Important Differences Between Laminate, Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring

When choosing new flooring for your home, hardwood may not be the best option. Not only is timber flooring very expensive, but any type of wood will eventually absorb moisture and then dry out, which can cause it to warp or bow. Hardwood is an especially poor choice for kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms and laundry rooms for this reason.

While laminate, vinyl or linoleum flooring may be more affordable choices, there are some important differences between these options. Note a few of those differences here, so you wind up with interior flooring that is durable and attractive and that you'll love for as long as you stay in that home.


Laminate flooring has a sublevel or backing, and then an inner layer that supports the weight of foot traffic. The next layer is what's called a design layer. This layer is one major difference between laminate and other flooring types; that design layer is actually a type of very large, very detailed photograph. This can give you the look of any wood species or stone you want, but without using that actual wood or stone material. There is then a wear or protective layer added over that, so the photograph or design layer doesn't get damaged or scratched.


Vinyl is very similar to laminate in that it is made of several layers; there is a backing layer that absorbs weight and then a print layer that also creates the look of wood or stone. There is then a protective layer over that print layer and a layer of polyurethane to give the tile shine.

One difference between laminate and vinyl, however, is that the polyurethane layer needs to be stripped and reapplied on occasion. If this layer begins to wear away and isn't removed and reapplied, it can trap and hold debris, making the tiles look dirty no matter how often you clean them.


Linoleum is a type of natural tile, made from a combination of linseed oil, recycled wood dust, cork dust and resins. Linoleum is a very eco-friendly option since it uses natural materials that are readily available, but linoleum tile may not look and feel as natural as you expect. Linoleum flooring often has a rubbery feeling underfoot, which can make it comfortable for areas like the kitchen, but you may not like this look and feel in other areas of the home. Linoleum may also need consistent professional cleaning, to remove and replace the upper protective layer.