To choose the best rubber flooring for your fitness facility, it all starts with one question.

"There are no longer limits on imagination when it comes to facility flooring," says Robin Traum, public relations consultant for Taraflex Sports Flooring by Gerflor, Atlanta, Ga. "No matter what the space is used for, the owner and manager have broad choices of flooring types, dimensions, thicknesses, colors and patterns, and performance characteristics." A popular option for general fitness flooring is rubberized flooring, which comes in a variety of sizes, colors and thicknesses. But before deciding on those details, the first consideration is whether to choose flecked or a solid color. The right answer for your fitness center is more complicated than you might think. It has to do with design, price, appearance - even your facility's position on the environment. FMasked industry experts to share their opinions about answering that age-old flooring question: to fleck or not to fleck?

What's in a fleck?

"Flecked or multi-colored flooring was originally part of the development of synthetic flooring," Traum explains. "The idea behind it was to duplicate the appearance of natural flooring products, such as Terrazzo tile, but at a ... more affordable price." Flecked flooring is available in many flooring products, including rolled materials, large mats or vinyl tiles. Solid colored flooring offers many product options to fit a facility's needs, as well.

Stick to your ideals - and your budget

Eco-friendly facility owners can choose flecked to go green. "The flecks promote efficient manufacturing processes and advance the concept of zero waste or minimal amount of waste," says Traum. "After manufacturing, the excess from one batch of flooring can be chopped up and recycled into another batch." Because its manufacturing process relies heavily on recycling materials, flecked flooring has a lower price tag. "We sell considerably more flecked flooring than we do solid colored," says Steve Chase, general manager at Fitness Flooring, Indianapolis, Ind. "Much of that has to do with the price, as the 3/8-inch-thick solid colored flooring is nearly twice the price of the 3/8-inch[-thick] flecked flooring. A lot of the price differential has to do with the fact that solid-colored flooring uses virgin material, which is more expensive than the reground flooring that is used in flecked rolls."

Design to be different

Though budget concerns will always be a factor, an increasingly tight market means more facilities are looking to set themselves apart from their fleck-friendly competition - and they're willing to pay more for unique flooring. "A lot of people are trying to differentiate themselves from other gyms," says Wilkinson. "So, they're using full-depth color instead of flecked." New facilities boasting cutting-edge design may want the customized look they get with solid-colored flooring. "I think, to a great extent, the major motivation for buying the solid-colored rubber flooring is purely related to aesthetics of the space and how important to you it is that the flooring reflects that," says Chase. "Solid-colored flooring gives you much more design flexibility. You can do walkways, borders and different rooms in contrasting colors - an option that really isn't there ... with flecked rubber." On the flip side, older fitness centers hoping for a facelift will be better off with flecks. "Sub floors can be uneven, and the color mix will help hide minor imperfections," Traum explains.

Consider maintenance

Members may love the look of solid-colored flooring, but your maintenance staff will have other ideas. "There's little question that a solid color floor is more attractive initially," says Chase. "However, it has less of an ability to hide dirt, stains and dents over time. Because of this, you'll likely have to be much more diligent about your cleaning, and do aggressive cleanings more often. You'll have these issues less on a dark solid-colored floor than a lighter one." Debris and dust are two of the worst culprits for diminishing the look of solid-colored flooring, but flecks are more forgiving. "Maintenance draws advantages from flecked flooring because its multi coloring hides the little bits of debris that can accumulate between cleanings," says Traum. "Those pieces can be more visible on solid color floors." Beth Wilkinson, account manager at Premier Specialty Flooring, East Setauket, N.Y., says flecked flooring does wonders for disguising dust. "Solid black flooring really makes footprints stand out, and staff doesn't have time to go around vacuuming up footprints," she says. Flecked flooring is especially helpful in weight rooms where lifters use a lot of chalk.

