Vinyl Plank vs Linoleum Flooring

Vinyl Plank vs Linoleum Flooring

By Fortino Rosas / October 1, 2021 / 2 Comments

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    You’ve done tons of research on the best flooring to use for your remodel and now you’re down to the final decision: vinyl plank vs. linoleum.

    Vinyl plank and linoleum are often confused as being one in the same, yet that’s not the case at all. There are a few key differences that are important to consider. From water resistance to sustainability to ease of installation, vinyl plank flooring and linoleum both have pros and cons.

    To help you decide which floor type will be best for you, here is a breakdown of how vinyl plank and linoleum flooring measure up to each other.

    In this guide, we’ll explore:

    Side-by-Side Comparison

    Vinyl PlankLinoleum
    DurabilityCan be dented, punctured, and scuffed by heavy or sharp itemsDurable coating is usually applied on top, can be dented by high heels and furniture
    WaterproofWater resistant, good for kitchens, bathrooms, some totally waterproof, 100% waterproofNo, susceptible to moisture
    CleaningThings less likely to break than hardwood, doesn't take intense cleaning, low maintenance Low maintenance with coating, needs waxing every two or three years without
    LongevityLasts for up to 20 yearsWarranties last up to 25 years, with proper care linoleum can last 40 years
    Pet-friendlyYesNo, not moisture resistant
    CostCheaper than hardwood, won't up the value of your home$4 to $8 per square foot (about the same)
    Popular brandsKarndean, Armstrong, Coretec, ManningtonForbo, Armstrong, Johnsonite
    AestheticsResembles hardwood, only pigmented on the surface, can show signs of fading from sunlightBright to natural tones, even patterns, color is consistent throughout material camoflauging scuffs, can start yellowing from sun (some coatings can reduce this)
    InstallationEasy and cost-effective, can be DIY, difficult to removeCan be a challenge since it's a very stiff material,
    ComfortSofter to walk on due to felt bottomCushioning effect, gives way but bounces back, can be very slippery
    Extra featuresAble to add in-floor heating if you'd like
    EnvironmentalNon-biodegradable, difficult to recycleMade of natural ingredients, recyclable, no harmful emissions
    Hygenic Generally hygienic, but not necessarily the optimal choice for those with health concerns.Yes, anti-bacterial & hypoallergenic.
    Flooring GuideVinyl Plank Flooring GuideLinoleum Flooring Guide

    Durability and Longevity

    Vinyl plank flooring and linoleum are both durable and long-lasting. They fall in the category of resilient floors, meaning they’ll give way under something heavy but bounce back with no permanent denting (for the most part).

    As for small dents and scuffs, both vinyl plank and linoleum flooring are susceptible. But, linoleum does a better job of camouflaging any scuffs and cuts since its color is consistent throughout. Vinyl plank flooring is only pigmented on its surface so marks are more noticeable.

    Most brands of vinyl plank flooring can last for up to 20 years. Linoleum, on the other hand, can last for up to 40 years. Lots of linoleum warranties even provide 25-year coverage. But there are a few distinctions in how to make these products last such a long time.

    Both linoleum and vinyl plank flooring require minimal upkeep and are generally low-maintenance, demanding only the occasional sweeping and mopping to ensure this longevity. But with linoleum you’ll either need special sealing upon purchase or you’ll need to get them waxed every two to three years.

    Essentially, both flooring types are much the same when it comes to durability and longevity so choosing which is better will depends on your needs. For high-traffic areas where scuffs are bound to occur or if you don’t want to replace the floors for nearly 40 years (perhaps somewhere like a corporate office), linoleum will work best.

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    Notable Features

    Vinyl plank flooring’s most notable feature is that it’s 100% waterproof. Perfect for kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and for families with kids that spill juice and pets that have puppy accidents, vinyl will be able to withstand moisture.

    The waterproof nature of vinyl plank flooring is one of the main differences between it and linoleum and is usually one of the major deciding factors between the two. Linoleum is porous and vulnerable to moisture, making it unsuitable for rooms that are more prone to wet floors.

