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How to Tell the Difference Between Vinyl and Linoleum

One of the biggest trends in flooring today is choosing green floors. Everything from bamboo to cork floors is available as eco-friendly flooring options. One of the most popular choices, however, is vinyl and linoleum sheet flooring. These options are not only environmentally friendly, but they are wallet-friendly green floors as well. However, it is easy to make vinyl and linoleum interchangeable. That’s why it’s imperative to know how to tell the difference between vinyl and linoleum.

What are “green floors”?

Here’s the million-dollar question: How do you tell the difference between vinyl and linoleum? The first question to ask could be, how does one KNOW the differences between vinyl and linoleum? Ok, maybe it’s technically the same question. Well, in order to answer those questions, there are some other facts and information to cover that may help. Let’s talk about eco-friendly (or “green”) floors.

When it comes to flooring, green floors refer to using natural and sustainable materials. These materials come from natural sources instead of being chemically produced, and these sources are sustainable. Sustainable means that the materials come from sources that are either not destroyed during harvest or ones that regrow quickly. Bamboo and cork flooring are perfect examples of green floors.

Bamboo, which is really a type of grass, is the fastest growing plant. The grass reaches up to over fifty feet tall in maturity within five to seven years and can regenerate growth. Only the stalk is cut to be used for making the flooring product. Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork tree. Just like with the bamboo stalks, the cork bark can be regenerated on the trees.

Both processes of harvesting the materials are examples of eco-friendly considering neither original source was destroyed during the harvest and can regrow in a limited amount of time. Cork oaks are harvested every nine years. During regeneration, the bark regrows the outer later twelve to thirteen times during its lifespan of 150 years. That’s quite a lot!

Another aspect of the green flooring process is maintenance. It is a good idea to have eco-friendly cleaning products to clean your eco-friendly floors. Many of the mainstream brand-name cleaners are made with toxic chemicals that are both harmful to your floor and the environment. Choosing niche, high-quality, plant-based floor cleaning products, which can be found with a little bit of research on the Internet, will leave your floors squeaky clean & toxin-free. Any Champion cleaning solution, such as Champion Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner, will do the job!

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While we’re on the subject of “green floors”, linoleum is a great example of this type. Allow us to dish out the facts for you! Linoleum is made up of materials that are natural, renewable, and biodegradable. The following materials used are wood flour (absolutely not the type used for cooking), linseed oil (or flaxseed), rosin, limestone, eco-friendly pigments, and ground cork dust. Again, these materials were extracted from the original source naturally without destroying them. This all sounds conveniently mind-soothing, doesn’t it?

Here’s a (brief) description of the mentioned materials used in manufacturing linoleum. Wood flour is a powder ground from hardwood. Very self-explanatory, isn’t it? This gives the linoleum product a more vibrant colorfast look. It helps to bind pigments of the linoleum into the mixture. It also helps to provide a smooth texture to this flooring material.

Linseed oil is extracted from the flax seeds through pressing. When combined with another type of recycled oil it optimizes the linseed’s oxidation. Therefore, linseed is used to bind wind, dust, cork particles, and other materials during linoleum’s manufacturing.

Rosin is extracted from the pine tree trunk. What makes this a natural resource is that there’s no damage at all from it being extracted. This substance is what adds flexibility and strength to the linoleum.

Limestone is another natural substance that will sound familiar to some. That’s because its original form is that of a stone which is ground into a fine powder. Aside from gardening use (for those of you who are also gardeners), this also goes into processing linoleum.

We already briefly mentioned pigments concerning the binding through the wood flour. As we all know, pigments are famously associated with different colors. The environmentally friendly pigments are used to create different colors and patterns for the linoleum sans the heavy metals.

Ground cork dust is a renewable material that comes from…the cork tree! Another obvious fact, isn’t it? The great thing about this use is that the bark from the cork tree regrows every ten years. Hence, the renewable source! After gathering the bark from this tree, it is then ground into fine dust to be used for the linoleum.

As far as installation, though, adhesives are mostly used to fasten the planks or tiles to the concrete subfloors. You will have to ensure that the adhesive is non-toxic, solvent-free, and meets the low VOC requirements. If you’re going for the floating floor design tile option, adhesives aren’t needed, therefore with no dangerous impact on the interior environment. Just don’t forget to apply an environmentally friendly acrylic sealer and apply it annually to protect them.

