Two of the excellent flooring options offered by Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough, NJ are vinyl flooring and linoleum flooring. We find that a lot of people are confused about the difference between vinyl and linoleum flooring, or aren’t even aware that they are two separate floor coverings. Don’t worry if you’re confused. We wrote this post to examine how vinyl flooring and linoleum flooring are different, and what their relative merits are.

What are they?

First we’ll discuss what exactly each of these floor coverings are. Both vinyl flooring and linoleum flooring are resilient flooring materials. Cork is another resilient floor covering. In this sense, ‘resilient’ means that the material is softer than surfaces like hardwood, tile, or stone. They exhibit a ‘bounce back’ quality, wherein they return easily to their original shape. Linoleum is the older of these two materials. Invented in the 1850’s, linoleum is made primarily from oxidized linseed oil, and also includes materials such as wood flour, pine rosin, and cork dust. Linoleum was very popular throughout the early 20th century, but around the 1950’s it began to be replaced by vinyl. Polyviny chloride (PVC), more commonly known as vinyl, was invented in the 1920’s, and was first used for flooring in the 1930’s. It is a synthetic material made from ethylene polymers. Both vinyl and linoleum are flexible and durable flooring options, and both of them come in either tile versions or sheet versions. This is why it’s easy to see how people get them confused. But they are actually different in some very significant ways.


At face value, linoleum is definitely the pricier flooring option. Linoleum will run you $2.00 to $8.00 per square foot, while vinyl could cost you $.50 to $5.00 per square foot. This is not as simple as it seems though, since the lifespan of linoleum flooring is more than twice that of linoleum. This means that unless you would be replacing your linoleum with a different floor covering within the next 20 years, you’d end up paying double the upfront cost of the vinyl floors, since you would have to redo your floors at least once within a single lifespan of a linoleum floor. While both flooring options are less expensive than floor coverings such as hardwood or tile, you’ll have to evaluate whether it is more important to you to pay less up front, or potentially pay less in the long run.


Both vinyl and linoleum are known as being very durable, and have seen plenty of use in commercial building for this very reason. But there are some significant differences in their durability. As we mentioned before, linoleum lasts two to three times as long as vinyl flooring. While you’d be lucky to get 20 years out of your vinyl floors, a well maintained linoleum floor can easily last you upwards of 40 years or more. One of the reasons for this is that the pattern of a vinyl floor comes from a photographic decal below a see-through wear layer. A vinyl floor will only last as long as its wear layer. Linoleum’s color and pattern, on the other hand, permeates the entire flooring, so wearing down the floor will not affect its color or pattern. On the other hand, while vinyl will look pristine until the wear layer is worn down, linoleum will show its age over time. Linoleum can turn dingy and yellowish looking with time if it is not properly maintained.

Installation and Maintenance

We’ll start with the similarities again, as both vinyl and linoleum are known for being easier to install than floor coverings like hardwood. The sheet versions of both materials can be a bit unwieldy, but the tile versions of both vinyl and laminate are relatively painless to install. Of the two though, vinyl is somewhat easier to install, as it is a synthetic material and so is much less sensitive to moisture and water damage. As for maintenance, both flooring options are fairly low maintenance, with frequent sweeping and occasional damp mopping being enough to keep the floors in good condition. There are two types of linoleum flooring, sealed and unsealed, and which of these types you have will determine the level of maintenance you will need to do to keep them looking good. A sealed linoleum floor should need as little maintenance as vinyl, but an unsealed linoleum floor might require periodic buffing and polishing.

Sustainability and Health

While linoleum lost a lot of ground after the 1950’s in the face of vinyl floorings meteoric rise in popularity, it has returned as a strong flooring contender because it is a natural and ecofriendly flooring material. While both floor coverings are better for people with allergies than options such as carpet, linoleum is definitely the greener option. Linoleum flooring is made from linseed oil, which is derived from flax. It is recyclable and biodegradable and emits no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which cause air pollution and can irritate people with asthma or respiratory problems. Vinyl on the other hand is not biodegradable, so old vinyl simply takes up space in landfills. Furthermore, vinyl is made from non-renewable materials such as petroleum and natural gas, and emits toxic fumes when it burns. Vinyl flooring also emits VOCs, although since 2010 vinyl manufacturers have been making a conscious effort to reduce VOC levels in vinyl flooring.

Other Things to Consider

While vinyl will emit toxic chemicals if it burns, it is also very fire resistant. Vinyl is more of a fire retardant than linoleum. Linoleum will emit linseed smells for the first month or so after being installed, and while this is completely harmless, some people might find it annoying. Linoleum will also ‘amber’ as it is exposed to light once it is installed, and this is particularly evident on lighter colored linoleum. Be sure to test he ambering effect on any linoleum you’re considering installing to ensure that it won’t bother you.

Whatever floor covering you choose, whether it be vinyl or linoleum or something completely different, we hope you choose Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough, NJ to help you along the way.