Recycled rubber flooring is a term that encompasses a wide range of floor coverings that use rubber from old tires as part of their product.
Forms of Recycled Rubber Flooring
Rubber flooring comes in several forms for interior and exterior use, ranging from residential flooring to types that are more commercial.
Exterior rubber pavers have several advantages over standard stone or concrete pavers. They have a lower embodied energy and absorb force much better than the standard versions. They usually contain a very high percentage of recycled rubber and require no adhesive or other chemicals to install. Instead, they are laid just like their concrete counterparts.
Acoustically they are superior to traditional pavers because of their ability to absorb and deaden, rather than reflect sound. These acoustic pavers are often specially designed to use in patios or on roof gardens.
Roll rubber flooring comes in hundreds of colors and patterns. They are installed with an adhesive, similar to other forms of roll flooring. Post consumer content of roll rubber flooring varies greatly depending on the manufacturer. Some rubber flooring manufacturers make use of both recycled and natural rubber to create their flooring.
Recycled rubber tiles have varying amounts of post consumer waste and may use other materials, both recycled and new, to create varying textures. Depending on the product, they may be installed with an adhesive or just placed on top of a subfloor. Like other types of tile, recycled rubber tiles come in variety of sizes and colors.
Athletic flooring is used in parks, stadiums, and tracks. Made with a rough texture and highly resilient, it can be a great surface for both safety and performance concerns. This type of flooring often uses a high concentration of post consumer materials.
Green home builders know that recycled rubber flooring gets high marks for durability, green manufacturing processes, and preserving air quality. It is important to know that there are two forms of rubber used in flooring applications. Natural rubber, a biodegradable and sustainable material, is seldom used in rubber products. Instead, synthetic rubber, a petro-chemical derivative, is used for its increased durability. Recycled flooring products make use of synthetic rubber for their post consumer content.
If you are concerned about air quality, rubber flooring is a very good choice. Off-gassing should be minimal with this type of flooring, although the amount of VOC's vary between manufacturers. Some manufacturers have also developed tiles that can be installed without adhesive, further minimizing the off-gassing potential of the flooring. Most flooring is manufactured without PVC or formaldehyde.
Many rubber flooring products are created through environmentally efficient manufacturing practices. One company, ECOsurfaces, which makes rubber flooring, uses little water, reuses scrap, and has no smokestacks because they do not heat their product. Other manufacturers have similar environmental safeguards in play.
Rubber flooring is known for its durability. It has a soft resilience, making it comfortable to stand on for long periods. It also has even color wear. This means that worn spots may become thinner over time, but the flooring will never become lighter or darker in color. It also resists staining, mold, and mildew.
The largest drawback for recycled synthetic rubber is that it doesn't decompose, although it can be recycled after use as flooring. For this reason, some argue that recycled synthetic rubber should only be used in high traffic areas or in applications where durability is the highest priority. Natural rubber flooring, they argue, is more appropriate for interior residential use, where traffic is usually minimal and flooring is replaced on average every 10 years.
Despite detractors, most recycled synthetic rubber flooring gets significant credits from LEED. These credits include those for low VOCs, using post consumer materials, and being fully recyclable. For this reason, this material has become quite popular with architects who specialize in eco friendly houses and green commercial design.
While synthetic rubber flooring is an excellent choice for outdoor applications, the superiority of recycled rubber indoors still remains questionable with so many competing sustainable materials. However, high traffic areas, no matter where they are located, will benefit from a floor covering made of this sturdy material.