Now that we’ve got all that terribly un-fun prep work out of the way, we can finally talk about the new bathroom floor. And I’m sure many of you probably have questions. Rubber? Really? YES and YES.
My primary consideration when selecting the flooring was, quite honestly, cost. We’re already spending far more than we’d originally anticipated when this project began as just a modest little spruce up, and now quite a lot of money is going towards tiling three of the bathroom walls. So while I would have loved to put down black penny-round tile on the floor, it just wasn’t in the budget.
Instead, I made up my mind to find a more creative flooring solution–something other than porcelain tile. I thought about cork flooring. I looked into VCT tile. I even pondered whether we could get away with just sealing the existing concrete slab (answer: not likely). But then I somehow stumbled upon rubber flooring and I knew right away that that was the solution. Unique. Modern. Durable. (Relatively) inexpensive. The raised-dot rubber is even reminiscent of penny rounds. And I think it looks great. I mean, take a look at these rooms:
How amazing are those green and yellow rubber floors?? Seeing brilliant use of color like that always makes me wish I were daring enough to try it…
But the real point here is that I was sold on rubber flooring. I just had to source the right product. Dalsouple makes gorgeous rubber floors, but I couldn’t find a retailer in the United States. Roppe rubber flooring is sold here and appears to be pretty highly recommended, but the requisite number of their rubber tiles and adhesive were going cost me more than $700. I was afraid that was going to be the best I could do, until Daniel Kanter so providently intervened and shared his amazingly inexpensive solution: a giant roll of black raised rubber from Rubber Flooring Inc. Sure it’s intended to be garage flooring. Yes, it comes in only three colors. And true, Daniel used it as just a temporary solution in a rental kitchen. But just $250 (including shipping!) for a roll of rubber so large that it would cover our bathroom floor twice?? There was no way I was going to do better than that.
So I ordered it, thinking I’d at least check out the quality, and if I didn’t like it I’d just send it back. But when it arrived, I fell in love.
So pretty! There was no way I was sending this stuff back. It was perfect: cool-looking, durable, and cheap.
So that’s how I decided on rubber flooring for our bathroom. How did we install it, you might ask? Well, we actually tried to install it twice: first the wrong way, then the right way. And you get to learn from my mistakes, people!
My first hare-brained idea was to measure and map out our bathroom’s floor plan, and then roll out the rubber in the garage and slice it up according to my diagram:
The rubber actually cuts really easily with just a box cutter and straight edge. We took our time and were so, so careful, but when we brought the rubber sheet inside and laid it out in the bathroom, it didn’t fit right at all. It was off by an inch or two in several different places, and because our floor plan isn’t just a regular ol’ rectangle but has some weird jetty-like protrusions, the rubber wouldn’t even lay flat. I don’t have a photo of this debacle to share with you because my shutter finger was paralyzed by sadness. Take my word for it, things looked grim. (I should note: this method of installation might work for you if your room is a simple rectangular shape, but otherwise I do not recommend it.)
So it was back to the drawing board. For our second installation attempt, we decided to roughly cut one big rectangular sheet of rubber that was a few inches wider on all sides than our room is, lay the sheet on the bathroom floor, and then trim it in place. This was the right way to do it. And remember when I said that this roll of rubber was big enough to cover our bathroom floor twice? Thank heavens that wasn’t an exaggeration: we had just enough rubber left to make it work.
So with the rubber on the bathroom floor, I crawled around the perimeter of the room and used the box cutter to trim off the excess. I wasn’t too concerned about getting my lines perfectly straight because we’d be putting baseboards down over top of them.
The only tricky parts were along the thresholds of the two doorways in the room. Both of those metal threshold thingies are holding down carpeting, so we were too scared to remove them. That meant the pressure was on to cut really straight lines along the thresholds. I took my time and did a pretty okay job. (And later filled in the gaps with black caulk.)
One of the perks of using a big sheet of rubber to cover our floor, as opposed to smaller rubber tiles, is that we don’t have any seams. Well, we actually have one seam. You can see it in the photo of the toilet above. The width of the bathroom from the wall behind that toilet to the shower directly opposite (not pictured) is just a bit wider than the roll of rubber, so I had to cut a small second piece to cover the back half of that little toilet alcove (nook? room? I don’t know). The hardest part was lining up the raised dots along the seam where the two pieces of rubber met. Well, trimming the rubber around the toilet was actually pretty difficult too. I wound up cutting a slit in the rubber from the back wall to the front of the toilet, wrapping the two halves of rubber around it, and then trimming very carefully around the toilet base. If I were doing this again, I would definitely just remove the toilet altogether. But at the time I didn’t even realize that was an option!