How to tell the difference between vinyl and linoleum flooring

As we mentioned before, a lot of people think that vinyl and linoleum floorings are one and the same. They are actually completely different. Vinyl flooring is typically made of synthetic materials, while linoleum is made of natural materials. Need more proof? Keep reading!

There are versions of vinyl flooring that are made with natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly materials. Typically, these options are referred to as “luxury” vinyl flooring, but you can ask your local home improvement stores to help to find the eco-friendly versions or find them online with a little research. Within your research, you will find that vinyl flooring is the most versatile choice as far as durability, styles, and different designs. With vinyl, the designing world is your oyster!

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Vinyl is more of a synthetic material made of mostly polyvinyl chloride and contains a variety of toxic chemicals. One chemical includes various phthalate plasticizers for flexibility. Many other chemicals used during manufacturing are carcinogens. This flooring type can replicate the realistic look of other floor types such as wood and stone, yet with more of a modern finish. Vinyl is also more non-porous, therefore more resistant and waterproof to extreme moisture and spills. During installation, vinyl is applied in two ways: glue-down for sheets and glue-down or peel and stick for tiles.

As previously mentioned, linoleum is applied by adhesives, yet requires a sealant immediately after installing. Vinyl doesn’t require that same treatment upon installation. The reason is that linoleum is more susceptible to moisture damage. Therefore, this flooring is mandated to have extra maintenance and protective measures upon installation. That explains why vinyl is more fitting for rooms like bathrooms and basements. It’s also more susceptible to change in color compared to vinyl. Linoleum is available as a sheet product which makes the installation process more complex than the luxury vinyl plank and tile.

As far as comfort goes, vinyl is much harder underfoot and less moist than durable materials like ceramic tile and laminate. Linoleum, on the other hand, is much softer and has more resilience underfoot.

What are the benefits of using linoleum sheet flooring?

Other than the fact that linoleum sheet flooring is quite eco-friendly and made from natural, sustainable sources, there are many other benefits to choosing linoleum sheet flooring.

Here are ways linoleum can be reused, recycled, and disposed of. Ready? These ways are (but probably not limited to) fueling and biodegrading. After it has run its long course, linoleum can be incinerated. From there, a clean source of energy can be released into the air. The energy created from burning equates to the amount expended during the manufacturing of this flooring material.

Did you know that linoleum is biodegradable? Another option is to take it to a landfill without any guilt or shame for it. Do you know why? This material will decompose over time, and absolutely no toxins or gases will release into the air. Remember what was said about this being a natural material? Every natural source that was used in making linoleum will only return and become one with the earth. See? No guilt, no shame, no worries…especially with Mother Earth. All the more reason to do our part to take care of the giant planet we live on.

First of all, choosing linoleum flooring is extremely cost-effective. Linoleum sheet versions of popular flooring materials can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. Not only are the materials themselves much more affordable, but so is installation.

Installation is not only cheaper but much easier. You can hire a professional to come to do the installation for you at a lesser cost than other flooring options, or you can choose to do it yourself. The installation is relatively easy, especially when compared to tiling, hardwoods, and other flooring options. When you are fitting the linoleum sheets or tiles, you can actually cut them with small tools rather than needing to have them cut with dangerous machines.

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Linoleum was created and first patented in 1860. This flooring choice was the original resilient kind, and most revered for its natural qualities. It was also known for the linseed-based coating which gives it its durability and makes it flexible. It was the ultimate choice for installation in kitchens and other utility areas.

For a while, though, it was known as too “old school”. This is because linoleum was more of the “old school”, or aged flooring, and lacked the luster needed for the interior design industry. For this reason, it was mostly used for public spaces, such as schools and hospitals.

However, everything changed in recent times in terms of eco-friendly living. Vinyl proved to be flooring to be wary of due to its dependence on toxic and dangerous chemicals. In fact, more people today who are environmentally conscious and opting for longevity are turning to linoleum. You’re familiar with the song “Everything Old Is New Again”? This is definitely the case for linoleum.

