When you hear of “rubberwood,” you may imagine a piece of lumber that can be easily bent or even a fake bendable plank made to look like wood. In fact, rubberwood is not very flexible and is a real tree.
What Is Rubberwood?
Rubberwood trees are where, you can probably guess, rubber comes from. The trees mainly grow in Brazil and various Asian countries. Rubberwood trees are also commonly referred to as Parawood and Malaysian oak.
The trees produce natural latex, the component needed to make natural rubber. Once the trees reach around thirty years old, the tree no longer produces natural latex, and the tree can now be used for furniture or flooring.
Pros of Rubberwood Flooring
Using rubberwood for flooring has been made popular in the past few years. Its original popularity was with furniture makers, who enjoyed how easy it was to saw and sand, which made building pieces easier. It was also more affordable than other hardwood furniture.
As more people started to use rubberwood and see its advantages, the natural move to install it as flooring was a no-brainer!
One of the most unique things about rubberwood is its previous life before being harvested to become flooring (or furniture!). Natural latex is harvested from the rubber tree for the first thirty years of its life. After this time, the production of the natural latex diminishes in the tree, and then it can be harvested for wood.
Not many trees have a double-act like rubberwood trees, and you can feel better knowing that this material was not solely grown for its wood. It also takes longer to grow, so you do not have the constant clearing of land that can strip soil from the ground.
Once rubberwood trees have stopped producing latex, they are cut down so new rubberwood trees can be planted. Instead of simply burning or trucking off the trees to a landfill, reusing the wood for furniture and flooring is a great way to be a friend to the environment.
Since natural latex production is the main focus of rubberwood trees, the wood from the tree can be considered a byproduct of the entire operation!
Most of the tree’s value came from its natural latex production, so in overall costs, the production of the wood is only a small percentage of the tree’s actual worth. This makes rubberwood more cost-beneficial to produce, and those savings are passed on to you.
If you have a large area in your home that you want to cover in wood flooring, rubberwood flooring is a great choice compared to other flooring types. As you know, hardwood flooring can be beautiful but expensive!
Working within a budget is a normal goal for most people when home building, and using rubberwood for your flooring can help you come under budget or at least give you the option to divert those funds for another project.
When you hear of rubberwood, you may think of wood that is easily manipulated, like rubber.
Don’t let the name mislead you. Rubberwood is actually pretty rigid and durable. It scores around 980 on the Janka hardness scale, ranking just a little below oak. As far as hardness goes, this means that rubberwood is around mid-range.
Additionally, rubberwood also has a natural shock absorbency, making it a common choice for gymnasiums where athletes run, jump, and have hard falls. It is also harder to scratch than many types of hardwood floors, like pine or cedar. This is ideal in a home with children running and playing!
Its durability contributes to rubberwood flooring having a lifespan of up to thirty years! Of course, this depends on the traffic level, use of chemicals and water, and maintenance. As long as you treat your floor as needed, you are looking at a long-lasting investment in your home.
Rubberwood reacts very well to staining, so you have countless options of what types of stain you can apply to your flooring to best complement your home’s decor.
You may like the natural look, though! After being treated, rubberwood has a deep golden brown color that is very pretty on its own. If this color is one you like and it goes with your home, no staining is required. This is great news for those who like to take a minimalist approach to home decor.
Rubberwood can be resistant to heat sources that could cause other types of wood to be damaged or catch fire. It takes much higher temperatures for rubberwood to burn compared to other woods, which is peace of mind for the safety of your home.
Cons of Rubberwood Flooring
Since rubberwood trees grow in the tropics, they can be exposed to rabid insect infestations and fungus in humid climates. Because of this, rubberwood has to go through chemical treatments as it can decay quite easily and attract many pests after it is harvested.
Using chemical treatments on flooring can be a con for many, especially if you have children crawling around on the floor. However, when purchasing rubberwood flooring, you should be able to see which chemicals were used in the processing of the wood. This can help you decide if you want exposure to any of these chemicals in your home.
There are two sides to the sustainability coin when it comes to rubberwood. If being sustainable is an important part of your lifestyle and the construction of your home, think carefully about using rubberwood as your flooring material.
The pro of using rubberwood is that you know the tree this wood came from was first used to produce natural latex, and now it is being repurposed into flooring or furniture.
This wood is at least thirty years old and had a previous life fulfilling another purpose. The multipurposeness of rubberwood is an attractive thought, but some of the locations where the rubber trees originate from don’t use the most environmentally-friendly practices.
Some rubber tree plantation owners use cleared rainforest land to plant more rubberwood trees to increase their production and profit. Eliminating any part of the rainforest can affect the animal and plant life in that area, which is not good for the environment.
If sustainability is important to you, you’ll want to confirm that the wood you're using was sourced from a plantation accredited for using sustainable practices.
Staining & Cleaning
Although rubberwood can be stained easily to a different color, it can also stain easily from accidental spills and the use of cleaning chemicals. To clean rubberwood, use warm water and soap and then quickly dry the flooring. Any standing water on the floor can cause damage to the finish by causing water rings and potential swelling of the wood. Using strong chemical cleaners can also ruin the finish.
If you have children or pets, you know there can be surprise spills, and sometimes not all spills are discovered right away. Using rubberwood flooring means that you’ll need to stay vigilant about any moisture coming into contact with it.
Rubberwood is also very slippery when wet, so keeping dry is important to ensure that no one has an accident.
A special consideration that you may not have with other woods is if you have an allergy to natural latex. Since rubberwood trees produce natural latex, exposure to this wood may cause allergic reactions if you cannot tolerate natural latex.
Many people who are designing or renovating their homes have the advantage of a basement. The bad news is that if you have rubberwood flooring throughout your home, you may want to avoid installing it in your basement.
Since rubberwood flooring is susceptible to damage from standing water, it can be easily damaged in basements where leaks and flooding occur more often than in other rooms of the house.
You may also want to think twice about installing rubberwood floors in bathrooms or laundry rooms, which are also prone to standing water issues. Of course, with the susceptibility to water damage, you should only use rubberwood flooring indoors. If outdoors, the elements will shorten the wood’s lifespan, and exposure to insects and fungus can ultimately ruin the wood.
When choosing flooring for your home, you have countless options: tile, carpet, and wood flooring, just to name a few. There are multitudes of types, finishes, hardwood types, and colors within the wood flooring family. The options are endless! Rubberwood flooring just might be the perfect option when building or renovating your home.
Once rubberwood stops producing natural latex, it is no longer viable for latex farmers. As these trees are cut down after their main purpose is complete, using them for furniture or flooring is a sustainable way to keep this wood out of landfills.
With the pros and cons of rubberwood flooring discussed above, look at your lifestyle to see if it is compatible. If it is, you have a long-lasting floor that is durable and affordable.