OK to put a rubber surface directly on top of an unsealed wood floor?
June 17, 2005 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Our kitchen floor is wood that was last painted at least 12 years ago. Gradually, with years of hard use, the paint has flaked off in patches, exposing the bare, splintery wood underneath, which is warped and uneven (old building). Can I cover the floor with click-together non-adhesive rubber tiles without having to seal/finish the floor first?

We live in a rental, so don't want to invest too much in refinishing, etc. But if we don't seal the wood somehow, I worry that we may be setting ourselves up for future problems. For example, I envision moisture (spills) seeping down through the cracks and being unable to evaporate properly now that the floor is covered with impermeable rubber -- thereby damaging or weakening the wood even further.

For that matter, do I need to fill in the depressions somehow before laying the floor? If the floor is uneven, might that cause the joins to open a bit, or leave room for trapped moisture...?

These are the rubber tiles in question: http://www.ifloor.com/group_11364/RB-Rubber-Bump-Top/Arobitile/group.html
posted by GrammarMoses to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
I think your moisture worries are unfounded. If this isn't a tropical climate, you're not going to have to worry about ambient moisture, only spills. I have minimally finished hardwood in my kitchen of 4 years, and it's fine. I keep a beach towel under the sink for emergenies, and just clean up after myself.

The tiles you link to are in fact permeable. They are smaller versions of the "strain relief" tiles found in commercial kitchens, bars, anywhere people spend a lot of time on their feet, and want some cushioning. They should be quite easy to pull up in the event of spill. They are also reasonably expensive at $4.35/sq.ft. You can get maple hardwood for close to that, uninstalled, and vinyl tile for under 1$/sq.ft. Tile however will crack or come up if you don't have a nice level surface underneath, this stuff should bend with the floor reasonably well. You might check out flexible flooring by the yard at Home Depot, it might be cheaper and less likely to trip you. I would bond it to the floor though, even with strips of carpet tape down the edges.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:50 PM on June 17, 2005

You shouldn't have a problem, but... I couldn't say what the floor will look like under the tiles in a few years. Are you planning to leave them behind, or taking them with you when you move?

How about a couple of nice area rugs, which could be thrown in a washer if spilled on?
posted by Marky at 9:38 PM on June 17, 2005

What is the position of the owner of your rental? Should not the owner be responsible for flooring? If you have not consulted him/her, might you be forced to remove any unauthorized improvements?
posted by Cranberry at 11:23 PM on June 17, 2005

Just to warn you: I've had tile like that in a kitchen and it's a big pain in the ass to get clean. The bumps will actually force dirty water out of your mop. You'll end up with dirty splotches on the side of each bump.

I'm with Cranberrry. Talk to the owner and see if you can get them to do something about the flooring. If they won't, you could borrow a belt sander to get rid of the rough spots and paint the floor again. Maybe you can get them to pay for the paint.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:37 AM on June 18, 2005

Cranberry --

Re the landlord's "responsibility": We live in NYC, in the Village, and as is often the case in this town, our landlord does as little as possible to fix apartments (oh, the tales I could tell you). Based on what I've observed in the building during my 12 years here, the strategy is apparently to do very little for lower-dollar tenants (like us) so that they will get fed up and move and *then* he can fix up the apartment and hike the rent.

Consequently if something needs to be done around here (floor refinishing, plumbing, etc.), we (and our neighbors) have found we're better off hiring somebody ourselves to do it and just eating the cost. (Which my husband and I could do in this case, if necessary, but would obviously prefer not to.)

Since these rubber tiles are non-adhesive, we can remove them if/when we leave - I just dread the thought of picking them up some years hence and uncovering rotten wood.

Also, hydrophonic, thanks for that info. I hadn't considered the effect of the bumps on mopping. (Sponge mop or rag mop, btw?)
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:12 AM on June 18, 2005

Sponge mop or rag mop, btw?

Didn't make a difference. You could probably find smooth rubber tiles, though.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2005

I'd recommend cleaning really thoroughly, then painting with floor paint, but I like painted floors. You can also get plain canvas and paint it, poly it, and use it like a rug, only easier to clean. I like the rubber bump stuff, but it's kind of expensive.
posted by theora55 at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2005

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