Rubber flooring is the best option for weight rooms, gyms, fieldhouses and other athletic applications because of its stability and durability, and the support it gives athletes. There are, however, there are several types of rubber flooring for athletic facilities to choose from, and the options can vary widely in consistency and performance.
The main characteristics of athletic rubber flooring are determined by whether the rubber is recycled or vulcanized. Most rubber flooring is made from one of these two types of rubber, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
In this guide, we will explain the differences between flooring made from recycled tire rubber and flooring made from vulcanized rubber, and how the production of each type determines its characteristics.
Vulcanized Rubber Flooring
Vulcanized rubber flooring is produced using a process called vulcanization. In the vulcanization process, a curative is added to raw rubber materials that are heated to high temperatures and then molded and compressed under high pressure to shape the rubber.
The curatives used to vulcanize rubber include peroxides, metallic oxides and sulfur. These curatives modify the rubber by forming cross-linking structures between the polymer chains, which in turn make the rubber more durable. Flooring is one of many rubber products that are manufactured using vulcanization.
More rubber materials are used for the production of tires than for any other product—and most tires are vulcanized. When tires are recycled, they are broken down using a process called devulcanization. In devulcanization, vulcanized rubber is broken back down into its raw rubber materials. These devulcanized materials can be used as is for some rubber products, but for many products, they must be revulcanized to manufacture the new product.
Revulcanization is the process of vulcanizing rubber that was vulcanized and then devulcanized. Revulcanized rubber has essentially the same qualities as rubber that has been vulcanized for the first time, and it is used for a wide range of products, including athletic flooring.
Advantages of Vulcanized Rubber Flooring
The vulcanization process gives vulcanized athletic rubber flooring many advantages, including:
- Strength. The vulcanization process creates structures between polymer chains that make vulcanized rubber three to four times stronger than non-vulcanized rubber. Vulcanized rubber is resistant to lacerations and can withstand heavy loads.
- Stability. Slip resistant, vulcanized flooring provides excellent stability for athletes.
- Nonporousness. Vulcanized rubber flooring is nonporous, meaning that it does not absorb moisture. As a result, perspiration and spilled liquids are easy to clean off of vulcanized rubber floors, and they are fungal, bacterial and microbial resistant, making them safer for athletes.
- Consistency. Vulcanized rubber flooring will hold a consistent size and form through years of use. It will not curl up or change shape, and it requires fewer adhesives than non-vulcanized flooring to stay in place.
Recycled Rubber Flooring
Recycled rubber flooring is made from the raw rubber materials that are left from the devulcanization process. This type of flooring does not go through the vulcanization process again as the raw rubber materials, also referred to as crumb rubber, are distilled, sometimes multiple times, to remove all non-rubber materials. Once the crumb rubber is distilled, it is blended with a binder, color admixture and binding catalysts to create a mixture that is then pressurized to form a rubber surface. Recycled rubber surfaces are less dense and softer than vulcanized rubber flooring.
Recycled rubber flooring has its strengths, but it also has some glaring weaknesses. The following are the main disadvantages of recycled rubber flooring:
- Much weaker. The softer surface of recycled rubber flooring may be advantageous for certain applications, but it is not as durable and resilient as vulcanized rubber flooring. It is also not as seamless as vulcanized rubber flooring, which could make for a less stable surface and increase the risk of injuries.
- More porous. Recycled rubber has a porous top layer that can absorb moisture, making it more difficult to keep clean. The buildup of moisture within the rubber can also result in the buildup of bacteria or the breakdown of the rubber, which can raise health and safety concerns.
- Harder to maintain. The porous nature of recycled rubber flooring makes it harder to maintain. On vulcanized rubber flooring, dirt and moisture can be easily mopped away; getting rid of moisture that absorbed into recycled rubber flooring is not as easy.
- Less durable. Recycled rubber flooring is more vulnerable to lacerations and wear and tear, and it may require more adhesives to stay in place. It is also more likely than vulcanized rubber flooring to lose its shape over time.
Vulcanized Sport Impact Flooring from MONDO
When comparing vulcanized rubber flooring with recycled tire rubber flooring, vulcanized rubber flooring is clearly the higher quality product. Vulcanized rubber floors are more durable, longer lasting, easier to maintain and, due to its nonporous surface, safer for athletes.
MONDO vulcanized rubber flooring is made from two layers of solid rubber that are vulcanized together for a seamless surface. It provides excellent traction and stability, is nonporous, making it fungal, bacterial and microbial resistant, and is GREENGUARD Gold certified because it contributes to better indoor air quality.
Contact MONDO to learn more about our vulcanized rubber sports flooring options.