With more than 50 years’ experience in the local and international flooring industry, Denver Coleman, chairman of Polyflor SA, answers questions posed by installers, architects and readers.
In this issue, he discusses the use of rubber flooring and the various types of rubber flooring options.
“I’ve started to see various rubber flooring options available in the South African market. Can you explain what the main differences between these floors are? How do I know which floor to choose in our school gymnasium? I’m also concerned about whether or not these floors are environmentally responsible and easy to maintain. Any advice you are able to give will be greatly appreciated.” Beryl Strachan, Midrand
Rubber flooring is an exceptionally tough and robust flooring option that has long been used in very high-traffic and industrial applications such as airports, lifts, transport (for example on trains, buses, planes), transit areas and public spaces. The benefit of rubber flooring is that it is generally easy to maintain, uses minimal chemical products for maintenance and does not readily show wear-and-tear such as cigarette burns or scuff marks. Rubber floors are also generally regarded as very environmentally sound seeing as they have low VOC emissions and last for many years.
The different types of rubber flooring
There are various options available in rubber flooring products. The most traditional and best-known rubber floor is the rubber studded tile. This is the kind of floor you commonly see in airports, industrial applications, on ramps and also in areas where a specific look is required. The tiles come in a variety of thicknesses, starting at 2.7mm and going up to 4mm in thickness, depending on the manufacturer.
The rubber studded tiles are of a rubber construction and in some cases also have a SBR (a general-purpose synthetic rubber produced from a copolymer of styrene and butadiene) or other synthetic rubber content. These pressed tiles need to be carefully installed according to the specific manufacturer’s instructions, always using the correct adhesive. Care needs to be taken with the joins, as a heavy roller only puts pressure on the studs and will not guarantee grip around the tile edges.
Some manufacturers of these studded rubber tiles also produce a sheet version of this type of flooring, with a smooth or non-stud surface. These sheets look quite different from the studded product and will generally have a thickness of only 2mm. Although the sheet versions aren’t quite as tough as the studded version, they are calendered (a finishing process where the material is passed under rollers at high temperatures and pressures) as opposed to the stud version which is a pressed product.
Both above-mentioned products offer a wide selection of colours, although the greys and blacks have proven to be the most popular, bright primary colours are very useful for creative design or demarcating specific areas.
Recycled rubber flooring
The third alternative type of rubber flooring, and fast becoming a very popular option, is a recycled granular product which is generally made from old vehicle tyres and other rubber products such as the soles of running shoes. Some of these recycled products can even be used outdoors as they are made from recycled vehicle tyres and can therefore withstand the elements. Recycled granular rubber floors are available in various thicknesses, starting from 3.2mm up to 8mm depending on the required application. They can also be found in both tile and sheet form, although sheeting is the more popular choice.
This product is primarily marketed for the sport, health and fitness industries as it is non-slip, resilient and durable. In gyms and sports areas it has the added advantage of offering good protection from weights and other heavy equipment.
In recent years it has also grown in popularity in the education and retail industries, both from a design and a durability perspective. Apart from offering excellent acoustic and slip-resistant properties, this type of rubber floor is extremely tough, and offers great design opportunities for branding and educational content on the floors. It is therefore ideal for use in schools’ multipurpose halls and in gymnasiums, etc. In retail and commercial areas, it can handle very high traffic, is sound-dampening and easy to maintain, and can be used to create great designs.
Recycled granular rubber floors need to be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions with the correct adhesive. Care needs to be taken with the joins as rubber is a natural product and requires fitting expertise.
All in all, rubber flooring is an excellent flooring option that can be used in many applications and there are a variety of choices depending on your needs. Make sure you use an installer with experience in rubber and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to ensure a successful outcome.
If you have any flooring question relating to design, installation, problems or commentary you wish to share with Denver, please e-mail him at email@example.com“>firstname.lastname@example.org with ASK DENVER in the subject line or phone Blythe at Polyflor on 011 609 3500.