Home » Rubber vs. Vinyl Flooring: What’s the Difference?

Rubber vs. Vinyl Flooring: What’s the Difference?

If you’re looking for comfortable, resilient flooring, either rubber or vinyl can be good options. But what’s the difference between them, and what are their pros and cons?

That’s what we’re here to find out! We’re going to look at rubber and vinyl flooring reviews, and we’ll share everything you need to know. Whether you’re interested in cost, installation or maintenance, you’ve come to the right place.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

What’s the difference between rubber and vinyl flooring?

Rubber vs. Vinyl Flooring

The terms rubber and vinyl are often used interchangeably – but in fact, they’re quite different substances.

Rubber is a natural material, harvested from rubber trees. Lots of today’s rubber flooring, however, is actually a synthetic copy. And it’s also possible to get recycled rubber flooring, sometimes combining natural and synthetic rubber.

Vinyl is a man-made substance and, like synthetic rubber, it’s derived from petroleum.

When it comes to their use in flooring, the two materials share a number of similar properties.

Both are easy to install and provide a surface that’s comfortable underfoot. Both are available in a range of different colors. They’re both waterproof too, making them a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms. And both are easy to keep clean.

So how can you choose between them? We’re going to take a look at the different things to consider when buying your floor.

Price

Let’s start with price.

Both rubber and vinyl can vary considerably in the price per square foot, depending on the style of flooring.

With vinyl, you can choose between sheet vinyl (also known as vinyl roll), tiles or luxury vinyl planks. Of these, sheet vinyl is generally the least expensive and luxury vinyl planks the priciest.

Research conducted by HomeAdvisor came up with an average cost of $3 per square foot for sheet vinyl, rising to $7 per square foot for luxury vinyl tiles or planks. But bear in mind that there’s considerable variation out there, depending on the quality of the vinyl.

There are different price points for rubber flooring too. Standard rubber tiles are usually the most economical choice. You can expect to pay between $3 and $8 per square foot for these. But if you’re looking for luxury rubber tiles or a poured rubber floor, they’ll be considerably more expensive.

If you want to spend as little as possible, you’ll probably have more choice if you opt for vinyl. But you can get a good quality floor in either material without spending a fortune.

And if you’re happy to spend more for premium quality, luxury tiles are available in both rubber and vinyl.

Installation

Rubber vs. Vinyl Flooring What's the Difference

Vinyl and rubber flooring are relatively easy to install, but you will need a level, smooth sub-floor. If yours is uneven or slopes, it will need some attention before you lay your flooring.

Sand down any high spots using a belt sander. A floor leveling compound can be used to fill any lower areas.

Rubber mats can often be installed without the need for any adhesive. Just lay them in place.

With vinyl, you’ll have the choice of glue-down or click-and-lock products. Glue-down tiles sometimes have a self-adhesive back. If that’s what you choose, just peel off the backing paper and press them into position.

With other tiles, you’ll need to apply the glue yourself. Make sure you choose an adhesive that’s specially formulated to bond to vinyl. And make sure that it will also work with whatever material your sub-floor is made of.

Click-and-lock designs have beveled edges which allow the planks to lock together. You’ll want to glue the edges of your floor in place, but that’s all the adhesive you’ll need.

This type of flooring works best with underlayment, which will improve insulation and reduce sound transmission. Some types of vinyl plank flooring will have underlayment already attached.

Resilience

Both rubber and vinyl flooring can withstand heavy traffic. Rubber is even used on the floors of garages and workshops because it’s so hard wearing.

A good quality vinyl floor, properly maintained, can last for upwards of 10 to 20 years.  Many products also come with warranties of 15 years or more.

You can expect an even longer lifespan for rubber flooring. With proper care and maintenance, your rubber floor can last for around 30 years.

Maintenance

When it comes to maintenance, both rubber and vinyl are easy to keep clean.

A quick sweep or vacuum will keep them free from dust. That’s also important to keeping the surface of the material in good condition. Dust and dirt particles have sharp edges, which can cause dents and even small holes if pressed underfoot.

