Hardwood vs Linoleum Flooring

Hardwood vs Linoleum Flooring

You’ve decided that you want to install bare flooring in your home, and you’re down to the final selection: hardwood vs. linoleum. Both are very popular types of flooring, but which one is truly the best? More importantly, which is the best fit for your home?

Installing new flooring is a time-consuming and expensive project, so it’s important that you pick flooring that you’ll love and get it right the first time. With this guide, you’ll learn more about these types of flooring to help you make the most informed purchase decision.

We’ll compare hardwood and linoleum flooring across six different categories. No matter what feature is most important to you – from costs to durability – we’ll cover it all.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

Side-by-Side Comparison

 HardwoodLinoleum
DurabilityExtremely durable. Softer woods may scratch, ding, or become damaged with daily use. Extremely durable. May be prone to rips, tears, and gouges.
Water-ResistantNoYes
CleaningDaily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum. Can be cleaned with a product designed for use on hardwoods. No wet mopping.Daily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum. Can be wet mopped with a mild cleaning product.
RefinishingYesNo
InstallationNail-down flooringTile or sheet adhered with adhesive
Pet-FriendlyYes but harder wood species should be selected for pet-friendly homesYes
Price$4 to $10+ per square foot$2.50 to $3.50 per square foot
Installation Costs$5 to $8 per square foot$3 to $5 per square foot
Lifespan40 to 100+ yearsUp to 40 years
WaxingYesYes
Flooring GuideHardwood Flooring GuideLinoleum Flooring Guide

Durability

No one wants to purchase poor-quality flooring. After all, this flooring is going in your home, not a showroom. With pets, kids, heavy traffic, and everything in between, you want flooring that’s going to withstand it all.

Hardwood flooring is extremely durable. In fact, it’s one of the hardest flooring materials on the market. However, it’s important to note that the hardness of wood is dependent on its species.

Common species like pine are very soft, while exotic hardwoods are typically harder. What does this mean for you? A harder floor means a floor that is more resistant to damage.

You may have heard horror stories about how easy it is to damage hardwood flooring. Pet claws and children’s toys leave behind scratches, furniture can scratch, dent, or ding the floors … you get the picture.

However, if you select a harder species, you won’t have to worry as much about these issues. Harder species of wood are more resistant to scratches, dings, and other damage.

Based on the Janka hardness rating, you should look for exotic species of hardwood. This includes Brazilian Ebony, Brazilian Walnut, Cumaru, and Patagonia Rosewood. Softer woods like fir, hemlock, and pine are softer and are more prone to damage, even with just everyday use.

Hardwood floors that become scratched and damaged over time can be sanded and refinished to look like new again, although this can be a time-consuming and pricey project.

Linoleum is a resilient type of flooring that is also very durable. For the most part, you won’t have to worry about scratches or dings like you do with hardwood flooring. However, this doesn’t mean that linoleum is perfect.

This type of flooring has its own drawbacks. It is possible for damage to occur including gouges, tears, and even burns. This damage can occur as a result of dragging furniture across the floor, dropping something sharp, or even wearing high heels.

If something heavy is dropped or a heavy piece of furniture or an appliance stays in place for too long, linoleum may also dent. Curling may also occur if the floor is not properly installed.

Linoleum repair kits can be purchased from home improvement stores, select flooring retailers, and online. Linoleum that is very damaged will need to be replaced.

Even though both types of flooring can be damaged over time, hardwood sets the gold standard for durability. When the right flooring is selected, it will be resistant to damage, and if damage does occur, the flooring can be refinished to look new again.

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Lifespan

We’ve determined that both hardwoods and linoleum are durable floors. However, which one better stands the test of time and has the longer lifespan?

With proper care and maintenance, the average solid hardwood floor can easily last for 40 to 80 years. Some flooring can even last for over 100 years, although sanding and refinishing may be required throughout the years to keep it looking its best.

Linoleum is also a durable flooring, but its lifespan doesn’t quite stand up to hardwoods. On average, linoleum has a lifespan of up to 40 years with proper care – still a respectable amount of time but falling short of hardwoods.

Between the two, hardwood flooring takes the win for this category. A potential lifespan of over 100 years pushes it far ahead of its competition.

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Cleaning & Care

We all lead busy lives, from caring for the kids, running errands, clocking in to our 9-to-5, and spending time with friends and family. Many of us already have such full plates, we don’t have a lot of time to devote to cleaning and maintaining our floors. For the busy consumers, which flooring is easier to clean?

Daily cleaning of hardwood flooring is quite easy. You can easily remove dirt, dust, and debris in a number of ways, including a dry dust mop, a broom, or a vacuum made for use on bare floors. It’s important that if you use a vacuum, you select a model that doesn’t have a beater bar that can scratch and damage the floors.

