What Is the Difference Between Vinyl and Rubber Flooring?
Whether you’re remodeling a part of your house or starting a new project altogether, choosing a flooring material is always a big decision.
And while sifting among different flooring options, you will certainly encounter the two we’re discussing today — vinyl and rubber. Both are common in the built environment and you’ve probably seen and felt a vinyl floor and a rubber floor before. However, the difference between the two runs deeper than perception and texture.
Let’s take an in-depth look at how vinyl and rubber are produced, their physical properties, and ultimately how to decide which of the two flooring options is ideal for your project.
Types of Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl, short for Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), is a synthetic material that is produced when two chemicals, ethylene and chlorine, are chemically combined. It ranks among the most used polymers in the world, finding use in electrical cables, water pipes, and flooring of course.
As flooring, vinyl comes in various forms including:
Vinyl sheets are thin and flexible, and are usually sold as rolls 6 or 12 feet wide. They are installed using adhesive and must be installed on flat even surfaces. If the underfloor has bumps, they will show and be felt through the vinyl because of how thin the sheets are. Vinyl sheets are perfect for frequently wet floors since they are seamless, and therefore wont let moisture through to the underfloor.
Vinyl Tiles and Planks
Vinyl tiles and planks are smaller units that are laid on the floor one by one. Their small size makes them ideal for DIY projects. The seams in between the tiles, however, can allow liquid to pass through, hence these tiles are not ideal for areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
Vinyl tiles and planks are available in variations such as:
Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles – These tiles come ready with adhesive on the back. All you need to do is pull off the protective paper and place your tile on the floor, applying pressure to ensure it sticks.
Planks and Tiles with gripping strips: – These vinyl planks are made in such a way that they grip to each other on the sides. No adhesive is needed on the bottom of the tiles/planks, making this type of vinyl flooring perfect for a floating floor.
Interlocking rectangular planks – Vinyl planks of this category have a tongue and groove that snap into each other.
Loose-lay vinyl planks – Loose-lay vinyl flooring refers to flooring that does not use adhesives or interlocking to keep it in place. These planks are made heavy so that all you need to do is lay them on your floor.
Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVF)
Luxury vinyl flooring is a relatively new type of vinyl flooring. It is typically composed of four layers:
Backing Layer – This is the base layer of the plank that comes in contact with the underfloor. The backing layer can be made of materials such as fiberglass or felt. The material of this layer determines which adhesive will be used to lay the planks down.
Core Layer – This layer is a high-density waterproof composite that makes the vinyl plank sturdy. Depending on the materials used to make the composite, the vinyl flooring can either be a WPC (Wood-Plastic Composite) Vinyl or a SPC (Stone-Plastic Composite) Vinyl. SPC vinyl is also referred to as Rigid Core Vinyl.
Printed Vinyl Layer – This is a relatively thick layer of vinyl onto which the design is printed.
Wear Layer – As with any other vinyl flooring, LVF planks have a protective transparent coating called the wear layer.
Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT)
VCT is one of the older types of vinyl flooring. It is composed of filler material, vinyl, and around 80% limestone, making it quite hardy. However, due to the limestone, VCT tiles are porous and require regular polishing to provide protection to the inner layers. Installation of VCT tiles requires the use of floor adhesive.
Vinyl Composite Tile has an industrial, “rough around the edges” kind of look, which is why it is more common in commercial applications than in residential areas.
How Vinyl Flooring Is Made
While different companies may have different processes for making vinyl flooring, a typical vinyl plank manufacturing process may look something like this:
Step 1 – The wear layer and the printed film layer are cut into sheets.
Step 2 – Vinyl powder is heated and then rolled flat.
Step 3 – The flat rolled vinyl is then cut into smaller sheets.
Step 4 – The wear layer, the printed film, and the vinyl sheets are stacked on each other and heat pressed.
Step 5 – A polyurethane coating is applied onto the pressed sheets.
Step 6 – After the coating is cured, the vinyl gets cleaned and cooled in a water bath.
Step 7 – The vinyl sheets are then dried and cut into planks
Step 8 – The edges of the planks are beveled and sanded to make them smooth.
Step 9 – Finally, the vinyl planks are inspected for quality and packaged.
Here’s a video showing how Sheet Vinyl is made in a factory:
What Is Rubber Flooring?
Rubber flooring is flooring that is made of natural rubber, synthetic rubber, or a combination of the two. It is highly rated as a flooring option for institutions such as gyms and playgrounds due to its hardiness and low maintenance demand. The three common forms of rubber flooring are:
Rubber mats – Rubber mats are great for adding extra grip, padding and floor protection in small areas.
Rubber tiles – Rubber tiles have interlocking edges that make them easy to install and remove. Best for areas that don’t require permanent flooring such as home gyms.
Rubber rolls – These are long rolls of rubber that are cut to fit the space being floored. Ideal for large spaces such as big gyms.
How Rubber Flooring Is Made
The process for making rubber flooring varies from vendor to vendor, but the following procedure gives us a general view of what goes into making rubber rolls.
Step 1 – Process starts with material such as EPDM, recycled tires, natural latex, etc.
Step 2 – The dry material is mixed with a binder such as Polyurethane.
Step 3 – Mixing goes on for some time until a uniform mixture is achieved.
Step 4 – The rubber mixture is poured into a mold and packed in using a hydraulic press.
Step 5 – The mold is sealed and set aside for a day or two to allow the rubber to harden.
Step 6 – After hardening, the rubber is removed from the mold and set on a whirling machine that has a blade on one end. As the rubber column spins, the blade cuts it into a roll of predetermined thickness.
Step 7 – This long roll of rubber is then cut and finished into smaller rolls that are ready for sale.
For rubber mats and tiles, the mixture of rubber pellets and binder is poured into respective molds and pressed.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Flooring
- It is affordable – Vinyl flooring is significantly cheaper than a hardwood floor, especially when the area to be covered is large.
- Multitude of design options allow you to find exactly what you need to match the theme of your space.
- Decent durability – Good quality vinyl floors are able to withstand heavy traffic and bulky items.
- Liquid resistant – You might have to make another cup of coffee, but at least you won’t have a stained floor.
- Easy to install and maintain – Interlocking planks, loose-lay planks, and ready-to-stick vinyl tiles all allow for a stress-free installation process.
Unfortunately, vinyl flooring, attractive as it may be, has its flaws:
- Not environmentally friendly – Vinyl is a synthetic product that takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.
- Vinyl flooring fades when exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time.
- Not as good as the real deal – While the wood or stone print may look very nice, it’s still not as luxurious as the real thing.
Pros and Cons of Rubber Flooring
- Extremely durable – Unless you’re out on a mission to destroy a rubber floor, it’s almost impossible to damage it.
- Little maintenance required – Rubber flooring is easy to install, keep clean, and remove.
- Value for money – While premium rubber flooring can be expensive, it more than pays for itself given the fact that it will serve you without issue for many years to come.
- Offers good sound dampening.
- Relatively eco-friendly – Rubber flooring made from natural rubber and/or recycled rubber is more environmentally-friendly than most other flooring materials.
- Smell of rubber in the air when newly installed.
- Thick rubber rolls and mats can be bulky therefore a bit challenging to self-install.
Rubber vs Vinyl – The Choice Is Yours
Now that you know the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of both rubber and vinyl, you can pick the one that best suits your project.
At Rubcorp we offer premium rubber surfacing solutions for all purposes. Visit our shop today to enjoy best in class products at incredible prices.