Rubber flooring is quickly gaining in popularity as a residential surface covering in 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 to fall on.
Maintenance and Durability Of Rubber Floors
Rubber is an extremely durable and resilient material that is difficult to damage.
Resistant to stains and nearly impervious to water, the process of maintaining it over time is simply a matter of 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
- Anything 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 proof against leaking liquids, then you can seal your floor after installation. This will coat the material in an invisible chemical layer which will act as a barrier against water and stains.
Fire Considerations: Rubber is resistant to burning and catching fire, but a hot enough flame 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 since they contain chemicals in their material mix those will be released into the air if it is burned.
Rubber Flooring Options
Rubber Floor Tiles: You will most commonly find rubber flooring sold in tiles cut to standard 12”X12” 18”X18” and 36”X36” sizes. These can then be cut down into specific sizes or shapes as needed for the space, or your design. The advantage of tile is that it is extremely easy to install either with adhesive or click together materials. Tiles can also be pulled out and replaced without much hassle if a single piece gets damaged.
Rubber Floor Sheeting: These consist of long strips of rubber material which are rolled out over a floor to completely cover the surface. Generally sold in sizes of 4 feet by 20 - 30 feet in length, they 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 that is without any vulnerable seams.
Natural Rubber: These materials are manufactured using a type of latex which is extracted from the sap of rubber trees.
The tiles and sheets that are 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 with proper ventilation this should fade.
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 rather one of a series of vinyl, or polyvinyl PVC materials that are manufactured to have the same soft yielding feel that rubber naturally has. 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.
Texture: 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 commercial and high traffic situations. It also gives you the ability to add a dimensional touch to your flooring application.
Color and Design: This has traditionally been a drawback with rubber, as manufacturers only made it in a few unattractive colors. However, as it becomes more popular in residential areas you are seeing suppliers moving to meet new demands, putting out a variety of rubber materials that have gorgeous patterns, multi colors, and speckled hues racing through their faces. There are also faux stone and tile rubber materials available from some vendors.
More About Flooring
Soft: 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 from accidental falls.
Odor: With brand new installations of natural rubber flooring you may end up with a moderate odor emitting from the material for a time. While this is harmless, it can be irritating to some people and should be taken into consideration.
Price: On average, you will be able to find rubber flooring selling from $3 - $8 per square foot. The thicker, plusher, and well made materials will tend to be more expensive, but will also last longer. On the other hand, you can find bargain basement rubber tiles at just $1 or $2 per square foot but you have to be careful because you often get what you pay for.