So many people mistakenly think that linoleum and vinyl are the same thing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. And if you’re interested in installed resilient flooring in your home you need to know the difference.
Linoleum was the original resilient flooring invented in 1860 by an Englishman named Frederick Walton. In fact it was invented quite by accident when he discovered that dried linseed oil formed a strong yet flexible film on the top of the paint can. Paints used to be made with linseed oil in the mid-19th century.
After years of experimenting he came up with a thin, and strong product that was also comfortable under foot. Linoleum’s make-up has changed very little over the years. And due to that it is still one of the most natural and Eco-friendly products on the market today. In addition to linseed oil the other main ingredients are things like pine rosin, cork dust, and a canvas or juke backing. In fact it’s so green that it contributes LEED (a measurement of sustainable building) points to your building.
Some of the key benefits of linoleum are: natural antimicrobial and antistatic properties, hypoallergenic, fire retardant, and very strong wear resistance. The colors and patterns of linoleum are more limited than vinyl, but unlike vinyl the color runs throughout the entire body of the linoleum. Vinyl only has a thin wear layer of color that can wear out under heavy traffic.
Vinyl flooring was first offered to the public in 1933 and in the tough times of the Great Depression it’s low price point made it a major competitor of linoleum. It was available in more colors and printed patterns than linoleum. Both materials are sold in either 10-13″ tiles or large sheets that are cut to size for your particular room much the same way as wall to wall carpeting.
The biggest difference between vinyl and linoleum really is their chemistry. Whereas linoleum is an all-natural product vinyl is a product of fossil fuels. Vinyl is mainly a combination of Ethylene (a petroleum byproduct) and chlorine which adds stability and give vinyl its excellent heat resistance. Also, some vinyl made prior to the 1980s may contain asbestos. So, it’s best to call an asbestos abatement specialist if you have old vinyl in your home and are thinking of disturbing or replacing it.
Vinyl is also king when it come to variety of colors and price, though linoleum isn’t much more expensive, the price difference is noticeable in large quantities.
Which is Right
Which is right for you is really a matter of personal opinion. My preference is linoleum because of its eco-friendly qualities and longevity, but the low price and color variety of vinyl can’t be ignored. Whatever you decide it’s just good to know that the two are indeed different and that you now have a choice.