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The foundation of every home gym is quite literally the flooring. We bought and tested all of the most popular options (as well as some obscure mats) to determine the best home gym flooring for most people. Despite all of the companies making flooring specifically for garage gyms and home gyms, Horse Stall Mats from companies like Tractor Supply and other farm stores are still the best option. If you don’t have a store like this nearby, we recommend American Floor Mats 8MM Rubber Tiles from Amazon.
The absolute staple for most home gyms and especially garage gyms the world over is the Horse Stall Mat. For most people, the easiest and cheapest place to buy these is from Tractor Supply, but most Horse Stall Mats are the same with minor variations. They use recycled rubber, are 3/4" thick, 4'x6' in size, and weigh upwards of 100 LB. The reason these are so great is that you can do literally any exercise, deadlift, squat, bench press, clean and jerk, situps, etc and never have to worry about your foundation. Horse stall mats are the best home gym flooring for most people. Despite the dozens of other options we've tested, nothing compares to the value they provide.
Although stall mats and rubber rolls are preferable, there is a third option that is cheaper than rolls, but still has many of the same benefits, which is great for those whose home gym is in a smaller space. The American Floor Mats Fit-Lock ⅜ Rubber Flooring is made to the same specs as the roll versions, but instead of having to order large, heavy rolls, these use the same puzzle-piece connection system as foam flooring The American Floor Mats are available in different colors, stay together well, protect your foundation and equipment, and are priced affordably. They’re also available with free shipping from Amazon, which many prefer over direct form the manufacturer.
If you want flooring that is more consistent, comes with more options and often less smell than stall mats for your home gym, albeit at a more premium price then we suggest Rubber Flooring Inc Rubber Rolls around 8mm or thicker. This is actually the flooring that I, Coop, have in my latest garage gym build and although it’s not going to provide any further shock protection over stall mats, they do move less, have less off-gas, and overall have a more premium look and feel These are the same mats most often used in commercial gym applications, come in different fleck color options and after using them for almost a year in my personal garage gym, I’ve become a fan.
If you’re on a bare-bones budget and need something quick to protect your floor, the bottom of the barrel option is AmazonBasics Foam Interlocking Exercise Floor Mats. I want to be clear, these are not good, but they are cheap. We don’t like foam flooring for reasons we detail later in this review, however, if this is all you can afford and you need your floor protected, it’s better than nothing (in some cases.)
Home gym flooring, unlike our guides for the best barbell, best trap bar, best bumper plates, and the like is a bit simpler. There are really only a few different materials used as flooring for a home gym, and, among those, only one that I think is a viable option for most home gyms.
To begin my search for the best flooring for a home gym, I ran out to the garage gym to see all of the samples we had on hand. What I’ve done in the past in building different home gyms was order samples from most manufacturers to feel and see the difference between all of the options they make.
What becomes clear rather quickly is the fact that most rubber flooring varies primarily on aesthetics and thickness, unless you go with a really high-end option like Plae Flooring that uses multiple laminated layers to suppress sound and vibration.
Although there are other materials other than rubber marketed to home gym owners, we didn’t find them to be all that great for working out on.
Plastic ends up cracking despite them being designed for cars to sit on, see Swisstrax (we dropped kettlebells from 5 feet on them. 10/10 would not recommend it.)
Foam ends up being unstable for squatting on and soaks up moisture. Honestly, I can’t believe foam is recommended as often as it is–except for the fact that it’s cheap and that’s the most important factor for most people’s purchasing decisions.
Turf is great for certain workouts and exercises, but is cost-prohibitive and not the best material for barbell lifts.
After training on all the different types of mats, we weighed the thickness versus the price of rubber matting. Thicker is almost always better. It will suppress sound, protect your foundation, and protect your equipment better than thinner matting. However, it requires more material, often uses special molds and is, therefore, more expensive.
Here are the specifications we judged the matting on to decide how to rank the various options:
Material Used: There is a wide range of materials used for home gym flooring, but, by and large, the best is rubber. Not all rubber is the same. Some is recycled while others use virgin rubber. Regardless, avoid foam and plastic, go with rubber.
