US 20020139070 A1
A floor covering has a plurality of extruded rigid rails that are placed side-by-side, and are held together with flexible junction members that fit into bottom opening slots in adjacent rails. Each rail also has a guide for receiving tread inserts, as shown, strips of carpeting, on an upper side thereof. The tread inserts are slid into place longitudinally under overhanging shoulders. An end cap is placed on each end of each rail for preventing the junction members and the tread inserts from moving longitudinally to keep the rails and the tread inserts in an assembly.
1. A floor covering comprising a rail having a longitudinal length, the rail having slots formed therein open to a wall thereof along longitudinal edges of the rail, a junction member for joining adjacent rails together comprising a flexible strip having tracks which fit into the slots, said slots having an enlargement spaced inwardly from a bottom plane of the rail, and said tracks having a mating enlargement that holds the tracks in position in the slots of the rail from removal except in a longitudinal direction.
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11. A floor mat comprising a plurality of rails having a longitudinal length, said rails having an upper wall, a lower wall, and side walls forming a hollow interior, a pair of slots formed in the rails along lateral side edges thereof, said slots being open to the bottom wall, a junction member comprising a hinge strip, said hinge strip having a pair of tracks, each of the tracks fitting into a slot on one edge of a pair of adjacent rails, the junction member being flexible between the tracks to permit hinging of the adjacent rails relative to each other about a longitudinal axis.
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13. The junction member of
 A floor mat indicated generally at 10 comprises a number of longitudinally extending, rigid rails 12, which are placed side by side, and are slightly spaced and held in position with longitudinally extending junction members or hinges 14. Each of the adjacent rails has a junction member 14 along each longitudinal edge, and the spacing is such that the rails are held together close enough to provide a floor surface.
 In FIG. 2, it can be seen that the rigid rails 12, which can be extruded aluminum, are formed with a lower wall 16, an upper wall 18, and above the upper wall there are longitudinally extending ribs 20 on opposite sides thereof that form shoulders 22 under which a tread inset, as shown specifically, carpet strips 24 can be slid. The carpet strip 24 has a backing member 26 that slips under the shoulders 22. The carpet strips are held from moving outwardly by the shoulders 22. The tread inserts can be nonskid or abrasive inserts, rubber, vinyl, or various other materials.
 The rails 12 also has edge blocks 28 running along opposite edges thereof, which are formed to have longitudinally extending grooves 30 therein. The grooves 30, as shown, have a generally circular cross section portion 32, and a narrower neck portion 34. The portions 32 of the grooves 30 are thus part cylindrical in cross section, as seen in FIG. 2. The grooves 30 along the opposite side edges of the rails 12 are formed to receive edges of the junction members 14. The junction members 14 include a junction or hinge panel 36, holding a pair of upright tracks 38 that have part cylindrical upper ends 40, and a narrow neck portion 42. The tracks or retainer rails 38 are made to mate with, and are of size to slide into the grooves 30 and hold two rigid rails 12 in side-by-side position. The hinge panel or web 36 of the junction members 14 can have openings 44 defined therein as shown in FIG. 1. These openings increase flexibility for hinging and save material.
 The junction members 14 slide easily longitudinally along the rails 12, with the tracks or retainer rails 38 in the grooves 30. Assembling a number of the rails 12 together using the junction or hinge members 14 is an easy task because they can be slid in longitudinally. Likewise, the carpet strips 24 can easily be inserted longitudinally into the provided grooves as well by placing them under the shoulders 22 and sliding them along the upper wall 18.
 The part cylindrical cross section upper ends of the track or retainer rails 38 will tend to permit pivoting or rolling slightly as the rails 12 are rolled together. The part cylindrical upper ends also slide into the grooves 30 more easily than T-shapes or other shapes that have been used for hinge members on floor mats.
 In order to retain the tread inserts or carpet strips, and the junction members or hinges 14 in place, an end cap indicated at 50 in FIG. 4, is made to fit into the recess or opening 52 in the rail 12 formed between the bottom wall 16 and the top wall 18. This opening 52 is also defined by side wing slots 54 that are between the top wall 18 and the blocks 28 in which the grooves or tracks 30 are formed.
 As can be seen, the end cap 50 has a hollow housing or sleeve 56, that fits into the opening 52, and has wings 58 that slide into the side wing slots 54 of the rail. The end cap also has an end wall 60 that is of substantially the same size as the outer dimensions of the rail 12 so that it will abut against the end of the rail on the surfaces outside of the housing 56, as can be seen in FIGS. 4 and 5 in particular. The upper and lower walls of the housing 56 have raised wedges 62 and 64 thereon, which can be tapered so that they are shallower or lower on the inner of the end cap. The wedges will provide a friction force or a jamming force against the lower surface of the upper wall 18 of the rigid rail 12, and against the upper surface of the lower wall 16. This will hold the end cap 50 securely in place, but yet permit it to be pried out with a screwdriver or other simple tool.