Take special care when you need to do a deeper cleaning. Never use a wet mop on solid hardwoods. Only use a product specifically for cleaning hardwood flooring. You can spray these products on the floor one small section at a time. Clean them thoroughly with a dry hardwood-friendly mop or cloth.

Over time, hardwood floors can lose their shine. When this occurs, a coat of wax specifically for use on hardwood flooring can help restore their beauty.

For basic, everyday linoleum cleaning, you can use a broom, dust mop, or vacuum designed for bare floor use (check out our Shark vs Dyson comparison for more info on finding a suitable hard-floor vac from two top brands). Giving it a deeper clean is slightly easier than hardwood floors.

You can use a mild cleaner together with water to mop linoleum. However, you should not completely soak the floor with water, as this can lead to problems. You can use a waxing product specifically for use on linoleum to restore shine.

Because cleaning hardwood flooring does come with a few special considerations, linoleum is the winner because it is easier to care for and clean.

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Installation

Many homeowners are choosing to go the do-it-yourself route with their flooring to potentially save thousands of dollars in labor costs. When comparing hardwood flooring with linoleum, which is easiest to install?

It takes skill to install hardwood flooring, but it isn’t impossible with a little know-how and the right tools. Installing hardwood flooring involves prepping the subfloor, installing underlayment for extra cushioning, measuring and cutting the wood, and nailing down each plank.

You will need several tools during the installation process, including a measuring tape, mallet, and power saws.

If you opt to hire a professional to do the job, expect to pay around $5 to $8 per square foot, which can really add up for bigger, more complicated jobs.

There are two types of linoleum floors: sheets and tiles. With both types of flooring, the basic steps include leveling out the subfloor, trimming the flooring with a utility knife where needed, applying adhesive to the back of the flooring, and sticking it to the subfloor below. For beginners, working with linoleum tiles is usually the easier option.

Installing linoleum requires very little skill and very few tools, so it is easy for most people, even those with no flooring experience. However, some homeowners may choose to hire a professional and should expect to pay around $3 to $5 per square foot for installation.

Linoleum is the obvious winner in this category. Not only is it easier to install yourself, but the cost to hire a contractor for installation is much less expensive.

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Water Resistance

Before installing your flooring in moist or humid rooms like bathrooms or basements, it’s important to understand how your new flooring will hold up under these conditions. Continuous exposure to water can damage or completely ruin some flooring.

Hardwood flooring is not resistant to water, and you should not install this type of flooring in rooms where it will get wet or where there is excessive moisture, such as bathrooms or basements. You cannot use a wet mop for cleaning these floors. Always wipe spills up promptly.

When hardwood flooring gets wet, it can become extremely damaged. Hardwood exposed to water may buckle, stain, swell, or warp. Minor damage may be repaired through refinishing, although extensive damage will require new flooring.

In addition to this damage, excessive moisture can also lead to the growth of mold or mildew, which can ruin your floors and can cause health risks.

Linoleum, on the other hand, is quite resistant to water. It can be cleaned with a wet mop, and spills don’t usually affect the flooring.

However, the floor should never become excessively wet for long periods of time. Water can seep between tiles or under the edges of sheet flooring, loosening the adhesive or potentially causing curling. Mold and mildew may also grow underneath given the right conditions.

Even though there are still some precautions to take with linoleum, it is far more resistant to water than solid hardwood, giving it the edge in this round.

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Price

Now, let’s talk about one of the features most important to many homeowners: price. Between hardwood and linoleum, which is the more affordable flooring?

For the least expensive types of hardwoods, you should expect to pay around $4 per square foot. For more exotic species, you could pay $10 or more per square foot. This is just the cost for hardwood materials, so remember that professional installation will add additional costs.

Linoleum is significantly less expensive. Though prices vary by a range of factors, including the style selected, brand, and where you buy it from, expect to pay about $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot for most flooring. Like hardwood flooring, professional installation will add to the costs, although the cost of hiring a contractor to install linoleum is cheaper.

When it comes to price, linoleum is the more cost-effective option for homeowners on a budget looking for affordable flooring.

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Final Verdict

Linoleum and hardwoods are both great options if you’re looking to purchase new flooring for your home. The best option for you depends on what you’re looking for in a floor.

If you want a flooring that will last for many years and is extremely durable but is more expensive and takes a few extra steps to clean and maintain, solid hardwood is a great choice. This classic flooring will add beauty and value to your home for years to come.

If you’re looking for a more low-maintenance and budget-friendly option, linoleum may be a good choice. This flooring is more resistant to water and easier to clean. In addition, it is more affordable to purchase, and it is also easy to install yourself.

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Nikki Seppala

About Nikki Seppala

Nikki is an experienced writer and editor and has worked in industries that range from home improvement to entrepreneurship. For over 10 years, she's used her unique talent and love of the written word to uncover the stories that people want to read.

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