POSTED ON SUN, FEB. 18, 2007

RUBBER MAN: He keeps garages, homes or commercial gym floors protected in style


If you think rolling out a strip of indoor-outdoor carpeting is the solution to saving your floor from the wear and tear of a home gym, you need to talk to Ozzie Lopez.
Lopez, owner of Specialized Rubber Products in Doral, has more than 50 shades of rubber gym flooring in various shapes and sizes. He laid Shaquille O’Neal’s gym floor and stretched rubber across 10 bays of a 13-bay garage at a Star Island estate. For Sylvester Stallone’s house, he installed floors in two gyms. In one, he set down a purple-flecked rubber floor to match custom purple equipment pads.

‘We do anything from a 10-by-12 foot room someone wants converted, to an L.A. Fitness,” he said. “We can custom-make any color or do logos.”
With home gyms no longer the sole domain of the wealthy, Lopez is fielding requests to install rubber floors in guest rooms, in-law quarters, garages, even sheds. Home gym rats are asking for gold and cocoa-flecked recycled rubber, wood supported by an inch of foam for extra bounce and interlocking tiles in checkerboard patterns.
”People want a designated area. They don’t want to use the living room and drop a weight and break the floor,” he said.
Lopez started out 25 years ago selling rubber for gaskets. He decided to start his own company three years ago when he realized the home-gym craze might prove far more profitable. Indeed it has, with the fitness industry growing at an annual rate of about 22 percent, he said.
The business remains in the family: his nephew handles day-to-day operations while Lopez’s 13-year-old son, Brandon, is in charge of the Internet and cutting samples.
About 60 percent of the rubber flooring sold in the United States is from recycled tires, which dramatically reduces the price and makes it eco-friendly. And the flooring has gotten stronger, prettier and easier to install. Three-foot-wide tiles can be laid with double-sided tape, rather than glue, to keep from damaging floors, while interlocking tiles can be laid with no adhesive.
Handy homeowners can easily install the tiles, which come with bevelers and transition strips for a finished look.
Costs run as high as $10 a square foot for inch-thick Danish Oak with supporting foam to about $4.50 a square foot for rubber tiles. The cost of the rubber varies depending on its content — more rubber means more strength.
Lopez has also seen more customers asking for plastic tiles to cover garage floors, which take heat from tires better than painted concrete. And square-foot tiles that wear out can be replaced.
Families are also installing rubber matting in kids’ playrooms and UV-treated rubber decking around pools.
”It’s granulated, so we just pour it and spread it with a trowel,” he said.
‘It’s funny, when people ask what you do and you say, `I’m in rubber,’ immediately they think you sell tires,” he said.
If Lopez has his way, they’ll start thinking floors.-