Material Comparison

Comparing Linoleum and Ceramic Tile

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Tile vs. Linoleum

Linoleum is often perceived to be a cheap way to be environmentally responsible with building materials, due to its make up of natural materials and low price tag. For those two benefits, however, there are significant detractors that make it an inferior material when compared with ceramic tile.

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Appearance

Linoleum is unique in how its color is achieved, and long term wear actually reveals new color depending on how the layers are applied. To create the material, thick layers of linoleum are laid down, each bearing their own color. As the surface wears away, new color granules are revealed underneath, creating a unique texture.

With that said, ceramic tile can come already scored and dyed to present the same aesthetic.

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Financial Differences

Installing Linoleum

At initial cost, linoleum is one of the cheaper options available for flooring. However, it requires annual resealing to prevent water damage. Here’s how the numbers add up:

  • $1-6 per square foot for material, averaging $3.5 per square foot.
  • $5-7 per square foot for installation, averaging $6 per square foot.

Total average of $9.5 per square foot for a linoleum flooring installation. Using a 100 square foot room as an easily scalable example, that comes to $950 for the initial installation.

Installing Ceramic Tile

Comparatively, the initial cost for ceramic tile installation – assuming it’s the same visual quality and character – is a bit more costly:

  • $5-15 per square foot for materials, averaging $10 per square foot.
  • $6-8 per square foot for installation, averaging $7 per square foot.

That comes to $17 per square foot, making tile installation for a 100-square foot room cost, on average, an investment of $1,700. Although the cost of tile is several hundreds more at initial installation, ceramic tile requires far less maintenance and offers a much longer lifetime than linoleum, making it more cost effective in the long run.

Maintenance Costs

The maintenance costs of linoleum quickly gut the initial savings once you add on the annual strip and wax sealing needed to keep linoleum in top condition.

The sealing process averages around $170 per 100 square foot.

At (Lifetime) Ceramic Tile Linoleum
Initial Cost $1,700 $950
10 years $1,700 $2,650
20 years $1,700 $4,350
40 years $1,700 $7,750

If you are only looking for a lifespan of 5 years or so, linoleum may be a better option (particularly with rarely-used areas such as the flooring in an RV or the shower in a guest house). That said, it doesn’t take long for the installation savings to be lost to the expense of maintenance in comparison to ceramic tile, which only requires regular cleaning.

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Environmental Sustainability

Linoleum

Often made from a combination of vegetable linseed and natural resin spread over jute fabric or hessian, linoleum is similar to hardwood in that it is entirely biodegradable. It’s natural and renewable sourcing coupled being made entirely from natural materials gives it a respectably low environmental impact.

Ceramic Tile

Tile is uniquely sustainable for its durability and longevity, meaning that if it is well maintained it can be hundreds of years before new materials need to be sourced for repairs or replacements. There are functional tile floors in England that are over 200 years old, still glistening today as brightly as when they were first installed in the 1800’s. Add in that the original sourcing of tile is already often IgCC and LEED v4 certified and there is essentially no competition with linoleum.

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Livability

Linoleum

Cleaning linoleum floors involves a simple soap and water cleaning solution and a mop. This, however, must be completed quickly enough to get around to drying the surface off. Standing water can easily damage linoleum flooring (an important thing to note for high moisture areas such as the bathroom).

Ceramic Tile

Scratch resistant ceramic tile, on the other hand, needs only a weekly vacuuming and spot-cleaning treatment, coupled with the occasional mopping. The only significant difficulty found in cleaning tile is brightening up the grout between the tiles, which is more porous than the tile itself and because of that absorbs more dirt.

Extra Resources

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