 When the end cap 50 is in position in a rail as shown in FIGS. 1 and 5, the carpet strips 24 cannot slide out the end of the rail 12, nor can the junction members or hinges 14 slide out of their position. This means that the floor mat is securely held together, and will not come apart, but when it is desired to replace an individual rail 12, or an individual carpet strip, the end cap 50 can be removed and the carpet strip, or the rail 12 slid endwise. If the end cap is removed the carpet strip can easily be slipped out of the rail, and then replaced with a new one.
 If the junction members or hinges 14 are to be replaced, then two end caps 50 from adjacent rails 12 in which the junction member or hinges is installed have to be removed, because there are two tracks 38 on each junction strip and each track 38 is installed in a different rail 12.
 The rails 12 can be extruded, and cut to any desired length, and then assembled. The rails are generally of aluminum, a rigid metallic material, while the junction members 14 are a polymer or plastic material.
 The end caps 50 can be molded to the desired size, so that they will friction fit into place, to hold the rails in an assembly. The number of rails 12 that are placed edge to edge can be varied according to the desires of the user as well.
 The slots 30 that receive the tracks or retailer rails 38 open or face downwardly, and the hinge wall 36 of the junction members 14 is supported directly on a floor surface. The wall 36 has end flanges 36A that extend under the rails 12 to support the rails and deaden sound so working on the floor mat is quiet. No separate pads under the floor mat are required.
 The use of the end plugs 50 eliminates the needs for screws or other fasteners to hold the rails 12 and junction members or hinges 14 together, and allows the tread inserts or carpet strips 24 to be held in without any unsightly rivets or staples. The hinges or junction members also form support cushions as pointed out, rather than having separate parts for doing so, which reduces noise and saves time in assembly.
 Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, workers skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
FIG. 1 is a fragmentary plan view of a floor mat made of a plurality of rigid rails joined together with flexible junction members;
FIG. 2 is an end elevational view of a floor mat with end caps removed;
FIG. 3 is a sectional view taken as on line 3--3 in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is an exploded view of a single rail showing an end cap in position to be installed; and
FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of an end cap, with a rail in which it is inserted partially broken away.
 The present invention relates to a floor mat construction which has a plurality of rigid rails that have top channels for receiving carpet strips and that are held together with flexible synthetic material hinge or junction members that act as connectors. The junction members are flexible and are easily assembled in place using junction members that slide longitudinally into provided recesses of adjacent rails. An end cap is used for retaining both the carpeting strips and the junction members in place in the rigid rails.
 In the prior art, various floor coverings or mats have been made with rigid longitudinal rails joined by flexible junction members. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,381,324 shows a floor mat that has carpeting strips held in channel members, and then joined together with flexible junction members. Also U.S. Pat. No. 4,675,222 invented by the present applicant, shows a floor covering that has hinging junction members for holding supports with carpet strips in place.
 The flexible junction members between longitudinally extending rails are desired because they will permit a floor mat to be rolled up quite easily for cleaning recesses in which the mats are placed, and for storage or removal.
 The present invention relates to a floor mat or covering that has a plurality of rigid rails that are made to support individual tread inserts, as disclosed carpet strips, and which are joined together with flexible junction members or hinge connector strips so that the rails can be hinged relative to each other.
 The junction members are made so that they hinge about longitudinal axes when the rail members that they join are rolled together. The junction members are capable of being inserted easily into provided grooves or channels formed along the edges of the rails from one end of the grooves. The rails also have grooves into which tread inserts can be slid from the one end.
 A fitted end cap is used as a plug at the end of the rigid rails, and includes a barrier wall that will hold both the tread inserts and the junction members in position and prevent them from slipping out of place, but yet when the end caps on the appropriate rail are removed, individual rails can easily be slid lengthwise along the hinging junction members for removal and replacement. Also, the end caps will hold the tread inserts in place in the rigid rails to prevent them from slipping out. Once one end cap is removed, the tread inserts can be easily removed and replaced from one end.
 Likewise, removal of the end caps from the metal rigid rails permits the junction members to be slid out longitudinally from one end, if replacement is needed.
 The floor mat formed using the components of the present invention thus is easily installed, and easily serviced. The junction members are molded, and the rails extruded, to provide for efficient manufacturing.
 The floor covering or grating can be used in recessed areas, at the entrance of buildings, or in locations as desired.