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Rubber Flooring Cost & Installation Guide 2018

Our rubber flooring cost and installation guide includes detailed information in regard to all types of rubber flooring and the cost of each.

There are three types of rubber commonly used in making flooring and the type you buy for your floor will have varying amounts of these three types in their construction.

Natural rubber. This is a substance extracted as latex from the sap of rubber trees. The flooring produced from natural rubber is very durable, resistant to water, is very easy to clean and is almost maintenance free. The main problem with this type of rubber is that it has a very noticeable odor which can cause an allergic reaction in certain people. Given proper ventilation, this smell will fade and everything should be ok.

Recycled rubber. This type of rubber flooring is made from recycled rubber products, mainly old vehicle tires. These are melted down; any metal strengthening removed and made into rubber pellets. The pellets are then bonded together in molds to make more rubber products, especially flooring. The process of manufacture makes a very strong product which is often more durable than the original source material. The finished product can often be slightly porous to water but this can be fixed by adding a suitable sealing agent at an appropriate time in the manufacturing process.

Synthetic rubber. Rather than being real rubber, it is actually a type of vinyl manufactured to have the same or similar properties to rubber, especially the texture and yield. The resulting product has the same feel and flexibility as normal rubber but is much more durable to wear and is resistant to stains. The main disadvantage with synthetic rubber is that the manufacturing involves many chemical processes which can give off VOCs.

Compare rubber to PVC flooring

When looking online for rubber flooring always take care that you are actually buying rubber and not PVC or some other kind of plastic. To the casual glance, both rubber and PVC flooring can look very similar if not almost the same. Some online retailers will even specify rubber in the main headings but then in the detailed specifications, you will find that they mention plastic.

A point to consider when wondering whether to choose rubber or PVC flooring is the price.

Although rubber flooring has a higher initial outlay than PVC, you need to factor in the cost over its full lifespan to get a good idea of the true value of rubber over PVC. Rubber matting and flooring is far more hardwearing than PVC and can last for up to thirty years. In that period you will be replacing the PVC flooring at least once. You must also factor in the maintenance costs too. PVC maintenance costs are higher and will eventually overtake the original installation costs.

Durability. Rubber flooring, whether as a continuous layer or as individual mats, is used by all types of commercial and industrial companies because of its strength and durability and because they see it as a good investment. Its resilience and durability means that rubber flooring will last for a long time even under industrial conditions. Rubber’s elasticity is a property of natural rubber but is further enhanced by the addition of polyurethane as a binding agent. Rubber resists many mechanical and chemical attacks and is:

  • Oil resistant
  • Does not tear
  • Chemical resistant
  • Will not be affected by cigarette burns
  • Does not rot
  • Will not decay
  • Able to take heavy knocks
  • Is resistant to scrapes
  • It does not expand or shrink
  • It will not crack
  • Its properties mean that flooring will keep its appearance for a very long time
  • It is anti-slip
  • Not affected by normal wear and tear that would make other flooring types dangerous to use

Versatility. One of the big advantages of rubber flooring and mats is its versatility. It is used in many different applications in many different industries. A few examples of the varying industries are:

  • Catering
  • Marine
  • Sports
  • Agriculture
  • Horse training
  • Leisure
  • Manufacturing

Certain types of rubber flooring can also be used alongside underfloor heating as long as its specifications and properties make it resistant to the appropriate surface temperatures.

Insulation and comfort. Another advantage of rubber flooring over PVC is that rubber absorbs noise and insulates against heat and cold. Sound that would otherwise be a problem such as footsteps in public buildings, department stores, schools, colleges and libraries are suitably deadened by the installation of rubber flooring. In the UK rubber flooring has recently been incorporated into the UK Building Regulations for the absorption of noise and other sound in new buildings. Compare this to PVC flooring which has no sound deadening properties whatsoever. If you combine the use of rubber flooring with other types of insulation you will achieve a much higher standard of thermal and acoustic insulation.

Rubber flooring is a much more comfortable surface to stand on than PVC and a rubber mat is often found in work places such as in front of a work bench or behind a shop counter to make standing for long hours at a time more attractive.

Safety. Safe practice at home and at work is another factor that should be paramount in the minds of everyone and rubber flooring holds a number of safety properties that PVC does not.

