Vinyl and linoleum are resilient flooring materials that share a number of characteristics. In fact, many flooring dealers use the terms interchangeably, because of the similarities between the two finished products. However, there are a number of vital differences that are both inherent to the production of the materials, and conspicuous in their long terms use.
Material Differences Between Vinyl and Linoleum
Vinyl: A manufactured man-made product that is produced using petroleum, a non-renewable resource.
Large amounts of energy are required in its production in order to extract and process the chlorine which is a vital component of its chemical makeup.
Linoleum: A material that is comprised largely of linseed oil, a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from flax seeds. This is mixed with other natural and renewable materials such as cork dust, wood flour, and rosin.
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Vinyl and Linoleum installation
Vinyl: This is one of the easiest flooring materials for a do it yourself amateur to install. The tiles are extremely simple to lay one beside the other, while the sheet materials take some careful measurements and cutting. Vinyl is also resilient and waterproof, and as such doesn’t require periodic sealing or waxing.
Linoleum: Very similar to the installation of vinyl, in sheet form it requires some careful cutting, while the tiles are relatively easy.
However, unlike vinyl. linoleum is susceptible to moisture damage and has to be treated with a surface sealer after installation. When installing tile it is also important to ensure that the seams between tiles are as thin as possible, and are properly protected against water penetration.
Ecological Differences Between Linoleum and Vinyl
Vinyl: Made from non-renewable resources, the manufacture of this material poses serious environmental concerns to the area immediately surrounding plants.
There are also reports that Volatile Organic Chemicals can be released on vinyl shortly after installation, negatively affecting the quality of the air in the interior space.
Linoleum: One of the most environmentally friendly flooring materials, linoleum is made from all natural, highly renewable resources. It doesn’t require a significant amount of energy to be produced and is light enough to easily transport without heavy CO2 emissions. It is also biodegradable and can be easily recycled into other construction and flooring projects.
Water Concerns With Linoleum and Vinyl
Vinyl: Completely waterproof vinyl can be installed in nearly any wet environment including below grade cellars, bathrooms, and kitchens, without having to worry about moisture damage, either from below or above. This also protects you from flooding concerns.
Linoleum: Water resistant, linoleum is not impervious to damage from moisture, and needs to be sealed periodically in order to protect it against liquid penetration. If flooding occurs a linoleum installation can be ruined, and excessive humidity can sometimes cause individual tiles, or the corners of sheets, to curl upwards unattractively.
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Relative Cost of Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring
Linoleum: $2.00 - $5.00 per square foot on average.
Vinyl: $0.50 - $2.00 per square foot on average.
Relative lifespan: The cost of vinyl and linoleum is offset to some extent by the difference in their life cycles. While vinyl can cost as much as 50% less than linoleum, it will only last on average 10-20 years. Meanwhile, a linoleum floor can last upwards of 20-40 years, which means that by the end of its life cycle the two will end up having cost the same amount.
This is also mitigated by the fact that linoleum will show its age over time, weathering away and gradually looking older and older until it needs to be replaced. Vinyl, on the other hand, will tend to maintain its pristine appearance up until the point where the wear layer fades and the material starts to completely degrade.
Linoleum and Vinyl Flooring Design Options
Vinyl: With printed vinyl, you have the option of having nearly any color, pattern, or image embedded directly into the surface of the material. This allows you to achieve some of the most vibrant and realistic effects of any flooring. The drawback is that the vinyl is only as strong as the wear layer over this print, which will tend to wear down over time.
Linoleum: This material is colorfast, which means that the patterns and hues are not just printed on the surface, but are dimensionally present through the entire piece. This limits the design abilities to some extent, as you do not have as much control over the printing. However, it also allows the vinyl to wear down without fading, as the colors are true, all the way through.
Cleaning Vinyl and Linoleum Floors
Linoleum: Relatively easy maintenance. Just sweep and or vacuum periodically. Stains can be hand cleaned with a rag and a mild detergent, then dried immediately. Never immerse a linoleum floor in water.
Vinyl: One of the easiest floors to keep clean, you can sweep and vacuum regularly, or mop with any of a variety of detergents without having to worry about the material discoloring. Resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew, it can be scoured at will, or simply wiped clean periodically to keep it looking its best.