Sleek, durable and comfortable underfoot, rubber flooring is a resilient flooring option that works in a variety of commercial flooring projects.
“Rubber floors have a number of excellent qualities,” said Tanya Jones, director of sales for the Bonitz, Inc., a specialty trade commercial contractor based in Concord, North Carolina.
Jones said she often recommends rubber flooring to her clients. “The underfoot comfort, the impact absorption, the acoustical benefits, the endless style options make rubber flooring a phenomenal flooring solution,” she said.
Rubber has long been a solution for high-traffic settings that demand a durable material that can also provide dazzling design. Here are five advantages of rubber flooring:
1. Strength & Durability
When you choose rubber flooring, you give yourself a durable flooring option. In fact, it can last about 50 years, according to the Resilient Floor Covering Institute.
Rubber flooring can be installed in a range of commercial projects, but there are three sectors where you often see it: education, fitness, and healthcare. In education you will see it in preschools, primary schools, and universities. Whether it’s sheet or tile, rubber flooring holds up particularly well in high traffic areas over long periods of time, so it makes for a good investment.
Rubber has anti-slip properties making it ideal for wet areas. Fitness facilities and gyms often choose rubber flooring because it can be a cushioning agent that reduces fatigue and foot injury.
In hospitals you’ll see it in patient rooms and common spaces. It’s resistant to indention, not just from foot traffic, but from heavy items such as hospital beds and equipment with heavy rolling wheels.
While rubber floors typically have a higher initial cost, the durability and long life can make it the smartest choice for commercial projects.
Jones said if you’re working with a client who is going to be in a space for five years, rubber may not be the right investment, but for building owners who are going to maintain a floor for many years, it makes sense to commit to this durable surface material. It can also be used for special impact areas of a project, she added.
“Even though rubber is more expensive, the investment on the front end will help offset the long term,” Jones said. “You can cost average these products into a project to make them palatable from a budgetary standpoint.”
2. Design Versatility
With advancements in colors, designs and textures, rubber flooring is a stylish flooring solution. Colors, which are contained throughout the thickness of rubber flooring, vary from neutral to bright and run all the way through so that it won’t fade or wear. The surface textures can vary from smooth marbleized or chip designs to raised textures, including circular, square, flagstone, hammered or diamond-plate patterns. Rubber sheet can also be heat welded with integral cove base like other types of sheet products.
“Rubber has come a long way,” Jones said. “The exciting thing about rubber today is that the design options are endless—from color to sizes to patterns. Once upon a time, they were very neutral and there wasn’t the ability to create unique designs. With all the design choices available today, you can really make an impact—even if you have a smaller budget and you cost average it into a project.”
Thanks to the improvements in style and design, rubber is increasingly popular in office and residential settings. Rubber is also a popular option for garages and an ideal choice for hardworking areas such as kitchens, baths, entries, and exercise rooms.
To transition a project from one space to the next, rubber manufacturers offer stylish solutions for wall base, stair treads and entryways.
“The stair tread options are amazing,” Jones said. “I’m sure you’ve seen your share of raised disc stair treads, which are still popular, but manufacturers today have come up with other options that are not only functional but extremely beautiful as well.”
3. Comfort and Safety
There are several variations of rubber flooring, which include natural rubber, synthetic rubber and recycled rubber, according to the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI). Natural rubber comes from the tropical rubber tree and synthetic rubber comes from crude oil or natural gas. Most floors are made from synthetic rubber. Rubber products are available in sheet form and tiles which are typically 20-inch and 40-inch squares.
Different versions of rubber flooring exist for a number of situations including fatigue resistance in areas where people are standing or walking for long periods and heavy traffic floor stress in industrial environments.
Because rubber is softer than some of the other hard surface flooring products, it is quieter. The sound absorption of rubber is particularly useful in large open areas where there may be an empty echoic sound. “Rubber has great impact absorption, and we get a lot of feedback on this feature,” Jones said.
Another benefit of rubber flooring is the level of comfort it provides underfoot. Walking on rubber is easier on joints, and it’s naturally slip resistant. This makes it a safer option when there are a lot of foot traffic.
“If you're standing on your feet for great lengths of time, such as in healthcare, it reduces the risk of injuries for hospital staff and gives the benefit of anti-fatigue,” Jones added.
Natural rubber is a sustainable product that is harvested from rubber sap that comes out of rubber trees. Tapping trees for sap does not harm them. As a result, manufacturing natural rubber can be easier on the environment than other flooring materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
“A big factor is the eco aspect,” Jones said. “For your eco-focused clients, it means a lot to their building criteria to look at sustainable materials. It will outpace the life of a lot of other products that are in the landscape today.”
5. Low Maintenance
A unique feature of rubber flooring is its ease of maintenance. In fact, rubber is so easy to clean that no harsh chemicals or detergents are needed. Simply sweep or vacuum dust and debris and follow up by mopping any areas of residue that cling to the surface. From there, let the floor air dry and wipe any remaining liquid that may still be present.
Rubber also does not require a surface finish or wax to be maintained, and rubber waxes itself naturally over time. The migrating wax helps remove dirt and grime from the floor, making it easier to clean. This results in lower maintenance costs over the life of the product.
“If you have an end user who doesn't know how to clean it, it will definitely affect the properties over time,” Jones said. “You have to educate the client up front. After a capital project, we are often educating them which simple products to use to keep the rubber floors clean for life.”
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