  • It is waterproof
  • Can be given a non-slip surface so it is safe even when wet
  • Rubber is flame resistant and has low smoke emissions in a fire
  • Rubber is non-toxic and will not give off poisonous fumes into the air
  • It is anti-bacterial
  • It is hygienic when compared to PVC a
  • PVC can give off substances from the flooring and the adhesives used to install the flooring.
  • Rubber flooring is anti-static and insulates against electricity
  • Rubber flooring is easily recycled and the flooring can be made from up to 80% recycled rubber, including old tires

Pros and cons of rubber flooring

Rubber flooring has really taken off in recent years and it is now a popular flooring type for many different work areas and industries. Now that it is available in such a wide array of colors and textures it is becoming more popular in the home both as an internal and an external floor covering. Rubber flooring is not only all good things however, there are also many disadvantages with using rubber floors and mats and we will talk about those now. You really need to consider both these sides of the coin before you decide to opt for rubber flooring.

✓ Advantages

Durability. Without a doubt, one of the main advantages of rubber flooring is its ability to remain strong and resilient under many conditions. Depending on the environment and how it is cleaned, a good quality rubber tile can last for up to thirty years.

Easily maintained. Rubber flooring is very easy to maintain. Synthetic rubber is more stain resistant than natural rubber and some types can be polished with wax to improve its resistance to discoloration and wear. Always check the specifications to find out if the type of rubber can accept wax and what type of wax is recommended. If you decide to wax the rubber, then every now and again you will have to strip the wax completely and reapply the coating. To clean a rubber floor you need nothing more than a damp mop. If you want to use a detergent then check the manufacturer’s instructions for the type to use as some can damage the rubber surface.

Softness and pliability. Even though the rubber flooring is so durable and hardwearing, it is also soft and pliable. The softness underfoot makes it a number one choice for gyms and playrooms. Generally the thickness equates to softness, the thicker the product, the softer it is. Some types of rubber flooring have an extra cushioning layer bonded to the back:

  • Cork
  • Fabric
  • Foam

Waterproof. Rubber flooring is very resistant to water damage on both top and bottom surfaces. If you decide to install it in a basement or outside however, you should fit a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from soaking up from beneath. Some rubber mats or floor tiles are specially treated to get over this problem and make them suitable for wet environments.

Noise. Because rubber flooring is so elastic, it is very quiet to walk upon. Unlike most other surfaces they absorb noise from dropped objects or clicking footsteps and can be used as a noise insulation barrier under laminate flooring.

Modern colours and textures. For a long time, rubber flooring tended to be either two colours; black or grey. Today there are many more different colours and textures to choose from (although not as many as linoleum or PVC). There are even types that try to create the effect of wood flooring and tile flooring.

✓ Disadvantages

It can be said without fear of contradiction that rubber flooring represents a niche market in the flooring industry. There are few manufacturers and retailers which automatically makes sure there are fewer choices than with other flooring materials.

Brand new natural rubber floors often have a distinctive odor for a few days or weeks. Although this smell is harmless, it can be very annoying to some people. Don’t confuse this with fumes given off by synthetic rubber which can contain VOCs and need to be ventilated well before use.

Although rubber is very resistant to burning and is difficult to catch fire, a flame that is hot enough will burn the substance. If the flooring has been mixed with chemicals during manufacture or if an adhesive has been used then toxic fumes can be released while burning.

Synthetic rubber products are much more susceptible to burning and when they are alight they will give off toxic fumes into the atmosphere.

Even though its properties of softness and durability are very attractive and useful, a rubber floor sometimes does not give the correct look and feel for a floor in a domestic setting. Consider these other disadvantages before making your choice:

Cost. Good quality rubber flooring can be very expensive. Exercise room floor tiles can cost less than $2 per square foot but floor tiles attractive enough to use in living and bedrooms can be found for anything between $12 and $20 per square foot. This kind of price compares with natural stone and good quality hardwood flooring.

Slippery surfaces. Rubber flooring that is smooth and is without an appreciable texture can be very slippery when it is wet. If the surface has been polished or waxed then the slipping problem becomes even worse.

