Linoleum and Vinyl flooring are sometimes thought of as the same thing. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, there is a fundamental difference between the two. The following guidelines will help you distinguish between them.

Different Composition

Linoleum is produced by mixing linseed oil, cork or wood flour, ground limestone, tree resins, and organic pigments that are pressed onto a jute support. On the other hand, vinyl is made from petrochemicals. It consists of a triple layer (i.e. a backing made from either fiberglass or felt, a middle layer that bears the designs and patterns, and a clear top layer or sealant to protect the flooring).

With time, you’ll notice that the patterns on the vinyl flooring have become faded or damaged. This happens when the vinyl sealant is spent. Direct exposure to the sun and foot traffic cause the sealant to wear away. Linoleum flooring, on the other hand, tends to respond better to such exposure. The natural components of the linoleum flooring gain a deeper color that is actually quite pleasant aesthetically.

Because of vinyl flooring's composition, you can choose from a wide variety of designs. Linoleum flooring typically is produced with only a single pattern or color.

Health Hazards

One of the main reasons people invest in linoleum floors is because this flooring material is less hazardous to your health than the vinyl alternative.

Linoleum flooring is made from natural products. This means there is no risk of inhaling the toxic fumes associated with vinyl flooring. The only fumes you will be subjected to by linoleum are from linseed oil, but these fumes have no negative health effects.

Another major advantage of using linoleum flooring is that it has hypoallergenic properties that repel particles of dirt and dust.

Linoleum and Vinyl Maintenance

The process of installing vinyl flooring is simple. The only maintenance you’ll be required to do is resealing the flooring once the initial coat of sealant wears off. Manufacturers’ advise against applying wax on vinyl flooring, more so after the sealant wears off.

Linoleum is harder to install and typically requires professional assistance.

Linoleum requires more maintenance than vinyl and you’ll definitely need some elbow grease to apply either a wax or a polish on the floor. The frequency of doing this is more often than if it were vinyl. Proper care of linoleum floors will also prevent moisture from seeping between the seams.

Note that there are polishes that suit both linoleum and vinyl flooring.

Comparing the Longevity

Linoleum floors can last for as much as forty years if properly maintained. Vinyl floors hardly last a third of this time, even with proper care. Of the two flooring surfaces, linoleum is the least affected by scratches and nicks. Such defects will hardly be noticeable since the patterns are embedded unlike vinyl’s surface patterns.

Linoleum floors are however more adverse to acidic liquids like vinegar, and also to water.

Price Difference

Linoleum flooring is more expensive because it's a natural product. Vinyl is cheap to produce, making it inexpensive in comparison.