So you’ve started looking into ideas on how to replace flooring in your home and you’ve hit a snag. You don’t actually know the differences between linoleum, laminate, and vinyl.
Sure you’ve heard of both of these types of flooring a million times. But, like…what’s the actual distinction? Isn’t linoleum a type of vinyl? And what’s the difference between laminate and hardwood? Isn’t laminate just one of the types of hardwood flooring?
Oh, and you keep hearing the term LVT? What does that even stand for? Is it vinyl? Is it tile? So then what’s the difference between tile and laminate?
If you’re thinking, “I don’t understand any of it, and I want to go home,” you’re not alone. Understanding the differences between all these types of flooring is honestly kind of difficult.
If only someone would make an easy to understand guide to the differences between linoleum and laminate, and explain how they’re different from vinyl, and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each option….oh, wait, that’s just what we did. Read on. Your answers are below.
What is Linoleum?
What is linoleum flooring? Basically, linoleum is a composite flooring made of natural materials including cork dust, wood flour, solidified linseed oil, pine rosen, and various other substances. It was most popular during the early 1900s, and was one of the top home flooring options until the 1940s. At that point, linoleum had to make way for another more affordable option: vinyl.
Linoleum vs. Vinyl: What’s the difference?
Vinyl is also a composite flooring material, but it’s made of PVC, aka plastic. Ever since the 1950s, it’s been getting more and more popular. Today, vinyl is the fastest growing sector of the flooring industry.
Translation: when you use the word “linoleum” today, you’re often referring to vinyl. Even your grandmother’s 1950 kitchen floor is probably vinyl (not linoleum). The two terms just get tossed around like they’re identical twins because linoleum was the first composite flooring product and vinyl has largely replaced linoleum in most of its major applications.
However, at the end of the day, they are different types of flooring. Vinyl is made of synthetic material, where linoleum is all natural (and fully biodegradable). And while linoleum flooring isn’t super widespread anymore because of vinyl, it is going through a bit of a renaissance right now for people who want a more eco-friendly option.
What is LVT? What’s the difference between LVT and vinyl?
LVT stands for luxury vinyl tile. It’s one of the best types of vinyl flooring, or at least one of the most popular types of vinyl flooring. Other names for this product include “LVP” (luxury vinyl plank, “WPC” (wood plastic composite), and also just plain old “luxury vinyl.” Every manufacturer calls it something different.
Luxury vinyl floors are composed of rigid or semi-rigid vinyl planks or tiles designed to mimic other types of flooring (wood, most often). They’re almost always sold as click-together flooring products, making them easy to install. And, of course, their all-plastic construction makes them highly durable.
Again, LVT is not one of the many types of tile, it is in fact not tile at all. Rather, it’s today’s most popular form of vinyl flooring.
What is Laminate?
Ok, so what is laminate flooring? Laminate is also a type of composite flooring, but it’s much more similar to hardwood. Think of it as a cross between traditional linoleum and the best engineered wood flooring you can buy.
Laminate is composed of three layers: a plywood or fiberboard base, a photo realistic image layer, and a hard plasticate wear layer to protect against scuffs, dings, and dents. When it comes to hardwood floor alternatives, laminate often looks and feels the most realistic (even more so than LVT).
Laminate was invented back in the 1970s by Pergo, who still produces a lot of it today. And while it used to get a bad rap for looking plastic-y, many laminate products have become virtually indistinguishable from real hardwood in recent years.
Laminate is super affordable, you can use it to create gorgeous wood floor designs, and it can even go head to head with the most durable wood flooring in a battle of hardness. When it comes to “fake” wood flooring, it’s basically the best of all worlds.
Linoleum vs. Laminate: What’s the difference?
By now you know these materials are very different. Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of linoleum and laminate is like comparing the advantages and disadvantages of carpet vs laminate. They’re both awesome floors, but used for very different reasons.
Linoleum is an old-fashioned composite material that’s usually made into tiles. It has lost most of its popularity to vinyl, which is plastic. Laminate is a substitute largely made of plywood.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Linoleum, Laminate, and Vinyl
- Linoleum is biodegradable and environmentally friendly
- It can come in a wide variety of designs that can mimic other materials (like wood) or stand on its own
- Thanks to its natural construction, linoleum can feel softer underfoot than laminate can (as laminate’s wear layer can be quite hard). Next to the best cork flooring, linoleum is one of the most comfortable types of flooring available today.
- As it has been around for a long time, linoleum is quite affordable.
- Because it’s composed of organic materials, linoleum isn’t completely waterproof unless properly sealed.
- It can be hard to find a huge range of linoleum products, as they’ve largely been supplanted by luxury vinyl.
- When it comes to installation, linoleum is generally glued to a subfloor, while vinyl and laminate can both be installed as floating floors. And while there are some disadvantages to floating floors, they are much easier to install.
- Linoleum needs to be installed over a very smooth subfloor to prevent warping.
- Laminate floors are very scratch resistant. If you’ve got an energetic puppy, kids, or just a lot of activity on your floors in general, laminate typically does a good job of standing up to wear and tear.
- If you’re looking to imitate hardwood, laminate is the way to go. In fact, some of the best hardwood floor brands also produce laminate.
- Just as with any wood flooring, laminate can be as pricey or inexpensive as you want it to be. You have lots of options.
- Since laminate is thicker than vinyl because of its wood core, this flooring type can be embossed to look like real wood.
- Laminate floors may not be as budget friendly as their vinyl counterparts.
- Because they’re made of organic products, laminate floors are more vulnerable to water-damage than vinyl products.
- Laminate does a great job of copying the look of genuine hardwood, but it can’t hold a candle to hardwood’s longevity because it can’t be refinished.
- Laminate’s hardness can also make it somewhat brittle (depending on the product).
- Vinyl is incredibly affordable. If your purse strings are tight during your home renovation, vinyl may be a perfect option for you.
- If durability is a concern, vinyl is a good choice. In a pinch, you can even use vinyl as an outdoor flooring option.
- Vinyl floors are waterproof. Do you have rambunctious kids making waves in the bath? No problem. Thanks to its seamless nature and synthetic core, this flooring type is ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. Not even the best hardwood floors can say that.
- Vinyl products are almost always installed as floating floors, making them a forgiving, do-it yourself flooring option.
- Vinyl floors may not feel as realistic as other types, like laminate. If you’re looking for a floor that closely simulates hardwood floors, other types may perform better.
- Depending on the warranty, vinyl floors may have a shorter lifespan than other flooring choices like hardwood. This means that they may need to be replaced more frequently
- Vinyl flooring doesn’t typically carry a resale value the same way wood does
- Once removed vinyl floors have to be discarded in a landfill. Needless to say, this is not a green flooring option
Linoleum vs. vinyl vs. Laminate: The Conclusion
Ok, let’s review what we’ve learned about the linoleum vs. vinyl vs. laminate question.
- Linoleum is an older, composite product that’s made of organic materials but has largely been replaced in most applications by vinyl, which is made of plastic.
- Today, when many people say “linoleum,” they actually mean vinyl.
- Laminate is a layered composite flooring made from a mix of organic materials and plastics, and it actually looks and performs like wood.
- All three of these materials have distinct advantages and disadvantages
Gosh! Who knew comparing linoleum to laminate could be so educational? Well, we hope you’ve learned everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision about your flooring needs. The only thing left to do is to visit May River Flooring and get started. We’re happy to answer any of your questions related to these and other flooring options.