Stains. Rubber flooring is naturally resistant to most stains however there are a few substances that react with the surface to cause damage or stains:

  1. Strong detergents
  2. Abrasive cleaning liquids and powders
  3. Grease
  4. Oil

Don’t use rubber flooring in kitchens, as you can see it will suffer from spilled oils and the attempts at cleaning.

Seams. Rubber flooring tiles, although they are very water resistant, also let water through the joins and seams to the subfloor below. Once there the moisture cannot dry out fully and tends to cause mold. Rubber floor tiles (as opposed to the full flooring) should not be used in moisture retentive areas such as bathrooms or laundry rooms.

Are rubber floors a good idea?

So far we have seen as many bad aspects of rubber flooring as there are good ones. It is obvious that the manufacturers are trying very hard to attract the domestic customer base with their use of bright colors and interesting textures so let’s just have a look at some of the reasons why they are a good idea.

Sizing options

Rubber tiles are very much easier to carry and install than sheet rolls. The standard sizes for tiles are:

  1. 12” x 12”
  2. 18” x 18”
  3. 36” x 36”

The tiles are very supple to use and even easier to cut to shape. You can cut them down into rectangles or triangles and arrange them into unique patterns on the floor. If one or two tiles become damaged then it is an easy job to lift and replace them for new ones.

Rubber sheet generally comes in sizes of four feet (or more) wide by twenty or thirty feet long. They are thus supplied in rolls but are more difficult to install as a DIY job than tiles and can cause great problems when trying to measure up. Even the smallest mistake can ruin a large sheet of material.

Surface texture options

Rubber flooring tiles can be textured during the manufacturing process into just about any texture you can think of. This allows you to give your rubber floor depth and individuality. Just some of the choices include:

  • Rivets
  • Leaf motifs
  • Dimples
  • Studs
  • Lattice grid

Not only patterns but also completely smooth rubber floors are available although these can become slippery when wet.

No matter which type of rubber floor you decide upon, it will always come as a flat matte finish with a subtle and subdued color. The colors can be made to seem deeper by the addition of water based wax polishes which will also make the surface more hard wearing and stain resistant. The wax will also change the matte finish to one more glossy.

Flooring thickness and backing

We think we can say that without a doubt the thicker the rubber flooring, the more expensive it will be. However it’s not all bad as thicker rubber is also softer when walked on and provides better thermal and acoustic insulation too.

Rubber flooring to use indoors usually ranges in thickness from about 0.25” to 0.5”. Outdoor flooring is usually a lot thicker as it has to withstand the weather and can be a minimum of 1”. Children’s play areas need to be able to cushion against falls so are usually about 2” to 3” thick.

Tiles can also have backing material bonded to the lower surface. Usual backing materials are:

  • Cork
  • Fabric
  • Felt
  • Foam
  • PVC moisture barrier

A few myths about rubber floors

A lot of people want to use a rubber floor in their garage and cannot understand why you can’t. The reason why rubber is not usually recommended for use in garages is that almost 90% of the rubber flooring sold in the USA is made from rebonded rubber. This means that the flooring is made from rubber pellets bonded together with polyurethane based adhesive. Polyurethane is broken down quite easily by oil, and drips from your car can very quickly result in a rubber garage floor that starts to break down. Rubber flooring can cost a lot of money so make sure you use either natural rubber or Vulcanised rubber as flooring options, they won’t be damaged by oil and solvents.

Why can’t rubber flooring be used in a basketball court? Just imagine falling to the ground while running and sliding on a slip-resistant rubber surface, you will get a terrible rug burn from the generated friction. If you really want to use flooring in a basketball court use vinyl flooring with a rubber backing, you will have the springiness and softness of rubber but with the ability to slide on a vinyl floor. In fact, the best floor for a sports hall is to use hard plastic sport tiles.

Rubber flooring will make your home smell like a heap of new car tires. Wrong! Ok, the flooring will smell like rubber because that is what it is made from, however, some rubber items smell stronger of rubber than others depending on what the raw manufacturing material was. What will actually happen is that when you first have the rubber flooring installed you will have a smell of rubber and it will be at its strongest but, after a few days the smell will start to fade and eventually you won’t even know it is there. If you have an allergic reaction to rubber or are particularly sensitive to its smell then choose one of the other flooring options such as PVC or foam tiles.