Once we finally got the flooring cut down to size, it was time to put it permanently in place. Such a big sheet of rubber naturally laid quite smooth and flat, so I didn’t spend too much time thinking about adhesives. The manufacturer’s recommendation was to use double-sided carpet tape, so I just put the tape underneath all of the rubber’s edges.
Some places stuck better than others, but I didn’t worry too much about it because we were going to be installing baseboards that would help hold down the edges. The only area where we expended more effort was the threshold at the entry to the bathroom. Because we didn’t remove the metal threshold, there’d be nothing going over top of the rubber there to hold it down, so I just put a bit of Gorilla Glue underneath it. That worked, but I’d use a different glue product next time. Gorilla Glue expands as it dries (yes, it does warn you of that on the label, which I read, but didn’t take seriously enough), so when I picked up the boxes of tile that I’d used to hold down the rubber while the glue set, there was a lot of glue that had oozed out and had to be cleaned up. And it wasn’t easy.
But that was all we did as far as adhesives go: just stuck down the edges of the rubber. I wondered at the time if it might be a problem that we didn’t put down any adhesive in the middle of the floor, and if I had it to do over again, I might. And instead of double-sided carpet tape, I’d probably look into the type of adhesive Roppe sells for use with its rubber flooring. We haven’t had any problems, but I did notice that when we used a step ladder in the bathroom on a couple of occasions, the pressure of someone standing on it sometimes caused the rubber floor to bubble up just a tiny bit around the ladder’s feet. It laid perfectly flat again as soon as we got off of the ladder, but I do think the flooring installation would have been more professional and permanent if we’d glued down the entire sheet of rubber. On the other hand, our method was quick, cheap, and (with the exception of the Gorilla Glue) chemical-free. So take your pick.
However imperfectly, our rubber flooring was finally down. The next step: measuring, cutting, and installing the new baseboards. Ben did this part pretty much all on his own. We chose simple, 4-inch primed MDF base moulding, and he just cut the edges with a miter saw, put a bit of all-purpose construction adhesive along the base of the wall, and used a nail gun and finishing nails to finally install the moulding. My contribution was to follow along behind him and patch the nail holes with white wood filler–not a perfect solution for MDF, but it got the job done. In fact, the baseboards looked so good at that point that we decided not to even bother painting them. They already matched the wall color:
They look pretty good, right?? Especially against that black floor. Things were finally starting to come together!
A quick note about what we did along the shower and bathtub: obviously those were not places where we could put baseboards, so we used peel-and-stick caulk strips:
They may not last forever because for some strange reason the adhesive on the strips doesn’t extend all the way to the edge of the caulk, but they’re working for now.
The final step in our bathroom flooring installation was caulking. I’d never used caulk before, which is a shame, because as it turns out I’m pretty much an amazing caulker. But I couldn’t have done it without the help of my little magic wand:
This spatula-thingie (or “caulk finisher,” if you prefer) is a priceless tool. I just applied caulk along the tops of the baseboards with the caulk gun and then ran this little beauty over the caulk bead to simultaneously spread it and scrape up the excess. Sometimes I would run my wet finger or a damp towel over it all to clean off any lingering caulk residue, but that’s all it took. And it was incredible to me what a difference caulking made. With all of the gaps filled in, the floor and baseboards went from looking good to looking professional. Yay for caulk!
And yay for new rubber flooring in the bathroom! Here it is today, in all its glory:
It cleans up nice, right? And super easily too. Swiffer it, vacuum it, wipe it with a wet cloth…pick your poison, it all works great.
Well, the rubber may not be fancy and the installation was certainly far from perfect, but we did it ourselves, it looks great, and I am loving it. I know rubber flooring is controversial, but I can’t say enough good things about it.
Next up: tile!
For the full story of our master bathroom makeover, check out:
Part 1: Tackling the master bathroom
Part 2: Bathroom inspiration
Part 3: Prep work
Part 4: Rubber flooring
Part 5: Wall tile
Part 6: The bathroom is finished!