Thickness: The thicker the flooring, the better (to a degree.) Thicker flooring will suppress sound, protect your foundation and protect your equipment.
Sound Suppression Abilities: Suppressing sound in a home gym is an often requested feature of flooring. However, most flooring that is designed specifically for sound suppression are very expensive. They use unique molds and a lot of material.
Grip: Potentially slipping during a deadlift is something that simply should not ever happen. You should feel secure to the floor during all movements with both shoes on and off.
Compression Under Foot: The ideal gym flooring should not compress underfoot. Compression leads to instability and is the same reason it’s not recommended to wear thick-soled running shoes while squatting.
Compression Under Load: Although flooring shouldn’t compress greatly while underfoot, it should compress under a heavy load. Compressing under a barbell and plates will protect your equipment.
Value: The features and quality should be reflected by the price. What we’re looking for is the best value, not just the best without considering the cost.
While foam mats may be our least favorite option, horse stall mats are our top choice. Take a trip to a local Tractor Supply, feed, or home improvement store and you will find a gym floor goldmine. It is unnecessary to order these online, because they are incredibly easy to locate and carried at multiple retailers. Some Tractor Supply stores also have curbside pick-up available and will help you load up your car.
Not only are these mats abundant, but they are also inexpensive compared to other competitors (such as 8MM strong rubber mats or 8mm strong rubber tiles). Per square foot, a Tractor Supply Horse Stall Mat is priced at $1.97/sq. ft, whereas 8mm strong rubber tile mats are $3.67 a square foot on Amazon. What is even better than the price is the ¾ inch thickness. This flooring option has the ability to protect your floors, foundation, and the gym equipment you just spent an entire paycheck on.
Do you live in a small space? Or is your gym in a room with an odd layout? These mats are incredibly versatile and can be cut to fit the dimensions of your gym! They are easy to move around and remove if you decide to move your gym to another location within your home. Another selling point is the rubber provides extra grip - perfect for squats, snatches, and cleans. The mats dampen sound and are incredibly stable, which is perfect for deadlift sessions or any other ground-based movement. That’s a huge bonus if you live with other people as well, especially with people working from home more than ever.
You also don’t have to worry about sweat, spills, or any other liquids being absorbed. They are easy to clean and dry rather quickly in the sun. If you want to speed up the drying process, you can use a fan or a leaf blower.
There are definitely not only upsides to using horse stall mats in your home gym.
The first is that they will compress a little with heavyweight being dropped. However, they will still provide you with the stability you need to complete your lift and stay injury-free.
Secondly, many horse stall mat buyers will admit that they can have a pretty funky smell, which can suddenly appear a few days after they are installed. To combat this, you can clean them outside with a simple green cleaner, baking soda, or a combination of both. After, allow them to dry in the sun or a well-ventilated area. You will notice that even with cleaning, they may still give off a slight smell. To combat this, I have cleaned them a second time using a mixture of water, dish soap, and lavender essential oils. This mixture seemed to work the best as far as eliminating that “gassy” odor. If you are sensitive to certain smells, we recommend another choice, such as the strong rubber roll mat/tiles.
Lastly, due to the weight, these bad boys are heavy and a massive pain to move.
Pro-Tip, if you’re moving a lot of them like I have over the years (I used to sell them in college) then use vice grips, a C-Clamp, or these specialized EZGrip Mat Mover Handles to move them. Thank me later.
Although they’re not perfect, rubber horse stall mats are the best home gym flooring for most people.
If you want flooring that is a bit more refined than horse stall mats, but don’t have the space or want to pay the cost for rolls, then we suggest our Runner-Up Pick, the American Floor Mats 8mm Rubber Tiles.
These tiles are easy to set up and move around with their interlocking puzzle-piece design. Unlike the foam tiles, they will not rip, tear, degrade, or move around easily once snapped down. They do come in different lengths and thicknesses. Need to cut a title to fit an awkward corner or space? It’s incredibly easy to cut them and fit the tiles to your specific flooring needs.
