There’s a lot to be done once you have your own gym, but deciding on the gym flooring should be your first priority.
Don’t make the common mistake of buying all exercise equipment even before you’ve considered the floor. The main part – installation of machines – comes after you have proper flooring. Paying attention to this step will minimize injuries in your facility, make it look presentable, reduce noise, and cut maintenance and cleaning costs.
The terms ‘gym mats’, ‘floor mats’, and ‘rubber flooring’ all refer to what we call ‘gym flooring’. This is a detailed guide about the different kinds of gym flooring materials, their recommended thickness, and the best flooring options for commercial gyms. All the info here has been gathered by consulting experts and experienced insiders in the industry. With in-depth knowledge on the matter, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your center.
Table of Contents
- 1. Brief Comparison Table
- 2. Gym Flooring Types by Material
- 3. Gym Flooring Physical Properties
- 4. Buying Tips and Traps to Avoid
- 5. Conclusion
1. Brief Comparison Table
When it comes to gym flooring, there’s a lot to explore. Your options include rubber flooring in the form of tiles, rolls, or mats, EVA tiles, carpet tiles, turf flooring, PVC/vinyl, and wood. All of these have a combination of different properties that must be considered before choosing one.
The price, durability, ease of installation, shock absorption, and convenience of cleaning are essential factors you need to keep in mind when deciding on a single flooring type. The following table compares all these properties of commonly available flooring materials in the market. Note that these factors may still vary somewhat among materials of different brands.
2. Gym Flooring Types by Material
As of now, a lot of flooring options are available in the market. This makes it challenging to single one out for your own needs. Here we’ll discuss in detail some common flooring materials used in fitness centers.
2.1 Rubber Flooring
Rubber seems to be the leading flooring material in exercise rooms. It owes its popularity partly to its versatility, being supportive of a variety of workout options. Another important advantage is its shock-absorbing effect, protecting the actual floor underneath from damage.
You can make use of rubber flooring in the form of tiles, mats, or rolls.
Rubber roll flooring can satisfy your OCD since its seamless finish makes sure the junctions between the rolls aren’t visible. As it is, there are lesser joins in this type of flooring anyway. This looks presentable while providing a smooth workout surface. It also reduces the chances of gap formation or loosening of the roll edges with time.
High-impact, forceful exercises like plyometrics are a threat to the joints. With shock-absorbing rubber rolls, you can ensure the safety and comfort of your members during such exercises.
Easily lasting for up to a decade or more, newly installed rubber roll gym flooring won’t be needing replacement any time soon.
- Easy to clean:
This waterproof flooring option doesn’t allow seepage and prevents buildup of mold and mildew. A simple vacuum or mop is effective in keeping it clean.
- Shock absorbing
Stay protected and keep your joints stress-free as the rubber roll flooring absorbs the impact of intense exercises and bulky weights.
- Germ Resistant
The antibacterial nature of the flooring keeps away strange growths and buildup.
- Noise-reducing nature
Rubber is a great absorber of sound, enabling your members to exercise freely without disturbing the neighbors.
- Difficult installation
Since the rolls are heavy, multiple people may be required to do some hard work.
- Poor insulator
This kind of flooring cannot resist temperature transmission. This can be an issue in cases where there’s cold ground underneath, causing the flooring to feel uncomfortably cold. A solution to this is installing a heating system for the flooring.
- Rubbery smell
Rubber roll flooring often gives off a rubbery smell which could be an issue for those sensitive to it.
- Sensitive to sunlight
UV rays of the sun can damage the color of rubber roll flooring, so some kind protection from the sun’s rays will be necessary in preserving your flooring condition.
- Risk of latex allergy
Allergic reactions can develop in those sensitive to latex.
Rubber flooring tiles are also popularly used as commercial gym flooring. They are able to remain in good condition for long periods of time, and can be purchased without burning a hole in your pocket. Shaped like large puzzle pieces, self-installation of rubber tiles is quite easy in an interlocking, puzzle-like pattern.
Apart from being durable, shock-absorbing, easy to clean, noise-reducing, and antibacterial like rubber rolls, rubber tiles have two more advantages as well:
- Simple self-installation
Love putting together jigsaw puzzles? Installing DIY rubber tiles is pretty similar, except for the extra challenge in jigsaws!
- Relatively lightweight
As compared to rubber rolls, rubber tiles have lesser weight and are easier to lift and move.