Make small spaces look bigger

If making a fitness space look bigger is your primary concern, then color choice is definitely important. "Lighter colors will help make a room look brighter, and thus appear larger because of light reflection," says Traum. "Darker colors appear to absorb light, while lighter colors reflect light. By using a lighter color, areas that would typically be shadowed are illuminated, creating a more substantial appearance." If space is at a premium, solid flooring will have a wider selection of light colors. Flecked flooring offers the fewest options for lighter colors, because most products have a black background. Additionally, flooring products that are in one piece, interlocking tiles or the appearance of tiles produce different visual effects. "What really has a dramatic impact on the perceived size of a room is whether the flooring appears monolithic - as one solid piece - or is made up of smaller segments or sections," Traum explains. Monolithic floors make the space look larger because people take in an unbroken expanse of color; the eye isn't distracted by lines. Flooring that has a "tile" look automatically looks smaller, but just how small can be influenced by tile size. "Previously it was thought that, the smaller size a tile was, the larger the room would look," says Traum. "Now, the realization is the opposite. The installation of larger-diameter tile makes a smaller room look bigger. The larger tile grids can be seen from a much greater distance, thus making the room itself look bigger." Keep in mind that a facility overcrowded with equipment can undermine even the savviest flooring choices. "The more equipment in a room, the smaller it is going to look, no matter what type or color floor is installed," Traum says.