Similar to rubber rolls, these tiles are easy to clean with some soap/cleaner and a mop. If you really wanted to, you could even take them all apart and have them dry outside or use a leaf blower to speed up drying time. There’s even an added bonus if you have multiple people coming in and out of your home gym: the brightly colored flecks in them disguise tracked-in dirt (we still recommend cleaning them).
Just like the rubber roll, these tiles come in a variety of colors (solid black, black/blue, black/grey, black/red, black/mocha, and black/green), so you can keep up with your color scheme and still look professional. They do not smell, so those sensitive to strong smells would greatly benefit from these tiles.
Clearly, these rubber tiles are very similar to the rubber roll with sound dampening and stability qualities, which may be beneficial for apartment gym owners, or those who have family members that work from home.
When performing a squat, or any other ground-based movement, these tiles will not budge if snapped together properly. However, these rubber tiles can still compress somewhat when heavyweights are dropped. It is important to note that these mats will still protect your floor or foundation better than the foam tiles.
I can confidently report that I haven’t seen one crack or blemish on my concrete basement floor where I have a few of these tiles placed near my deadlifting station.
The reason that these mats are not our first choice is that they are expensive ($18.25 for just one 23”X 23” border tile). These tiles do come in a variety of thicknesses (up to ¾ of an inch), however, the 8mm is the best value for what you will receive.
Also, the 8mm will protect most household floors. If you are really concerned about damaging the foundation or floor of your home (especially if you rent a home or apartment), you can go up to a ¾ inch thickness, however, the cost will begin to outweigh the benefits. To combat potential damage, you could even use a pair of deadlift cushions on a horse stall mat or an 8mm rubber floor/tile. You can have them shipped for free if you are an Amazon Prime user, so at the very least you can save on shipping.
Seen in universities and weight rooms across America, Rubber Flooring Inc 8mm Strong Rubber Rolls are our upgrade pick. There is a reason why many commercial and home gym owners use a rubber roll or rubber tiles–they look great and hide dirt well.
If you already own horse stall mats or foam tiles and are looking for an upgrade that looks professional–an 8mm strong rubber roll may be your best option (albeit at a somewhat hefty cost.)
These mats are basically smell-proof, so you won’t have to worry about that off-putting chemical smell that horse stall mats can give off. Similar to the horse stall mats, the flooring is easy to clean with a simple mop and bucket. I’ve used some liquid soap and a mop and they clean and dry beautifully. Just put a fan (or two) pointed at the floor and they will be dry in no time.
Strong Rubber Roll Mats come in a variety of colors (black/gold, black/blue, black/grey, black/red to name a few). So if you are looking to keep up a specific color-scheme, this flooring will help make your home gym look put together and professional. You can easily install these mats within a few hours, and cut them to a specific length/size to fit your gym space. When completely installed, they look sharp and consistent. You cannot tell that your floor is composed of several pieces if fitted correctly.
We highly recommend using carpet tape to keep these mats down–they will never move out of place, even with dynamic ground-based movements like box jumps, lunges, farmers carries, and the like. These mats are also highly durable, meaning you will never need to replace them due to ripping, shrinkage, or other wear and tear (unlike the foam flooring).
This is the exact flooring I have in my garage gym and personal training studio. Although being used daily for the past year, it still looks as good as it did on the day it was delivered.
The biggest downside to Strong Rubber Rolls from Rubber Flooring Inc or elsewhere is that at an average of $2.72 per square feet plus shipping fees, these mats are still more expensive than horse stall mats.
I feel that 8mm thickness is the best value for most home gym owners– go any thicker and the shipping price will outweigh the benefits. If cost isn’t your concern, but potential smell and keeping to a specific color-theme is, these mats may be the best choice for you.
Our last option and budget pick is the AmazonBasics Exercise Training Foam Tiles. We don’t typically suggest foam flooring in any gym or home gym based on the instability and porous nature, but if you’re on a barebones budget and they’re your only option, then they may suit your needs.
