Engineered Hardwood vs Linoleum Flooring

Engineered Hardwood vs Linoleum Flooring

By Fortino Rosas / October 5, 2021 / 0 Comments

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    In your search for just the right flooring for your home or business, you’re deciding between engineered hardwood vs linoleum. It’s a tough choice since both are popular options.

    Both engineered hardwood and linoleum have advantages and disadvantages, of course. Both are environmentally friendly, durable, and cost-effective, but there are also some key differences between the two.

    In this article, you’ll find a succinct comparison between engineered hardwood and linoleum flooring to help you decide which one will suit you – or should we say, will suit your floors – best.

    In this guide, we’ll explore:

    Side-by-Side Comparison

    Engineered HardwoodLinoleum
    DurabilityResistant to marks and scrapes, Susceptible to warping and expanding with temperature changesDurable coating is usually applied on top, can be dented by high heels and furniture
    WaterproofLayers block moistureNo, susceptible to moisture
    CleaningLow maintenance, needs only a damp cloth or mop, use specific wood cleaner for deeper cleansLow maintenance with coating, needs waxing every two or three years without
    Longevity20 to 100 years, Some veneers can be thin making refinishing an issue therefore reducing the lifetime25 to 40 years with proper care
    Pet-friendlyYesNo, not moisture resistant
    Cost$8 to $12 per square foot$4 to $8 per square foot
    Popular brandsAnderson, Armstrong, Harris WoodFarbo, Armstrong, Johnsonite
    AestheticsLooks like wood because it's made with real wood, comes in a variety of shades, thickness, and sizesBright to natural tones and patterns, Color is consistent throughout material camouflaging scuffs, Can start yellowing from sun (some coatings can reduce this)
    InstallationEasy installation, tongue and groove lock system or gluing downCan be a challenge since it's a very stiff material, Subfloor must be level, Comes in tiles or sheets
    ComfortHarder surfaces like wood can cause pain in joints, but can be installed over cork for more comfortCushioning effect, gives way but bounces back, can be very slippery
    EnvironmentalManufacturing produces no sawdust meaning less wasted woodMade of natural ingredients, recyclable, no harmful emissions
    HygienicNot particularly, but they're easy enough to cleanYes, anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic because of all-natural ingredients
    Flooring GuideEngineered Hardwood Flooring GuideLinoleum Flooring Guide

    Durability & Longevity

    Both engineered hardwood and linoleum floors have durable, long-lasting features but for different reasons. They also have not-so-good aspects when it comes to wear and tear which should definitely be taken into consideration.

    Let’s start with engineered hardwood floors (which in layman’s terms means man-made hardwood). They tend to be incredibly stable due to its layers. Made with real wood components like plywood, high density fiberboard, or hardwood, you won’t have to worry about heavy objects denting or misshaping the floors.

    That’s not the case with linoleum which is known as resilient flooring, meaning it gives way much more easily. While it does most often bounce back, furniture, for example, can leave permanent dents in linoleum.

    As for scuffs and scratches, both floors are made to be tough against them. Engineered hardwood’s resistance to marks depends on the thickness of its top veneer – so, the thicker the better. And linoleum is pigmented throughout the material making imperfections less obvious.

    When comparing how long each type of floor lasts however, engineered hardwood is the winner, lasting anywhere from 20 to 100 years. Again, engineered hardwood floors with a thicker veneer is the better option. That way, you’ll have the ability to refinish them instead of replacing them, creating longevity.

    Linoleum, on the other hand, lasts between 25 and 40 years with proper care which can include a good waxing every two to three years.

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    You’ll be getting very different looks when you choose between engineered hardwood and linoleum floors. Aesthetics will be one of the main differences between these two types of flooring and should be a major consideration in your decision.

    As you can probably guess, engineered hardwood floors are wood – meaning they look as such. But being man-made, you’ll have more of a say in the style of wood you prefer whether it’s the color, shade, or texture.

    Linoleum floors give you a lot more options in the way of colors and patterns, but you won’t be able to get a natural wood look with linoleum. Instead you have the option of choosing fun, bright colors, interesting patterns, or solid neutrals that have consistent pigments throughout.

    And while linoleum will have a plethora of color options, be aware that when exposed to sunlight, yellowing is bound to occur. This process is called ambering and there are some coatings you can get upon purchase made specifically to reduce the chances of this discoloration. But your best bet is to use linoleum where exposure to sunlight is minimal.

    With engineered hardwood, there is the possibility of warping and expansion due to changes in temperature. These climatic effects can certainly change the shape and, therefore, look of your engineered wood floors and it’s something to be aware of prior to installation. Give the floors some extra room near walls to account for potential warping.

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    Environmental Factors

    If you’re a proponent of sustainable living, both engineered hardwood and linoleum will be great options for you. Both made with natural ingredients, these flooring options have some wonderful environmental advantages.

    Engineered hardwood is actually eco-friendlier than its natural wood counterpart. Sliced versus cut with a saw, engineered hardwood creates no sawdust in the process of manufacturing.

    When natural wood flooring is produced in such large quantities, this sawdust adds up to a massive amount of wasted wood. Such is not the case with engineered hardwood.

    Linoleum has also become a popular option for those wanting to be more environmentally-friendly. It’s completely recyclable and, due to the nature of what it’s made from, is hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial. Hence its common use in hospitals and schools.

    While both of these flooring options are rather easy on the environment in and of themselves, sometimes the glue used to install them can be toxic, releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

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    Depending on the quality, both flooring options can range in price. Linoleum is the cheaper flooring choice, ranging from $4 to $8 per square foot while engineered hardwood can vary from $8 to $12 per square foot.

    Differences in the cost of linoleum depends on color and style, whether you purchase tiles versus sheets, and the thickness of the material. Similarly, with engineered hardwood, you’ll be paying a premium for a thicker veneer, higher quality wood, and sizes of the planks.

