If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the market for some new flooring in your home, but you might be just a tad bit overwhelmed by the different choices. You’re not alone. As a long-time remodeling contractor, we get this question a lot: what’s the difference between vinyl, laminate, and linoleum.
In this article, we’ll address the pros and cons of each material to help you make the best choice based on your budget, preferences and needs.
Vinyl: Vinyl flooring (sometimes called Luxury Vinyl flooring, LV, or LVT) has been around since the 1940s, when it began replacing linoleum as the floor du jour. It is composed of a transparent protective layer, a high-definition photograph, vinyl, and an underlayer material.
Laminate: Laminate was a common material for countertops all through the 1950s and 1960s, and in the 1970s, someone had the bright idea to apply the same concept to the flooring industry. Now laminate flooring comprises a clear protective layer, high-definition photograph, high-density fiberboard (HDF) or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and an underlayer material.
Linoleum: Linoleum has been around since the 1850s (that’s right! About 170 years!), and was originally made from linseed oil, limestone, cork, pigment, and resins. You can still find linoleum made from those materials, but oftentimes what is called “linoleum” nowadays is actually PVC.
Maintenance and Durability
Vinyl: Vinyl is extremely durable against everyday wear. It is scratch-resistant (which is great if you have pets!), stain-resistant, and water-resistant. It is easy to clean, and a 20-year warranty is fairly standard. Additionally, vinyl is easy to install, and you can use a utility knife to cut the pieces yourself.
Laminate: Laminate is incredibly durable just like vinyl. It is also scratch-resistant and stain-resistant, though it is susceptible to water damage. Since it’s made of HDF or MDF, the tongue and groove components are prone to damage pre-installation, so you have to be careful with your materials. It’s typically easy to install (though you will need a circular saw to cut pieces to size), and a 10 to 25 year warranty is standard relative to the quality you purchase.
Linoleum: Linoleum is very hardy as well and holds up against a lot of foot traffic and abuse (hence, its presence in schools and hospitals). It comes in tiles, planks, and rolls and, due to the need for adhesive, often requires professional installation. With proper care, it can last multiple decades, though it is susceptible to damage in areas with a lot of sunlight or water.
Pros and Cons
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for: a table of pros and cons!
- Taller options available
- Easy to repair and find replacement parts
|- Harder to clean
- Installation is difficult
|One-Piece||- Contemporary design|
- Easy to clean
- Good for small bathrooms
- Easy to install
|- More expensive
- Shorter to the ground (harder for tall people, the elderly, and people with disabilities)
- Difficult to repair (often requires replacement)
|Wall-Mounted||- Biggest space saver|
- Contemporary design
- Easiest to clean
|- More expensive to purchase, install, and maintain
- Needs repairs more often (usually require a plumber since the tank is inside the wall)
|Handle||- Can easily customize the handle to fit the rest of your bathroom’s décor|
|- Requires occasional maintenance keeping the levers in line|
- Lower profile
- More contemporary
|- Can be confusing for guests (especially if it’s a dual-flush toilet)
- Difficult for children
- More expensive
*The term “floating floor” mentioned above means that the floor is able to move and shift to accommodate changing floor conditions. In places that have extreme temperature fluctuations, humidity fluctuations, or frequent seismic activity, a floating floor gives you a little bit of leeway to prevent folding or buckling. That’s not to say that you’ll have gaps in between your planks – don’t worry, everything will be securely in place. A floating floor just means that the planks or tiles are locked together in the tongue and groove component and not typically held down with adhesive the way linoleum is.
The cost of these three materials is comparable, though you can get options that are significantly more or less expensive. For the most part, these price discrepancies depend on the thickness of the protective layer and the thickness of the base layer. If you find yourself with a screaming deal on any of these, the chances are pretty high that it’s not good quality.