They are your cheapest option at around $30 for a pack of 10 tiles. They do come with borders, corner pieces, and middle tiles and in the beginning, are easy to connect and install. These tiles are easy to cut, but will eventually break down, come up, and/or tear.
You will have to keep ordering replacement tiles because once they start to degrade, they will not fit together. I ran into this issue when I cleaned my set, causing a less than 1-hour project to become an all-day affair. They also provide zero grip underfoot and will cause someone wearing socks to potentially slip and fall. To combat this, the next step would be taking off your shoes to provide yourself with some extra grip. Sadly, it won’t work - you will slip, even with simple movements such as a plank or push-up, leading to embarrassment or injury.
Potentially, what you could do is use a combination of foam and rubber tiles if money is tight. That way, you could slowly re-do your gym floor at your own pace. An ideal layout would be putting the rubber tiles where you deadlift, squat, or do anything that could create instability.
When I started my home gym, I had foam tiles underneath my squat rack. The squat rack constantly moved back and forth, which not only was frustrating but could potentially be incredibly dangerous. You want a horse stall mat or rubber mat (something with some grip) to be underneath you when you squat, deadlift, or drop any heavyweight to protect your floors. The foam tiles could be used underneath a heavy machine such as a rower, treadmill, or assault bike - none of my machines have moved around, even when they are used.
The foam tiles really only work well for that purpose. It is also interesting to note that the tiles have a 1-year-warranty on Amazon, so if they do break down before the year is up, you can contact them for a refund or replacement.
Again, the biggest disadvantage of these tiles is that they compress easily when any amount of weight is dropped on them, causing further instability for your workout. You especially don’t want that if you are trying to go for a 1rm on a compound lift.
To recap, these tiles are extremely porous so even if you clean them, bacteria will stick around and breed, leading to at the worst a health hazard and at the best, a mildew-smell-filled gym. If they do become wet and you don’t realize there’s been a spill, they become incredibly slick and can cause someone to fall or slip - you don’t want to put yourself out for weeks or months over a simple oversight, or worse, injure someone else.
Overall, these mats are best for someone on a tight budget and are considered a beginner’s purchase. Your best option is to save up for some horse stall mats, a rubber roll or rubber tiles, or another flooring option with grip and non-porous characteristics.
The best method to clean horse stall mats is with a simple green cleaner and a deck brush. Both can be found at your local grocery or hardware store for less than $10. If the smell lingers, you can try baking soda or essential oils (tried and tested).
In addition to that, I suggest getting a leaf blower (it is a home gym essential after all) and blowing the mats off periodically. If you're not in a garage gym, a vacuum can work well too, although it will take longer. Personally, I use both a battery-powered leaf blower and vacuum so I don't have to deal with cords.
Foam home gym flooring may be a cheaper alternative to most commercial flooring choices, however, it is not ideal. When choosing gym flooring, you want something that will last for years to come, protect the floor or foundation of your home (garage, basement, bedroom, etc.), and be easy to clean/disinfect.
Imagine deadlifting or dropping a weight onto a foam, tiled floor. That foam will decompress over time, which may result in damaging the floor underneath. The cracks in between can also cause smaller items to become lost. Unfortunately, I learned this too late and now have some small cracks in my basement floor from heavy deadlifts.
Next, even if you’re the only person lifting in your gym, the foam tiles are porous - they will absorb any type of liquid, whether it’s an all-purpose cleaner, sweat, a sports drink, or that whey protein shake you made minutes before it fell to the ground. As you move quickly to mop up the excess liquid, it will be too late.
They are even more of a potential injury nightmare when they become wet - they become super slick. When I reinstalled my tiles, I thought most of them were dry, and began to install and walk on them, which was a huge mistake. I nearly wiped out from some of the tiles still holding on to water, even after hours of drying time outside. Foam flooring may be cost effective (23 dollars for a pack), but the potential risks outweigh the price. You don’t want to be liable if someone slips or falls due to faulty flooring.