Purchasing Guide

Action Floor Systems LLC 800 746-3512; www.actionfloors.com Action Floor Systems offers a line of recycled-rubber, multi-use athletic floors. Action ReFlex is a durable, high-impact flooring product designed for extreme-wear applications. A wide variety of color options and sizes are available. Aeson Flooring Systems, Div. of Stagestep 800 523-0960; www.aesonflooring.com Aeson Flooring Systems offers a selection of rubber mats and rolled flooring suited for weight rooms. MegaLock, Surestep and Flecstep are brands of resilient shock- and sound-absorbent flooring that exhibit excellent traction. Dinoflex Manufacturing Ltd. 877 713-1899; www.dinoflex.com Interlocking Sport Mat Flooring is a high-quality, recycled rubber flooring that is quickly installed. The precision-cut interlocking system provides a seamless, uniform look, without using adhesive or double-sided tape. This fully reversible product can be turned all at once, or as needed to renew high-wear areas. It is durable, slip-resistant, sound- and shock-absorbing, reduces muscle fatigue, is reversible (interlocking), stain-resistant, low maintenance and golf spike-resistant. Everlast Performance Flooring 888 383-7655; www.everlastflooring.com Everlast has expanded its line to include 40 colors, including new earth tones, bolder blues and a greater selection of grays. Custom color and logo capabilities are available. Fitness Flooring 800 428-5306; www.fitnessfloors.com Fitness Flooring offers sports flooring for every area of a facility. Products include Exerflex group exercise flooring, Flecks rubber products, Junckers basketball flooring and a host of other products designed specifically for use in fitness. The company has been serving the industry for more than 25 years, and has installations in thousands of facilities across North America. Gerstung/Gym-Thing Inc. 800 922-3575; www.gerstung.com Flex Tred is a 3/4-inch-thick recycled rubber flooring that is durable, resilient, sound-absorbent, and spike- and slip-resistant. No border or corner pieces are needed. Four-foot-wide rolls are available in four speckled colors, as well as solid black. Humane Manufacturing Company LLC 800 369-6263; www.humanemfg.com Full-color mats feature a smooth top surface and a choice of interlocking or straight edges. The vulcanized, 1/2-inch-thick mats are available in four standard colors: brick, mocha, forest and royal. JCH International 800 328-9203; www.jchinternational.com JCH manufactures recycled rubber interlocking tiles. Its new Interlock BloX is a 19.5-by-19.5-inch tile that is 3/8 of an inch thick. It features do-it-yourself installation and many colors, both flecked or solid. Other fitness flooring options are also available - rubber, recycled rubber, PVC or polypropylene carpet, tile, interlocking tile, mats or rolls. JCH has been in the industry for more than 30 years, and can provide free samples. Johnsonite 800 899-8916; www.johnsonite.com Replay flooring is molded from recycled rubber tires. The 3/8-inch-thick flooring is impact-resistant, and shock- and sound-absorbent. Standard and custom color combinations are available in 24-inch-square tiles and 48-inch-wide rolls. Linear Rubber Products 800 558-4040; www.rubbermats.com Gymatts are 48-by-72-inch, 5/8-inch-thick mats featuring a raised-button, non-skid traction pattern that won't trap dust or dirt. Thousands of tiny nubs on the underside act as an anti-fatigue cushion, while providing sound absorption and air circulation. Lonseal Inc. 800 832-7111; www.lonseal.com Lonmetro UV, the latest offering in the Lonseal line of flooring, fuses eight colors with functionality. Lonmetro UV is heterogeneous resilient sheet vinyl composed of 20-percent recycled vinyl with a factory-applied, 100-micron-thick, clear, UV-cured urethane surface formulated to provide maximum resistance to foot traffic. A middle layer provides dimensional stability, sound-absorbing properties and resiliency underfoot. In addition, the flooring is easy to maintain. Magnum Fitness Systems 800 372-0554; www.magnumfitness.com Interlocking Dura Tiles measure 36 inches square and 3/8-inches thick. The loose-laid tiles are made of recycled rubber and can be easily replaced or reversed. Corner, border and center tiles come in solid black, or with blue, tan or gray flecks. Mitchell Rubber Products Inc. 800 453-7526; www.mitchellrubber.com For more than 50 years, Mitchell Rubber Products has been producing durable weight-room surfacing solutions worldwide. The company's odorless virgin rubber Interlock comes in 2- and 4-foot-square tiles, requiring no adhesive. Mondo USA 800 368-3747; www.mondousa.com Mondo's Sport Impact and Ramflex vulcanized rubber surfaces are designed to resist abuse from weights, barbells and weight equipment. Both products contain a heavy-duty wear layer for resistance and structural elasticity, and a shock-absorbent lower layer for safety and comfort. No Fault Sport Group LLC 866 NF-SPORT; www.nofault.com No Fault Sport Floor can be used in weight rooms, recreational facilities or a multitude of other flooring applications. Resilient, durable and easy to maintain, it is available in a variety of colors and is easy to install. It comes in two thicknesses (1/4- or 3/8-inches) and can adjust to meet the specific conditions of any facility. It comes in 4-foot-wide rolls custom cut to the length needed, or in 2-by-2-foot interlocking "zig-zag"-style tiles. Northwest Rubber Mats Ltd. 800 663-8724; www.northwestrubber.com Northwest Rubber's SportFLOOR is 100-percent recycled rubber flooring. The D?cor Series is available in 35.5-inch-square, 3/8-inch-thick