Should we avoid the vinyl linoleum We need to replace a little bit of linoleum in our back door

Should we avoid the vinyl linoleum We need to replace a little bit of linoleum in our back door

Should we avoid the vinyl linoleum? We need to replace a little bit of linoleum in our back door entry way and under our kitchen sink.


New York, NY

March 19, 2012

People often get confused about vinyl and linoleum flooring, and its easy to understand why. They can look very similar and, over the years, linoleum has become a generic term for both types of flooring.

  • When vinyl became popular, people were more familiar with the term linoleum so it came to be loosely though incorrectly — applied to both.
  • If you search for linoleum at Lowes or Home Depots website, it will lead you to vinyl.


Linoleum is the older material, invented as flooring in 1860. and even before vinyl came into the picture (in the post-WWII period), there was confusion over the name.

Frederick Walton, linoleums inventor, neglected to trademark it (dont you hate when you do that?), so it became the accepted name for all flooring made primarily from linseed oil and flax seeds combined with other natural materials like rosin.

(The name linoleum is a combination of two Latin words: linum, which means flax, and oleum, which means oil. Thank you Wikipedia.)


Vinyl flooring, on the other hand, is made of PVC (polyvinylchloride), which is derived from petroleum.

Aside from its problematic source, the main environmental issue is that it offgasses dioxin, a carcinogen, during its production (allegedly) and end of life, particularly if burned.

(If you want to be entertained while learning about this, I recommend the documentary Blue Vinyl. It may be the closest thing to an environmental docucomedy.)

Linoleum vs Vinyl

There are a number of practical differences between linoleum and vinyl.

  • Linoleum tends to be a bit more expensive, but lasts longer, in part because it is a solid material with the color and pattern going all the way through the tile.
  • Vinyl tiles have a printed layer on top.

Additionally, linoleum is biodegradable; vinyl is not.

Buying linoleum

If the flooring you are replacing is indeed linoleum, or if you want to switch it to linoleum, it looks like you cant get it at Home Depot or Lowes.

  • Armstong Marmorette does turn up on Menards website but its in roll rather than tile form (and called both linoleum and vinyl).
  • Linoleum tiles are pretty widely available, just not generally in the big box stores.

Marmoleum, by the way is the brand name for one line of linoleum. manufactured by Forbo. Marmorette (an intentionally, I assume, similar name) is made by Armstrong Flooring and Harmonium is made by Johnsonite Flooring.


Its unfortunate that this has come to be a problem with many contractors. If they cant get it at their usual source (um, where did they go before there were Home Depots?), then they say it is unavailable.

  • When doing a green renovation recently with a non-green contractor, I wanted him to use recycled cotton insulation.
  • But he balked at getting anything that wasnt available at Lowes.
  • After much back and forth under a deadline, I very reluctantly settled for non-formaldehyde fiberglass insulation and, as you can probably tell, am still kinda P.O.d about it.

That insulation and your linoleum or vinyl is going to be there a long time, so its worth the effort.

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