tape on gym floor

Painters Tape on the Gym Floor? You Better Think Twice

For gym floor contractors, “tape” is a four-letter word they don’t like to hear in the industry. Many sports floor owners and facility managers think they can put regular old painters tape on a hardwood gym floor. After all, you’re just going to play one little game of pickleball. What’s the problem with putting down some tape to make temporary lines for the game? Turns out, a whole lot. If you’re thinking about using painters tape; or any tape for that matter on the gym floor, here’s why you should think twice.

painters tape gym floor

Why do people put painters tape on a gym floor?

A correctly cared for gym floor will still need to be regularly maintained. Due to unavoidable wear-and-tear, the finish on a gym floor will wear away over time and need replacing. But ironically, equipment used as teaching and coaching aids end up doing the most damage to a gym floor. Painters tape and other types of adhesive are sometimes used. Frustrated coaches and instructors will often put painters tape down on the gym floor to instruct athletes on movement. In other cases, the brightly colored role of painters tape comes out when people want to play an impromptu game of pickleball or another sport.

We don’t want to spoil your fun or hinder the coaches’ ability to teach their students. But using tape on a gym floor is never recommended. We’ll explain why we don’t condone this practice below. And it’s not just us. Tape manufacturers don’t recommend it, and neither does the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA). Contractors, installers, custodial staff, and gym floor coating manufacturers all exhale an exasperated sigh when a client mentions tape on the gym floor.

Why is it a bad idea to put painters tape on a sports floor?

Any type of hardwood aerobic floor like a gymnasium will have a finishing coat on it. So will hardwood stages and dance floors. While hardwood sports floors are very durable, they do require protection in the form of finishing coats. The finishing coat does several things to protect the integrity of the wood beneath. For one thing, the coating protects the wood from scrapes and scuff marks. More importantly, the finishing coat has a stickiness to it that gives athletes much-needed traction.

Athletes can run, jump, turn, and spin quickly on the smoothe floor without tripping or slipping. That’s why a new or well-maintained gym floor causes people’s shoes to squeak when they walk across the surface. But guess what? That finishing coat isn’t a cheap commodity. You want to do what you can to extend the life of the coat and protect the wood and athletes. When you put an unauthorized adhesive on the gym floor, like painters tape, you risk pulling up the finishing coat along with the tape once it’s finally removed.

What happens when you put an adhesive, like tape, on a gym floor?

A lot of things can happen, and none of them are good. The worst type of damage that can occur to the gym floor is when you try to remove the tape. Not only that, but the tape can also pull up any lines or decals that were painted on the floor. Finish that’s been peeled away will also be visible to the naked eye and can make the floor look scruffy and unprofessional.

Peeled away finish is also a safety issue. How so? When sections of the floor are missing the sticky refinishing coat, areas of the floor will all have different surface friction. Athletes and people using the floor can trip and fall very easily, which increases liability concerns for your sports facility.

For friction values on a gym floor, the MFMA recommends floor finish to have a coefficient- friction value from .5 to .7. This range of friction values classifies a walking surface as slip-resistant. Keep in mind, this range isn’t just a requirement for an approved floor finish. It is also a requirement for any coating that is applied on top of the initial floor finish on a hardwood sports floor. Reputable manufacturers of gym floor coatings will have third-party labs test their products to ensure safety and quality.

Are there safe alternatives to tape for making temporary lines?

Now that you know the problems tape on a sports floor can cause, that probably doesn’t solve your initial problem. There will come a time when you may need to put down temporary lines on a sports floor. Applying painters tape seems easy, but it’s hazardous to the floor’s integrity. You can use white shoe polish or tempura paint that’s marketed to children. But these products are messy and difficult to apply, even if they may be safer to put on the floor than painters tape.

It’s also possible to buy products specifically designed for this very issue. They often resemble large markers, and they make it easier to apply temporary lines to the gym floor without the mess of shoe polish or craft paint. All of these products can be cleaned and removed from the floor with regular mopping. Which you are doing to maintain the health and beauty of your gym floor, right? 

What can be done to repair the damage on the gym floor that’s been taped?

Applying painters tape and then pulling it up, along with the floor’s finish, will cause some serious damage to your sports floor. A cheap, temporary fix may be to do a simple screen and recoating, but this isn’t a permanent or thorough solution. In most cases, the only way to properly fix peeled off finish is to sand the whole floor down to the bare wood, repaint the lines, and apply a new finishing coat. This can cost up to 30,000 dollars. So, we recommend you avoid putting painters tape on the gym floor at all costs.

Though we never suggest laying down any tape on a sports floor, if you do we suggest you remove as soon as possible to prevent further damage as the longer it stays the more it adheres. If you find that you use these temporary lines for extended periods of time, you may want to consider adding them to the current permanent lines at your next screening or sanding. Possibly as a lighter/nude color that is not noticeable or distracting during a basketball game, but visible enough when needed.

Has painters tape damaged your hardwood gym floor? We can help. Contact J&J Gym Floors today to schedule an on-site consultation at your earliest convenience.