Laminate vs Linoleum Flooring

Laminate vs Linoleum Flooring

Laminate flooring vs. linoleum flooring. On its face it seems like an odd comparison. If you have a project where laminate flooring is an option then you probably aren’t in the market for linoleum flooring, right?

And, admittedly, that does make some sense. But the reality is that flooring technologies have improved so much that if you are coming into a flooring project with a clean slate in front of you (you’re open to any type of flooring) then weighing the pros and cons of laminate flooring vs. linoleum flooring makes sense.

So, let’s do that. Let’s compare laminate flooring vs. linoleum flooring.

Side-by-Side Comparison

 Laminate FlooringLinoleum Flooring
DurabilityLaminates are very durable, as tough as a Formica countertopLinoleum floors can last 40 years or longer with the proper care
WaterproofLamiates are water resistant, not waterproofLinoleum is water resistant, not waterproof
MaintenanceLaminates are easy to maintain, requiring no special mops, rags, or cleaners.A little soap and some warm water every once in a while will keep your linoleum flooring looking brand new.
RepairabilityLaminates are tough, but they can be damaged. Unfortunately, there's no good way fix the probelm without replacing the damaged plank. Linoleum can be refinished, so if your floor gets dinged you can buff it out.
Kid-friendlyLaminates can hold up to the heavy traffic of little feet ...They install linoleum in schools. Linoleum in your home should be able to handle the trffic, even if your last name is Brady.
Pet-friendlyand their little furry pets.Traffic from Tiger isn't a problem either.
Ease of installationThe classic DIY floor, laminates are easy to install.Generally, you want to leave the installation of linoleum to professionals.
PriceBetween $2 and $8 per square foot depending on quality$2 to $3 per square foot
ReputationLaminates are popular for homeowners on a budget, but bottom-end laminates can feel cheap.Linoleum still suffers from reputation problem. It's still seen as a budget floring option becasue people don't appreciate its verstility
Environmentally-friendlyWhile it's possible to find laminates made with sustainablity in mind, it's not easy.Linoleum is an all-natural product made with linseed oil. It's actually biodegradeable and compostable.
Flooring GuideLaminate Flooring GuideLinoleum Flooring Cleaning

Durability

Linoleum is incredibly durable. This is the flooring they use in schools, so if it can handle thousands of little feet walking on it all day then it should be able to handle the traffic in your house with ease.

Most linoleum manufacturers provide a 25-year warranty, and that’s very nice. But, with the proper care, regular cleaning, waxing and resealing if necessary, linoleum can last up to 40 years or more.

Laminate floors are similarly durable. They are actually more durable than hardwoods in many instances. That also makes them great for homes with kids and pets. Laminates are also difficult if not impossible to dent, and they are almost completely stain resistant.

One expert compares laminate’s toughness and durability to Formica countertops, and that’s pretty accurate. Laminate flooring isn’t indestructible, but if you’re looking for something that can withstand the wear and tear of heavy foot traffic or the accidental scratches and spills of kids or pets, laminate flooring can make a lot of sense.

Laminate flooring is tough, but laminate flooring is not indestructible. Dragging furniture across it can leave it scratched. Sharp objects that fall from a shelf or countertop can leave gouges.

And when the floor does become damaged, it’s basically impossible to fix since laminate can’t be refinished. Your options are to strategically place a plant over the spot or to pull up and replace the damaged plank. And depending on where in the room the damage is, that could mean essentially removing and relaying the entire floor.

Linoleum suffers with similar issues. While it is a very durable surface, it can be damaged by sharp objects, like furniture or high heels. Heavy furniture left in one place for too long can create dents in a linoleum floor.

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Eco-friendliness

If any flooring type could benefit from the work of a good publicist, it’s linoleum. While it has a reputation as the cheap plastic flooring that comes in big rolls or big wide tiles, like most things, that’s actually only part of the story.

While hearing the word linoleum may conjure up images of your grandmother’s kitchen or the multi-colored floor at your elementary school, linoleum is more versatile than that, and modern manufacturing techniques have made it a durable, attractive option.

For those who are specifically looking for a sustainable, environmentally friendly flooring option, linoleum is actually a good choice, because linoleum is an all-natural product, made mostly of oils, resins, minerals, and other plant-based materials. It’s also doesn’t emit harmful VOCs like other flooring options.

Also, because linoleum is an all natural product, it’s biodegradable. Is it weird to point out a fact about disposability in an article likely to be read by people looking to install flooring? Maybe.

But if your concerns lean to the green side then linoleum’s biodegradability is something you’d probably like to know about. In fact, not only is linoleum biodegradable, it’s also compostable.

While it is possible to find and purchase laminate floors that are made with sustainable environmental practices, it is something you have to look for specifically if it’s a concern. That’s not something you have to consider with linoleum, where no matter who makes it, it’s sustainable.

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Water-Resistant

While this is really applicable to almost all flooring, it’s important to mention it in regards to linoleum since there seems to be some broad misconceptions: Linoleum is water-resistant, not waterproof.

Exposure to excess moisture can damage a linoleum floor. So, keep that in mind if you are going to install linoleum in rooms where water or minor flooding could be an issue (a bathroom, the kitchen, a laundry room). Also, if you are going to install linoleum in a basement, make doubly sure that the subfloor is dry and sealed against moisture.

Laminate is also advertised as water-resistant (although, some brands are launching waterproof laminate lines). And as long as you’re quick with a cloth and clean up any spills, you’ll be fine.

However,, if any moisture seeps between the planks you risk swelling and warping of the boards. If you get any kind of standing water, forget about it. That floor is going to have to be replaced.

