Rubber Flooring Installation: A How-To Guide

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While rubber flooring has long been a popular option for commercial settings, homeowners are increasingly interested in the material.
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Rubber flooring has long been a popular option in commercial settings like gyms and hospitals, and it is becoming increasingly popular in homes. Its sound-dampening, anti-microbial, water-resistant and slip-resistant properties make it a popular option for kids' playrooms, garages, basements, workshops, home gyms, bathrooms and more. As if all those benefits weren't enough, the rubber floor installation process is simple even for most DIY novices.

Rubber Flooring Types

There are three main types of rubber flooring you may choose to install:

  • Rubber rolls: As the name implies, these are sold in long rubber rolls that will need to be unrolled and cut to fit in your room. If using rubber rolls, you'll need to decide whether to use glue or double-sided tape to adhere your flooring. Glue is more permanent and allows for an additional moisture barrier, which is why manufacturers recommend its use, but if you are installing it on a dry subfloor, many homeowners prefer to use double-sided tape because it is easier to work with and the floor can be removed more easily.
  • Interlocking rubber tiles: These tiles are also called puzzle tiles because they feature puzzle-like protrusions that can fit together for a quick and simple installation process. Interlocking rubber tiles are sometimes sold in modular, no-cut kits that feature edge and corner pieces that have protrusions only on three and two sides, respectively. Tiles not sold in no-cut kits need to have the protrusions cut off on the sides for edge and corner pieces.
  • Straight rubber tiles: These tiles are sold with pins that fit in holes drilled in the sides of the tiles, locking one tile to the next.
Proper preparation is essential before installing rubber flooring.
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How to Prepare For Rubber Flooring

No matter what method of rubber flooring installation you use, you need to prep the installation area first. You can choose to install the flooring over your existing hard floor — not carpet or padding — but only if it is in good condition and if your rubber flooring is not so thick as to cause significant height differences between rooms with other flooring materials.

  1. It's important that the installation area be flat. If you notice there are any low spots, you'll need to strip off old flooring and adhesives until you get down to the subfloor and then raise up the uneven areas with the appropriate leveling compound.
  2. Once you have ensured the existing floor or subfloor is level, clean it well. Hard surfaces should be vacuumed and mopped, whereas wood subfloors should be vacuumed.
  3. When ordering new rubber flooring for indoor purposes, as CalRecycle points out, it's important to only use rubber flooring made for interior-only purposes. This is because rubber flooring products made for exterior use tend to have drastically higher levels of volatile organic compounds, which could contain potentially dangerous chemicals.
  4. When you receive your rubber flooring, remove it from the packaging and lay it on the subfloor for at least one night before installing so it can acclimate to the temperature of the surrounding room and, in the case of rubber rolls, flatten out.

How to Install Rubber Rolls

The most challenging part of installing rubber flooring rolls is cutting the sheets so they fit properly without noticeable gaps. Be particularly careful while cutting and always use a T square or straightedge and a utility knife with a fresh blade.

  1. Lay out the rubber rolls on your floor the way you want them to be installed.
  2. Cut the rubber sheets so they fit in the room, leaving a few inches of excess on the end of each section of roll that will touch the last wall. Use a hammer and wood block to get the sheets in tightly against the walls and one another. Line up the roll against the wall to see how much excess you need to remove and then pull the roll back and cut the excess on the end of each section of roll with a straightedge and utility knife. Cut a little at a time to ensure you do not cut too much.
  3. For the last row, measure the size you will need and then leave a few extra inches on each side. Measure the exact width of the floor area on the last row, being sure to measure at each end and the center of each roll in the row. Next, measure out this distance on the bottom of the rolls and use chalk to draw a line between the three points. Then, cut the excess rubber along the line with a T square and the utility knife. Just like before, leave a few extra inches along one end to ensure it can be cut as flush as possible with the wall.
  4. If you are using double-sided tape, lift up the first roll and then stick double-sided tape along the perimeter of where it will lay on the ground before laying the mat back down. Then, lift up the rubber a little at a time and peel up the other side of the double-sided tape, gently placing the mat back into place to avoid trapping air bubbles. Press down on the mat to help it stick. Repeat this process section by section until all mats are secured.
  5. If you are using glue, lift up all the rolls, marking where each should sit if necessary, and lay a light layer of adhesive over a 10-foot-long stretch of the floor using a trowel. Then, carefully unroll 10 feet of the flooring over the adhesive. Repeat this process until all of the rolls have been completely glued down using a mallet and wood block to ensure a tight fit between mats.
  6. After waiting 60 minutes for the adhesive to stick, roll the mats with a 50- or 100-pound carpet roller to help the rubber stick to the adhesive. Do this again after another 30 minutes.
Interlocking rubber flooring tiles are simple to install.
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How to Install Interlocking Rubber Flooring Tiles

