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Last edited 18 May 2020
The term ‘flooring’ refers to the lower enclosing surface of spaces within buildings. This may be part of the floor structure, such as the upper surface of a concrete slab or floor boards, but typically it is a permanent covering laid over the floor. There is a wide range of flooring materials available, including rubber flooring.
Around 1600 BC, Mesoamerican civilisations extracted sap from rubber trees to make the earliest-known natural forms of rubber. Evidence of its existence illustrates how the substance was used for practical purposes (such as waterproofing) and for leisure activities (such as balls used for Mayan and Aztec sporting events).
Scientists in France, England and Italy explored and expanded the uses of rubber in the 1700s, but its applications were still relatively limited. In 1839, the chemical process of sulfur vulcanisation was used by Charles Goodyear to modify the properties of rubber (such as durability and elasticity) and create a synthetic, stable form of the material that could be used in a wide variety of applications. Eventually, this durable form of rubber was incorporated into the manufacture of automobile tyres, medical gloves, toy balloons and many other household and industrial products.
South America remained the primary source of the material until seeds were exported to other parts of the world in the 1800s. Today, the majority of the world’s natural rubber comes from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia; leaf blight and other environmental issues have significantly reduced the production of natural rubber in South America.
 Rubber flooring applications
Illustration of Frank Furness patent for rubber flooring, 1896
After World War II, rubber flooring gained popularity. It was introduced into hospitals, sports facilities, laboratories, schools, garages, electronic manufacturing sites and other applications where water resistance, durability, insulation, non-slip, anti-fatigue, anti-bacterial and anti-static characteristics were required.
Today, rubber flooring is made from natural or synthetic materials, including recycled rubber tyres. It is categorised as a resilient flooring, because it exhibits characteristics of elasticity or ‘bounce’. This also makes it suitable for dance floors, restaurants and other high-traffic areas where foot fatigue and slippage can occur.
Rubber flooring is also becoming more common in residential installations. It is being used for children’s playrooms, shower and bathrooms, garages, home gymnasiums and other applications that tend to require moisture and stain resistance, sound absorption, durability, elasticity and temperature stability.
 Types of rubber flooring
Rubber flooring can be homogeneous (with colour uniformly distributed through the entire product) or laminated (with patterns and colours only applied to the top layer of the product. It comes in three main types: interlocking tiles, square edge tiles and sheets or rolls.
Interlocking can be installed using a free lay method that does not require adhesive. Instead, they lock together. While this is a somewhat temporary method of installation, the tiles should not shift due to their locking characteristics.
Square edge tiles can be installed through the free lay method as well. However, they typically require an adhesive for permanent installation. They are cut with a sharp edge that is designed to create a virtually seamless finish from one tile to the next.
Some rubber flooring manufacturers have incorporated environmentally sensitive approaches into their product development. These products can qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) credits for green buildings and comply with Blue Angel low emission certification (in Germany) and GREENGUARD Certification from UL Environment (in the United States).
In most residential instances, rubber flooring can be cleaned by vacuuming up debris and then washing surfaces with soap and water or specialist floor cleaning detergents. In commercial applications, it may be necessary to use professional products designed specifically for the environment. For instance, infection control products can be used on rubber flooring installed in healthcare environments.
At the end of life, many rubber flooring products can be recycled.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Blue Angel ecolabel.
- BREEAM Wiki.
- Floor definition.
- Floor slab.
- GREENGUARD Certification.
- Insulation for ground floors.
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED
- Polymeric flooring.
- Raised floor.
- Resin flooring.
- Resilient Floor Covering Institute.
- Resilient flooring.
- Separating floor.
- Types of floor.
- Types of flooring.
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