What are rubber granulate floor tiles
Rubber granulate floor tiles is a type of indoor and outdoor flooring that is permanently elastic and made of rubber granulate bonded with a special binding agent, e.g. polyurethane. Rubber flooring has become really popular lately. Its group of supporters is expanding rapidly because of numerous qualities of rubber floor tiles. They can be installed on various types of subfloors and areas, such as terraces, balconies, kindergartens and schoolyards, playgrounds, or around swimming pools. They are also suitable for installations indoors, for example in gyms and fitness centres.
Rubber floor tiles are pleasant in touch and softer than other flooring types. Nevertheless, they are very resilient and durable. They are manufactured from rubber granulate of various kinds bonded with polyurethane which also can be coloured and which determines the colour of a tile. There are several rubber types that can be used in the production of rubber tiles, for example tyre rubber granulate (NR/SBR), EPDM, technical rubber or a mix of rubber types. If a tile consists of one particular type of rubber (pure recipe), then its qualities are constant and clearly-defined.
One of the reasons why users prefer this kind of flooring is that rubber floor tiles are long-lasting and easy to maintain. It is also said that this surfacing is environmentally-friendly because rubber tiles are a product of quality recycling. At the end of life can be recycled, too (for other purposes, as tiles can only be made from first recycling). Maybe for this reason rubber granulate tiles are so popular in Germany.
Advantages and disadvantages of rubber granulate floor
People opting for this kind of floor surface say it is pleasant to walk on, attractive to look at and much easier to maintain than other floors. They point to the fact that it is durable and any scratches or dents from e.g. high heels are not visible on rubber floor tiles. Rubber floor is weatherproof which means that it can be used all year round – it is resistant to frost, changes of temperature and, in case of EPDM rubber, sunlight. Because of its water-permeability it can be used after heavy rains because there are no puddles on the surface. It is slip-resistant in dry and wet conditions, that’s why it’s so safe and child-friendly. Most people know these tiles from playgrounds; such “safety flooring” is installed mainly on playground surfaces and is recommended by European standard EN1177 due to its fall protection qualities proved in HIC (Head Injury Criterion) tests.
Sceptics claim that rubber granulate tiles lack a natural feel. On the one hand – true, their feel is nowhere near what wood or stone feels like, but on the other, rubber tiles eliminate problems related to these materials, such as decay, lack of insulation, hardness. Contrary to what some people fear, rubber granulate tiles are ecological. They are manufactured from recycled rubber, can be reused or further recycled. What is more, they do not seal the ground when installed on the ground or compacted grit base course because they are liquid-permeable.
“Rubber floor tiles from EPDM granules pay off more than standard flooring” – explains Michael Schladt, owner of WARCO Bodenbeläge, a leading producer of rubber floor tiles in German-speaking countries. „There is a one-time investment cost and then you don’t have to do anything about them for 20-50 years. Other terrace surfaces require constant maintenance, repairs and have a much shorter life. Our clients, who come from all over Europe, are pleased with their new terraces. They say this is something they’ve been looking for.”
„I was building a terrace and thinking of installing patio slabs or wooden boards but frost and rainy weather were my big concerns” – says Mark from Nottingham. „I discussed it with my landscape architect and he advised me to try rubber floor tiles. My wife and me are really pleased with the result. Kids love playing on the new terrace and our dog sleeps there whenever she can. We hired a specialist to install the tiles and in the evening the terrace was ready!”
⁃ frost resistant
⁃ easy to install (DIY)
⁃ low maintenance
⁃ high heel proof
⁃ still unpopular and hard to get
⁃ few online shops selling the product
Rubber floor – but where?
- terrace and balcony
- roof terrace
- restaurant patio, beer garden,
- gym, swimming pool surrounds
- kindergarten, nursery, schoolyard,
- gym, swimming pool surrounds
- playground surface
- sports ground, basketball court
- workplace, behind the counter
- fair and exhibition flooring, market stall
- dog run, dog gym
- horse stall, paddock, stable alley
- footpath, pedestrian area
- car port, parking space, garage.
