What exactly is the difference between vinyl, resilient flooring and linoleum?

There are HUGE differences:

Vinyl flooring is a synthetic product made of chlorinated petrochemicals and linoleum is made from raw and natural ingredients!

All vinyl floors are resilient but not all resilient floors are vinyl. However, the most common type of resilient flooring is vinyl. There are two types of vinyl flooring: sheet vinyl and vinyl composition tiles (VCT).

(According to the RFCI – Resilient Floor Covering Institute)

Resilient flooring refers to flooring materials which have a relatively firm surface, yet characteristically have “give” and “bounce back” to their original surface profile from the weight of objects that compress its surface. It has long been the most popular hard surface flooring in the United States.

Resilient flooring materials are made in various shapes and sizes including both tile and roll form. Common types of resilient flooring include:

Vinyl Composition Tile

Vinyl Tile and Sheet Flooring

Linoleum Tile and Sheet Flooring

Rubber Tile and Sheet Flooring

Cork Tile and Sheet Flooring

Because of its durability, comfort under foot, aesthetic appeal, long lasting beauty, and cost effectiveness, resilient flooring is used in a wide range of commercial and residential applications. The ease of cleaning and removing spills as well as the overall moisture resistance are important reasons why so many homeowners and commercial building owners select resilient flooring.

In residences, resilient flooring is commonly used in kitchens, bathrooms, entryways, family rooms and increasingly in other areas of a house or apartment where rugs are used in conjunction with resilient flooring. In residences occupied by hypersensitive persons, resilient flooring is commonly used because these floors can be easily cleaned and do not tend to trap dust, which when combined with moisture, can produce microbial contamination.

Commercial resilient flooring has long been the most popular flooring used in schools, health care facilities, and mercantile settings. In schools, resilient flooring offers a cost-effective floor, which is easily and economically maintained and can last for many years before needing replacement. In health care facilities, resilient flooring is commonly used because it is impervious to water, resists stains, and can easily be disinfected, thus providing significant sanitary advantages over other types of flooring surfaces. Because of its durability and the availability of a wide range of colors and designs, resilient flooring has long been a favorite of stores and shops in creating design statements.

Because of its performance attributes and wide variety of colors and designs, resilient floors are frequently used in laboratories, cleanrooms, computer rooms, lavatories, super markets, drug stores, lobbies, storage areas, spas, dormitories, libraries and restaurants.

Linoleum’s roots are latin; In Latin, linum is the word for linseed and oleum means oil. (Linseed oil is the main ingredient) It is an extremely durable floor covering. It comes in different grades of quality. The best, most durable type is called “inlaid”. It is made by joining and inlaying solid pieces of linoleum. Less expensive grades are made by printing on thinner layers that do not wear as well as the solid product. It is often used in high traffic areas where other products like tile would crack and not be as forgiving.

Linoleum is also used in commercial applications such as healthcare facilities, schools and hospitals because of its durability and non-allergenic properties. Because of the flexibility of the product, unique patterns and designs can be created.

A unique difference between linoleum and vinyl is that the color is throughout the product rather than topical.

Differences between Vinyl and Linoleum:

Vinyl will melt if a lighted match or cigarette lands on it, linoleum can’t.

Most vinyl patterns are printed into the surface, linoleum’s colors go all the way through.

Linoleum can be used on countertops and backsplashes where vinyl cannot.

Durability – linoleum can last 30-40 years where most vinyl cannot.

Vinyl was introduced in the 1800’s and vinyl flooring came around in 1947.

Linoleum requires an acrylic coating upon installation and then again annually where vinyl flooring does not.

Linoleum has more durable properties similar to those of ceramic and hardwood, but not the cost of those products. The cost is more similar to vinyl flooring which is not as durable.

The manufacturing of vinyl flooring uses highly sophisticated techniques, complex methods and precise systems, linoleum uses a more simple natural process.

A word of caution: Now that you know the difference between vinyl and linoleum, be sure to be specific if you find yourself in a flooring store shopping for either product!

For more posts on linoleum, click here.

Posted Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 at 1:03 pm
Filed Under Category: Eco-Friendly / Green / Green Flooring, Linoleum Flooring
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Responses to “Linoleum – What's the difference between vinyl and linoleum?”

Debbie Witham

Where can I find funky vinyl flooring patterns like the one on this web? All of the regular commercial places like Home Depot etc, just have the boring old faux tile type ones that look cheap & cheesy.


we were watching divine design and candice put in what she called sheet flooring. It looked like wood but it ws charcoal and a light grey and they locked together????? would love to know how i find this


Tarkett has some fun vinyl patterns, like bubbles and retro stuff. They have great stuff available in Europe; less in the USA.

The charcoal interlocking strips are probably Trafficmaster Allure which is sold only at Home Depot.


Funny article:
It states that linoleum is made from natural linseed oil. In truth, Linseed oils can be toxic, and in fact linoleum is no longer produced in the United States because of its toxicity concerns. It is all imported from overseas. Vinyl is still made in America by some manufacturers.
Also, linoleum is not even close to viyl in its resistance to wear. Nearly all heavy commercial applications choose vinyl over linoleum, because linoleum wears out much faster than vinyl.
Vinyl is also impervious to stain and germs, which is why it the choice for hospitals. Linoleum stains easily and can actually grow bacteria, a big no no in hospitals.
Most water in carried in vinyl pipes, nearly all IV bags and tubes in hospitals are made from vinyl.
Vinyl is far from being perfect, but it has become a much better choice for many applications than linoleum.

Willy B.

Thanks Robert for the info you either know your stuff or you’re a”great used car salesman” but either way you’ve answered my questions.Thanks


As a flooring professional with 35+ years of experience I am always amazed at the information provided by the “experts”, either through a slanted view or by omission of the facts. In my opinion Robert is not the “great used car salesman” and provides some facts that were omitted in the original article. I’m not sure if Linseed oil can be toxic, so do your own research. Linoleum is touted as a “Natural product” and therefore is better for the environment. Well, there are no manufacturing facilities in the US. It would not be cost effective to build a plan in the US due to EPA requirements. Huh? Most of the Flax seed oil is shipped from Canada to Europe for manufacturing, and the jute used is shipped to Europe from Malaysia. Huh? There is more energy used in the production of linoleum then vinyls and once manufactured it is shipped to the US. Huh, huh? So I ask you, with all the energy consumed in manufacturing and shipping how good for the environment is it? Most sheet vinyls used in hospitals are not printed patterns, the pattern is through the entire thickness of the product where the linoleum pattern goes down to the jute. On all products if you are wearing down through the pattern you have a poor maintenance program. In most cases polishes are recommended to extend the life of the floor and to protect the products from wear and stains. While linoleum is used extensively in healthcare, due to the “Green” movement, there is a reason why you won’t find it in operating rooms or other heavy use areas. It won’t perform. There is also an unwarranted anti-vinyl movement who use scare tactics to justify products other then vinyl, including linoleum. These tactics result in emotional decisions rather than factual. Robert is right, vinyl is used in IV bags, tubes, and I will add incubators, baby care seats and guess what that “new car smell” is. As Robert states, “it may not be perfect” but there are reasons why vinyl is used….it’s a better choice.

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