tiles, and in a choice of 12 colors. The tiles can be interlocked for a more stable floor, and company logos can be incorporated. Oscoda Plastics Inc. 800 544-9538; www.oscodaplastics.com Made from 100-percent recycled vinyl, Protect-All flooring is designed to withstand extreme dead-weight loads and repetitive heavy impact. Sheets measure 5 feet square, or 5 by 8 feet, and can be permanently adhered or used as temporary floor coverings. Colorful interlocking tiles snap into place and require no adhesives. Parterre Flooring Systems 888 338-1029; www.parterreflooring.com The Compete Sports Floor product line offers multi-use athletic flooring ideal for commercial applications. Available in three thicknesses (2.8, 3.5 and 6 millimeters), the product's resistance to wear is backed by a 15-year limited warranty. Compete flooring comes in two standard wood designs and five solid colors. Custom designs and colors are also available. Pawling Corp. 800 431-3456; www.athleticflooringonline.com Made of 100-percent virgin rubber, Hid-N-Lok II Athletic Tiles feature a hidden interlock system that allows for quick, no-glue installation and results in a seamless appearance. A hammered surface helps repel dirt. Thirteen colors are available. Power Systems 800 321-6975; www.power-systems.com Shock and energy absorption from the encapsulated air within PaviGym Aerobic Flooring delivers a durable and noise-reducing surface. Made from virgin rubber, it is waterproof and stain-resistant with an anti-slip surface. Available in five colors (red, blue, gray, black and beige), each interlocking 100-by-100-centimeters square is 3/8-inches thick. Beveled edge wedges and corner pieces (black or gray) make for a smooth transition to other flooring surfaces. It cleans easily with water and mild detergent. Premier Specialty Flooring 800 805-4654; www.premiersf.net Premier Specialty Flooring manufactures rubber and PVC flooring. Rubber flooring is available in 4- and 3-foot rolls at 1/8-, 1/4-, 5/16-, 3/8- and 1/2-inch thickness. Interlocking tiles are 24-by-24-inches, 36-by-36-inches or 48-by-48-inches, and are available in 3/8- and 1/2-inch thicknesses. Both rolled floors and interlocking tiles are available in solid black, with a large range of color flecking and full-depth options. All flooring is available with a manufacturer's warranty. RB Rubber Products Inc. 800 525-5530; www.rbrubber.com RB Rubber produces colored rubber surfacing for weight rooms. The company's products - including RB Rolled Rubber, RB Mega-Lock, RB Flec-Lock and RB Athletic Mats - are distributed nationwide, and contribute to the recycling of more than 4 million tires annually. Robbins Sports Surfaces 800 543-1913; www.robbinsfloor.com Robbins' full line of maple and synthetic sports floors are designed to meet the performance needs of the 19 NBA teams competing on Robbins' floors, as well as facilities with tight budgets. Signature Fencing & Flooring Systems 800 569-2751; www.eventdeck.com This worldwide manufacturer and direct distributor offers RubberDeck, interlocking rubber tiles and roll-out mats for cushioned support. Made from 100-percent recycled rubber, RubberDeck comes in 0.25- and 0.375-inch thicknesses, and is available in solid black and six different fleck colors. Interlocking tiles can be configured to match any space requirement, and have a small, zipper-like tab system that leaves the floor smooth and seamless. Roll-out mats can be used both indoors and outdoors, and are available in three roll sizes. RubberDeck is resilient, shock- and sound-absorbent, provides excellent traction and is anti-skid. Summit Flexible Products Ltd. 888 367-6287; www.esportmats.com Vulcan interlocking weight room flooring is reversible for longer wear life. Featuring a button design, each natural-rubber tile is 40 inches square, 5/8-inch thick and weighs just 45 pounds. The odor-free tiles install in minutes and are easy to clean. Surface America Inc. 800 999-0555; www.surfam.com Surface America's fitness surfacing line includes TuffRoll, a versatile speckled flooring; the seamless EverTop system, which features a wide variety of color combinations and inlaid graphics; and the high-density DuraTile, which combines aesthetic appeal and durability. Taraflex Sports Flooring by Gerflor 800 727-7505; www.gerflortaraflex.com Fitness Tile is designed for weight rooms and cardio areas, and is available in eight vivid and earth-tone colors. The 5-millimeter-thick tile is semi-flexible, with a dimpled texture treated to resist scratches and indentation. Once installed, there are no odors because the tiles don't require adhesives or welding. The anti-static tile's dovetail joint design connects the tiles tightly together so they won't shift or move. The tiles can be separated without tools, and re-installed when it is time to update, expand or relocate. Tuflex Rubber Flooring 800 543-0390; www.tuflex.com Long-lasting sports floors by Tuflex are engineered to withstand the punishing weight-room environment and maintain its appearance. This 3/8-inch-thick resilient flooring is available in 20 patterns and five solid-color feature strips. Valspar Flooring 800 637-7793; www.valsparflooring.com WB-20 has a waterborne oil-modified urethane finish, with applications for a wide variety of hardwood applications in basketball courts, racquetball courts, gymnasiums, dance studios, and other fitness and recreational facilities. The new finish is designed to be scuff-, scratch- and abrasion-resistant, while delivering a brilliant gloss finish with high light reflectance to capture the defining grain characteristics of each wood species.