If you've found yourself reading this article you must be interested in rubber flooring. Maybe you're an architect or designer who's considering rubber for your next project. Maybe you're an end-user who's curious about the product and are wondering if it's worth the cost (it might be).
Perhaps you’re considering installing it, or you already have. In either case, this guide is for you! We will take you through six chapters overviewing everything you need to know about rubber floors. Links to in-depth articles and product features will be shared throughout the chapters, so you can deep dive on topics that interest you.
Rubber is ideally suited for high impact and high traffic areas that need extra cushion under foot. And while it’s not the cheapest flooring option, it is one of the most durable and long lasting. In this guide you’ll find information on the benefits and drawbacks of rubber, where it works best, its design options, unique installations, care and maintenance, and various types available.
Feel free to skip to the chapter that best suits you:
The Basics of Rubber
Rubber has come a long way. It’s not just that old, speckled schoolroom floor you may be imagining. Nowadays we can customize rubber into attractive patterns and textures that will leave customers guessing what it could be. It’s a remarkably durable and cushioned surface that is especially suited for high traffic areas and has proven to be reliable time and again. Let's look at a few of the pros and cons of rubber flooring.
Whether the activity involves hundreds of people walking on it, hospital beds with patients rolling over it all day long or a Zumba class stomping and twirling on the surface, rubber flooring is built for high impact.
It’s also water resistant. That’s right. Have you ever seen a laminate or wood floor buckle and warp because someone didn't clean up a spill quickly enough? That’s not going to happen with rubber. Your rubber floor will hold up in the face of spills.
Tired of the echo of hard surface flowing in commercial spaces? Rubber has great acoustic benefits. Because rubber is a bit softer than some of the other hard surface products, it ends up being quieter. The sound absorption of rubber is particularly useful in large open areas.
Another texture benefit is rubber's ability to absorb impact making it popular in weight rooms and gyms where heavy equipment may be dropped. Impact absorption also helps to reduce injuries by absorbing the impact of slips and falls.
The cushioned surface provides comfort underfoot making long 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 and helps people’s feet hold up too with its ability to compress!
On top of these benefits, rubber is eco-friendly! It is typically made with raw materials taken straight from a rubber tree. Natural latex is extracted from the sap of rubber trees and used to create rubber floors. Not only does it come from a natural source, some products, like Mannington Commercial's Reset, are made from recycled rubber! Old tires that find new life in rubber floors.
That being said, rubber can also be made synthetically. Synthetic rubber does not have as many environmental benefits as its natural counterpart because it cannot biodegrade. Keep natural rubber products in mind if you want to meet the demands of your more eco-focused clients. When you go with natural or recycled rubber, you’re making a more eco-focused decision —remember to put that on your website and social channels!
And lastly, maintenance. Rubber has a superpower--it waxes itself. Some rubber flooring products have built-in wax packages, commonly called “self-migrating wax” that helps dirt and grime release from the floor surface making it easier to keep clean. It’s similar to how your skin produces oil. As the product ages, wax continues to migrate to the surface, so you don’t need to take that extra step of waxing the floor. This results in lower maintenance costs over the life of the product.
Now for the downsides. Rubber is marginally more expensive than other flooring products in the same class. The number may look big up front, but over the life of the product that initial price increase evens out with things like lower maintenance costs (no need to wax), and longevity of the product.
The last drawback involves installation. Because rubber is a natural material, there is some variation in each piece. To compensate for this, we recommend dry fitting the tile or sheet for your project before you permanently install it. In the grand scheme of things, this issue is simply an extra installation step and not enough to deter most customers. Now let’s look at where you can find rubber floors.
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Where Rubber Is Most Useful
Rubber floors are typically associated with schools, gyms, and hospitals, but today you’ll find rubber in a wide variety of commercial settings, and in houses too! Like we mentioned in chapter one, rubber has far more aesthetic options than it did in the past.
That being said, it is still most popular in education, fitness, and healthcare. What do these three things have in common? All three places require elevated safety features in high traffic settings. Rubber meets the mark.
Let’s start with education. In schools where there are hundreds of children running through the halls, and often tromping up and down stairs, interior designers have to consider safety, comfort, sound, and high traffic! These demands make rubber a very popular choice. You’ll see it in preschools, primary schools, and in higher education. For more on flooring in schools see: The Designers Ultimate Guide to Specifying School Flooring.
Health clubs and gyms often choose rubber flooring because of its safety benefits and impact absorption. Thanks to rubber’s construction it can absorb the shock of dropped weights and still rebound Rubber also has the ability of holding up under the weight of heavy equipment. Its moisture resistance helps when everyone is sweating in hot yoga and the floor is getting splashed with sweat or spilled water bottles.
Rubber is also a no-brainer in healthcare settings. From patient rooms to cafeterias, rubber is very popular in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. With a combination of good acoustics, impact resistance versus other hard surfaces, durability, and maintenance advantages you’ve got yourself a winner!