Is rubber granulate floor expensive?
Average cost of 1 sq.m. of a rubber floor tile ranges from 20 to 50 €, depending on the tile thickness. Wood deck tiles cost from 15 to 100 € while terrace boards are even more expensive. Prices of popular terracota tiles vary a lot. Cheap ones cost about 10 €, then medium-quality about 50€/sq.m. and high-quality tiles really don’t have a maximum price. One has to count that the installation of terracota and wood terrace tiles is quite difficult and expensive. To the product price one has to add the cost of building a base course, installation materials and labour costs. With rubber granulate tiles there are practically no installation or follow-up costs.
When it comes to gyms or playrooms, rubber granulate floor tiles are more expensive than fitted carpets or linoleum but these do not have any fall protection or sound-absorbing qualities.
Altogether, rubber floor tiles cost depends on the rubber granulate type, tile thickness and colour, and manufacturer. It is not a good idea to save money on cheaper substitutes, usually manufactured in China from rubber of unknown origin or poor quality and not compliant with international standards. Such cheap rubber tiles can wear off very soon, and it doesn’t provide fall protection so using them on sports areas or playgrounds can be a safety and health hazard.
You can find a few offers of rubber granulate tiles on the internet. However, there are only a few manufacturers of rubber floor tiles. It is always recommendable to first make sure where the product is made, if it has safety certificates in accordance with EN 1177 (for playgrounds) and what is the final price of a product. It is worth buying directly from a manufacturer, who usually guarantees good value for money along with a product warranty and proper certificates.
Whoever wanted to by rubber floor tiles in a traditional way knows that they are rarely seen in DIY stores. These products are relatively new in the market and clients don’t look for them in bulk amounts. A wide range of products and colours can only be found online. Some manufacturers offer a free sample delivered to your home as well as professional advice and client service.
Installation of rubber floor tiles
Easy assembly of rubber granulate tiles if one of the biggest advantages of this flooring for clients. Another great advantage is that they can be dismantled without any problem and reinstalled without losing the quality. Best products have specially profiled edges to facilitate the installation and prevent the tiles from shifting. In this case, the installation goes really fast und without problems, so it can be done as a DIY even if you don’t have any technical knowledge, provided that there is an appropriate base course. Normally, companies selling rubber granulate floor tiles do not offer installation service because most clients prefer to do it on their own, or with the help of a local specialist, roof decker or landscape company (thus reducing the costs). However, they provide leaflets or online manuals how to carry it out.
Naturally, profiled rubber floor tiles are of much better quality, however, only a few manufacturers have them in their offer. The connection is stronger and eliminates many problems e.g. shifting or cupping. For instance, WARCO offers two connection types: interlocking zip on tile edges (“jigsaw”) and tongue-and-groove joint (used also in parquetry). These connections enforce correct assembly, making it easy and intuitive. One has to be careful that the tiles are pressed firmly and tightly to each other and the edges properly bordered. The bordering is usually a wall, handrail or grass. Some companies offer accessories like rubber granulate edging or bordering. Such aids can easily be bought at DIY stores (wooden, plastic). If there is no edging, the outer row of tiles can be glued to each other (using special polyurethane adhesive) to prevent shifting – this applies especially to tongue-and-groove tiles. Edging elements also need to be glued or screwed to the subfloor.
Rubber tiles that are not profiled on the edges need to be additionally secured by glueing them to each other or to the subfloor. Some manufacturers provide plastic connectors, yet this brings very poor results.
