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What’s the Difference Between Laminate and Linoleum Flooring?

Dear Bob and Betsy,
Can you tell me, what is the difference between laminate and linoleum flooring? I always thought they were the same!
– Sam L.

Dear Sam,

As a homeowner, you have a lot of choices in flooring – so many in fact that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all. Both laminate and linoleum are popular types of flooring by homeowners wanting to make an affordable, yet good looking update to the home. Knowing the differences between laminate and linoleum can help you make the best decision for your project.

The Difference Between Laminate and Linoleum Flooring

The biggest difference is the material used in each type of flooring. Laminate uses a composite base that is topped with printed paper layer with images of hardwood flooring or tile. Linoleum is made from natural products, including linseed oil and sawdust. It looks very similar to vinyl flooring.

Although both flooring types are made differently, the big differences are in how they are each used. Here are the main features that set them apart.

  • Looks. Both types of flooring have various patterns, many of which look like hardwood flooring. Laminate, however, is better at more closely resembling hardwood floors with both the look and feel. For this reason, laminate flooring is the more popular choice when it comes to something that looks attractive. This type of flooring will increase the value of your home better than linoleum.
  • Installation. The biggest difference between laminate and linoleum in terms of the installation is the material the floors sit on top of. Linoleum floors are usually “stuck” using an adhesive to the subfloor. Laminate floats on top of the subfloor over a layer of underlayment. Underlayment is an effective way at minimizing risk of moisture seeping through and damaging the floor. It also allows for a quieter, smoother walking surface.
  • Room. The room where you plan to install your new floor plays a big role in the type of flooring you choose. Linoleum is often selected for bathrooms or kitchens where water spills are a bigger problem because it is almost virtually waterproof. Laminate flooring looks more attractive, so it is commonly used in living areas, such as dining rooms, living rooms, family common areas, and bedrooms.

As you make your decision between linoleum and laminate the biggest things to take into consideration are your home’s resale value and the room where you will use the flooring. Laminate tends to be the more popular choice over linoleum, but both are suitable for your home.

Learn More:

*This post was updated from 2014 to give you a better reading experience!


  1. Hi Ruth, thanks for the question. We do not recommend using a steam cleaner, as the humidity and moisture can cause damage to the laminate.

  2. Can I use steam cleaner for laminate floors?

  3. Hi Randi, you should be fine using a steam cleaner on linoleum.

  4. Randi schtoeter

    I have linoleum in my home and I was going to buy a steam cleaner to assist in cleaning it what is your recommendation will a steam cleaner be too hot and dislodge the glue that holds it down?

  5. Hi Eileen, thanks for the question. With linoleum, it is typical to use a plywood underlayment for support. If they are suggesting a cushion, that seems a bit strange. The linoleum will need a solid base to install on top of.

  6. I am looking to refloor my entire home. Been doing much research on line. This being said, I believe that linoliun is the best choice for my home.
    I live in Phoenix Arizona, so humidity is not a problem.
    Was concider ing having Home Depot do the installation for me, but… they are recommending having the underlayment used. Can you explain the main reason for the underlayment please?

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