If you want to protect your floors, mats are your best shot. Rubber materials have become popular surfacing options largely due to the many benefits that they offer. Because rubber mat flooring is highly durable, it stays resilient and tough despite a whole range of adversarial conditions. When they’re made of rubber, it’s tough to tire mats out!
Rubber mats even come in different colors, sizes, and compositions. Given this degree of flexibility, rubber seems unparalleled in its potential uses. But of course, some variations of a rubber product are better-suited than others for certain jobs. (That’s why options exist!) For example, some rubber mats are better than others for outdoor applications. Other rubber mats are meant to withstand the weight of heavy equipment like washers, dryers, and treadmills. And there are even rubber mats specifically designed for kitchen floors.
Rubber floor matting is usually meant to cover the entire surface area of a room’s floor. And usually, this is easily achievable thanks to rubber flooring options like interlocking tiles, rubber rolls, and rubber runners. Rubber mats, on the other hand, are meant to cover smaller areas or cover fractions of larger areas. Ensuring that we get all the benefits that we are looking for requires picking the right materials and design. Because rubber mat flooring is available in so many varieties, it’s easy to see why rubber is typically the preferred surfacing option for short- and long-term use—chosen correctly, a rubber product can be applied to most situations. Here are the three main forms in which rubber mats are available:
Now it may surprise you, but these tiles interlock. Interlocking tiles are typically used to cover large areas, and they come in squares. The squares’ edges are uniformly sawtoothed so that the edge of one square can seamlessly attach to the edge of another. Once you feel like you’ve covered enough ground, interlocking tiles also come with end pieces that smooth the tiles’ sawtoothed edges. Some of these end pieces are beveled too, making your newly rubberized surface stylish, as well as wheelchair accessible.
Rubber Rolls and Runners
Like tiles, rubber mat rolls and rubber runner mats excel in larger areas that require more extensive coverage. Unlike interlocking tiles, rubber mat rolls and rubber runner mats are generally seamless once installed, creating a water-tight barrier between your subflooring and the environment. Most floor mat manufacturers also offer custom cut mats, which means that—no matter the size or shape—you’ll be able to protect your flooring.
Standalone Rubber Mats
Finally, rubber floor matting is also sold in individual units, which is perfect if you’re looking to cover a relatively small space. Standalone mats are often used to cover segments of kitchen floors or home gyms. These mats are also available in a perforated style, which is especially useful in kitchen environments—where water needs to be redirected since slippage is so commonplace. These rubber mats are even sold in extra-thick varieties, making them useful as a protective layer between heavy equipment and delicate subflooring.
But while the cuts of these flooring surfaces change their use, the kinds and proportions of rubber materials that compose these surfaces are just as important. For example, just based on composition alone, some rubber mats are better suited for either indoor or outdoor use. So it’s important to choose the right material. Rubber comes in many varieties. To help you better understand what option is best suited for your needs, below, we’ve listed breakdowns of the four main materials out of which rubber products are made.
Natural rubber is harvested from Hevea Barsiliesis, a tree native to the forests of South America. Over time, Hevea Barsiliesis spread to other continents like Africa and Asia. Now, the 1,400-mile area around the equator in which Hevea Barsiliesis grows is known as the “Rubber Belt.” Rubber harvesters extract Hevea Barsiliesis’s sap and then subject the liquid sap to drying and solidifying process. One step of this process is vulcanization. When raw rubber is vulcanized, harvesters treat it with sulfur under high temperatures—a process that enhances the natural qualities of the rubber. Vulcanization is why natural rubber can maintain its elasticity in extremely hot or cold temperatures. So when it comes to natural rubber made into floor mats, weather likely won’t be an issue.
During World War II, many parts of the world lost access to natural rubber. In response, chemists tried to create rubber-like materials—materials meant to mimic all the best qualities of natural rubber. But they made something even better. The material they created, synthetic rubber, is made of a blend of substances whose qualities are, individually, already highly desirable. Below, we’ve listed the two main compounds that are found in synthetic rubbers and the reasons for why those compounds make synthetic rubber so robust.
1. Synthetic Rubber Made of Styrene-Butadiene (SBR): SBR is a polymer chain joined by two different types of molecules—also known as a copolymer. SBR is a copolymer of styrene and butadiene. SBR has moderate oil and ozone resistance, and synthetic rubber made of SBR isn’t usually recommended for applications that require extreme oil or ozone resistant qualities. Despite this, SBR does offer a strong resistance to abrasion, and it stays durable even through long stretches of time.
2. Synthetic Rubber Made of Acrylonitrile-Butadiene (Nitrile): Nitrile rubber is widely employed due to its exceptional resistance to petroleum products, animal greases, and other oils. Combined with its great tear and abrasion resistance, nitrile rubber naturally fits heavy-duty environments. However, it’s more vulnerable than other types of rubber to ozone and harsh weather conditions, so it’s best used indoors. Given nitrile rubber’s heavy-duty applicability but exclusivity to indoor environments, nitrile rubber is often used in kitchen environments.
Crumb rubber is produced from discarded automobile tires. In the process of making crumb rubber, discarded car tires must first be stripped of structural contaminants, such as metal, gravel, dirt, and glass. The tires are then chopped and shredded. Because the resulting crumbs differ in size and color, different types of crumbs are used to make different products. For example, in making rubber mats, manufacturers use a binder—often polyurethane-based—to bind the rubber crumbs into a unified sheet. This rubber floor mat material is resistant to abrasions but is vulnerable to chemical damage.
Like crumb rubber, reclaimed rubber is also produced from discarded car tires—as well as from other recycled rubber materials. However, unlike crumb rubber, reclaimed rubber undergoes a different processing method. First, the materials to make reclaimed rubber are grinded down to a powder. Then, this powder is devulcanized—a process in which the sulfur molecules added to the rubber during vulcanization are de-linked from the rubber. Devulcanization catalyzes the formation of new and stronger cross-links. It’s like building muscle—where the proteins in your bicep are purposely torn so that newer, stronger connections replace them. Devulcanized rubber materials are more resistant to high temperatures and are less susceptible to brittleness in cold temperatures. Devulcanization also makes the rubber mat flooring more resistant to chemical damage.
What Are Rubber Mats Good For?
Well, a lot of things—perhaps too much to even count. But we hope that with this article, you can at least take away what different types of rubber mats are useful for. When it comes to finding the right floor matting for your specific application, there is a type of rubber matting out there that best fits your need. There are several materials rubber is made of. And rubber mats are sold in all shapes and sizes. You can even order custom matting online! Taking the time to learn about all the ways in which rubber products differ pays dividends—for you and for the things you’re trying to protect.