    Linoleum has had an increase in popularity due to its environmental friendliness and sustainability. In recent years, it’s definitely become more important to lots of people that the products they use are all-natural and recyclable. Linoleum fits the bill of going green.

    Linoleum has only natural ingredients (unlike vinyl which is actually made with toxic materials), linoleum has resurfaced as an attractive, eco-friendly option that won’t break the bank.

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    Health and Environmental Factors

    Let’s dive a little deeper into the health and environmental factors associated with vinyl and linoleum. Linoleum definitely has the advantage in both these areas.

    As we mentioned earlier, linoleum is composed of all-natural ingredients and vinyl plank flooring is not. In fact, vinyl emits gasses and chemicals that could create risks for your health.

    The government does have regulations on the levels of these emissions, but it’s still something to note. Someone with respiratory issues, for example, may want to avoid vinyl floors. It’s important to always check for documentation that the vinyl you choose is up to code.

    But linoleum takes things one step further. Not only are there no harmful gasses floating around, it’s more hygienic in general. Because linoleum is composed of natural products, it’s hypoallergenic and antibacterial, hence its common use in hospitals and schools.

    The second major issue with vinyl is that when people throw it out, it’ll sit in a landfill for the rest of its days. Vinyl plank flooring is virtually impossible to recycle. So, if sustainability is important to you, linoleum is a better option.

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    Vinyl plank flooring is most often used as a substitute for wood floors but also comes in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and styles that can replicate any flooring at a fraction of the cost. Because with vinyl the style is printed, there are a plethora of options.

    Linoleum has fewer options when it comes to colors and patterns but has the ability to maintain consistency throughout. You won’t really find linoleum imitating wood but the tones you will find can range from neutral hues to bright pigments.

    One of the biggest downsides to both vinyl plank flooring and linoleum is what happens when exposed to sunlight. Vinyl plank flooring has a top coat that is sensitive to UV rays and if installed in a room getting constant sun exposure, there’s a chance you’ll see some fading and discoloration.

    Linoleum is also sensitive to sunlight but instead of fading it’ll start to turn yellow. However, with linoleum you can help prevent this phenomenon (called ambering) by opting for a protective coat upon purchase, but it won’t stop the process completely.

    The best thing you can do to preserve the aesthetics of both vinyl plank and linoleum flooring is to use them in rooms where direct sunlight won’t affect them.

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    Relatively similar in price, both vinyl plank and linoleum flooring are incredibly affordable options. Prices typically range anywhere between $2 to $6 per square foot for vinyl plank flooring and $4 to $8 for linoleum flooring. From there, depending on quality of course, the cost can go up or down.

    The real cost differences between vinyl plank and linoleum occur during installation. One of the big benefits of vinyl plank flooring is that it’s easy to install and people can do it completely themselves. Linoleum is much more difficult to install since it’s a stiffer material than vinyl that’s harder to work with.

    Keep in mind: vinyl plank floors are difficult to remove so they are good for more of a long-term plan.

    In addition, vinyl planks can be installed on top of pretty much any subfloor, meaning you won’t have to completely flatten a surface before installation.

    On the other hand, with linoleum, bumps from imperfections underneath are more prominent. So, you’ll need to spend the extra money on completely leveling the subfloor when working with linoleum.

    Overall, the materials themselves are similar in cost but linoleum will be more expensive, especially if you’re paying for professional installation and if you need to level the subfloor.

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    Popular Brands

    When shopping for flooring, there is definitely a hierarchy when it comes to brands. As wise men say, “You get what you pay for” and it continues to ring true. Typically, the higher the cost, the better the floor but you can certainly get away with paying middle-of-the-road prices while still getting a high-quality product.

    According to Floor Critics, Karndean makes the Cadillac of vinyl flooring. Other top brands include Armstrong, Coretec, and Mannington which all feature competitive prices, quality products, and offer substantial warranties.

    When it comes to linoleum, Farbo is the world’s most popular flooring manufacturer. Armstrong and Johnsonite are other brands who do an admirable job with linoleum, all offering a large selection of colors, sizes and a fair price point.

