The Hidden Benefits of Rubber Surfacing

February 14, 2020

When it comes to surfacing, consumers are spoiled for choice. According to FlooringInc, hard surface materials and appearances such as concrete, wood, vinyl, and even carpet are all popular and common options for interior surfaces as of 2020, but by no means is this list extensive.

Notably, it leaves out a surprising and flexible flooring option that works for interior and exterior surfaces, is stylish and safer than traditional flooring, and is already broadly used.

We’re talking about rubber, of course.

How to Choose Surfacing Material

Every surfacing option has benefits and drawbacks. When choosing a type of material, it’s not only vital to make sure that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but to make sure that the big selling points of a particular surface are useful to you.

Picture the typical use of your surface: do you need unusual durability, to accommodate vehicles? Or would you prefer a gentler surface, to minimize injury from falls?

While it’s tempting to shop from a design perspective first, surfacing is a long term commitment. Consumers should carefully consider what they’re going to get out of any particular material, and what types are currently popular. For instance…

Concrete

This surface material has a flexible application, able to be used outdoors for its durability and ease of maintenance, but also indoors with a variety of design choices and the same low maintenance that makes it an asset outside as well. Just as concrete can be used for a workshop floor to stand up against dropped tools and heavy machinery, it can just as easily be polished and installed into an office building looking for something durable but also stylish.

The drawbacks of concrete are well known, however. The DIY Network outlines certain aspects of concrete surfacing that should give property owners pause. Notably, concrete is a hard surface. If your property:

  • sees a lot of client foot traffic
  • is used mostly by individuals at a higher fall-risk than others, or
  • is in a spot where something delicate (made of materials such as glass or ceramic) may be dropped on it,
then this hardness could work against the property’s purpose or create liability for the owners.

It’s surface can easily become slippery, and it’s subject to but not especially equipped for the freeze and thaw cycle, which creates cracks. Its susceptibility to moisture may also create problems with maintaining surface treatments, and make the material weak.

Concrete can be ideal for dry surfaces that are prioritizing functionality over long term style, with no additional safety needs. It’s a less than optimal choice for surfaces in moisture prone areas with specific safety needs, however, or property owners that don’t want the added burden the staying vigilant for cracks.

Wood

Wood surfacing is the current trend in stylish flooring. Its aesthetic can be rustic, modern, minimalist, and everything in between depending on its wide range of style options. In addition to its own stylistic value in a room, it’s also compatible with other options: a hardwood floor can be dressed up with any type of rug, and transition seamlessly between other floor types.

Wood is also flexible in its actual material. While traditional hardwood surfaces are the most popular version, engineered wood floors made in layers with minimal wood is more environmentally aware than the typical wood options.

Engineered wood, however, could possibly share traditional wood’s weaknesses. The Spruce and HomeAdvisor warn of certain drawbacks to wooden and engineered wood flooring, such as:
  • significant weakness to moisture, varying property by property
  • susceptibility to wear and tear in high traffic areas
  • common and costly maintenance
  • potential disruption caused by squeaking boards
It also shares concrete’s hardness, making it less than ideal for surfaces where trips are more common, or for properties where the fall risk is greater. Also, in addition to its costly and not unusual maintenance, wood is one of the more expensive surfaces to install properly.

Wood is ultimately ideal for stylish, dry interior developments, in properties where the fall risk is minimal and there’s low foot traffic. It’s flexible and for its cost, can stand up to a standard amount of wear and tear; however, if your surface has to stand up against moisture, wear and tear, or provide some sort of comfort to fall-risks, wood just won’t meet your needs.

Vinyl

This surface has most things that wood lacks: it’s comparatively cheap, has the same flexible aesthetic, with an installation and maintenance process that’s much easier. In addition, it isn’t limited by a single aesthetic: if a consumer wants cheap wood flooring, vinyl is an admirable mimic. However, it can also look like stone, and comes in a variety of unique and colourful patterns to completely forgo a natural appearance.

It’s also less hard which is more comfortable for walking, and less prone to squeaking boards than its wooden counterpart. This can be a boon for properties with heavier foot traffic or more regulated noise restrictions.

Vinyl’s weaknesses, however, are what makes wood strong. HomeAdvisor cautions that vinyl surfacing is easily damaged from the shock of dropping objects, and its colour can quickly be compromised by foot traffic or sun exposure. It also doesn’t hold up to extreme temperatures in either direction, making it unusable for exterior or partially exterior surfaces.