How To Design With Rubber
Rubber has come a long way. With new manufacturing technology, rubber flooring can be customized using various colors, textures, and shapes. It’s truly a flexible material. Teles Rubber, for example, can be customized to look like multi-colored planks, or ColorScape can be made into unique geometric patterns. Some customers may find the number of options overwhelming, but Mannington has people to help.
We have a large team of designers with diverse backgrounds in interior design, graphics, and textiles. Their mission is twofold. Some of our designers create new and unique flooring collections while others serve on our Design Solutions Team. This team supports our commercial customers during their layout and design process. And the best part is, it’s free!
Along with helping to create custom designs and layouts for our customers, here is a list of deliverables available:
- Room Scenes - photos of the space with the new floor option.
- Finish Plans - color coded drawings of the floor layout.
- Rendered Plans - JPGs using the layout to show how products work together.
- Revit Files - high-res images of the rendered plan (an easier format for designs).
- 10 x 10 Overheads - large high-res images to show the detail of the product or pattern when it repeats.
- Composites - a combination of the product/pattern repeating with the room scene all in one image.
- Configurations - floor design including multiple products.
- Installation Diagrams - high contrast floor layout to make it easier for installers to identify the products and patterns being installed in each area.
- Phasing Diagrams – color coded drawings of the floor plan that delineate where the installers should start.
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Take the design of the Ron Clark Middle School, for example. Our team was busy at work coordinating plans for this creative and colorful project. Blue ColorSpec rubber was coupled with carpet tiles to create a unique look in the media center. We even got feedback from a group of 7th graders to help create custom patterns for the classrooms!
Customers may need help with big renovation projects or perhaps they just want to update their stair tread or wall base to use the advantages of rubber. In either case, our designers can help incorporate the new rubber product with the rest of the floor. We have designer palettes that link various products and designs together.
Rubber flooring at Mannington Commercial has so many options! Customers can customize their stair tread, wall base, transitions, and landing tiles, and they can choose whether they want tile or sheet. There are tons of colors and formats that can be coordinated. These come in handy when you need to transition from one type of flooring to another or from one space to another. Facilitating all the design options can really tie a space together.
Stair tread is the horizontal portion on the top of each stair. A good stair tread will offer grip to help prevent slips and falls. Because of its safety features, rubber is often recommended for commercial stair tread even if the rest of the flooring is a different material.
At Mannington, there are a variety of stair tread options, which enable you to customize which level of grip you need along with the look you want. Some popular rubber stair tread profiles include sculptured, which has the most natural look, round, which works with a more flowing and curvy design, smooth, which is nice in minimalist spaces, and square, which works in angular, geometric interiors.
Take Maxxi-Tread for example, it’s available in a host of color combinations and has deep grooves for maximum slip-resistance. Or ColorSpec, which can have a square tiled pattern to ensure grip. I saw a large staircase where each step’s color was different. The colors changed subtly from one to the next making the entire staircase resemble a rainbow! The landing at the top and bottom of the stairs can be similarly customized.
Wall base is similar to base trim. It covers any gaps between the floor and the wall and provides an easy to clean edge that prevents damage to the wall. Whether it's getting kicked by shoes or run into with vacuums or shopping carts, wall base is needed to protect the wall from potential routine damage.
Some designers get creative with their wall base and choose contrasting colors or unique edge effects. You can choose the height, thickness, and style of your wall base. Mannington offers close to 20 rubber Edge Effects to choose from, some with architectural accents that have the look of high-end wooden trim. Edge Effects wall bases are made of co-extruded thermoplastic rubber, which is engineered for flexible application to walls, corners, and columns. There is no nailing, priming, or painting needed, so it’s easy to install.
Rubber Flooring Transitions
Flooring transitions are used when two different types of floor come together. As with most of our products, their width, depth, color, and texture can be specified. For example, the transition between carpet and rubber would be different than between rubber and another hard surface like LVT. Designers can make these transitions blend and be barely noticeable, or they can accentuate the transition using unique edging and color options.
Tile vs Sheet
Making the decision to go with rubber sheet or tile has to do with aesthetics, application, and budget. Rubber sheet is typically a bit less expensive than tile, but it can be trickier to install, because you must cut it just right. However, you’ll get fewer seams with rubber sheet, which is advantageous if there could be moisture issues. If it’s a large open space, we typically recommend rubber sheet. Rubber tile, on the other hand, offers more design flexibility with things like color and quarter turning, so even in large open spaces tile is sometimes chosen to create a specific look.
Before rubber flooring is installed, we recommend creating a custom care and maintenance plan. There is a learning curve for maintaining rubber floors. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll increase the longevity of your floor and take advantage of its self-cleaning properties. There are several factors to consider when making your plan: the type of rubber, the amount of traffic, the weather, and the maintenance budget. Maintenance protocol should be customized according to these factors.
For example, in the Northeastern region of the U.S. there is more snow and ice in the winter (along with the chemicals used to break down ice). This not only compounds the soil level, but it can break down the rubber if you’re not careful.
