Rubber Flooring: Commercial Design Considerations

By Brian Bond

Rubber flooring is a remarkably durable and cushioned surface that is especially suited for high-traffic areas and settings where the well-being of occupants is paramount. Unsurprisingly, it’s most popular in education, fitness and healthcare facilities.

In schools where hundreds of children run through halls and often tromp up and down stairs, interior designers must consider resilience, safety, comfort, sound and floor longevity.

Health clubs and gyms often look to rubber flooring for its safety benefits and impact absorption. Thanks to rubber’s construction, it can withstand the shock of dropped weights and still rebound. And it can hold up under the load of heavy equipment. Rubber’s moisture resistance also helps when the floor is splashed with sweat or spilled water.

In healthcare environments, rubber flooring offers a combination of good acoustics, impact resistance versus other hard surfaces, durability and ease of maintenance.

Benefits Abound
Whether sheet or tile, rubber flooring holds up exceptionally well in high-traffic areas over long periods, making it a good investment. It’s also impervious to indentation. Whether the activity involves hundreds of people walking on it daily, hospital beds with patients rolling over it or a Zumba class stomping and twirling on the surface, rubber flooring is built for high impact.

Rubber flooring is water-resistant, too. Unlike laminate or wood flooring, which can buckle and warp when exposed to moisture, rubber flooring will hold up in the face of spills.

Rubber also has excellent acoustic benefits. Because it is softer than some of the other hard surface products like wood, it makes spaces quieter. The sound absorption of rubber is particularly beneficial in large open areas.

Additionally, the cushioned surface of rubber flooring provides comfort underfoot, making hours of standing more bearable. In the long run this leads to benefits like fewer injuries as well as increased stamina for standing. The floor holds up because it rebounds from compression.

Rubber has a superpower — it waxes itself. Some rubber flooring products have built-in wax packages, commonly called ‘self-migrating wax,’ that help release dirt and grime from the floor surface, making it easier to keep the floor clean. It’s similar to how skin produces oil. As the product ages, wax continues to migrate to the surface, so there’s no need to take that extra step of waxing the floor. This results in lower maintenance costs over the life of the product.

Because of this natural wax, chemical cleaning agents must be chosen carefully. For example, if a degreaser is used to clean, it may break down the rubber’s natural wax. Strong chemicals aren’t needed to keep the rubber clean. In some cases, the surface simply needs to be wetted for cleaning. This loosens residue and suspends soil in the water for easy removal.

One of the most impressive traits of rubber flooring is its sustainability. Rubber is harvested from rubber sap that comes from rubber trees. Tapping trees for sap does not necessarily harm them. As a result, rubber manufacturing is far less destructive to the environment than other flooring materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

Design Considerations
Rubber does have its disadvantages, though few. It’s marginally more expensive than other flooring products in the same class, but perhaps the most obvious drawback is its lack of design flexibility. Rubber tile and sheet products are often speckled or solid with minimal other patterning, making it difficult to bring a creative vision to life. As a result, designers often look to luxury vinyl tile to fill the design void, giving up many of the substantial benefits of rubber flooring. However, in the past five to seven years, manufacturers have responded to the call for more design-oriented flooring. Now, thanks to advancements in technology, rubber flooring can be made using various textures and shapes, even mimicking wood.

Another great design feature of rubber is that many transitions, wall bases, and stair systems and treads are made from the same material, so they can often be mixed and matched to create a stunning design. Most rubber accessories also come in a wide range of colours, opening up a world of possibilities for those wanting to use rubber in a space without compromising design.

Brian Bond is the product manager for rubber at Mannington Commercial. With more than 33 years of experience in the flooring industry, Brian is an industry expert for rubber flooring products.

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