Vinyl and linoleum; often considered cheaper, synthetic alternatives to the more expensive hardwood floors; the differences between the two range from construction materials and color options, even environmental considerations. Essentially, the slightly more expensive linoleum is produced from natural materials, making it more environmentally friendly than synthetically produced vinyl which is known to create small, organic toxic particles or by- products, upon installation. New product research is currently developing environmentally friendlier vinyl products, emitting fewer toxic emissions. Linoleum offers a greater range of colors, however offers greater ease of installation. It is also impervious to moisture, whereas linoleum, if not installed correctly may be damaged by water. There are however, other considerations between the two. So, before you decide; read on.
Around for almost two hundred years, linoleum was an English invention at the height of the Industrial Revolution during the 1800’s. With materials to include linseed oil, pine rosin, wood flour, ground cork and mineral fillers, linoleum takes up color beautifully. Dyes and pigments are added to the material, producing some of the vibrant colors favored by linoleum fans. Available in sheets and tiles, linoleum is readily available at most home improvement centers. The natural products found in linoleum make it fully biodegradable and also recyclable! A familiar choice in older, pre-restored properties, hospitals and other commercial centers. Today, linoleum is being looked at as an environmentally safer alternative to vinyl. Linoleum’s natural materials, to include pine rosin and linseed, has made the anti-bacterial like properties of the material an attractive option for places where impeccable levels of cleanliness are important.
Linoleum’s ability to resist average wear and tear such as scratches and dents, makes this a great choice when compared to vinyl. Overall, linoleum has a lifespan over three times that of vinyl, possibly because linoleum can be
patched up when signs of obvious wear and tear do appear. Vinyl by comparison generally needs to be replaced rather than repaired, again making this a less attractive offer in terms of its overall environmental impact.
Installation and Maintenance
Generally, linoleum is not for the amateur fitter. Difficult to install, if fitting is not done properly or professionally, moisture can penetrate, damaging the sub flooring beneath. Sheet style linoleum, is the most difficult form of linoleum to install, requiring both a flooring adhesive on the bottom and a finishing coat on the top to seal out moisture. Self-adhesive tiles are available, and the most easy to install, however they must be cut to the exact measurement in order to prevent moisture getting below the surface of the linoleum. Linoleum is also available in a floating style of flooring with a cork bottom, however this is very sensitive to water damage, making this particular style of linoleum flooring best suited to areas where spillage is less likely.
Sweep, vacuum or dust your linoleum frequently. Avoid chemical cleaners such as bleach or disinfectant solutions. Warm soap and water are the best and safest bet for cleaning linoleum. Anything more than this may damage the flooring. Your linoleum floor should be finished once or twice per year depending on traffic; this is important to retaining the linoleum’s long-term durability. Damaged tiles can be changed, and patches can be made on the linoleum, but check with a professional to ensure any patch is properly sealed.
Installing waterproof vinyl flooring is a breeze compared to linoleum. Due to its pliability, it is far easier to cut and fit around corners, making it an attractive DIY option for homeowners who enjoy taking on improvement projects around the home. Vinyl is also pretty big on style when it comes to finishes and texture. Vinyl can be made to look like wood or tile, with realistic grain or texture, making it a warming, attractive option for the busy home. Padding beneath the vinyl provides additional comfort due to its insulation abilities. Your floor will feel less cold during cooler winter months!
Like linoleum, vinyl requires a protective coating, and it is this coating that gives vinyl the ability to withstand high traffic, harsher cleaning agents and so on. However, unlike linoleum, once sealed it never has to undergo further treatment. Unfortunately, once the coating on a vinyl floor has worn through, the entire floor needs to be replaced. Vinyl tiles can be replaced individually, and longer pieces of vinyl repaired by fusing the surface or double cutting. In terms of longevity, although linoleum needs annual conditioning, proper care and maintenance means it effectively self recycles compared with vinyl which, once the protective coating has expired, needs to be replaced. Vinyl which is hard to recycle and generally does not possess biodegradable properties, presents the question; What to do with a product that emits toxic properties once it has been reached the end of its life span? For some homeowners, this may be problematic.
So, if you are looking for greener flooring, between the two, linoleum may be right for you. On the other hand, if you are seeking to cover a smaller area of the home, a bathroom or laundry room for example, the less expensive per
square foot vinyl might be the cheaper and more reasonable option. in all things, it is best to take lifestyle factors into consideration: how much the room will be used, the level of traffic flowing in and out of the room, if the room is a social room or a more utilitarian room for storage or laundry. And of course, budget. Talk to your home builder about the flooring options that are right for you and your family. Taking the time to select the best products before construction can save a lot of expensive delays or disappointments later in the process. You might even opt for several types of flooring as needs change throughout your home. Getting the best product you can afford means you’ll be happy walking into your home for years to come.