Aren’t rubber and foam floor tiles the same? No, not at all! Foam flooring tiles are made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam whereas rubber tiles are made from SBR rubber (the black material made from recycled tires). EPDM rubber (the brightly colored flecks which are mixed in with the black rubber), or virgin rubber (the new stuff freshly harvested from rubber trees or newly made synthetically). If you aren’t sure which one to choose, consider whether its use will be for play and light weights (foam tiles) or a commercial gym and heavy weights (use rubber).

Installing a rubber floor

It is always better to ask a professional flooring contractor to install your new rubber flooring but there are certain things you should know about installing a rubber floor so you know that the contractor is doing it properly. Although these steps outlined here are generalizations, always heed the advice of the manufacturer to make sure you get the best possible quality floor.

You will be installing the rubber flooring onto an existing surface; this is called a ‘sub floor’. The sub floor must be rigid, flat and smooth.

✓ Ensure the sub floor is free from cracks and not contaminated with paint, oil, grease, dirt or other contaminants.

If you are installing onto a concrete sub floor that needs smoothing and repairing use a good quality levelling compound mixed with water to provide a smooth surface. Make sure the concrete has been built with a suitable damp proof membrane and please bear in mind that if the concrete is newly poured it will probably take up to six months to completely dry out.

If you have a wooden floorboard sub floor, fix any squeaky or loose floorboards. Cover the boards with 0.25” thick plywood to get rid of any variations in floor level and then make sure all nails and screws are punched level with the surface of the floor. Use a smoothing compound to fill any gaps between the boards and to get rid of any indentations.

If you are installing on existing tiles, fill and repair any holes and indentations and then use a suitable levelling compound.

If you are installing over underfloor heating make sure the heat resistance specifications of the rubber are matched to the heat output of your underfloor heating system. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing over heating system.

✓ Allow the rubber flooring to acclimatise to the temperature and humidity of the room in which it will be installed. This will probably take about 48 hours. Keep the flooring at a constant temperature of 18 to 22°C for 48 hours before installation, during and for about 70 hours after installation.

✓ Before cutting the flooring, inspect it to make sure there is no damage, there are no visible defects and that it is the correct color and size of roll you were expecting.

Order the flooring in one batch as there will always be small variations in colour and texture between batches.
Vacuum the complete floor, measure it, and draw the centrelines in pencil. All the time plan how you are going to use all the flooring to reduce any offcuts.

✓ Lay the rolls loose on the floor without using any adhesive. Allow the flooring to stretch and relax into position.

✓ Cut each piece with a small overlap and lay in place so that they can be cut to an exact fit later.

✓ Cut and trim the seams to fit using a hook blade knife.

✓ Completely cover the sub floor surface with adhesive and roll the sheet into place taking care not to trap any air bubbles under the flooring.

Do not walk on the surface for about 24 hours after installation.

Rubber floors cost

Rubber flooring is very reasonably priced when compared to other types of flooring and its long working life and resistance to wear makes it a really good value for money option. Unfortunately you will not often find rubber flooring in your local carpet shop; usually, it is only available direct from the manufacturer, online suppliers or specialist flooring shops. Although this makes it difficult in choosing a floor when you can’t touch or see it in real life, most suppliers are only too happy to send out samples for inspection.

There are different grades of rubber floor and you should choose the best that you can afford. The following prices are indicative of the costs you will pay for installing a rubber floor. The costs will vary depending on the area in which you live as well as the type of flooring you choose.

Average Costs to install rubber flooring (for a 100 sq.ft room)
Basic qualityGood qualityBest quality
Material prices$350$400$460
Installation costs$110$150$180
Total$460$550$630
Total average cost per square foot$5$6$6

Although installing a rubber floor is not that difficult if you have experience with laying floors in general, if you have never tried laying a floor before then we would advise you hire a professional to do the job. If you have had experience in floor laying then make sure you have a copy of the manufacturer’s recommended requirements before you start otherwise it can very soon turn into a very expensive job.

Some ways to get the price down

If you decide to choose a professional there are a few ways to reduce your bill and get the best value for money.

Ask for an estimate from about four different rubber flooring contractors before deciding on the final choice. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest option, they aren’t always the best value. Look at the whole package.

The cost of rubber flooring will vary between the different companies, even for the same specification flooring. This is because each company has different overheads and operational expenses. Once again look at the whole package before choosing. Some manufacturers may offer discounts or freebies.