    The key with finding the best brand for your particular floor type is sampling. It’s very common to test out a sample of the floors you’re considering to make sure it’s actually what you want.

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    Which should you buy?

    Choosing between vinyl plank flooring and linoleum mainly depends on two things: which rooms need flooring and your personal values.

    The biggest advantage vinyl plank flooring has over linoleum is the fact that it’s absolutely waterproof. It’s the clear winner if you’re re-flooring your bathroom or kitchen where water damage is a stronger possibility.

    Vinyl is, again, probably the better kid and pet-friendly flooring option. Kids spill constantly and animals often have accidents. While linoleum is just as easy to clean, its porous nature is certainly a downside for these occurrences.

    But perhaps you place a high value on sustainable living. If that’s the case, you’ll really want to consider linoleum. It may be harder to install and not the best at resisting water, but there’s no denying that linoleum is easier on the environment.

    Plus, if you live with daily health concerns, linoleum is probably the better choice for you as well. Without potentially harmful chemical emissions, linoleum, as mentioned before, is antibacterial and hypoallergenic which could prove important in the long run.

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    Is linoleum cheaper than vinyl plank flooring?

    Linoleum flooring is more expensive than vinyl floors. On average, linoleum costs between $23 and $50 per square yard for sheets. If you prefer linoleum tiles, you’re looking at $4 to $10 per square foot. The tiles are tongue and groove and are interlocked together to form the floor.

    On the other hand, for top of the range vinyl plank flooring you can expect to pay between $4 to $6 per square foot, making vinyl plank a much more affordable option.

    Which is more durable: linoleum or vinyl?

    While both floors are resilient, vinyl can last up to 20 years, whereas linoleum can easily last for up to 40 years. Many linoleum manufacturers even add an additional 25-year warranty to their products. Both floor types are prone to dents and scratches, but linoleum does a much better job of hiding these marks because of its consistent color. Adding to their general durability is the fact that there isn’t excessive maintenance required to keep them looking good

    Does linoleum have to be glued down?

    An advantage of linoleum floors is that the tiles are tongue and groove types that don’t require any adhesive. This type of flooring is often referred to as “floating” since no adhesive or nails connect them to the surface beneath them. Lay them on the floor and lock them together similar to the way you would a jigsaw puzzle. For these floating floor types, the boards at the edges are nailed down to keep the floor straight.

    How do you install linoleum flooring?

    Linoleum flooring can be easily installed in a few simple steps. 

    1) Remove old flooring
    2) Trowel the base surface till it’s smooth 
    3) Clean and allow to dry
    4) Place an underlayment made of plywood or backer board
    5) Identify and mark the center line
    6) Begin laying the tiles
    7) If you’re using the tongue-and-groove type, interlock each tile as you go
    8) Cut tiles where necessary to accommodate the room size and shape or obstacles
    9) When you reach the end or a wall, nail or glue the edges to the floor to secure the linoleum
    10) Nail baseboards and shoe moldings into place
    11) Clean and allow to dry

    How much does vinyl flooring cost?

    Vinyl flooring is cheaper than linoleum. Just like linoleum, vinyl is available in tiles and sheets. The average cost of vinyl flooring ranges between $1 and $10 per square foot for tiles. The sheet cost ranges from $7 to $45 per square foot. Vinyl flooring uses the glue-down application style for sheets and a peel-and-stick option for tiles.

    The Verdict

    The difference comes down to water resistance, health and environmental effects, and installation.

    For waterproof, easy-to-install floors, go with vinyl plank. But remember, it’s tough to remove. So, not the best choice for temporary situations.

    If you have health concerns or a passion for sustainability, you’ll be happier with linoleum. Just prepare that it will be a demanding installation and fewer style options.

    Both floors fade in the sun and you should be mindful of furniture creating divots and sharp objects nicking the surface. But regardless, vinyl plank and linoleum are both affordable, durable floors that will last for decades.

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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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    2 thoughts on “Vinyl Plank vs Linoleum Flooring”

    1. Great article. I will be looking in to the similar comparison between LVP and Pre-finished Engineered wood floors 😉


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