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RUBBER FLOORING
INTERLOCKING TILES VS ROLLS

If you’re thinking about laying rubber flooring in your home or business, you should understand the pros and cons of interlocking rubber floor tiles and rolled rubber flooring. Knowing the differences will make it easier for you to purchase the correct product for your needs. For most home gyms, interlocking 2x2 foot rubber tiles are probably your best bet. This is because the tiles are easily installed and require no adhesive or tape. This means they can be easily removed and re-used in another room or home. Oftentimes, home gyms double as multipurpose facilities. In these situations, the ability to quickly and easily pull up the tiles and stack them somewhere is very convenient. If you choose to move someday, you won't have to invest in another gym floor. The seams between interlocking rubber tiles are typically very tight so the floor should have no edges between the tiles to trip over. In many cases, the seams will virtually disappear in time as the rubber “mends” itself together. As a general rule, tiles that are cut with a waterjet are going to have tighter and superior seams to tiles that are stamped with a die cut.

Tiles can be cut to fit any room with a simple utility knife. (You will want to let your rubber flooring acclimate to the room temperature and humidity for at least 24 hours before cutting the tiles to size.) Rubber flooring tiles come in a variety of thicknesses. In most situations, you can get by with 3/8 inch. If 8mm tiles are available, this is a better option because they are less expensive than 3/8” tiles. From a performance standpoint, you won’t notice the difference.

For commercial athletic facilities, you can also use interlocking rubber tiles although you may want to go with a larger tile than you would for home gym use. (Typically, 3x3 foot tiles.) Again, interlocking tiles are nice in situations where you would like to take your floor with you if you relocate. They are great if you are leasing your building, for example. You can usually find interlocking rubber tiles in black and, oftentimes, with various color flecks in the mix to match your facility's decor.

Rubber rolls are typically less expensive than rubber tiles but installing them is much more labor-intensive. Rubber rolls are extremely heavy. In most cases, when you purchase rolls of rubber, they arrive at your door in a semi-truck. If you specify that you would like a lift gate, the driver will lower your rolls to the curb and you are left to figure out how to deal with them. (If you don’t get a lift gate, you get to unload them from the truck yourself.) In most cases, rubber tiles will also arrive via freight delivery but it's much easier to carry a few tiles at a time from Point A to Point B than it is to carry rolls.

Rubber rolls require a glue or tape-down installation to create a safe athletic gym floor. This is because the seams tend to overlap one another and, sometimes, roll ends will curl up as the heat and humidity of the room changes.

Obviously, this type of install creates a more permanent flooring option than tiles although with the tape-down method, you can usually pull the rolls up without damaging the rubber.

Rubber rolls are most commonly available in 3/8 inch thickness or less. However, 1/2 inch thickness is available from some manufacturers. Rubber flooring that is 3/4 inch or thicker is usually only available in interlocking or straight edge mats. These are typically overkill except in horse stalls or areas where massive free weights are being dropped to the ground intentionally on a regular basis.

Most rolled rubber flooring (as well as rubber tiles) is low odor but not all. This can be important if you are using this flooring in a smaller room with low ventilation. You will find that the material binder in rubber makes all the difference. In cases where the rubber binder is sulfur, the mats tend to carry a strong rubber smell. When the binder is urethane, the smell is low. Be sure to verify that the rubber is low smell before you make your purchase.

A couple final notes about rubber flooring in general: You will want to avoid using it in areas that get a lot of moisture. Rubber is not waterproof and the material, if soaked, will retain water like a giant sponge. This is one reason rubber should generally not be used as a garage floor. The other is that the material is high-friction. Car tires turning on rubber tends to chew it up over time. It is also susceptible to various solvents, gas, and oil.

Rubber is NOT a great option for areas where aerobic activities or long-term standing will be done. A common misconception is that rubber provides fatigue relief for aerobic areas or workstations. This is not true as rubber is remarkably hard. It does a great job of protecting concrete or other types of flooring from heavy equipment or weight benches. It does not, however, do a great job of protecting knees or backs.

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Written by: Jim Schott, GreatMats


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