At Mannington, we provide the maintenance guidelines needed to help create the appropriate protocol. If there are questions, Mannington’s technical services team can be contacted to aid in the process.
While cleaning plans vary and involve multiple factors, here’s a basic example for rubber flooring:
- Always read and carefully follow manufacturer’s current maintenance and installation guidelines
- Use walk-off or Entryway carpet at any outside entrance to protect the interior flooring.
- Dust mop with microfiber cloth to remove dirt and soil.
- Clean with auto scrubber and microfiber pad.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommended dilution ratio of a pH neutral floor cleaner (less chemicals are generally better).
Now let's talk about rubber’s self-migrating wax—one of its greatest maintenance assets. Rubber has a natural wax that slowly and continuously comes up to the floor surface. This means that you don’t have to add wax to rubber floors, they wax themselves! Microfiber pads on an auto scrubber keep the rubber clean while also distributing the wax.
Because of this natural wax, chemical cleaning agents need to be chosen with care. For example, if a degreaser is used to clean, it may break down the rubber’s natural wax. You don’t need strong chemicals to keep the rubber clean. We recommend a neutral cleaner diluted with warm water, or just warm water by itself. In some cases, it is more about simply wetting the surface to loosen residue and suspend soil in the water so that it can be easily removed.
Cleaning pads are used on auto scrubbers, mops, and other cleaning tools. They come into direct contact with the floor. The type of cleaning pad we recommend depends on the type of rubber and degree of cleaning needed.
In general, microfiber pads work best. A flat traditional pad may work well on a smooth surface but does not work well on embossed or textured floor with prominent seams and transitions. For the latter case, microfiber cleaning pads are recommended so the fibers can reach into the valleys of the embossing or seams.
Lastly, we recommend felt pads to cover any surface that meets the rubber flooring. Using felt pads on the feet of any furniture avoids unsightly marking or gouges that can occur when furniture is moved.
Customers fare much better when they take the time to review our maintenance guidelines and get our help in creating cleaning procedures and protocols. If you are planning to install rubber flooring, or if you already have, be proactive in reaching out. We are here to help!
As a manufacturer of rubber floors, Mannington Commercial has innovated and engineered a variety of exceptional rubber flooring products. Check out a description of each below.
ColorScape and ColorSpec
Both ColorScape and ColorSpec rubber tiles are from Mannington Commercial's Color Anchor Collection. Color Anchor uses a design palette that spans multiple floor types. As a part of this collection, these rubber tiles integrate seamlessly with other product types, so cohesive flooring transitions can easily be made from room to room.
These tiles bring imagination and beauty to your floor, with the enhanced safety, cleanability, and durability of our high-performance rubber. Not only are they made in the USA, but their variety of profiles and colors provide endless visual and textural possibilities. They are extremely practical and will make a design statement in childcare facilities, fitness rooms and gyms, and clinical settings.
Both are made with homogeneous thermoset rubber, so they retain their amazing color, resist indentations and gouging, and are quiet underfoot. The main differences are in their overall visual and profile options.
ColorFields rubber comes in both sheet and tile options. In either variety, it uses a smooth surface rubber in colorations ranging from soft neutrals to expressive, vibrant brights. Constructed of homogeneous thermoset rubber, it combines that spa-like, hospitality-inspired beauty with rubber’s classic indentation resistance, color retention, and slip resistance. Great in large, high traffic areas where performance is paramount, ColorFields is often used in hospitals and schools.
Reset & Reset Naturals
Specifically designed for high impact areas, this homogeneous recycled rubber is exceptionally resilient to impact. Constructed from post-consumer recycled rubber tires, Reset contains up to 91% post-consumer recycled content. It can be ordered in a variety of patterns and colors. This eco-friendly product is ideal for childcare settings, fitness rooms and gyms, senior living facilities, barbershops and salons and medical offices.
A proprietary rubber compound called high resiliency thermoset rubber gives Teles more than double the industry standard for indentation resistance! That is really saying something as rubber is already extremely durable.
This formulation gives Teles its long-term appearance retention in the most demanding commercial applications. It not only delivers on durability, cleanability, and indentation resistance, it is gorgeous to boot. There are a variety of innovative colors and patterns to choose from. Teles’ unique styling options make it a great choice for the usual health, gym, and education settings, and its visual versatility makes it work in restaurants and retail stores too.
Mannington offers some of the best rubber floors in the world. Designing with rubber can be a huge asset with benefits like enhanced safety, cushion, and acoustics combined with durability and longevity. It’s no wonder this material is making its way into more spaces. If you want to learn more about how rubber can be customized for your space, please contact a Mannington representative today.
Download a free guide to Rubber Stairways and Wall Base 👇
In this guide you'll learn about the 3 main types of rubber and where to use them best as well as how to design stairways to be in compliance with IBC regulations. We'll also look at how to specify rubber wall base to finish out your space with style and performance.