Rubber flooring is manufactured using natural or synthetic products. The sap of rubber trees, a renewable resource, was the original material used for this purpose and it continues to be harvested in tropical areas of the world. Synthetic rubber -- invented when natural rubber became scarce during the Second World War -- is made from petroleum products. The use of recycled materials, including automobile tires, is gaining popularity as the industry seeks to make its products more environmentally friendly.
The style flexibility of rubber flooring includes a broad range of colors -- from blacks and grays to bright red, yellow, and green -- as well as a variety of textures such as marbled or speckled. The ease of cutting the material makes it perfect for creating patterns in a multitude of shapes.
Rubber flooring is popular in play areas, gyms, weight rooms, basements, garages, workshops, and outdoor patios because it provides a non-slip surface as well as a cushion against falls and noise. It is also becoming an alternative to traditional flooring in kitchens because rubber is comfortable to stand on for long periods of time.
Rubber flooring comes in rolls and tiles. Interlocking tiles come in a number of sizes and thicknesses of one-quarter to one-half inch. A wide range of prices exists with the lower end just above a dollar a square foot and increasing to about $6.00 a square foot for interlocking tiles.
Manufacturers' warranties vary with some producers offering up to five years of coverage against manufacturing defects. Flooring installation professionals may also provide warranties for their work and homeowners should inquire prior to signing a contract.
The best-known advantage to rubber flooring is its elasticity which means that dropped objects bounce back and may not break. This same quality also means that dents and cuts in the floor practically self-repair as the material bounces back into place.
Do-it-yourselfers appreciate that rubber flooring is easy to install -- particularly true of inter-locking tiles -- as well as easy to maintain. Its anti-static properties mean no static shocks in dry winter climates. Finally, rubber provides an effective sound barrier and vibration reducer. The flexibility of rubber as well as its natural tackiness and form-fitting qualities means that adhesives aren't necessary in its installation which saves money and avoids the use of glues with unhealthy fumes.
As some people are sensitive or allergic to rubber, they may want to restrict its use as flooring to outdoor patios where the material's gases will be dissipated by fresh air. All rubbers are flammable, although various grades of fire-retardant rubber flooring are available, but the more flame retardant materials cost more.
The use of renewable natural products -- rubber tree sap -- makes rubber flooring a potentially environmentally-friendly product. Since most rubber trees come from tropical areas of the world, however, the carbon footprint generated by the transportation of the material reduces its green qualities. A few manufacturers produce their rubber flooring using 100 percent natural sources of raw material.
Synthetic rubbers are manufactured using petroleum products, a non-renewable resource, and so are not considered environmentally sensitive.
Rubber flooring made from recycled materials, such as vehicle tires, provide a new use for a raw material that exists in abundance in North America. While the conversion of rubber tires to flooring entails using energy, the reduced transportation costs and carbon footprint are less than for materials imported from Asia.