Rubber is a versatile, durable, and ecologically friendly flooring option that's suitable for many rooms in the house, but its performance characteristics make it particularly well-suited to basement environments. While rubber flooring does have a few drawbacks that you should be aware of, overall it is a safe, long-lasting material that can handle the water, mold, stains, and humidity that can be present in the below-grade world of the basement.
In most basements, three types of water can damage your flooring. Groundwater can attack an installation from below, flooding water can come at it from above, and humidity in this often moist environment can affect a floor from every side. With rubber, you have a surface covering material that is completely impervious to water in any form. It's important to note that while the flooring itself is not damaged by water, moisture can penetrate most types of rubber flooring, particularly through seams in rubber tiles and sheets.
Inhospitable to Mold
The presence of so much moisture and humidity in a basement can sometimes lead to problems with mold growing beneath flooring surfaces. This can be potentially harmful to the air quality of the environment. Rubber flooring doesn't eliminate the potential for mold in a basement, but the flooring itself is not a good host for mold growth, meaning it doesn't add to the problem. By contrast, carpet and wood flooring materials can provide food and favorable living conditions for mold.
No Adhesive Needed
The majority of rubber flooring is installed without adhesive and simply relies on the weight and interlocking edges of the tiles to keep the flooring in place. This is particularly advantageous in basements, where rising moisture can lead to adhesive failure. Not needing glue also means that you don’t have to worry about fumes filling the air in the enclosed space—and the rest of the house.
Rubber flooring tiles are very simple to install, so you can install the flooring yourself and save the cost of hiring a contractor. The flooring is typically applied directly to the concrete subfloor. Individual tiles can also be easily pried up and replaced, and the entire floor can be recycled if you ever want to get rid of it.
Rubber is resistant to most staining agents and is very hard to puncture, break, or otherwise damage. In a basement, it will be proof against the many rigors that this environment can bring to bear, and the material can often be restored even after a flood event. This inherent toughness means that a quality rubber floor can last for decades, and look great doing it.
Soft and Safe
Rubber is pliable and provides some degree of cushion—much more than hard flooring materials and even many types of carpet. This makes rubber flooring a great option for basement playrooms, kids’ rooms, and exercise areas: spaces that benefit not only from rubber's cushion but also its durability and easy cleaning and maintenance.
Problems With Rubber Basement Flooring
There a few potential drawbacks to consider when choosing rubber flooring for your basement:
- Stains: While rubber is resistant to most staining agents, some substances can cause discoloration, including harsh acids, grease, oil, and certain chemicals, such as turpentine. If you are using the basement as a garage or a workshop, you'll have to be mindful of what types of spills can damage the flooring.
- Smell: Rubber flooring can have a "car tire" smell that is strongest when the flooring is installed and fades over time. The smell is physically harmless, but sensitive people may be bothered by it. Ventilation helps, so keep windows and doors open in the basement as much as possible after the flooring is installed.
- Cost: Rubber flooring can be among the more expensive surface covering materials out there. The cost can be offset to some extent with DIY installation as well as the material's durability. However, a basement generally runs the entire length of a building, so covering the entire floor area with rubber tiles can get expensive.