Installing rubber tiles is similar to installing other rolled rubber flooring products, with the main difference being how the flooring tiles connect to one another. In fact, installing interlocking rubber tiles (also called puzzle tiles) is perhaps the easiest method of all because the tiles simply snap together and do not even require adhesive, although you can choose to add it if you worry about the floor shifting due to heavy foot traffic. Even those terrified of DIY work can usually put together a great-looking floor made from interlocking rubber tiles without hiring a professional installer.

  1. First, if you bought tiles to make a patterned floor, loosely lay out the mats where you want to install them to get an idea of how they will look, rearranging the pattern by rotating or moving tiles until you're satisfied. If you bought a no-cut kit, you can start laying down the rubber flooring tiles immediately using corners, borders and center pieces according to the layout of the room.
  2. For tiles that are not sold in a no-cut kit, you'll want to secure the first row on the most visible side of the room first. Start by cutting off the puzzle protrusions on one side of these tiles using a straightedge and a utility knife. Do not cut the main tile area, only the excess protrusions so the tile will sit flush with the wall. Cut the protrusions from two sides for the first block since it will sit in a corner.
  3. Place the corner piece and then line up the protrusions of this tile with the next one using a rubber mallet to connect the tiles if required. Trying to keep the tiles flush with the wall, keep adding tiles from the first row until you get to the other corner.
  4. Cut the corner piece to fit using your utility knife and T square and then connect it with the last piece of that row.
  5. On the next row, skip the edge piece and lay out all the middle pieces. Then, move to the next row and the next, leaving the edge pieces until every row but the last has been installed.
  6. Finally, cut the protrusions and excess length from the edges and the last row of rubber tiles, connecting the edge pieces and middle pieces of the final row first and the corners last.
Straight-sided rubber tiles utilize plastic connector pins.
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How to Install Straight-Sided Rubber Tiles

Straight-sided rubber tiles are connected through the use of plastic connector pins. Specific directions may vary by manufacturer, so always read the provided installation guide. Generally speaking, the process works like this:

  1. Loosely lay down the tiles to get a good idea of how the tiles will fit.
  2. Insert connector pins into the slots on two adjacent sides of all but one of the tiles in the first row (this will be the second corner piece) using your hands or a rubber mallet to push the pin until it is halfway in the tile.
  3. Place one of the tiles in the corner of the installation area with the sides missing pins touching the walls and the sides with pins facing out from the corner. Then, line up the second tile with its pins facing the same way. Push the pins from the first tile into the second until you meet resistance and then gently tap the mat with a rubber mallet until the pins are completely inserted into the tile.
  4. Continue connecting tiles this way until you get to the end tile.
  5. If you need to trim the end tile, use a measuring tape and chalk to measure and mark the bottom of the tile and cut it with a straightedge and utility knife.
  6. Connect the end piece with the remaining pins pointing toward the next row you plan to install.
  7. Repeat this process until you get to the final row, at which point you will only need to insert pins on one side of the tiles, leaving the last tile entirely free from pins.
references

Jill Harness is a blogger with experience covering architecture, design and decor trends from around the globe. As she lives in what would politely be called a "fixer upper," she is particularly interested in writing about DIY projects and repairs. Most of her home design writing can be found at www.homesandhues.com. You can find out more about Jill's experience and learn how to contact her through her website, www.jillharness.com.

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