You remember the linoleum flooring at your grandmother's house, don't you? Well, although linoleum and vinyl are often compared, they couldn't be more different from each other. The quality of vinyl flooring, definitely cushioned vinyl flooring, has improved drastically in the past years.
Lino flooring could be seen as the father of vinyl, but more accurately, vinyl was the product that put linoleum out of the market. With its easy maintenance, better pricing, unlimited design options and supreme resilience, vinyl is the new and improved product for people that would have considered linoleum. Linoleum, while still available, has become an exclusively professional product in the 21st century.
But where does the comparison come from and why do people ask "is vinyl linoleum?" when they see vinyl sheets in the store? Time for some in-depth research.
In 1855, Frederick Walton discovered that solidified linseed oil had the rubbery and flexible components that would make it a good substitute for India rubber. After a few modifications, 'Kampticon' - a variation on Kamptulicon, the dominant floor covering at the time - was born, and soon after renamed to linoleum.
After difficult early years, linoleum took flight and by 1869, linoleum was being exported to Europe and the US. Competitors entered the market and only 14 years after its invention, a trademark court ruled that Linoleum was so widely used, the term had become generic.
The success of Walton's invention was immense. His cheap lino flooring was an excellent alternative for high-use areas like hallways and passages. With its water resistance qualities, it was also widely used on kitchen floors and bathrooms.
However, after almost 100 years, linoleum lost a large part of its market share to vinyl, a flooring option made of the synthetic material polyvinyl chloride (pvc). While vinyl has similar flexibility and durability to linoleum, there are many differences, mainly in its building blocks. Vinyl is made of synthetic materials, linoleum on the other hand is completely made of organic materials.
There are still some floors that are called lino flooring in the market today, but only those that aren't synthetic in nature can be called linoleum.
While vinyl sheet flooring quickly replaced the existing designs of linoleum in the 1950s, it didn't just try to copy the look and feel of lino flooring. Because vinyl gets its design by printing a layer onto the synthetic material and covering it with a wear layer, the design options are unlimited.
Color patterns, tile effects, wooden floors, ... vinyl can be anything you want it to be. That's why it's used in so many different rooms and professional uses all over the world.
For professional users, Beauflor even offers the option of creating your own design. Visit our design studio to learn more about this.
Linoleum on the other hand goes through a very different process to create a design. Pigments are added to the natural material to create a desired color finish, but the options are somewhat limited. The color pattern is actually visible through the entire material.
A floor for rooms where water spills are possible, needs to have a water-resistant floor. While linoleum has technically always been water-resistant, that feature depends on the periodic sealing of your floor, a repetitive process. And even with that sealing, the natural floor is susceptible to water damage through high humidity or flooding.
Vinyl on the other hand is almost completely waterproof. Thanks to the PVC layer, a vinyl sheet stands the water resistance test and is perfect for bathrooms and kitchens. Where there are no seams, water can’t find a way to infiltrate and get underneath the floor.
Beauflor vinyl rolls are unique because they come in a width of up to 5m, making it a seamless floor in almost every room thinkable. Discover the floors made for wet rooms here.
Both linoleum and vinyl flooring have been and are fans' favorites when it comes to cleaning. Vacuum cleaners, sweeping brushes, mobs, various cleaning products... they're all good choices to keep your floor clean. The only difference here is that linoleum has a risk of color changes when in contact with certain cleaning products with a high pH level.
The protective wear layer of vinyl makes sure your floor doesn't change appearance over time because of frequent cleaning, while linoleum needs specific detergents to keep its appearance.
When it comes to durability, it is difficult to compare linoleum and vinyl. Much depends on the quality of the product itself. A lower-quality wear layer in vinyl might lose its protective qualities over time, while linoleum is softer and more vulnerable to small damage.
One of the improvements that vinyl had on linoleum, was that maintenance wasn’t necessary anymore from time to time.To make linoleum last longer, periodic sealing is needed. Without this, it is more vulnerable to scratches and wear-and-tear. However; because of the fact that the design of linoleum is present throughout the flooring material, these damages are less visible from a distance.
As with most products, how long you'll enjoy it and in what state that is, depends on how much care you give it. Linoleum takes a little more work now and then (which is a downside because of its use in professional environments), but can remain its look for a very long time. Modern vinyl is a very high quality product, making it very durable in the long run.
One of the perks of vinyl sheets is its easy installation, making it a loved flooring product for DIY-ers. On a flat underlay, you can glue your vinyl roll, cutting it down to fit into the corners. More info on vinyl floor installation can be found here.
The installation of a lino floor can be similar to the process above, but the less flexible nature of linoleum makes it harder to manipulate. Since linoleum is almost exclusively used in professional applications today, installation is practically always done by a professional.
Both vinyl and linoleum sheets come on rolls, which created most of the confusion between the two flooring types when both were on the residential market. Up to this day, width is the only important parameter when we're looking at seams. While both types of floors generally come in the same sizes, Beauflor vinyl sheets - as said above - have widths of up to 5 meters.
This makes Beauflor vinyl rolls the best option for seamless resilient flooring
One category where vinyl hasn’t yet overtaken linoleum, is comfort. Lino flooring is slightly softer than vinyl flooring, which also makes them a bit more quiet.
However, both floors are in the top category when it comes to sound and impact. They are also both slip resistant, so they're good for rooms with a higher humidity (although lino suffers from too much humidity).
As you can see, vinyl and linoleum, while in the same category of flooring, are very different in nature and features. While residential floor buyers will almost certainly go for cushioned vinyl flooring, in some professional segments, linoleum is still used.