Various rubber mat forms are available on the market. These inexpensive products are very versatile and will provide superior protection and comfort for those constantly on their feet. Not only will a rubber mat provide comfort, it is also the ideal choice for making any floor surface non-slip. Different raw rubber materials each rubber mat is made from gives them their own unique characteristics and ways of keeping you safe and comfortable. Whether it be for garage or gym flooring or simple front door mats, a rubber mat can perform a variety of functions to fit any purpose needed.
There are various different types of rubber material that are manufactured in different forms such as mats, sheets, rolls or interlocking tiles. Naturally, rubber has a high coefficient of friction which allows it to retain its traction even when exposed to moisture. The coefficient of friction can be defined as “the value which describes the ratio of the force of friction between two bodies and the force pressing them together” (universetoday.com). This high coefficient of friction allows for a rubber mat to be used interchangeably indoors and outdoors.
1(a). Recycled Rubber
Recycled rubber is produced from discarded, old or unused vehicle tires that is ground up into a fine crumble that is then put back together with a binder. This process makes recycled rubber slightly more porous than rubber created through vulcanization. Despite this, recycled rubber is extremely eco-friendly because the rubber it is made from has been repurposed instead of being thrown out. When rubber is thrown out, it stays in the landfill, occupying more space where more eco-friendly and biodegradable waste can be placed instead. Recycled rubber can be used both indoors and outdoors due to its abrasion resistant properties and is a great material for an indoor/outdoor rubber mat.
1(b). Reclaimed Rubber
Also made from repurposed rubber, reclaimed rubber is extremely durable and eco-friendly. The secret to its added durability lies in the manufacturing process of reclaimed rubber. Reclaimed rubber also starts out as a tire by-product. This time instead of the tires being chopped into a fine mesh, the rubber is de-vulcanized. “This treatment, called the devulcanization, can be defined as a process that causes the selective breakup of the sulfur-sulfur (S-S) and carbon-sulfur (C-S) chemical bonds without breaking the backbone network and without degrading the material. The devulcanized rubber can be mixed with virgin rubber or with other kinds of matrices to give new compounds without generating a significant decrease in mechanical and physical properties” (https://www.sciencedirect.com). Devulcanized reclaimed rubber is far less expensive than raw materials from petroleum or natural rubber. Therefore, reclaimed rubber, once devulcanized, can form a larger solid sheet or rubber mats which are just as durable as virgin products but at a fraction of the costs. Due to its solid finish, reclaimed rubber is more water resistant than recycled rubber, which is slightly porous. With reclaimed rubber, no matter how much water pools on its surface, it will not seep through the mat while, on the other hand, if too much water pools on the surface of recycled rubber, it will seep through the rubber mat.
1(c). Natural Rubber
Contrary to recycled and reclaimed rubber, natural rubber is actually harvested from Hevea brasiliensis, or the rubber tree.
The process of retrieving the natural materials used in making rubber is called “tapping.” Tapping is the process of extracting the tree sap, which is a latex material, and keeping it slightly warm so it does not harden before the rubber manufacturing process. To make rubber, the latex is mixed in with coagulant and put through the vulcanization process where it is heated to create the polymer of rubber. Products made from natural rubber are far more expensive, but can be offered in a variety of pigments. This makes a natural rubber mat more applicable in projects with larger budgets.
1(d). Petroleum Based Products
The main type of petroleum-based rubber products comes in the form of synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber is any man-made polymer that is derived from petroleum. Synthetic rubber offers properties such as elongation, tear strength, protection against aging and protection against extreme heat. The strength of synthetic rubber comes from the process of vulcanization which is the “chemical process by which the physical properties of natural or synthetic rubber are improved” (britannica.com). Synthetic rubber is used for various different functions around the world; however, they are most commonly seen in the industrial or automotive industries due to their durability and strength. Petroleum based rubber products are expensive and are rarely used as rubber mats and flooring.
2. Types of Rubber Mats
There are several different types, or forms, rubber mats are available in. A rubber mat can come in a roll, as stair treads or interlocking tiles. Each type is made to perform a specific function depending on which surface it is to be applied to. For example, one type of rubber mat may be better suited for a certain surface while another form may be better suited for another surface. Whether residential or commercial, there are various forms of rubber matting available on the market to fit certain specifications.