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Ease of Installation

Laminates are maybe the most DIY-friendly flooring option. With their very familiar click-lock floating floor system and need for only basic tools, most do-it-yourselfers can install flooring in a large room over a weekend.

All that you need is a clean subfloor, possibly some kind of underlayment, the patience to click and lock plank after plank, and, hopefully, some friends and family to help. Some laminate manufacturers are now making planks that have an underlayment backing already attached, pulling a step out of the installation process.

While laminate flooring is great for those who like doing the work themselves, laminate floor planks can sometimes be fragile. Since the core of laminate is often pressboard, you can easily damage the planks during installation if you aren’t careful with them, and if you damage the boards you can damage the locking system that keeps the flooring together. Damage them in the right spot and you can make whole planks unusable.

Linoleum does come in click-lock floating floor planks, and that option is something that DIYers can install. More commonly, though, linoleum comes in tiles or sheets. Installing either of those requires you to lay out adhesive first. A flooring professional should handle those.

Something to keep in mind when selecting where you’ll have your new linoleum floors: when direct sunlight hits linoleum for an extended period of time can take on a yellow tint. It’s called ambering, and it’s something that you cannot fix. You need to replace ambered linoleum. This ambering occurs when the linseed oil used to manufacture the linoleum oxidizes because of prolonged exposure to UV rays.

Laminate doesn’t have those same concerns about fading or changing colors. You can install laminate floors in a room that gets a lot of sunlight and not have any concerns that the prolonged exposure to the UV rays are going to affect the look of your floor.

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Ease of Care

If you have a house full of little feet (or little furry feet) running around then durability of any new floor isn’t your only concern; you also want a floor that’s easy to care for. Add another check to the pro’s column for linoleum.

You don’t need a special broom to sweep linoleum. You don’t need a special mop or special cleaning solutions. A standard broom is fine for removing dust. A little water and some mild detergent should get up any mud or grime.

It’s a similar story for laminate flooring. Because laminate flooring is so durable, that also means that it’s easy to clean. While you can get specialized laminate mops, brooms and cleaners, standard ones will often do just fine.

Obviously, check your warranty to make sure you aren’t doing anything to maintain your floors that would void your protection, but keeping a laminate floor clean shouldn’t mean any additional investment in cleaning supplies.

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Damage Repair

Accidents are a part of life, maybe a more regular part of it if you have kids around the house. Sometimes those accidents damage a floor. If you have laminate flooring, fixing these accidents often means doing your best to disguise the damage and then living with the results.

Not the case with linoleum. Now, it’s not indestructible, so don’t think that. But, because of the way it’s manufactured, the color that you see on the surface of linoleum runs all the way through it.

That means linoleum can be refinished. That process often can repair any minor damage to your floor, and doesn’t refinishing sound a lot better than replacing?

Unfortunately, with laminate, refinishing isn’t an option. Any significant damage to any plank on the floor and you are going to be faced with removing that plank, meaning that all of the flooring is coming up until the damaged plank can be reached and removed.

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Overall Reputation

For years, linoleum was a bad word among homeowners. Linoleum flooring was often the first thing to go during remodeling.

That’s starting to change, though. Linoleum is beginning to have something of a renaissance, so much so that there are actually companies selling retro linoleum. Even though linoleum is having something of a moment, it still has a reputation as cheap flooring and that can affect your home’s resale value if you were to put it on the market.

While laminate doesn’t have a broadly bad reputation, there are plenty of people who look down their noses at it, especially the less expensive laminates.

The common misconception is that manufacturers created laminates to be fake hardwoods, but it’s not the case. While laminate flooring has a core composed of pressed wood, the top of each plank (the part that we can all see once the floor is installed) is essentially just a sticker.

That means what we see could literally be anything. In fact, there is laminate flooring that now mimics ceramic tile and natural stone. The reality is, though, that most people turn to laminates because they want the look and feel of real hardwoods without paying the cost.

While laminates were not initially invented as a substitute for real hardwoods, they have become almost exclusively that. That’s not a bad thing, either.

Flooring technologies have advanced so much that many laminates are now nearly indistinguishable from real hardwoods. They can even mimic the look of antique, hand-scraped hardwoods if you are hoping for a more rustic feel.

The catch is that the closer you get to a real-wood look and feel the more expensive the laminate gets. The truth is that the less expensive laminate is appealing to the pocketbook but can sometimes look a little cheap.

It can also feel cheap when you walk on it. Less expensive laminate comes in thinner planks. Thinner planks tend to give more when you walk on them, resulting in a bouncy floor that doesn’t feel like hardwoods. To get the thicker planks that more closely resemble real wood underfoot you are going to have to pay closer to top-end prices.

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Conclusion

This has been an interesting exercise. On the surface, like we said at the beginning, comparing linoleum flooring and laminate flooring seemed odd. They didn’t seem like types of flooring that you’d consider at the same time.

Still, it was an exercise worth doing. So, where did we end up?

Honestly, laminate flooring and linoleum flooring are probably more alike than they’re not. When it comes to linoleum vs laminate cost, they are comparable. They are both durable flooring options, ready to stand up to heavy traffic, kids, and pets.

They are both easy to care for. And, they both have some drawbacks. Laminate isn’t as forgiving when it’s damaged. Linoleum isn’t easy to install.

What it really comes down to when choosing between these two types of flooring is what kind of look you’re going for. If you like the warmth that you get from hardwoods, then laminate is probably your better bet.

If, however, you are open to something that’s not as traditional, or if you want to do something ultra-creative, then look to linoleum. Your options there may surprise you.

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Jarrett Rush

About Jarrett Rush

Jarrett Rush lives near Dallas, Texas with his wife, their three kids, their chocolate labrador, and an always growing to-do list of home improvement projects.

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