A proper base course is crucial for a successful installation and durability of rubber floor. The subfloor should be even, load-bearing and – for most products – bound (which means materials like concrete, slabs, tiles, pavers, roof foil, boards, etc.). Some products, especially those thicker than 30 mm and equipped with the zip connection, can be installed on unbound subfloors but it needs preparation. A base course of well-compacted and levelled, sharp-edged grit or gravel should be build (5 – 35 cm thick), on the ground or grass level, so that when the tiles are installed on it, they would have a natural grass edging. In case of installation on compacted grit/gravel, it is very ecological as rubber tiles do not seal the ground. Installations on natural soil or sand are not recommendable.
Rubber granulate floor tiles are perfect for flat roof coverings. They can be installed directly on roof foil, fibreglass roofing, bituminous sheeting provided that the surface is even and not wrinkled. The irregularities in subfloor will be visible on the elastic surface (especially thinner tiles) so make sure the roof covering is evened out (you can place another roof sheet between the overlaps, or place 2 layers in half-offset). The tiles are water-permeable so rain water will go through them onto the roof insulation where it would drain away following the gradient; some of it will disperse and evaporate through the tiles.
Types of rubber granulate tiles
Rubber tiles made of rubber granulate bonded with polyurethane have been used for about 40 years. They were developed in Germany as industrial anti-slip and sound-absorbing flooring. As their exceptional durability was proved, rubber floor tiles have found numerous applications that are still growing. They are widely used in horse stalls and stables because the mats protect horses’ joints and insulate from cold. Thanks to their fall protection qualities, rubber floor tiles are used as playground surfaces and sports fields. Rubber granulate tiles proved to be a perfect balcony and terrace flooring, too. They also found their use in gyms, market stalls and exhibitions, as well as footpaths and parking spaces. Rubber floor tiles are equally popular in public sector – in hotels, around swimming pools, in beer gardens and restaurants. Rubber tiles are particularly animal-friendly so recently they have become common in dog gyms and animal runs.
Depending on the material used and application, the tiles can be divided into 3 categories:
– safety tiles for playgrounds, sport and leisure areas,
– terrace and balcony tiles,
– stable mats.
Because each category has to meet different demands, they should be made of different rubber types and proportions.
Rubber tiles have various formats, from square to rectangular. A standard format is 500 x 500 mm. They can be from 15 to 100 mm thick (or even thicker). Most popular terrace tile is 30 mm thick, while on sports fields like football or basketball courts it is 40 mm. How thick a playground tile should depends on the height of the equipment and individual tile specifications (critical fall height in accordance with European playground security standards EN 1177, EN 1176). For balconies, gyms and mobile exhibition flooring lighter tiles up to 20 mm can be used.
Experts on playground security agree that the safest tile connection is the interlocking zip (“jigsaw”) because the joint is the strongest and force-fit. It reacts to weather changes and frost better than other joints, due to its large surface of contact. Second best-holding connection is end-matched tongue and groove. Least recommendable, but definitely cheaper, are tiles without any profiling on the sides.
Both terrace tiles and playground surfacing is usually available in many vivid colours. Best colour performance over many years is guaranteed for tiles made of EPDM rubber granulate.
Rubber tiles manufacture
The easiest and fastest way of buying rubber granulate tiles is on the Internet. Although only a few companies have online shops, they are even harder to come by in supermarkets and DIY stores. These companies have sales representatives but they offer is addressed mainly to companies and institutions. Individual customers should definitely go online to get advice and find the most suitable product for them.
A Germany-based company WARCO specializes entirely in rubber floor tiles and it is one of the few companies that sell their products online. WARCO manufactures the tiles and sells them to every European country. A long list of public places where their tiles have been installed, can be found on their website. Positive comments and high grades of their products given by their clients can be seen on warco.de – a proof of high product quality and excellent service.
WARCO offers all kinds of rubber granulate tiles: terrace tiles, playground safety tiles and stable mats. All the products are manufactured in a factory in Teutschenthal in Germany and delivered to all European countries. Ultra-modern production technology guarantees the highest quality of the product. To see their offer, photos of products and ready surfaces, ask a question or order a free sample, or buy the tiles online, go to warco-tiles.com.