Rubber flooring has been a popular choice for restaurants and commercial kitchens for years, due to its resistance to stains, water, and physical damage while being very low-maintenance. Despite these benefits, rubber flooring has remained less popular for use in residential kitchens. While homeowners in the past have had concerns about the limited color and design options and even the smell of new rubber flooring, the outstanding performance of rubber flooring in the kitchen makes it an option worth considering.
It is fairly easy to install most rubber kitchen flooring and is generally suitable for DIY installation. For example, if you are installing roll or sheet rubber in this space, you will simply have to roll out the rubber flooring and cut it to size. Rubber tiles are even easier to install, allowing you to place them down in the pattern of your choice directly over the subfloor.
Rubber flooring can be simply laid onto a subfloor or over old hard-surface flooring, or it can adhere to the surface below with adhesive tape or special glue. If the subfloor is wood or another material that is susceptible to water damage, you should protect it from moisture that can get through the seams between rubber flooring tiles or sheets. This may require a moisture barrier or seal the subfloor or old finished flooring below.
The kitchen is a place where cooks spend long periods of time standing on a daily basis. With hard-surface flooring, this can cause standing fatigue, which can lead to leg pain and back problems over time. However, this problem is largely alleviated with rubber kitchen flooring because the material conforms to the shape of your foot, creating a gentle, comfortable surface for you to stand and walk on.
Rubber flooring is highly resilient and is quite difficult to damage. If the point of a knife lands directly onto its surface, the material will puncture, but rubber is largely self-healing, and 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 and a naturally slip-resistant surface that helps minimize the danger of slipping. This can be increased by choosing a rubber material that has been manufactured with dimensional traction textures in 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.
One of the main criteria that determine whether a floor covering is appropriate for the kitchen is how 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. The only thing you have to pay attention to are the seams between tiles, as those can act as conduits for small drops of moisture to seep down and damage the subfloor.
Other Benefits of Rubber Kitchen Flooring
Easy maintenance: Regular maintenance of rubber flooring is a matter of 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.
Color consistency: Rubber flooring can be 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 because they look the same all the way down. This is most commonly available with virgin rubber flooring.
Shatter protection: Because it is so soft, a rubber floor will act as a cushion that will catch anything that you drop, whether it's plates, bowls, or cooking utensils. This makes it much less likely that accidents will turn into shattered shards and extra shopping trips.
Drawbacks of Rubber Kitchen Flooring
Smell: 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 period after the flooring is installed. The smell fades over time, and you can speed up the process by keeping the area well-ventilated as much as possible.
Stains: While rubber is resistant to 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.
Design: Today 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. Unfortunately, manufacturers have not yet perfected the art of masking that distinctive rubber surface appearance, which many people find unattractive. This has done a lot to stunt the popularity of this material in residential interior locations.