- Lengthy installation procedure for spacious floors
While the installation process is easy to understand, the actual task may take up a lot of time in spacious areas. Rubber tiles work best for small spaces.
- Relatively more seams
Although still pretty much seamless, they can’t match the continuity and finish of rolled rubber flooring.
- Rubbery smell
Just like other kinds of rubber flooring, tiles also give off a rubbery odor.
- Risk of allergies
It may cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to latex.
- Relatively expensive
These mid-range materials still cost more per unit area as compared to rolled rubber flooring.
Rubber mats work best for small areas or places where heavyweight exercises are performed. Extra-thick gym floor mats can be used specifically as weightlifting mats and limited only to a designated heavyweight exercise area in your gym.
- Superior durability
These gym floor mats are made to withstand heavy weights and intense exercise.
- Great for small spaces
Rubber mats are a budget-friendly option for small spaces, especially when you have time limitations as well.
- No installation required
Rubber mats can be simply placed on your gym floor without any complicated fixing procedures.
- Effective noise reducing properties
Rubber mats can help you keep all the mayhem confined to your gym without bothering the neighbors with noise of heavy equipment.
- Shock absorbent
The shock-absorbing properties of rubber mats is protective for both your members’ joints and the ground underneath during forceful exercise.
- Waterproof and antibacterial
Prevents your flooring from turning messy due to weird growths and water retention.
- Easy to relocate
You can shift these mats any place you prefer by simply picking them up.
- Not suitable for large floors
Spacious areas are better off with rubber rolls rather than mats. Those will save you both time and money.
- Risk of allergic reactions
Those with latex allergy may react adversely to any form of rubber flooring.
- Rubbery smell
Expect the signature rubbery odor with rubber mats as well.
2.2 Turf Flooring
A large number of commercial gyms use indoor sports turfs because of the safety and resilience they have to offer. The support of fast-paced workouts by gym turf products is due to their shock-absorbing nature, protecting from injury by lessening joint impact. It’s also possible to install a turf strip about 3 to 5 meters wide for selective exercises, leaving the rest of the space for a different kind of flooring.
If you need a flooring option that will last its worth, gym turf rolls can be a great choice. These can support all kinds of high-intensity strength training exercises from CrossFit workouts to sled pushing.
With noise-reducing properties, a turf flooring can work well in gyms where intense workouts with heavy weights are common. The soft, synthetic grass provides a cushioned surface that supports relaxing yoga sessions and stretches as well.
Wear and tear is not a concern with turf flooring since it’s durable enough to look presentable for long periods of time.
User-friendly turf flooring will save you the cost and hassle of frequent maintenance.
- Suitable for a variety of workouts
Whether it’s running, gymnastics, or challenging CrossFit workouts, you can count on turf flooring to bear all kinds of blows.
- Shock absorbing
The padded feel of the soft artificial grass makes it safe and protective towards the joints by lessening impact during exercise.
Sports turf flooring with artificial grass gives off a chic and inviting vibe in any modern gym.
- Difficult hygiene maintenance
Sports turf options pose a health risk if not cleaned well. This is due to a supportive environment for infectious bacteria like Staph and MRSA.
- Uncomfortable for floor exercises
Turf flooring has a carpet-like texture which can feel abrasive while performing floor movements such as burpees.
- Unremarkable lower ground protection
If you’re going to drop heavy weights, you’ll be needing to add an underlying protective layer for the ground underneath. Some brands may offer turf which already has a protective layer.
Synthetic turf isn’t exactly pocket-friendly, although you may find somewhat reasonably priced varieties nowadays.
There’s not much variation between turf tiles and turf rolls. When choosing between the two, you’ll only have to consider the differences in installation, the kind of floor you have, and cost.
For floors with complicated shapes, it’s best to choose gym turf tiles instead of gym turf rolls. Rolls can be used for making gym lanes, and tiles can work well for oddly shaped spaces. One thing to keep in mind with turf gym tiles is the considerably higher price point as compared to other commercial gym flooring materials including turf gym rolls.
In addition to all the pros and cons of gym turf rolls, turf tiles are also:
- Suitable for odd floor shapes
Gym turf tiles simply need to be cut to fit spaces that aren’t rectangular.
- Interlocking setup
Turf tile flooring can be made to come together just like interlocking puzzle pieces, as is the case with rubber tiles.
Turf gym tiles are among the highest-priced commercial gym flooring materials.