Vinyl is ideal for interior surfaces, away from direct sunlight and not in any areas where there’s a risk of frequent or heavy drops. Be sure to consult a professional installer for special considerations about the installation area, but besides those, vinyl is easy enough to install that DIY’ers can frequently do so with minimal instruction.

However, if your property has heavy foot traffic or unusual exposure to the sun or other elements, it’s probably best to avoid vinyl and save yourself the headache of frequent maintenance.

Carpet

Carpet has fallen significantly in popularity over the years, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. The Spruce writes about the benefits of carpet that help it persist in trending surfacing material.

It’s main benefit is that it’s stylish, available in as many textures, colours, and patterns as you could want; it’s also a soft surface, beneficial for any accidental falls, as well as textured to reduce the risk of slip accidents. Carpet muffles sound, which works for properties that want to reduce unnecessary noise from foot traffic. It’s also cost-effective to install in larger spaces, as opposed to something like hardwood.

However, carpet is notoriously difficult to clean and subject to visible wear in a variety of forms. Carpet could:
  • tear, or wear down with repeated foot traffic,
  • suffer from runs and snags in the fabric, or
  • fray from damage to the seams
Being fabric, it’s also subject to staining and fading in direct sunlight, which can require a full replacement of sections of carpet.

This fragility makes maintenance costs higher than expected, in contrast to its affordable installation. Properties that are used for clientele who may have issues with motor control may want to avoid carpet. In addition, high traffic environments with high stain or moisture potential, such as arenas, kitchens, or bathrooms should also avoid full carpet surfaces.

Much like hardwood, carpet is a classic choice; however, in environments where occupants may frequently drop things, or the property itself is prone to moisture build up, carpet may not be the best for surfacing.

Rubber

Perhaps not the first material that people think of while looking to install or revamp old surfaces, rubber combines the best features of its competitors. It’s stylish and versatile, available in multiple colours and able to be installed with custom logos or designs inlaid directly in the rubber. Unlike vinyl and carpet, however, certain mixtures of rubber surfacing can withstand both persistent, direct sunlight and wear from foot traffic to keep its vivid colour.

It’s also durable, with a shock absorbing surface that can handle busy environments and frequent object dropping. This can also prevent injury for those with a higher chance of falling. Rubber can also be custom built to specially cushion a person in the event of a fall from heights, making it ideal for properties and surfaces frequented by children.

Furthermore, rubber surfacing is slip resistant, even when wet. This is an additional safety measure, but also ideal for surfaces like pool decks or playgrounds that undergo moisture build up or exposure to the elements. Because of this durability and resistance to moisture damage, rubber is ideal for indoor and outdoor applications: and unlike concrete, it’s built to withstand the freeze and thaw cycle characteristic of Canadian winters.

Maintenance of rubber surfacing is also easier and faster than many surfaces. Rubber surfacing requires fewer repairs because it’s durable and less prone to damage from moisture, UV rays, and wear and tear. It cleans just as easily as concrete, with basic soap and water, and only requires resealing once every two years.

Installation is fast, and the surface is frequently able to be used from 24 to 48 hours from the laying of rubber. It’s also easier to place than other materials: where vinyl has extremely picky requirements for a level surface and hardwood has a complex laying process, rubber can be placed over broken or cracked surfaces with minimal removal. The process also requires very few and modestly sized machines, which reduces the intrusiveness of the process to your property.

Rubber surfacing is flexible, able to be used for many different surfaces and for a variety of special surfacing needs. While you may not want a rubber floor in a residential living room, the benefits to areas like pool decks, playgrounds, gyms, and garage floors are undeniable.

The Best Surface For Your Property

Ultimately, the best material for the surfaces of your property depends on your individual needs and the needs of the occupants of the property. An area like a kitchen will have different surfacing needs than a waiting room, just like you would outfit a pool deck with a different material than your bedroom.

The most important thing to remember when shopping around for a surfacing material is that while design is important, there are other considerations to make when installing surfacing material. It depends on who is using the surface, the environment that the surface is in, and the purpose of the area it’s in.

Maybe certain materials aren’t the first thing that comes to mind for your commercial or residential property, but there’s a variety of benefits to consider for every surfacing material.

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