Rubber flooring is quickly gaining in popularity as a residential surface covering a variety of interior and exterior locations. That is because it combines the durability, strength, and ease of maintenance found in hard tile materials, with a soft, yielding feel that is comfortable to stand on and safe for anyone who is prone to falling—such as children or elderly family members.
Maintenance and Durability
Rubber is an extremely durable and resilient material that is difficult to damage. Resistant to stains and nearly impervious to water, maintaining it is a matter of simply keeping the surface clean of dirt and debris by sweeping, vacuuming, or wet mopping with clean water.
Important note: While rubber is rugged, durable, and able to shrug off most staining agents, the following substances can cause permanent damage to the floor’s surface:
- Grease spills and splatters
- Any type of Oil
- Acidic substances
- Acetone-based cleansers
- Products containing turpentine
When cleaning your rubber floors avoid any harsh chemical cleaners or detergents, and anything that is acid-based. A mild soap solution diluted in water is fine.
Sealing: Most rubber flooring is nearly impervious to water penetration. If you wish to reinforce this and make it completely immune to liquids, then you can seal your floor after installation. This will coat the material in an invisible chemical layer that will act as a barrier against water and stains.
Rubber Flooring Options
Rubber tiles: You will most commonly find rubber flooring sold in tiles cut to standard 12 x 12-inch, 18 x 18-inch, and 36 x 36-inch sizes. These can then be cut down into specific sizes or shapes as needed to fit the space or as dictated by your design. The advantage of tile is that it is extremely easy to install, either with adhesive or snap-together materials. Tiles can also be pulled out and replaced without much hassle if a single piece gets damaged.
Rubber sheeting: These consist of long strips of rubber material that are rolled out over a floor to completely cover the surface. Generally sold in rolls four feet wide and 20 to 30 feet in length, sheet rubber can be custom cut so that the material perfectly matches the shape of the room. Installation of sheet rubber is more difficult than tile, but the advantage is that you get an installation without any vulnerable seams.
Natural rubber: These materials are manufactured using a type of latex extracted from the sap of rubber trees. The tiles and sheets produced in this way are durable, water-resistant, and easy to clean and maintain. The drawback is that natural virgin rubber flooring will have a relatively noticeable odor, which can irritate some people. Over time, this should fade with proper ventilation.
Recycled rubber: This type of flooring is most commonly made from recycled automobile tires, which are melted down and then bonded into usable shapes. This process creates a very strong rubber that is often more durable than the original materials. In some cases, the finished product may be slightly porous, but that can be solved by applying a quality sealing agent.
Synthetic rubber: This is not real rubber at all, but is one of a number of different products made of vinyl or polyvinyl PVC materials that are manufactured to have the same soft, yielding feel of rubber. The advantage is that the floor feels just like the real thing but is much more durable and resistant to all stains. The drawback is that it is a synthetic material made through chemical processes, which can cause some VOC off-gassing.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Different textures available: When rubber flooring is being manufactured, it can be set and molded so that it takes on a variety of textures, including dimples, rivets, studs, and waffles. This can be great for improving the traction of the floor, especially in high traffic situations. It also gives you the ability to add a dimensional touch to your flooring.
Soft surface: Rubber is an extremely safe floor covering material that is used in many active environments such as gyms and playgrounds. That means that it is great for homes where small children or elderly relatives are living, as it can be a kind of cushion beneath them protecting them during accidental falls.
Growing selection of colors and designs: This has traditionally been a drawback with rubber, as manufacturers offered it in only a few unattractive colors. However, as rubber flooring becomes more popular in residential areas, suppliers are moving to meet new demands by offering a variety of rubber materials that have gorgeous patterns, multi colors, and speckled hues. There are also faux stone and ceramic-look materials available from some vendors.
May have an odor: With brand-new installations of natural rubber flooring, you notice a moderate odor for a time. While this is harmless, it can be annoying to some people and should be taken into consideration. It usually fades with time.
Price: On average, you will be able to find rubber flooring selling from $3 to $8 per square foot, making rubber slightly more expensive than some other resilient flooring options. The thicker, plusher, and more well-made materials will tend to be more expensive, but they will also last longer. Bargain-basement rubber tiles may be available for just $1 to $2 per square foot, but quality concerns are an issue here.
Fire considerations: Rubber is fairly resistant to burning and catching fire, but a flame that is hot enough will ignite it. If adhesives were used during installation, this can cause the release of noxious chemicals. Synthetic rubber products will be more susceptible to fire, and the chemicals used in their manufacture will be released into the air when they burn.