The Differences Between Linoleum and Vinyl

Wednesday September 24, 2008
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Linoleum and vinyl flooring are often confused for each other. Although, in some instances, they may look the same at first glance, the two floor coverings are quite different under the surface. Linoleum was the first of the two on the flooring scene in the 1860s, offering an alternative to wood. Vinyl began to be widely marketed in the late 1940s and quickly became a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Here are the key differences between linoleum and vinyl flooring:

• One is natural and one is not – Linoleum is made from all–natural materials: linseed oil, wood flour, cork dust, limestone, and tree resins. This is one of the reasons that linoleum has enjoyed a resurgence in the flooring industry in recent years. As the United States becomes more environmentally conscious, homeowners are placing more importance on recyclable, biodegradable flooring options like linoleum. Vinyl is a synthetic, petroleum-based material.

• Linoleum offers superior durability – One of the biggest differences in linoleum and vinyl flooring is how long they last. It is not uncommon for linoleum floors to last 30 to 40 years with proper care. Vinyl, on the other hand, has an average life expectancy of around 15 years.

• The price is not the same – Because linoleum is natural and can last twice as long as vinyl, it typically carries a higher price tag.

• Vinyl can be easier to install and maintain – Because vinyl is synthetic, there is less concern about water and moisture seeping through seams and edges than with linoleum. Vinyl is also often easier to install than linoleum. Linoleum be dry-mopped or mopped with very little water, whereas vinyl can be cleaned with water or any other type of liquid cleaner.

 Linoleum is a healthy alternative – Because it is a natural product, linoleum flooring does not emit volatile gasses and toxic chemicals into the air. It does emit linseed oil fumes, however, the smell of which some people may find irritating. The fumes are harmless and will eventually dissipate. Linoleum is also hypoallergenic because it repels dust, dirt and other particles. Vinyl can release harmful gasses and chemicals because of its synthetic composition, but is still a popular flooring option.

Linoleum and vinyl do have some positive things in common.
Both (along with cork) are considered "resilient floors" because they can absorb impact and quickly return or "bounce back" to their original shape. They come in a variety of colors and patterns and can be an attractive addition to your home. In the end, the pros and cons of each flooring material must be weighed to determine which flooring is a best fit for your particular project.

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A few notes
I wanted to share a couple of things in addition to what this article says. Quality vinyl can last up to 30 years when properly maintained. If you go with inexpensive vinyl, it won't always bounce back into shape. For example, my mother in-law bought a new home that has cheap vinyl flooring in the kitchen. She has dents in her vinyl from her grandchildren tipping back in their chairs. They have a good buyers guide on this site which will help to make sure you get a quality vinyl, if that is the type of flooring that you choose.
October 7 2008
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