We get lots of questions about the use of rubber flooring – especially as it relates to healthcare applications. It’s common to find that there are misconceptions and many presumed benefits that may not be as they seem. Here are four misconceptions about rubber flooring worth further scrutiny when considering your flooring investments.
On average rubber flooring is the most expensive flooring option nationwide in terms of material costs and installation. Compared to other resilient floor solutions, the increased installation costs are often impacted by stringent low-moisture subfloors requirements, special testing equipment, and costly sub-floor prep which increase labor costs during the install process and extend project timelines. Initial maintenance procedures are another costly element prior to occupancy. These requirements can be confusing, delay move-in, and for those products without urethane coatings, often require high pH cleaners and degreasers which can add cost and are not environmentally friendly.
How we most commonly think of rubber — automobile tires — makes it easy to associate rubber with durability. But when it comes to flooring, rubber possesses unique aspects that can certainly impact its durability. Rubber flooring has poor resistance to stains, oils, and grease, and requires ongoing maintenance that includes additional custom materials and machines. Despite maintenance efforts, uncoated rubber floors can oxidize and change color as a result of UV exposure. Furthermore, exposure to heat and metals like copper can make the rubber brittle, shrinking away from seams over time. Sharp or heavy dropped objects can easily indent or crack rubber flooring, resulting in damage that can lead to unsanitary conditions where liquid and dirt can easily be trapped. This repair or replacement of these incidents are costly.
Maintenance is not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. What works for one customer may not be right for another. However, every customer has a desire for beautiful, durable floors that keep their good looks and superior performance with minimal maintenance. The total life cycle cost to maintain our resilient products is on par, or better than, rubber flooring solutions. This is largely due to our patented Diamond 10 Technology, a coating that provides industry-leading stain resistance so floors look cleaner and newer, longer. Our commercial vinyl sheet with Diamond 10 Technology is a low-maintenance product with a no-polish option, minimizing costly disruptions for maintenance procedures.
A reason rubber floors are sometimes chosen for the healthcare industry is the perceived physical benefit it provides the nursing, physician, and janitorial staffs who are on their feet all day. However, to achieve noticeable underfoot comfort beyond other popular resilient flooring solutions, the rubber floors must be thicker. As a result, more floor transitions between the various material thicknesses must be installed — this contributes to increased noise, fatigue from pushing carts and beds, and an increase in tripping hazards. These thicker rubber floors are quite costly, and for this reason floors are often value-engineered down to thinner versions during the construction process, eliminating any measurable benefit originally expected.
When it comes to slip resistance, rubber only holds an advantage when it has highly textured surfaces, and no polyurethane wear layer or polish is applied. The very same texture that can provide a slip-resistance benefit can also trap dirt, making it more difficult to clean while still requiring more frequent maintenance. Finally, consideration should be made for the population the floor is serving; untreated rubber surfaces tend to have an unexpected resistance to those using canes, walkers, or generally more of a shuffling gait that could pitch walkers forward.
Rubber is frequently perceived as an eco-friendly alternative to other types of resilient flooring. Unfortunately, most rubber isn't nearly as green, healthy, or recyclable. In fact, most rubber flooring products are not naturally sourced, but rather 100% synthetic rubber or contain as little as 10% or less of natural rubber in the finished product. Once manufactured, synthetic rubber flooring is thermoset and it cannot be re-melted and recycled back into its original form.
Our On&On™ Recycling Program helps you save money while also keeping flooring materials out of landfills. This program reclaims our LVT and VCT flooring, as well as other qualified products, including competitors' products, with or without adhesive. Together with our customers, we have recycled over 100 million pounds of flooring product. Our bio-flooring BBT™ line of products has a low carbon footprint and is made with renewable material and 40% pre-consumer recycled content.