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Can Rubber Gym Floor Mats Damage Hardwood Floors?

You’re finally building a home gym in that spare room of yours, but you don’t know what to do about the hardwood floors. Can you even use rubber mats as home gym flooring over hardwood, or will the rubber cause damage?

The truth is, a lot of the time rubber flooring doesn’t cause any issues, but there are some cases when hardwood finishes can discolor. So you need to know why that happens, and what you can do to prevent it. 

Keep reading to learn more about why rubber mats can damage hardwood floors, how you can prevent it, what you can do if the damage is already done, and find alternatives to rubber gym flooring.

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Can Rubber Mats Stain Hardwood Flooring?

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In most cases, rubber mats will not affect wood flooring. You can use them as home gym flooring for as long as you want, and when you remove them, the hardwood underneath will be just as beautiful as it always was.

That’s what you can expect most of the time. However, there are some cases where rubber mats can discolor hardwood flooring (source). Certain polyurethane hardwood finishes will have a chemical reaction with certain materials in the rubber, such as antioxidants like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

When this chemical reaction happens, the rubber can leave marks or a residue behind, cloud the shine of the finish (also known as delustering), and even discolor the finish and the wood.

These reactions can also occur between wood and PVC. That’s why the no-slip backings for some area rugs will also cause this problem. 

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Can You Prevent Rubber Mats from Damaging Hardwood Floors?

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Yes! If you’re concerned that rubber mats could damage your hardwood, there are a couple of steps you can take.

  1. Determine your hardwood finish: If your floor has a polyurethane finish, it’s at risk of becoming damaged. However, an oil, wax, or aluminum oxide finish might not be as at-risk. 
  2. Create a barrier: Even with a polyurethane finish, you can still use rubber mats if you lay down a plastic sheet before installing the rubber. This will prevent the chemical reaction.

Maybe you learned too late that rubber can sometimes damage wood flooring, and now you have some unsightly marks on your floor. You can start by determining if it’s just some left-behind residue, or if you have an actual stain.

First, try to carefully scrape at the area with a plastic card to see if any of the marks come up. Rubber residue usually comes up pretty easily this way. Then, you can wipe down the area with a manufacturer-recommended hardwood or hard surfaces cleaner. That should take care of any residue, but a stain is a bit trickier.

Even if you do have permanent discoloration that doesn’t disappear with the steps above, don’t panic! Those marks don’t have to stick around forever. You may be able to sand it down and refinish it depending on if you have solid hardwood or engineered wood with a 3mm or thicker veneer. It won’t be simple, which is why prevention is always best, but it’s still possible.

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Will Rubber Mats Protect Hardwood From Dropped Weights?

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At this point, you know that you can use rubber flooring over hardwood without damaging the wood. So your next question is probably, “Can rubber flooring actually protect my hardwood floors from heavy weights and other challenges?”

The answer is, undoubtedly yes! Rubber mats are the best gym flooring for this very reason. The rubber absorbs impact from dropped weights, preventing dents and damage to your hardwood better than any other flooring. 

Rubber flooring also protects hardwood from scuffs and scratches, and because it’s waterproof, no moisture can soak through to potentially cause water damage to the wood. Rubber gym flooring offers all-around protection that will allow you to have a functional home gym in any room with hardwood flooring.

Related Content >> Home Gym Flooring Options

What is the Best Exercise Mat for Hardwood floors?

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Discover the best exercise mats options to use over hardwood flooring. While rubber flooring is the best of the best, you still have more choices.

Rubber Flooring

Rubber mats are seen as the best exercise flooring in general, because they absorb impact, dampen noise, and provide a slip-resistant surface. There’s a reason rubber is the most popular home gym flooring out there! Rubber flooring can even protect your hardwood flooring from dropped weights!

But you still might not be completely comfortable with putting rubber flooring over your beautiful hardwood. That’s totally understandable! There are some alternative exercise mats for hardwood floors.


Foam Tiles

Interlocking foam floor tiles provide impact-absorption and comfort for lighter floor workouts. They also work great as an alternative to rubber when you need exercise equipment mats for hardwood floors. 

Foam tiles are very affordable and easy to install on your own, which makes them a popular home gym floor. One drawback is that they’re not ideal for dropping heavy weights. If you’re an Olympic lifter, you’re going to need a thick rubber mat.


Foam Gym Mats or Yoga Mats

If you only need extra support and comfort during floor workouts, maybe you don’t need to cover your whole floor! A gym mat or yoga mat can be a good solution for light floor exercises. They provide a place to stretch, do calisthenics, complete your yoga sequences, and much more. 

Keep in mind, some mats could be made of PVC (which is also known for staining hardwood), but if you roll them up and store them when not in use, there’s virtually no chance of damaging your wood floor. 



Now you know how and why rubber mats can sometimes damage hardwood flooring, and you know how you can prevent it from happening to you. No matter if you choose rubber home gym flooring, interlocking foam tiles, or something else, your home gym will put you on the right track for a better fitness routine.


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About Chelsi Hewitt

Chelsi Hewitt

Chelsi Hewitt is a Phoenix-area content marketing professional. She joined Flooring Inc. to teach people about flooring, interior design, home trends, and more.

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