Flooring professionals, like all home improvement contractors, have seasons when they are less busy than others. Try to ask for prices in late autumn or early winter as that is the time when you can expect huge discounts and price matching.

Don’t forget that you need to buy slightly more than the actual floor area needing to be covered. An additional 15% will usually cover the extras caused by difficult floor configurations.

When you have decided on the specifications of the rubber flooring you want, try to negotiate discounts with the different suppliers. Telling one supplier that you can get the same flooring cheaper elsewhere will often start a battle between suppliers for your order. Don’t be frightened of playing one supplier off against another. You can often save anything up to 25% off.

What about with underfloor heating?

The obvious question here is whether the rubber flooring will be damaged by the temperature of the underfloor heating? Check with the manufacturer whether the flooring has a maximum heat restriction. If everything is ok you will find that rubber flooring is ideal for use with underfloor heating. The rubber holds the heat well and has a soft and warm surface that just cries out to be walked upon in bare feet. For this reason, it is great for bathrooms and bedrooms.

Where can I find a fitter?

Specialist rubber flooring installers are easily found if you ask the retailer where you bought the flooring. Most suppliers have a list of flooring installers they recommend to fit their products and some will even offer a fitting service because the product is so specialized.

If you aren’t happy with the retailer’s or supplier’s choice then you can always go for a personal recommendation. Another way is to search specialist websites that can recommend installers or look on the website of your national floor layers’ professional association.

You can also use our contractor forms which you will find on our website.

Maintenance and cleaning

Surprisingly rubber flooring does not need specialist contractors to come and clean it. All you do is sweep up any loose dirt and dust with a broom or with a vacuum cleaner and then using a damp mop clean it with the detergent that has been recommended by the manufacturer. Some types can even be polished to give a special glossy finish but as always take advice from the manufacturer.

✓ Use mats by the front door to get rid of most dirt and grit that might stick to your shoes.

✓ Use protective pads or feet on the bottom of furniture to prevent undue wear and punctures to the flooring.

✓ Floor standing kitchen appliances can seriously damage flooring so place a sheet of hardboard or thin plywood between the floor and the appliance.

✓ Do not drag furniture or other heavy objects across the floor without protection.

✓ Protect the flooring from direct sunlight by keeping blinds or curtains closed on sunny days, otherwise the color might fade. Light colors will fade the least so choose one of these if you can.

Although rubber flooring is tough, durable and able to withstand most stains, there are some substances which will definitely cause permanent damage to the rubber surface:

  • Grease spills
  • All types of oil
  • All acidic substances
  • Cleansers based on acetone
  • Turpentine and products containing this substance

Avoid using strong detergents or abrasive cleaning compounds and anything that is acid based. Just use a mild detergent (such as dish cleaning detergent, not dishwasher) diluted with water.

✓ Rubber flooring without any special treatment is almost impervious to penetration by moisture. If you want to make the surface completely impervious to water and stain, you can seal the surface after installation with an appropriate chemical sealer. Check with the supplier for details of the recommended sealer as this may vary depending on the type of flooring you buy.

Conclusion

Rubber flooring, whether it is done with tiles or continuous sheet, is definitely worth choosing if you like the feel and the properties of rubber. Although the price is up there among the high-end flooring options, rubber flooring will last for many years with little more maintenance than a regular vacuuming and a damp mop as long as you don’t mistreat your flooring.

You can incorporate rubber flooring with underfloor heating as long as you take care to match any heat restrictions of the rubber with the heat output of the heaters.

You can install rubber flooring as a DIY project but unless you have fitted rubber flooring before it is better to hire a professional to do it for you. When you are looking at the available range of flooring options ask the supplier if he can recommend a rubber flooring specialist as otherwise, you might have problems getting one that knows what they are doing.

We talked a bit about the different types of backing you can have on rubber flooring and the common thicknesses and other dimensions used when selling rubber flooring sheets and tiles. Flooring tiles and sheets have many advantages and disadvantages and you will have to consider all of the items in these categories to decide whether rubber flooring is right for you.

As well as its own pros and cons we talked about how rubber flooring compared with the other extremely popular flooring material, PVC.

Let us hope you decide whether you want rubber flooring or not.

Thank you for reading.

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