Rubber flooring has been a popular choice for restaurants and commercial kitchens for years, due to its resistance to stains, water, and physical damage, and its low maintenance needs. Despite these benefits, rubber flooring has remained less popular for use in residential kitchens. Homeowners sometimes have concerns about the limited color and design options and even the smell of new rubber flooring, but the outstanding performance of rubber flooring in the kitchen makes it an option worth considering.
Advantages of Rubber Flooring for Kitchens
There are plenty of performance advantages to rubber flooring that make it a good choice for residential kitchens.
Easy DIY Installation
It is fairly easy to install most rubber kitchen flooring, and most DIYers are able to handle it. For example, if you are installing sheet rubber, installation involves simply rolling out the flooring and cutting it to size. Rubber tiles are even easier to install; you simply place them down in the pattern of your choice directly over the subfloor.
Rubber flooring can be loose-laid onto a subfloor or over old hard-surface flooring, or it can adhere to the surface below with tape or special glues. If the subfloor is wood or another material that is susceptible to water damage, it's important to protect it from moisture that might penetrate the seams between tiles or sheets. This may require laying a moisture barrier or sealing the subfloor or existing flooring material.
Rubber flooring is highly resilient and quite difficult to damage. If the point of a knife lands directly onto its surface, the material may puncture, but rubber is largely self-healing; after the object is removed, the damage is usually invisible. Also, pet toenails, high heels, dropped dishes, and other common kitchen traumas are not a problem for this durable material.
Sometimes spills and splashes cause puddles on the kitchen floor. Rubber flooring typically has some texture, making it a naturally slip-resistant surface even when wet. This quality can be increased if you choose a rubber material that has been manufactured with dimensional texture on its surface.
Virgin rubber flooring is partly made from the sap of the para rubber tree in a process that can allow harvesting for several years without damaging the plant. However, the majority of rubber flooring manufactured today is made with recycled automobile tires. This is a resource-efficient material that is often stronger and more resistant to stains than virgin rubber flooring.
The suitability of any flooring material for kitchens depends largely on how well it handles water. With rubber, water is not a problem. As long as you have quality, well-manufactured tiles or sheets, they will be completely impervious to penetration from any moisture. But you do need to consider the seams between tiles, as those can act as conduits for small drops of moisture or water vapor to seep down and potentially damage the subfloor. Sheet rubber flooring may be the better option for kitchens since there are fewer seams.
Regular maintenance of rubber flooring is generally a matter of simply sweeping or vacuuming to remove dirt, grit, and debris. You can wet-mop the floor for a more thorough cleaning, but you should avoid acidic or harsh chemical detergents. Otherwise, spills and splashes can just be wiped up with a clean, warm wet cloth.
Some forms of rubber flooring are manufactured in such a way that the colors run true through the entire body of the material. That means that as it wears down over time, those colors won’t fade. This quality is most commonly found with virgin rubber flooring.
Because it is so soft, a rubber floor cushions anything you drop, whether it's plates, bowls, or cooking utensils. This makes it much less likely that accidents will turn into shattered shards.
Drawbacks of Rubber Kitchen Flooring
While drawbacks of rubber flooring for kitchens are few, there are some qualities that may disappoint you.
Some new rubber flooring has a distinct "car-tire" odor that emits naturally from the material. While this is not generally harmful, it can be unpleasant for a short period of time after the flooring is installed. But the smell fades over time, and you can speed up the process by keeping the area well-ventilated for two or three weeks.
Susceptibility to Some Stains
While rubber resists stains from most agents, there are a few things that can discolor its surface, including acidic liquids, abrasive cleaning agents, and any type of grease or oil. Some types of rubber flooring are specially treated to resist these types of stains, but it's best to wipe up spills immediately to prevent staining.
You will find rubber flooring in dozens of solid colors as well as a variety of two-tone speckled patterns that combine different hues to create a unique contrasting effect. But manufacturers have not yet perfected the art of masking that distinctive rubber surface appearance, which some people find unattractive. While laminate flooring, ceramic and porcelain tile, and luxury vinyl come in many different styles and finishes, rubber flooring is pretty much always identifiable as rubber. For some people, a rubber floor feels institutional and industrial. This is a limitation that has stunted the popularity of this material for use in homes.
Rubber flooring has many performance advantages for kitchens, but some people are unimpressed with the look. But for the right modern design, rubber flooring can be one of the very best choices for high-use kitchens.