buying a hardwood gym floor

Top 3 Things to Consider When Buying a Hardwood Gym Floor

The streets to victory are paved in gold.  But when it comes to the Final Four, those victory streets are paved in maple.  To be exact, hardwood northern maple is some of the most durable, beautiful, and commonly-used gym floor material.  The way a gym floor is constructed and finished helps maintain the integrity of the wood. It also provides athletes with traction and give to protect their joints and lower back from strain.  If your sports facility is in the market for a new hardwood gym floor, there are a lot of things to consider during the buying process. Below, we’ll break down the top three things you need to think about when buying a new hardwood sports floor. 

1. The Sports Facility Environment

Wood, especially the type used in a sports floor, is sensitive to the ambient temperature and moisture levels in the environment where it’s located.  The overall climate of your sports facility will have an impact on the type of gym floor you decide to purchase. It may be hard to believe in this day and age, but some sports facilities aren’t controlled via an HVAC system. In these instances, wildly fluctuating levels of humidity and temperature throughout the changing of the seasons can have an impact on the health and lifespan of a hardwood gym floor. 

If the gym floor will be located below grade, or near an indoor swimming pool, this will also impact the wood.  Sports facility managers need to understand that the arch-nemesis of your hardwood gym floor is and always will be moisture—either standing moisture in the form of puddles or floods or ambient humidity in the air.  Gym floor owners in the tri-state region of New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania that we service here at J&J Gym Floors need to keep this in mind.  This is one region of the country that sees wild, seasonal swings in humidity and also has to contend with the freeze/thaw cycle in winter.

New Hardwood Gym Floor Installation: Maple Grade and Subfloors

A hardwood gym floor is made out of different grades of maple.  All wood, including maple, absorbs moisture readily. When the floor absorbs moisture, the wood planks will expand.  As the air becomes drier, the wood will contract as the humidity goes down, and water evaporates. This cycle will continue throughout the floor’s lifespan; however, the cycle is most pronounced immediately after the flooring is installed.  So, why is this an important consideration?

For one thing, a hardwood gym floor installed in a place subject to high humidity levels and temperature swings must have 18-inch expansion gaps placed roughly every two feet between tongue-and-groove planks. Otherwise, the wood boards must be installed with smaller gaps on each side.  But that’s not all. The subfloor is also essential. Subfloors need to allow the wood to expand and contract freely. In most cases, anchored-resilient subfloor systems are a better choice over a floating subfloor design.

A floating subfloor is nailed together and, therefore, fully-integrated.  What this means is that the pads of the subfloor can tear off the substrate as the maple boards naturally expand and contract.  This process can lead to “dead spots” within the floor. Dead spots can severely impact athlete performance because a dribbling basketball won’t bounce very well if it hits a dead spot. 

2. Type of Activities

The type of activities that will take place over the hardwood floor are also an important consideration.  Many multi-purpose facilities and schools will conduct events in the gymnasium that aren’t games, such as school dances, assemblies, and other meetings.  In these instances, a sports facility manager must take into consideration the type of foot traffic that will happen over the hardwood. Gyms that will only see traffic from sports sneakers and bouncing balls will need different installations than gym floors that will contend with high heels and the scraping of chair and table legs. 

Other types of activity that may impact the final purchasing decision include:

  • Bleacher installation and movement
  • Portable backdrop movements
  • Scissor lifts used for fixing lights
  • Rolling vehicles used or displayed in the gym

A new hardwood gym floor may need to withstand significant rolling load weights.  The probability of these activities taking place on the floor will also impact the subfloor installation. For gyms that will see heavy loads, a subfloor may need to have solid-block construction installed where a large rolling load will rest.  Some activities will also impact the final surface product, like edge-grain parquet maple. Edge-grain parquet maple is particularly resilient to rolling pressures, unlike the usual strip maple installed in a hardwood gym floor

3. Maple Grade

The maple grade you choose will mostly come down to aesthetic concerns—structural considerations aside. 

  • First-grade maple gives the floor a monochromatic and sleek look. 
  • Second-grade maple flooring for sports facilities offers a compromise between these two looks. 
  • Third-grade maple offers a more rustic appearance, with its signature mineral stains and knots.

The majority of sports floors are made out of second-grade maple.  Even though third-grade maple is lower-cost and traditionally considered less-desirable than first-grade, many sports facility managers prefer the rougher, less-uniform look that third-grade maple offers. Regardless, each grade of maple flooring possesses the same levels of durability, performance, and lifespan with regular maintenance

Hardwood Gym Floor Purchase: A Final Takeaway

If you have an old gym floor that needs replacing, a qualified gym floor installer will inspect the substrate, subfloor, and condition of the old wood.  Some questions they’ll ask are why the facility needs a new floor in the first place. In many cases, moisture has been an issue in the past. 

A gym floor contractor will pinpoint the source of moisture problems and take steps to educate the facility owner and remedy the situation.  That way, those moisture issues won’t jeopardize the health of your new gym floor. Contact our experienced gym floor contractors at J&J Gym Floors today at (973) 801-7219 to request a proposal on a new hardwood gym floor.