If you’re using a vacuum cleaner with more than one setting, choose the hard floor setting. And if you have a beater brush, switch it off. Firmer bristles can scratch your flooring. If you’re sweeping instead, use a softer broom for the same reason.

Cleaning is easy too. Mopping with water alone can give you good results. Just make sure you squeeze out excess liquid before you do it. If you have tiles or plank flooring, the water can get between the joins and damage the sub-floor.

Every now and then, give your floor a more thorough clean to cut through grease and dirt. A couple of drops of mild dishwashing soap in warm water will work beautifully.

If you prefer, you can add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of warm water for an effective home-made cleaning agent. Note, however, that you shouldn’t use vinegar on no-wax vinyl floors. The acidity can dull the surface and darken it over time.

When it comes to your mop, use something with a soft head to avoid scratches. Microfiber is perfect. Sponge mops are also a good choice, especially if your floor has studs or a textured surface. The sponge will be flexible enough to reach into grooves and get rid of the dirt hiding there.

The look

Rubber vs. Vinyl Flooring What's the Difference 1

When it comes to appearance, vinyl is a chameleon. It can take on the look of pretty much any other material – wood, stone or ceramic.

Note, however, that while any material can be printed on the vinyl, the texture can be a giveaway. High gloss materials like granite, for example, are hard to reproduce convincingly. And if you want a wood-look floor, it can be worth investing in luxury vinyl planking with a textured surface.

Rubber, on the other hand, is uncompromisingly modern. It comes in a range of colors, and you can choose smooth or studded surfaces. It can look fantastic in a contemporary interior. But it won’t be the right choice if you’re looking for a more traditional effect.

Air quality

It might surprise you to know that your flooring can have a significant impact on your home’s air quality. And that impact can be quite different, depending on the material you choose.

Vinyl flooring, as we’ve seen, is made of petroleum. It can give off harmful chemicals known as VOCs – volatile organic compounds.

If you’re choosing vinyl flooring, look for brands that have low levels of VOCs. Choose options that have been accredited by external bodies like FloorScore and GreenGuard.

And with GreenGuard, look for the Gold standard. That means the levels of VOCs are even lower, making the flooring safe for use in rooms used by children.

With natural rubber flooring – also known as virgin rubber – you won’t have to worry about VOCs. But many rubber floors have been mixed with other substances, like PVC.

Recycled rubber flooring will also have substances added to it to bind it. These binding agents produce gases. And in some cases, those gases are above the recommended levels for human health.

As with vinyl, look for rubber flooring that’s been accredited by FloorScore or has achieved GreenGuard Gold certification.

And if you’re going to glue your flooring in place, remember that adhesives can also include harmful chemicals. Fortunately, there are products out there that are also GreenGuard Gold certified.

And remember that you can minimize the requirements for glue by using rubber mats or click-lock flooring.

Sustainability

If you’re looking to choose flooring that won’t harm the planet, vinyl isn’t, unfortunately, the best choice.

That’s because it’s manufactured from petroleum, which isn’t a renewable resource. The manufacturing process also consumes lots of energy.

And when your flooring reaches the end of its life, it can’t be recycled. That means that many tons of vinyl find their way into landfill every year. There, they continue to leach chemicals into the soil.

But what about rubber? Virgin rubber is a renewable resource, as long as it’s from sustainably managed forests.

But finding rubber flooring that’s pure virgin rubber is very challenging. Almost all of it contains some form of synthetic rubber. And because that’s made from petroleum, many of the same issues apply as with vinyl.

Rubber does, though, have the edge when it comes to reuse. It can be, and often is, recycled. And you can also find rubber flooring made from recycled materials.

Ready to choose your new flooring?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of rubber and vinyl flooring reviews!

There are lots of similarities between these two materials, as well as some important differences. Both are inexpensive, comfortable underfoot, and hard-wearing. Just take care to choose options that are low in VOCs to maintain the air quality in your home.

Whether you choose rubber, vinyl or a different option altogether, we hope you love your new flooring!

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