2.3 EVA Flooring
EVA tiles can be a cheaper alternative to rubber in terms of versatility and durability. These are made of dense foam and are the most lightweight materials for gym flooring. They’re able to withstand all kinds of blows from intense exercise such as heavy weight dropping and jumping.
The two different kinds of EVA tiles available are open cell foam and closed cell foam. Always choose closed cell EVA tiles since they offer better durability and quicker recovery on stepping over the tiles. In contrast, open cell foam tiles often sink a bit when heavy steps or movements are carried out on them.
- Low cost
If you’re on a tight budget, foam is the cheapest gym flooring material available.
- Simple installation
All you need to do is lay out the tiles on the floor and lock them together.
- Ideal padding for floor exercises
The cushioned surface of foam tiles makes it the optimal choice for those who often perform floor exercises such as stretching and sit-ups.
- Easy to clean
All you need is a damp cloth if you tiles start seeming dirty.
- Ultra light
It’s easily portable, thanks to the light weight of foam.
Gym play areas are often covered with foam tiles due to shock absorption that protects from injuries due to falls.
- Aesthetic variety
You can experiment with different colors together to design your own unique flooring.
- Vulnerable to sharp objects
Foam flooring can be puncture or cut through by sharp objects like high heels – those are things you’ll need to keep out of your gym!
- Prone to denting
The bases of gym machines and exercise tools may cause stubborn indentations on foam flooring.
2.4 Carpet Flooring
Fitness centers with carpet tile flooring have an inviting feel due to the warm surface underneath. Gym-goers can use yoga mats over such flooring for exercises like stretching and yoga. Commercial-grade carpet tiles having tight-knit loops are great at bearing exercise forces. These are made to be tough, unlike your average living room carpet. Some brands offer interlocking tiles that are waterproof as well.
You can count on carpet tiles to last for years. They can withstand all kinds of impact before requiring any replacement.
- Uncomplicated maintenance
Carpet gym flooring care is pretty much the same as that of home carpets. This makes it easy to clean and maintain for lay people.
- An inviting feel
The versatile surface of carpet flooring can accommodate all kinds of workouts while feeling warm and inviting.
- Variety of colors
You can choose carpet tiles of any color you want to complement your space.
- Exposure to allergens
Evidence shows that indoor carpeting can cause accumulation of dust, microorganisms, and allergens while worsening asthma.
- Professional installation needed
Be prepared to pay extra for professional installation of gym carpet tiles that don’t have an interlocking option. Interlocking carpet tiles are easier done on your own.
- Poor cushioning for subfloor
Carpet flooring, unlike rubber flooring, does not offer protection for the underlying floor. To prevent the surface underneath from cracking due to heavy blows and weights, you’ll need protective lining underneath your carpet tiles.
- Long-term re-stretch required
Due to vigorous exercises and rough use, gym carpet is prone to stretching with time. To correct this you’ll need a professional to re-stretch your carpet so that it continues to fit the floor smoothly.
- Difficult to clean
Except for modern waterproof carpet tiles, commercial grade carpet flooring is able to absorb sweat and moisture that can cause odors, mold, and mildew to thrive. Frequent professional cleaning can take care of this issue.
2.5 PVC (Vinyl) Flooring
For those gym owners who wish to have colorful flooring, this can be a great option. Being initially meant to cover garage floors, PVC can work well for gyms as well, holding up effectively against heavy loading and impact. This is due to its tough properties and superior durability.
Being self-installable, vinyl gym flooring has creative aesthetics as well. It is available as tiles and in roll form.
With the ability to withstand heavy impact and exercise, this kind of flooring can last well into the future. It’s manufactured to resist stains and damage from chemicals and oil as well. It also helps that most brands offer ample warranty.
- Easily cleanable
All you need is simple cleaning solution made of regular soap and water.
- DIY installation
Both vinyl tiles and rolls are pretty simple to install by yourself.
- Fun color choices
You can add some funk by customizing your vinyl gym flooring to form checkered patterns or other creative designs.
- Vulnerable to damage
Sharp, heavy items in your gym can easily cause tearing and holes in vinyl flooring.
- Less shock absorbency
Unlike rubber and foam flooring, vinyl gym flooring doesn’t offer joint-protecting shock absorption during high-impact exercises.
- Potentially harmful VOC release
Volatile organic compounds released by vinyl flooring may be harmful for health in certain ways.
Vinyl flooring is usually priced higher than other flooring types.
