Rubber flooring provides for a safe and non-slip flooring solution that holds up to spills and daily wear and tear in the Fellowship Hall at Piney Grove United Methodist Church in Hot Springs, AR. Photo courtesy Roppe Corporation.

When you load your sample bag for a sales call, or are mulling over an opportunity to specify high qualify flooring, do you include rubber flooring in your thinking? You should, because rubber flooring products offer some real competitive advantages and you’ll be doing your client a favor by suggesting the right rubber flooring and accessories.

Rubber flooring is manufactured in combination with other materials to enhance its performance, useful life, and relative price. It is available in various tile sizes, sheet goods, with specialized profiles and stair treads, wall base and accessories. Thickness and wear surfaces can be textured for a myriad of flooring uses including weight rooms, ice rink surrounds, locker rooms, stadium floors, cafeterias, large animal stables, healthcare, industrial labs, marine, mass transit and more.

The following are some examples of how and where rubber flooring products were sold. This should stimulate your thinking about where you can sell your next job.

The owner of a bowling alley was remodeling and was after something different in the seating/scorekeeping area adjacent to the bowling lanes. He was currently using VCT, but it was tough to keep looking fresh, was dented from people dropping bowling balls, and he had two slip-fall claims over the past year.

After looking at the area, and noting that the plywood substrate was being replaced, we suggested a textured surface, one meter size tile, with a multi-color swirl that would complement his new design. It offered the advantages of allowing spilled liquids to fall slightly below the floor surface, plenty of slip resistance, noise reduction and added impact resistance, and no requirement for stripping and waxing. Yes, the initial cost was higher, but he had the budget and so the sale was made.

A medical center’s designer was looking for a way to upgrade a number of their stairwells from sealed concrete with concrete pan steps and reduce some noise from heavy traffic. They had already been considering a rubber stair tread, but were concerned about adhesive smell leaking out into the hospital corridors. When we presented a stair tread design and a method of installation using dry adhesive and eye-popping bright colors, they were ecstatic! This was followed with a complementary raised disk design rubber tile and matching cove base. The key here was the ability to provide quick installation with virtually no odors and immediately open the stairwell for traffic.

There was an opportunity to specify flooring for a local fitness facility, and rubber was the best answer. With this facility, three different products were used: One for the entrance and main walkways, another for the machine/weights area, and still another for the running track.

For the entrance and main walkways, large tiles with a textured surface in a multicolor with waterjet cut logos were used. For the weight machines/free weight areas, we specified a floor that is especially resistant to punctures, tearing, and impact from dropped weights; one of the thicker tiles, somewhere around 0.36” with a textured surface (since energy drinks and perspiration can leave the floor slippery in spots).

Rubber sheet goods were used in the running track area with an embossed surface. For sports areas, consider creating splashes of color or using color combinations to designate various areas. Depending on the size of the budget, it may be possible to have logo designs designating various areas. Always get a recommendation from the manufacturer when thinking about using water-jet technology.   

A new sports complex at a major university selected a smooth back, raised disk, one meter rubber tile as its primary flooring. The deciding factor for them was the floor’s ability to handle foot traffic safely, even in the presence of liquid spills, along with ease of cleaning, no special finishing, stain resistance, and no damage from the frequent use of pallet jacks to transport heavy temporary seating.

The only problem with their initial specification was their requirement for a standard smooth backed product rather than coned back tile (which would provide better grip with the concrete substrate).

To add to this dilemma, the flooring contractor used sanding rather than shot-blasting to prepare the floor. The result was that the twisting and turning of heavily loaded pallet jacks caused the tile to release from the substrate, causing a “bubble effect” in many areas. After consultation with the manufacturer, and with their help, the contractor took up the tile, did aggressive shot-blasting, and then installed coned back tile. This solved the problem and the dealer vowed never again to skip shot-blasting!

Entrance ways, corridors, and exterior applications including water parks and playgrounds are perfect for some of the many recycled rubber flooring designs. No longer are you limited to the black or gray color that one associates with old tires.

Generally, rubber flooring should not be specified for commercial kitchen and food preparation areas where quantities of grease and oil are present or in industrial or automotive areas where solvents and oil are prevalent. Some rubber compounds can be formulated to be highly resistant to greases and oils and may be used for some areas.

Some tips in rubber flooring: Always do moisture testing on the substrate since most rubber flooring does not permit easy passage of water vapor; if the slab is too wet, adhesives will not hold the product securely. I once did a 10’ by 12’ entrance area with one meter rubber tile, and made the mistake of skipping moisture testing due to size and time constraints. This was a clean floor, on-grade, and appeared to be complete dry.

The installation was done on a Friday. By Monday morning, there were a couple of bubbles. By the time the installer arrived onsite the bubbles were much larger and more numerous. Initially, we did not expect a moisture issue, expecting to find that insufficient adhesive had been applied.

Imagine our surprise when we cut into one of the large bubbles and water spurted out! We had created a veritable lake underneath the floor. In this particular case, we had to replace the rubber flooring with another type of flooring due to the high MVER. This was a costly lesson for us and a warning to you.

Thoroughly prepare the floor to remove all contaminants, and if the manufacturer encourages shot-blasting, be sure and do it. Some of the epoxy and polyurethane adhesives may be more challenging to use and most require a specific set or open time before placing the tile or sheet goods.

I once had a job go south because the adhesive set up before the tile was placed thereby providing little adhesion between the floor and the tile. Beware of trowels where the teeth become worn; buy plenty of them. If the manufacturer recommends rolling the floor after installation, make sure you use the correct weight roller.

With many adhesives, it is critical to immediately clean any adhesive residue from the facing surface of the tile! I once had to replace about 20% of the tiles in a conference area where the installer thought, “I’ll just come back when I get it all finished and wipe up the spills and splatter,” not realizing that the adhesive adhered equally well to the face and the back of the tile.

Pick the right product surface (smooth, raised disk, textured, embossed, coarse) for the correct application. If your customer rolls a lot of carts or wheelchairs, then be careful about specifying a raised disk surface; they can create a “chattering effect” that is extremely noticeable with carts and irritating with wheelchairs. If the anticipated maintenance consists of frequent mopping, then select a surface that has minimal drag; you don’t want to leave mop strands or fuzz all over the floor. You can still use a textured surface; specify one that has smoother finish. In many cases, one can maintain large areas with high speed scrubbing, and when a higher sheen is desired, frequent machine buffing. No waxes or synthetic finishes are required in order to have a soft patina or satin gloss.

If you are unfamiliar with rubber flooring and accessories, do your research among several manufacturers. Each will have their own niche and a range of products at various price points. Which one(s) will work with you?

Training in their products and in step-by-step installation is crucial. If you hope to do commercial business you should become an expert in rubber flooring. You’ll have a competitive advantage over those who are still limiting themselves to a plain mix of resilient products.