A gym membership can be expensive, and the process of getting to and from the facility can be almost as much hassle as the working out itself. Many people opt to create a workout space right in their own homes; while that is a great way to personalize and privatize a fitness routine, it’s important to be considerate of the type of flooring that is in the space being used, as it can have an effect on, and be affected heavily by, the type of exercises that are performed.
Gym Flooring Considerations
Strength: The type and nature of the workout being undertaken should be taken into consideration when choosing a flooring material for a home gym. Heavyweights crack, chip, or break hard surface materials, and may even cause damage to weak subflooring. Large exercise equipment, such as bikes and training systems, can also cause stress to your home’s flooring.
Upper Floors: If the home gym is located in a second story or higher space, then particular care has to be taken with the floors. Vigorous activity can be noisy, especially to people and families living below. There also may be concerns about the structural integrity of the barrier between floors. The use of thicker padded mats can reduce impact problems to some extent.
Texture: Many workouts force people to interact directly with their flooring in a variety of ways. The tactile touch of those surfaces will have a profound effect on how those actions feel.
Hard surfaces may be better for stretching and yoga but can be painful for cardio routines. In general, floors that are firm but still yielding will be best for home gym situations.
Subfloor: If there is a hard surface floor installed in a room, then padding of various thicknesses can easily be laid over that for temporary or even permanent home gym flooring.
If a carpet is installed in the room, then it will have to be removed before padding can be applied, as it will cause upper layers to shift and slide dangerously.
Sweat Problems: The harder you work out, the harder you’re going to sweat. In small amounts, this isn’t a problem, but over time the accumulation of moisture can lead to flooring discoloration in spots and even the growth of mold or mildew.
Home Gym Flooring Options
Rubber Floor Mats: Often directly billed as gym mats, these consist of sheets of rubber, varying in size and thickness based on pricing. A quality ½” covering should be enough for weight lifting activities, while a thicker ¾” should be employed for more heavy duty workouts. These are often sold in interlocking puzzle piece sets, but lower quality materials will simply spread apart over time. The best interlocking tiles will clasp top-over-bottom to create a dimensional bond.
In some cases, recycled rubber mats and floor surface coverings can have an odor that, while physically harmless, can be irritating to some people over time, especially in enclosed spaces. Virgin rubber materials are more expensive but do not have these issues. With recycled rubber, it’s important to wash the pads thoroughly and then allow them to ventilate outside of the space.
Stall Mats: These are massive, industrial strength flooring mats that are generally used in horse stalls. Thick, durable, and reliable, they come in 4’ x 6’ sheets that are ¾” thick and weigh over 100 pounds each. These are great for eliminating impact damage from extreme workouts or heavy equipment, while also insulating your home gym against the noise of your routine.
The drawback to the use of stall mats is that they can have a rubber odor if made from recycled materials, and the edges between mats can sometimes be a tripping hazard due to uneven edges. They’re also very heavy and difficult to maneuver if being used for temporary gym flooring.
Hardwood Gym Floors: A solid yet supple choice, hardwood flooring can be a great solid surface option for creating a home gym. Maple is the ideal lumber to use but can be expensive, and there are a number of other options that will work almost as well.
The problem with these materials is that they can be quite loud, especially if creaks and squeaks develop over time. Dropped weights and other heavy exercise equipment can also cause dents and permanent damage.
Foam: Softer than rubber, this padded material provides a cushioned surface that is more pliant than the average gym flooring. That can be good for impact workouts, but a problem for stretches that require more firm surfaces. Cheaper foam materials can crumble apart over time. Generally ½” - ¾” thickness is best for gym use.
Carpet: Soft, safe, and comfortable, carpet seems like the ideal solution for home gym flooring. Unfortunately, this padded surface can become stained by sweat over time, and continual exposure to moisture may lead to the growth of mold or mildew in its underpadding. Some carpet adhesives are also bad for the indoor air quality of a space by off-gassing volatile organic chemicals.
Cork: Soft and cushiony, cork is one of the more stylish home gym flooring options. When sealed properly, it is protected against sweat, and the plush yet firm feel of its pad is a great surface upon which to conduct a rigorous workout. The problem is that cork is very soft and can break, rip, and gouge over time from foot treads and weight impacts.
Vinyl: This is a thin sheet resilient option which can be combined with underlayment padding to create a perfect, pliant surface for physical activity at home. Waterproof, stain-resistant, and durable against rips, vinyl’s effective lifespan in a home gym is about 8-10 years with moderate maintenance necessary.