2.6 Wood Flooring
Wood flooring is a solid, durable choice for many kinds of settings. It can give off a posh vibe in any fitness studio while resisting damage to itself through wear and tear.
While you may think wood to be uncomfortably hard for floor exercises and high-intensity movements, foam-backed wood flooring options are available for just this purpose. The shock-absorbing properties of such flooring material effectively prevents injury while supporting a wide range of exercises.
- Durable and functional
From aerobics to kickboxing and regular gym exercise, wood flooring is reliable, aesthetic, and functional in all kinds of settings.
- Easily cleanable
A regular vacuum or mop can keep your flooring in optimal condition.
- Poor resistance to scratching/splinting
Sudden heavy impact such as dropping of heavy weights can cause splinters in wood. Sharp edges of objects may cause scratching.
- Risk of slippage
Moisture such as sweat causes wood flooring to become extra slippery.
- Sound amplification
Wood maximizes sound, creating noise in your gym.
- High cost
Be ready to dish out some hefty bucks since wood is one of the most expensive flooring materials out there.
3. Gym Flooring Physical Properties
3.1 How Thick Should it Be?
The thickness of gym flooring directly influences the impact of forces on your subfloor. Heavy weights, when dropped, can damage the ground underneath if your flooring isn’t thick enough.
- 1/4 Inch
The thinnest flooring, at ¼ inches, works well for cardio zones and exercise machine areas. It can hold up against light impact forces like lightweight dumbbells dropping and human steps which makes it suitable for hallways.
- 3/8 Inch
This is the most popular flooring thickness, priorly being the industry standard. It can bear impact from up to 75 pounds of weight.
- 1/2 Inch
For HIIT jumps or seldom impact from around 100 lbs of weight, 1/2 inch flooring thickness can be a good choice.
- 3/4 to 1 inch
This is uncommon and not typically required, except if heavy loads of around 100 lbs will be dropped time and again for some reason.
3.2 Do the Edges Merge Well?
It’s important to be careful about flooring edges and corners, and whether they merge well with the surrounding ground or flooring. This will lessen the risk of tripping and ensure your members’ safety. Consider getting extra tiles if there are any free corners and edges that don’t meet the wall.
3.3 Is It Waterproof?
It’s best if gym flooring doesn’t absorb moisture and is waterproof. Extra care is required if your facility includes showers, pools, or a sauna, since there are greater chances of water damage.
Water-resistant flooring will also be easier to clean and maintain, and will prevent mold and mildew buildup as well.
3.4 How to Choose a Flooring Color
Choosing the color of gym flooring needs some smart thinking. Of course you need something that goes with the general décor of your space. At the same time, you must consider the activities that will take place in different flooring zones and the amount of cleaning they’ll require. It’s best to go with neutral or dark tones that won’t make dirt and stains obvious. This makes cleaning and maintenance easy.
Pay attention to the quality of flooring you’re buying as well. Low-quality rubber, for instance, is not dyed properly and starts getting discolored soon after use.
3.5 How to Allow for Thermal Expansion and Contraction
This is one factor that may people often ignore or forget to consider. Temperature-sensitive flooring materials respond to environmental conditions by expanding in hot weather and contracting in cold. It’s best to install expansion joints with such flooring. Experts recommend laying out your flooring in its designated position for two days before fixing it, allowing acclimatization.
4. Buying Tips and Traps to Avoid
- Pick a material that fits your budget and has the best combination of properties according to your needs. The comparison table above can help you decide.
- Prioritize waterproof flooring. If going for rubber flooring, make sure it’s non-porous, which makes cleaning and maintenance easier.
- Make use of underlays underneath flooring with less shock absorption, especially in free weight and high impact zones.
- Beware of poor quality materials that may release toxic compounds which can be health and safety hazards.
- Go through customer reviews to know more about a material of a specific brand. Look at images of finished projects to visualize how the flooring you’re considering will look after installation.
With a rise in the number of modern fitness studios, you’ve entered a competitive industry where you need to pay attention to each detail. Flooring is a major factor that can influence the maintenance costs, cleaning requirements, aesthetics, and ultimately the performance of your center. With adequate knowledge about gym flooring materials and their properties, you are likely to make the best decision for your space.
Do you still have unanswered questions about buying gym flooring? Ask it in the comment section, and we’ll be sure to get back to you soon.
Related reading: top 10 gym equipment brands in China
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