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how is rubber flooring made?

Rubber flooring is created by either one of two processes: vulcanization or polymerization. While vulcanization is used to cure natural rubber, some form of polymerization is used in manufacturing both natural and synthetic rubber.

Rubber Floor Products

Making Rubber Flooring

There are two types of rubber used to make flooring: natural and synthetic. While both types share nearly all of the same characteristics, synthetic rubber tends to be more resilient. This is because the artificial materials used in creating synthetic rubber can be easily manipulated, resulting in an improved and stronger surface.

Natural rubber, on the other hand, consists of latex, or tree sap, that can be more difficult to work with. Latex naturally has a sticky consistency and must be cured (vulcanized) in order to be converted into a more durable material. Latex that has not been cured has a tendency to change shape in warm climates and become brittle in cold climates.

  • Vulcanization: the process of curing rubber involves combining chemicals, high heat and sulfur (or other curatives*). During this process, rubber polymer** molecules are linked to other polymers by way of sulfur or carbon atoms. The result is a springy yet firm surface that is resistant to chemical damage.
  • Polymerization: a chemical reaction where small molecules (monomers) combine to form a three-dimensional network of polymer chains. Synthetic rubber types which undergo polymerization include the following: ethylene–propylene–diene (EPDM), chloroprene rubber (CR), butadiene rubber (BR) and styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR).

*Curative is a compound(s) that has the ability to bond molecules together and create a polymer reaction.

**Polymer is a chemical formed by the union of small molecules, or monomers.

Although natural rubber flooring can be more susceptible to damage than synthetic, it's generally the more eco–friendly choice. Most synthetic rubber types are made from petroleum, a non–recyclable and non-renewable material. Studies have shown that the use of petroleum has increased global warming.

Between 20 to 25 million tons of rubber are produced every year. Of this, a little less than 40% accounts for natural rubber. The majority of rubber produced is of the synthetic type.