Linoleum flooring options are also extremely easy to clean and maintain. Cleaning up spills is easy, and just daily or weekly sweeping or mopping can help you keep your linoleum flooring looking clean and new. Did you know that a simple cleaning of stains can be done with just a rag, a proper cleaning product for linoleum floors and your hands? It’s true. The key is to use a cleaner that will not corrode the flooring.

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Since linoleum is made up of natural materials, you’d do better to use a cleaner that is plant-based because it doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals like most commercial cleaning products nowadays. One example is the Champion Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner. As the name suggests, it’s good for any type of flooring other than for just hardwood and laminate. Here’s the bonus: linoleum has an acrylic coating applied to protect even from cleaning products. Still, you can never be too careful.

If installed and maintained properly, linoleum can last decades and still look great. As far as longevity, we’re looking at 20 to 40 years of fine quality.

Even though linoleum is water-resistant but cannot withstand flooding or extreme moisture of any kind, another point is its resistance to heat damage. For example, if something like a hot curling iron or, say, an extremely hot skillet should drop to the linoleum floor, it won’t melt as quickly as it would vinyl. Plus, it won’t burn or emit toxic fumes. That’s not to say that you should just drop any and every hot item on this floor all willy nilly. It still makes sense to be incredibly careful with your floors, and with any hot products.

On top of all of these benefits, linoleum looks amazing. Linoleum sheet flooring truly looks like expensive hardwood, ceramic tiles, or whatever other material you choose. It is an extremely effective way to get a high-quality look without spending as much money.

So, if you are looking for environmentally friendly, affordable, and great-looking green floors, look no further than linoleum sheet flooring or vinyl made specifically with natural and sustainable materials. Help save the environment as well as your pocketbook and get a great look for your home. Go green with eco-friendly linoleum sheet flooring.

Vinyl vs. Linoleum: Which Is Most Cost-Effective?

Since we’re still on the subject of telling the difference between vinyl and linoleum, I’d like to revisit the cost-effectiveness. Vinyl flooring costs an average of between $0.50 to $1.50 per square foot. The tiles cost an average of between $1.50 to $3.00 per square foot. At specialty flooring stores, the designer-style vinyl flooring costs are higher.

Linoleum sheet flooring costs range between $2.00 to $2.50 per square foot, while the tiles range between $3.50 to $5.00 per square foot. As with the vinyl, the designer-style linoleum flooring costs are high at the specialty stores. In short, vinyl is proven to be cheaper than linoleum. It’s on you to decide, though, which flooring type is worthy based on convenience, longevity, and price. If your mind is going through an overload, we get you. It’s a lot to learn and take in.

Here’s a tip to keep in mind, though: the average cost per square for vinyl and linoleum will vary per different sources and vendors. With that said, we have two words: comparison shopping. Do as much of that with as many vendors or stores as possible. It’s especially important if you’re making it a DIY project. Oh, and if you decide to hire a professional, even better! Nothing like giving professionals work opportunities and more experience, right?

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While we’re still on the subject of money, we feel it’s appropriate to talk about resale value. Even resale value counts towards the difference between vinyl and linoleum. While known as an economy flooring material, it doesn’t add any real estate value to a home. Sorry, homeowners! Don’t throw up those hands yet, though! All is not lost. There’s a bright side.

Linoleum can, and does, add a great real estate value! Not only does the natural aspect of linoleum play an important part in real estate for potential buyers, but a homeowner will be willing to tell if the floors are durable and can withstand certain damage. Now, there may be a slight concern with the faded look and design of the linoleum (depending on how old it is), but for some buyers, longevity is much more important. That’s why you see the various information about the house, including when it was built and if any additions or renovations were made. Those facts can make or break a decision when buying. See? We told you there was a bright side!


If you feel you haven’t learned much from this, we must stress this final thought: Always do research! Maybe you will consider this as more of a guide. Maybe this serves as a launch for you to get a second, third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth opinion on what to get and which is of better value (whether financially or quality-wise.) However you choose to use this information on how to tell the difference between vinyl and linoleum, be your own home design advocate. If you’ve done as much research as possible (even with your head spinning) and you’re still not sure, then ask a professional.

There’s no way for you to learn every little thing. It all boils down to this: make the best decision for your home as far as your knowledge and wallet will allow. Oh, and if you can, be as environmentally friendly as possible!

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