Your best bet is to spend the money on our top pick and install the correct flooring the first time.
How do you clean home gym stall mats?
We recommend using a 10:1 ratio of Simple Green cleaner and water. So, about 1 cup of water for every ⅛ cup of cleaner. If that doesn’t reduce the smell, you can try baking soda, white vinegar (10:1), or essential oils (you only need a few drops).
We also recommend using a leaf blower to rapidly clean and then dry them, this will help to remove some of the larger materials like leaves, mud clots, or chalk. This will save time on deep cleaning.
How often should I clean my flooring?
We recommend cleaning your flooring once every couple of months with the methods mentioned above. The cleaning frequency depends on two variables: how often you use your gym and how many people use your gym. With COVID, it may be a good rule of thumb to clean your floor at least once a month, if not more.
We do recommend using a leaf blower or shop vac after every training session to remove chalk, leaves, dirt, etc. Having a clean space makes you want to use that space, plus you will save time on deep cleans at a later date.
Should I buy used horse stall mats?
We think buying used horse stall mats is a fine idea to save some money, the main issue is how often they are used and how dirty they are. You should also ask the seller how often they were cleaned and what they were used for (a gym or a horse facility?). These mats are made from recycled rubber, so they last a long time and don’t really compress, however, if they have been used often, they can crack over time.
If you're really focused on looking to buy used horse stall mats, make sure that you're getting a good deal on them, and that they have been used for a gym previously. You can get horse stall mats inexpensively (around $39 for 4 x 6 mat).
When's the best time to buy horse stall mats?
If you can wait, the best time to buy horse stall mats is during Black Friday; typically Tractor Supply will have them for $35 a mat. Tractor Supply will also have deals throughout the year. If time is a concern, what we suggest is going to your local feed store and asking if they have volume pricing, (let's say 10-15 mats) and ask if they will lower the price for buying multiple mats. I've done this many times and I've always saved money and future trips by asking.
Why would I buy rubber rolls vs stall mats?
Rubber rolls don’t really provide a functional advantage other than staying in place more often, but some typical reasons you would buy them are: they look more professional, come in a variety of colors, and they don’t give off that typical “gassy” smell.
Some areas of the world may not have a Tractor Supply or feed store, so you may be better off buying them from a local sports or hardware store. You can buy rubber rolls that are thinner than 8mm, which could potentially save you money.
How do I secure horse stall mats in my home gym?
Carpet Tape: you can secure these mats (and strips of a rubber roll) by putting a piece of tape on the flooring itself and the mat, creating a double-sided tape strip. The mat will then be incredibly stable/secure and will not move.
Gorilla Tape: you can secure the mats by placing strips of tape on top. However, the look itself isn’t very appealing/professional (it will leave lines). However, it is functional, creates stability, and it prevents small items (like a car key or wireless earbud) from falling between the cracks.
Mending Plates: This idea came from Alan Thrall (Untamed Strength). Mending plates are typically used in construction work to hold pieces of wood together, and this method will secure your mats together for a stable workout. However, we must note that this method leaves a small “bump” at the seams, which may annoy you. If you can get past that, then this method may be for you.
Do you suggest turf in a home gym?
Personally, I have turf installed in my home gym, however, it was leftover from Intentional Fitness (my personal training gym). Turf is especially useful for sled drags, warming up, box jumps, lunges, bounding jumps, and other mobile workouts. However, most people will be deterred from the installation cost ($1.47 a square foot, plus the cost of the glue). Also, I definitely do not recommend using leftover football field turf. This is a different turf than what is used in most gyms. It is very uncomfortable, wear and tear over time makes it look incredibly patchy, and it throws rubber everywhere, causing a mess to clean up later.
What does Coop use in his garage gym?
In my first couple of garage gyms I used horse stall mats. In my latest garage gym, I used rubber roll flooring that was left over from my gym. The remainder is filled with turf. I like the rubber rolls because they look cleaner and more professional, however they aren't functionally better than horse stall mats, so it's more about aesthetics at this point.
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