The Yin and Yang of Hard Flooring for Schools

For many years carpeting has been the flooring of choice for most school classrooms but with the most recent events schools are being encouraged to rethink that choice and maybe go for a surface that is more easily sanitized.


After all we have been through in the last year a clean floor in any institution is a must. However, this does not mean that our classrooms have to look like a hospital ward… far from it! There are lots of options out there that will provide flooring that ticks all the boxes as for classroom needs and with a little creativity you can design a classroom floor with a strong wow factor!


In general, classroom flooring needs to be:

  • Easy on the feet especially if teacher has to stand most of the day
  • Able to absorb sound especially those made by many little feet and little voices
  • Easy to wipe up when the inevitable spills happen
  • Resists scratching by constantly moving chairs and tables
  • Slip and trip resistant
  • Create a mood that is conducive to learning
  • Fully cleanable and easily maintained
  • Resist denting from heavy weights and machinery
  • Hardwearing and cost effective


As mentioned before both vinyl and linoleum come in tile and sheet form. Tiles are great because they can be swapped out with new ones if they should one get damaged and they are easy to fit. Both LVT and Linoleum tiles are easily cleanable but if super, super clean is a requirement for then joins between each tile, however well fitted, will inevitably become a trap for dirt. Baring this in mind then only sheet vinyl and sheet linoleum should be considered as suitable products for an ultra clean classroom.

So what’s the difference? Well, let’s have a quick look at how they are made and that might give you a clue as to which material might be right for your situation.


Vinyl basically has four layers:

  • the top wear layer (often urethane) protects the floor against scratches and stains
  • next to the image layer which can look like hardwood or stone, a pattern or solid color
  • the core which gives the flooring resilience to dents, adds rigidity and water resistance
  • an optional underlayment adds cushioning to the floor and makes it quieter underfoot


Many vinyls come with a textured surface that further mimics the natural materials they represent such as wood and stone but again the irregularities in the surface will become dirt traps and are not a good choice for a super clean floor. Linoleum doesn’t have the same style versatility in terms of mimicking other flooring types.


Linoleum is made quite differently as it is is basically a mixture of linseed oil from flax seed, cork powder, wood flours and tree resin lain on jute and finished with a protective water based finish. Linoleum can also come with an acoustic backing, but it does not have separated image layer, instead the image is embedded throughout the flooring which creates a less realistic look. Because this product is dyed, it is available in a vast array of colours, from subtle to bold. So basically if solid colours are what you are looking for then choose linoleum on the other hand if patterns are your thing then maybe vinyl is the one for you.


You may have not already noticed, the most striking difference between these two flooring types that is vinyl is made almost exclusively from manmade products and linoleum is very almost all natural. For some of you your search might stop right here… as linoleum very much has the upper hand over vinyl when it comes to environmental and health considerations.


Both these products are hard wearing and will remain beautiful for years with care but because linoleum is made from natural materials it is much more susceptible to damage from water and cleaning products, so any seams must be sealed after installation and then re-sealed periodically. It is not really recommended for a situation where there is a lot of moisture present. Most vinyl flooring is waterproof and does not need to be sealed and it can also be used in a wet environment. Vinyl’s hardcore also makes it more resistant to dents and dings.


Regular cleaning to get rid of dust and dirt is easy with either flooring type. A simple sweep, dust mop or vacuum is no problem. Spills and stains can be wiped up easily too. But for wet cleaning, be sure to use the specific products recommended by the manufacturer for both products. Certain cleaning products can be damaging, especially to linoleum, which by nature is a little more sensitive.


The upshot is if you want super clean classroom floors both of these products will work. Vinyl is a little tougher and a little more durable than linoleum with greater choice to patterns whereas Linoleum is a wonderful health and eco-choice and comes in a vast range of colours.


Still confused? Come speak to our Commercial Flooring Specialists and we will get the right product for you!

7th July 2021

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