Rubber has a variety of inherent advantages that have made it an extremely popular flooring choice for commercial, high traffic environments. Now with a wide selection of colors, patterns, and textures available, this material is also finding its way into residential interior and exterior applications. However these advantages are also balanced by a series of drawbacks, which are important to understand before making a final flooring decision.
The History Of Rubber
Advantages Of Rubber Tile Flooring
Durability: The most often touted benefit of rubber flooring is the fact that it is strong, tough, and resilient against a variety of conditions. Depending on the type of tile used, and the environment it is installed in, a properly cared for rubber floor should be able to last twenty years, if not longer.
Low Maintenance: Rubber flooring can be very easy to take care of. Synthetic flooring is generally more stain resistant than natural rubber. Polishing the surface with a water soluble wax emulsion will also make it more resistant to damage and discoloration. Cleaning generally requires no more than the use of a mop and warm clean water.
Important Note: Avoid detergents and harsh cleaning agents when caring for a rubber floor as they can discolor the surface of the material. Only use cleaning products which are rated to be specifically used on the type of flooring you purchase.
Soft: Despite the fact that it has commercial grade durability, rubber flooring is actually quite soft to the touch. This is can be important for helping to relieve stress fatigue associated with standing or walking for long periods of time, making this a popular flooring choice in retail locations.
The soft yielding nature of rubber also makes it an appropriate floor for playrooms, bedrooms, and other living areas. This effect can be increased by purchasing tiles with fabric, cork, or foam-rubber backing.
Water Resistant: Rubber flooring is nonporous which means that you don't have to worry about damage from basic liquid spills. This makes it a popular floor for wet environments such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. However if you are installing it in an at grade or below grade environment you may need to include a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from seeping up from underneath. Some rubber floor tiles also come specially treated to deal with particularly moist environments.
Fire and Burn Resistant: This material is resistant to burns left from cigarette butts and other small heat sources. It is also non toxic, and will not release noxious fumes into the air in case of fire.
Sound Properties: Depending on the thickness of the tiles, rubber can act as a powerful sound barrier between floors in a building. It's natural elasticity can also reduce noise from walking and rolling carts by up to 18 decibels.
Color Choices: When rubber flooring first gained residential popularity in the 1970's the colors of choice were typically polished black or slate gray.
These would be contrasted by blues, reds, or yellows on occasion, but there really weren't that many options available.
Nowadays there are countless colors and patterns available when choosing rubber floor tiles. These can have a polished perfection, or a soft matte finish that will blend more naturally into a living space. They can also replicate marbling and random speck patterns found in natural stone materials, or can take on extremely bright, vibrant, neon tones to create a loud and brash flooring design.
Textures: The surface of these tiles can be manufactured with raised dimples, studs, and other complex textures that can actually become part of the piece's design. This can also help to add traction to the floor, making it more slip resistant in wet areas.
Disadvantages Of Rubber Tile Flooring
Expensive: The biggest drawback to rubber flooring is that it can be quite expensive. You may be able to find low end materials for as little as $2.00 per square foot but that is going to limit the thickness, quality, and style choices that you have. More expensive options can range as high as $12 - $15 per square foot, making this material comparable to stone or woodblock flooring.
Slippage: Smooth, untextured rubber tiles can become rather slippery when water is present. This effect is even worse if the material has been polished.
Above Grade: While rubber is resistant to water damage it is still susceptible to seepage issues, including loosening of adhesive, and curling of tiles. A water vapor barrier can be installed in at grade applications. Below grade installations should only make use of specially manufactured water resistant rubber flooring materials.
Staining: While rubber flooring is resistant to most staining agents, there are a few products that can discolor its surface. Detergent, and other abrasive cleaning liquids can be especially dangerous to rubber floors. Grease can also have a drastic negative effect if it is not wiped up immediately.
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