2(a). Interlocking Tiles
Interlocking tiles are made of separate rubber mat tiles that fit together like a puzzle to cover a desired amount of space. This type of rubber mat comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. The most common sizes of interlocking tiles are 20 inches by 20 inches, 24 inches by 24 inches and 4 feet by 6 feet. The smaller sizes of these rubber mat tiles make them easier to handle and move if necessary. The interlocking mechanism allows for easy installation and removal allowing the tiles to move with you, unlike permanently installed flooring. Because they are not meant to be adhered, this gives them longer life and a better, more long-term investment. Interlocking rubber mat tiles can be made in thicknesses from 3/8-inch to 3 inches in thickness. This makes these rubber mat tiles the go-to product for floor protection jobs.
2(c). Rubber Matting Rolls
Rubber matting rolls are durable and versatile and are available in different custom lengths. These rubber mat types are usually found in commercial and home gyms, basements and playgrounds because these rubber mats come in rolls and cover a larger square footage.
Rubber matting rolls come in a set length of 50 feet; however, there is the option to cut custom lengths up to 50 consecutive feet. Not only do these rubber matting rolls cover more ground but, the rubber material protects the flooring underneath. Rubber mat rolls make installation easier since they cover a larger area with less seams than tiles. However, rolls are always thinner than tiles, otherwise they cannot be rolled up. Rubber mating rolls tend to be 3mm (about 1/8-inch) thick to about 9.5mm (3/8-inch) thick.
2(d). Stand Alone Rubber Mats
Stand-alone rubber mats can be used to perform different functions. A stand-alone rubber mat is usually placed in areas with heavy foot traffic or in areas employees are required to stand for long periods of time. Some stand-alone mat examples include comfort mats, horse stall mats and step or stair treads. Since stand-alone doormats are used to cover smaller spaces, they generally are focused on a specific job like anti-fatigue kitchen mats or utility mats. Thanks to its rubber material, rubber mats provide superior traction for areas exposed to moisture. These versatile rubber mats can be used on kitchen floors, as anti-fatigue mats for employees or as stand-alone rubber stair treads. A great example of stand-alone stair treads are cast iron treads. Cast iron stair treads are made of thicker rubber than an average rubber stair tread to give it more weight so there is no need for the use of adhesives.
2(e). Rubber Doormats
Doormats provide excellent traction while keeping the floors indoors free of any outside moisture or debris. Rubber doormats with perform particularly well outdoors due to its water-resistant qualities. While doormats made from other materials are highly susceptible to the growth of mold or mildew when exposed to moisture, rubber doormats will not have this problem. Moisture is an unavoidable hazard that can cause slip and fall accidents in or out of a residence or building. The addition of a rubber mat in front of residential and commercial entryways will great reduce the risk of slipping and falling on outside moisture or debris.
2(d). Rubber Stair Treads
Staircases are one of the most common places slip and fall accidents occur so it is always best to take into consideration the safety of your stairs. Rubber is the ideal material for making non-slip stair treads because of its high coefficient of friction making this rubber mat the best for outdoor stair use. Rubber stair treads are very versatile and can be used indoors and outdoors interchangeably. As an added bonus, rubber stair treads come in cast iron designs, which are more focused on design and aesthetics and stair treads with nosing, which provides extra protection around the edge of the step.
How to Install Rubber Mats
There are three different methods of installing a rubber mat. The first method being loose laying. Loose laying does not require any extra equipment or adhesives. You just place the mat on the surface of your choice and, you are done! Simple and easy. The second method of installing a rubber mat is by using double-sided tape. This method is the most recommended method of installation because it poses less of a risk to damaging the steps themselves during removal. Double-sided tape allows for easy removal and replacement without worrying about damaging the surface below. The final and most permanent method of installation is glue. Glue is generally recommended for those who want a permanent application or for areas with heavy foot traffic. This method is generally not recommended because, as mentioned before, glue may damage the steps themselves while removing or replacing the rubber mat.
Why Should You Use Rubber Mats?
