If you have been considering replacing a kitchen or bathroom floor, you may have looked into vinyl or linoleum floors and may well have been met with a jumble of contradicting and confusing data on the details of these flooring options.
Vinyl and linoleum are two very different flooring products. Unfortunately, the terms are often used synonymously which can be very misleading. Vinyl is PVC, made from petrochemicals. It is layered with a cushioned backing of felt or fibreglass, a colored or patterned middle, and a clear protective top layer. Linoleum is a mix of linseed oil, wood or cork flour, tree resins, ground limestone, and organic pigments pressed onto a jute backing.
Due to the method of fabrication, vinyl has a layer of color and pattern sandwiched into the middle of the product. Linoleum, in contrast, has a solid color or pattern the whole way through. While vinyl is often available in a multitude of different patterns built into it, linoleum is generally available in mottled solid colors or marbled colors. To get a linoleum pattern, you can use a selection of different colored tiles to create a pattern or use a contrast colored inlay.
The cost of both of these products can range wildly depending on what sort of quality you're looking at installing. As with most things, the better quality you choose, the longer the product will last and the more it will cost. High-end vinyl can last upwards of 30 years if treated well. However, it is not recommended for the hard use of a commercial kitchen as sharp instruments of excessive heat can cause damage. Quality linoleum can last upwards of 40 years if treated well and is often used in commercial kitchens as well as hospitals. It is not damaged by dropping knives on it or the normal heat you would find in a kitchen.
These days, one of the most important aspects for many people who are choosing materials for their new or renovated home is that of environmental friendliness. This is one area where vinyl and linoleum are extremely different. Vinyl, being a PVC product, is made from non-renewable petrochemicals, and while it does last a long time due to its inert properties, it is also not easy to get rid of for the same reasons. Vinyl is purported to be inert and as such does not take special considerations when you put it into a landfill, however, when you put an inert material into a landfill it stays there forever. Linoleum, on the other hand, is made from quickly renewable resources and does break down in a landfill.
Another deciding factor for many people when choosing a flooring type is that of health concerns. You may have read recently about VOCs or volatile organic compounds; these are gasses given off by a variety of things both inside and outside your home. VOCs can be natural, for example those given off by trees, or synthetic like those given off by plastics. VOCs can make you sick or exacerbate allergies and asthma. Vinyl gives off VOCs while linoleum does not. Linoleum often smells when it is freshly installed and some people may find that the smell of freshly installed linoleum is rather disagreeable, but with some good ventilation it will subside. Otherwise, linoleum is classified as asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America.
In conclusion, it is very hard to get a straight up bunch of facts about the pros and cons of vinyl and linoleum online. Any website funded by a vinyl company is blatantly pro-vinyl and likewise for the linoleum companies. However, I think that if you're looking at the issue from the angle of renewability of materials and health of the consumer, linoleum wins this battle hands down.
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