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Linoleum vs Vinyl Flooring: What's the Difference?

Posted on May 8, 2017, by Alan Fennell

Selecting long-lasting, durable hard flooring can be a difficult choice. There are many types of flooring available, yet it can be difficult to understand the differences between various floorings to choose the ideal option that best suits your facility.

Today we're comparing two common types of resilient flooring - linoleum and vinyl - and sharing four key differences between them.

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1) Construction

Linoleum flooring has a relatively simple construction: It's made from linseed oil and mixed with other natural products, such as cork dust and wood flour. Linoleum is available as either sheet or tiles, and commonly uses a jute or canvas backing.

Like linoleum, vinyl is also available in sheet or tile form, but is constructed very differently. Vinyl is a type of plastic, and Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT) in particular are made up of several distinct layers:

  • Vinyl backing
  • Vinyl core
  • Print film layer of the design
  • Protective clear layer known as the ‘wear layer’ and finished with a polyurethane coating, which is sometimes reinforced with ceramic bead, silica bead or aluminum oxide.

Despite these differences in construction, both types of flooring can be very long-lasting: vinyl flooring's design is applied to the top of vinyl as a printed layer, protected by a wear layer on LVT or wax coating on VCT; and linoleum's color or pattern runs all the way through the linoleum, making it very long-lasting if it doesn't become damaged.

2) Installation

Linoleum flooring is notoriously difficult to install, as is stiffer and harder to work with than vinyl - as well as most other flooring types. Sheet linoleum is the most durable variation of linoleum, but also the most complex to install: it is glued directly onto the subfloor, and then the surface is treated with a sealant top coat to protect against moisture damage.

Vinyl flooring is simpler: sheet vinyl is glued down, much like linoleum - but because it is more resilient and less susceptible to moisture damage, it doesn't require sealing after installation. Vinyl tiles are even simpler to install, as it's becoming increasingly popular for manufacturers to offer self-adhesive or Freelay tiles, which only require adhesive around the perimeter of the space.

3) Cleaning and Maintenance

Linoleum is more susceptible to water damage than other types of hard flooring, so to clean linoleum flooring, it's best to avoid water-based cleaning methods, and sweep or vacuum it regularly. Tough stains can be removed using a small amount of detergent, but will then need to be dried immediately to prevent damage to the flooring. In addition to normal, day-to-day cleaning, linoleum requires periodic re-sealing several times a year to maintain its water-resistant coating.

Different types of vinyl flooring have various cleaning and maintenance requirements. LVT is the simplest: it requires regular sweeping and mopping to keep the floor clean and dust-free. The protective wear layer may require periodic reapplication - but this will normally be after several years of regular use.

In contrast, vinyl composite tiles (VCT) don't feature a protective coating. Much like linoleum, it requires a protective coating to be periodically reapplied - and in this case, a wax coating that is polished into a smooth, protective surface.

4) Design

Linoleum and vinyl both offer great design flexibility, and are available in a wide range of colors and patterns.

Linoleum is best suited to abstract patterns and designs, or color blocks. You can create a different aesthetic with vinyl - particularly with LVT. Luxury vinyl tiles are available in designs inspired by natural hard flooring - wood or stone. You can even have LVT with textured surfaces, mimicking wood grains or stone textures. In contrast, linoleum's flat surface quality doesn't allow for the same visual and physical texture.


the buyers guide to LVT [free eguide]

Alan Fennell

Written by Alan Fennell