Three outstanding reasons you should use rubber mats in your home or business is for durability, comfort and affordability. All three of these factors work together to help keep floors and stairs safe. The rubber material of these mats is extremely durable and affordable thanks to their manufacturing process. Most rubber mats are made from recycled and reclaimed rubber which are the most cost-efficient materials because they are made out of repurposed materials that are meant to last. Since reclaimed and recycled rubber derives from old vehicle tires, they are extremely durable. Being resistant to harsh weather conditions, this is the ideal material for outdoor use and provides comfort for places employees are required to stand for long hours. Rubber’s elasticity allows the rubber mat to absorb the force of impact creating further comfort for your joints and feet.
How to Maintain Rubber Mats
Rubber is an extremely easy to clean and maintain because they are so durable. To clean up loose messes take a dry broom or polyester mop to sweep off debris. For tougher, stuck on messes, you may use a wet rag and some mild cleaning agents to wipe off the mess. Since they are also water resistant, hosing them down is another cleaning method that can be use. This easy maintenance allows a rubber mat to be used in the grimiest of places because it can withstand many damaging forces.
Explore the Versatility of Rubber Mats
Since rubber is a very durable material, it can be used both indoors and outdoors; however, there are certain variations of rubber that do better outdoors where the rubber mat can be affected by the environment. For outdoor use, recycled rubber is the ideal rubber type to use. Recycled rubber has a slightly porous finish, due to the method used to manufacture it, and allows water to drain through. It is also resistant to the harsh rays of the sun so it will not lose it color if left out in the sun for too long. Natural rubber on the other hand, is best used indoors because its color will fade after extended exposure to the sun.
Rubber vs. Vinyl Flooring
The first thing you will probably notice between rubber flooring and vinyl flooring is the vast difference in materials, Rubber is generally thicker than vinyl and are available in different thicknesses to protect the subflooring below. The rubber material itself is more durable than vinyl making it versatile enough for heavy duty uses such as gym or garage flooring. Vinyl is a thinner material and, although there are various thicknesses available for vinyl flooring, it is not the best material for protecting surfaces. Rubber is an elastomer which allows it to absorb the force of a heavy object falling whereas vinyl flooring may become damaged. Rubber flooring is also extremely versatile compared to vinyl. Due to its high resistance to moisture, rubber can be used indoors and outdoors. It will keep its traction even when coming into contact with moisture unlike vinyl which will become slick when wet.
Rubber vs. Carpet
Although carpet can be soft and plush, it is not the best flooring material when it comes to safety and durability. Unlike the versatile rubber floors, carpet can only be installed indoors since it is not water resistant and can get dirty quite easily. When carpet flooring does get dirty, it is harder to clean since debris can become lost and lodged and moisture is absorbed by the fibers. Carpet floorings can also become dangerous when walking with smooth soled shoes or socks.
Rubber vs. Ceramics
Ceramic flooring is beautiful and elegant; however, it may not be the best flooring option for areas experiencing heavy foot traffic or activity. Ceramic is made up of a course clay material that is water resistant, however, not completely. Due to its clay material, it is harder to clean and maintain ceramic flooring. Since ceramic flooring often comes in the form of tiles, it is important to periodically reseal the grout joints of each tile to prevent moisture from damaging the ceramic.
Rubber vs. Plastic
Whether it be an accidental spill or natural precipitation, plastic has absolutely no water-resistant properties making it slick when coming into contact with moisture. Because of this, plastic flooring is not recommended for outdoor installation and use. Compared to rubber, plastic is not very durable and is prone to fading color if exposed to too much direct sunlight. Plastic is easily damaged by heavy and sharp objects and is susceptible to damage when exposed to extreme temperatures whereas rubber will absorb the force of impact and maintain its color even when left out in the sun.
Rubber vs. Metal
Metal floors come in various different sizes and shapes and generally give a more industrial and professional aesthetic to wherever they are placed. Although a very tough and strong material, metal flooring can still be dented and scratched with excessive force, unlike rubber which bends to the weight and absorbs the force of impact. Metal also has a smooth surface that will become slick when exposed to moisture. It is not recommended to walk on metal flooring barefoot as it may become very cold or very hot when exposed to extreme temperatures.
The addition of a rubber mat to your home or business can prove to be an investment well made. The variations of different raw rubber materials all have the ability to retain traction even when wet and in the harshest of weather conditions. A rubber mat can come in various forms from interlocking tiles to 50-foot rolls to cover the largest of areas. Compared to other flooring options, rubber is by far the best material for easy maintenance, cleaning and for protecting the surface of your floors.