concrete slab new sports floor

How to Prep Your Concrete Slab for a New Sports Floor

So, you’ve picked out a new hardwood maple floor, chosen the design pattern, and are ready to proceed with the installation.  But, are you sure you performed all of the necessary tests before installing a new hardwood floor? 

Your new, expensive hardwood gym floor doesn’t mean much if what’s underneath it isn’t up to par.  In this post, we want to pay extra attention to a vital part of your flooring system — the concrete slab.  Continue reading to learn how to prep your concrete slab for a new sports floor and ensure your new hardwood court’s top quality and performance.

The Importance of a High-Quality Concrete Slab

When pouring a new concrete slab and installing a maple hardwood floor for the first time, you rightfully expect that you’ll end up with a finished product that will last for decades.  But, there are a lot of aspects to consider when it comes to pouring the slab correctly.

When mixing the concrete, you want to make sure that you add the right amount of water.  Too much liquid will lead to moist concrete.  On the other hand, use too little liquid, and the floor won’t cure.  The result is a weak floor prone to damage and other issues.  The concrete mixing process also requires selecting appropriate ingredients and their correct dosage for each specific case.

If you already have a concrete slab and are looking to replace your existing hardwood floor, you should run specific tests to ensure that the slab is up to the task.  Before installing a new floor, you’ll want to test the concrete for dryness, smoothness, and flatness.  With so many variables that can go wrong, it’s best to leave both the testing and installation process to a licensed gym flooring professional.

You should also consider the type of concrete and location of the slab.  The latter is a bit easier to determine.  You have to establish whether the slab is located at ground level, above, or below grade.  Determining the location is essential as it will allow you to minimize any moisture issues that may occur.  As far as choosing the correct concrete, that all depends on what type of hardwood floor you’re going to have installed.  Certain types of concrete are more appropriate for different floor surfaces.

Dealing with Moisture

Moisture is the leading cause of a long list of hardwood floor problems, and the most serious is buckling and cupping.  Excess moisture is also the primary culprit in inadequate concrete subflooring.  If the concrete slab is not sealed, it most likely has a high level of moisture.  Since wood naturally contracts and expands based on its environmental conditions, it can soak up the slab’s excess moisture.  This can lead to a range of floor problems, including mildew and mold growth.  The two most common causes leading to moisture problems in a concrete slab are:

  • Water damage — Major water damage such as flooding and other disasters can cause significant harm to your slab’s structural integrity.  This can lead to persistent moisture problems, which can be difficult to remedy. 
  • Drastic Environmental Changes — If you live in an area that experiences extreme hot and cold periods, you must maintain stable environmental conditions inside your facility. Standard MFMA recommendations state that the indoor relative humidity should be between 35% and 50%, with temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Significant fluctuations in indoor temperatures and humidity levels can have a detrimental effect on the slab.

If your facility has experienced flooding or issues with the HVAC system, your slab might suffer from excess moisture problems.  Aside from these causes, your concrete slab might also be susceptible to moisture due to many other reasons.  For example, maybe it lacks a moisture barrier or has a faulty barrier installed beneath it.  If your previous contractor rushed the installation process and didn’t leave enough time for the concrete to cure, the slab might have trapped moisture that can’t evaporate. 

How to Solve Slab Moisture Problems and Prep for a New Sports Floor

Understanding your slab’s moisture content and condition will significantly contribute to a successful hardwood floor installation over the slab.  And, the best way to figure out the condition of the slab is to test it directly.  When examining a concrete slab for moisture, there are two widely accepted tests — the relative humidity test, and the calcium chloride test.

Regardless of which test your contractor recommends, it’s of utmost importance to ensure that moisture levels are acceptable before installing the hardwood floor.  If you determine that the slab has higher moisture content than recommended, your flooring contractor has a few tricks up their sleeve.  Most often, fixing the slab involves an application of an epoxy or cementitious urethane.  This application would act as a barrier between the slab and the hardwood boards.

Find the Right Flooring Partner

Although straightforward, prepping the concrete slab should be done correctly.  It’s a labor-intensive job that requires industry knowledge and skill.  An incorrectly-prepared concrete slab with imperfections can significantly impact the new floor’s performance and longevity. Ultimately, you want your floor to perform the best it can and last for decades.  This is why you should leave this part of the process to licensed and trusted flooring professionals.

As a full-service flooring company, we’ll make sure your floor is of top quality, from the slab to the surface.  If you have questions on prepping your concrete slab or are looking for a reliable flooring partner for your new project, contact us!  Fill out our short online form or call us at (973) 801-7219 to schedule a consultation or request a proposal.  We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.