    In addition to the price of the products themselves, you may need to consider the cost of professional installation as well. Both linoleum and engineered hardwood can be DIY projects and aren’t totally impossible to install yourself, but there are a few reasons to think about hiring a pro to do the job.

    With linoleum, it’s important that the subfloor is completely level and smooth. You will see and feel any bumps or grooves beneath the linoleum. If it’s necessary to level your subfloor, this will be an added cost.

    Some engineered hardwood (especially those with thinner veneers) comes with easy-to-install tongue-and-groove locks that make them more DIY. Yet, as previously mentioned, accounting for space to expand with temperature changes may be enough of an incentive to pay for professional installation.

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    Notable Features

    An advantage of both flooring types is that they are both rather low-maintenance. You can clean engineered hardwood and linoleum with just a damp cloth or tile mop & a hard floor vacuum cleaner. It’s safe to use any kind of mild soap on linoleum but cleaners made specifically for wood are suggested on engineered hardwood if you need a deeper clean.

    Another major difference between the two flooring types is that engineered hardwood is more waterproof than linoleum. The layers of engineered hardwood blocks moisture. While of course puddles of water on the surface won’t be beneficial for any kind of wood, it’s a quality option to use in kitchens and in homes with pets, anywhere prone to more spills and accidents.

    Conversely, linoleum is very susceptible to moisture. At first glance it seems like it would meet the needs of a bathroom or kitchen, but that’s actually not the case. Instead, linoleum works well in offices, schools, and hospitals where there’s high traffic but less probability of moisture.

    Linoleum does have the advantage, though, when it comes to being easy on joints. As mentioned before, linoleum is resilient and gives way, causing less pain in knees and heels when compared to harder surfaces.

    Engineered hardwood is less resilient and you may notice some aching after walking on the less forgiving floor. But, you can install your engineered hardwood atop cork floors for a more cushioned experience.

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    Which Should You Buy?

    When asking which flooring you should buy, you’re really asking which is better: engineered hardwood or linoleum? The answer to that questions really depends on what your needs are.

    Many business owners are fonder of linoleum since it’s cheaper than engineered hardwood. Additionally, since scuffs and nicks are less noticeable in linoleum, they’re perfect for areas that experience a lot of traffic. Corporate offices, cafes, and doctor’s offices are all usually filled with linoleum.

    Engineered hardwood is typically better for homeowners. Not only is it an affordable option for beautiful wood floors, it can actually increase the value of your property (given you don’t choose the absolute cheapest option available). Plus, it is more water-resistant than linoleum for a more practical option for kitchens, spill-prone kids, and messy pets.

    Engineered hardwood can certainly last much longer than linoleum, too, which could be a draw for someone wanting to put down flooring and potentially never replace it. But for more temporary situations, linoleum could make more sense.

    But say you’re looking for more color options. Linoleum will be the way to go. Engineered hardwood will have various styles available in multiple shades, but overall, you’ll be getting wooden floors. Linoleum offers a larger selection when it comes to colors and patterns.

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    Is linoleum cheaper than hardwood?

    Yes, linoleum is a more affordable flooring option than hardwood. Hardwood floors can be quite an investment, especially if you opt for tropical wood. The average price you can expect to pay for a square foot of linoleum is between $4 and $8.
    Engineered hardwood floors usually cost between $8 and $12 per square foot; however, solid hardwood floors are an even costlier purchase, and the price generally varies between $9 and $21 per square foot.

    What are the disadvantages of engineered wood flooring?

    Engineered hardwood floors aren’t scratch-free, which means you should always opt for the more expensive, more durable options. This flooring type is also not 100% waterproof, so you’ll have to be very careful not to expose it to liquids.
    Another disadvantage we have to mention is that engineered hardwood floors are prone to fading when exposed to sunlight. Since not all engineered hardwoods are produced the same, the ones with a thin wear layer can show signs of damage very soon after you’ve installed them.

    Why did people put linoleum over hardwood?

    In the 1950’s many households had hardwood floors; however, they couldn’t afford to take care of these floors properly because of the high maintenance costs. During that period, hardwood floors had to be stripped, buffed, and waxed regularly, usually done by hand and with rags.
    The households that didn’t have servants to clean their houses and couldn’t buy a buffing machine decided to cover their hardwood floors with linoleum.

    What is the best underlayment for engineered flooring?

    The two best underlayment options under engineered wood floors are foam and cork. Cork is the most durable option since it’s slightly more rigid, but it still allows proper movement of the wood planks.
    If you’re planning on installing your engineered floors in a damp or humid room, you have to consider adding a damp-proof membrane to prevent damage. First you have to measure the humidity levels in the room, then you can find a suitable option.

    What is the best way to install engineered hardwood flooring?

    Which installation method will be the best for your home depends on various factors, including the subfloor, type of engineered hardwood you’ll buy, whether you prefer DIY installation or you want to hire a professional, etc.
    The easiest method is the floating one, which you can do yourself  but requires an underlayment. Another method is the staple-down, which requires a wood or plywood subfloor. The third one is the glue-down method, ideal for concrete subfloors.

    The Verdict

    Both engineered hardwood and linoleum are simple to maintain and relatively easy to install. As for wear and tear, engineered hardwood may warp with climate changes and linoleum will yellow with sun exposure. Both are also eco-friendly.

    Engineered hardwood is more expensive but will last longer. Plus, high quality engineered hardwood can increase the value of your property. It’s also far more water-resistant than linoleum.

    Linoleum has more color options than engineered hardwood and nicks in its surface will be harder to see. Linoleum is also better for high-traffic areas being more forgiving on joints. It is also preferred in many commercial settings.

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    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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