A school’s gymnasium floor is an important investment. It’s a main focal point for many schools, being one of the places that sees the most traffic, and it contributes to the student’s and staff’s health and well-being. A beautiful sports floor also evokes a sense of pride for students, sports teams, and teachers.
Every year, schools implement daily maintenance plans to properly tend to their gymnasium floors, making sure they well-maintained and cared for. Now, months into a new and challenging school year, maintenance crews may be questioning their routine care plans. Are the routine cleaning programs sufficient in protecting students and staff from the spread of COVID-19? Is routine care even needed if the school has transitioned to a virtual format?
To address these concerns and offer schools guidance, the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) recommends these steps to be followed for maple sports floor cleaning and maintenance.
1. Sweep the gym floor
School maintenance staff should be dry mopping the sports floor a minimum of once a day, ideally three times a day. The first daily cleaning should occur right away in the morning to eliminate the dust and dirt that may have settled on the floor overnight. Dry mopping or sweeping multiple times a day will minimize loose grit, dirt, and dust.
The sweeping should be done regardless of how often a floor is used. Even if students and staff are not physically located in your school due to virtual learning, dirt and dust will still settle on the gym floor. Dust can become a huge issue in older schools or in schools that have a HVAC system that may need to be replaced.
2. Check the school HVAC system
The HVAC system should be checked on a regular basis to ensure it is functioning properly. The U.S. Government Accountability Office noted in a June 2020 report that to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, more than 41 percent of K-12 districts need to update or replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in at least half of their buildings. School districts should increase the ventilation inside of their schools with outside air as much as possible and have the air exchange rate set at the minimum standard set by ASHRAE. Air filtration should be increased by upgrading filters to MERV-13 or higher. Indoor CO2 levels should be at or below the recommended standard. Finally, the MFMA calls for an indoor humidity level between 35 and 50 percent and air temperature between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Facility managers should also avoid fluctuations in the humidity level beyond 15 percent.
3. Use approved cleaning methods and solutions for gym floors
Using incorrect cleaning solutions on your sports floors could have detrimental effects. Keep in mind, you should never use household cleaning products on your gym floors. If you haven’t done so already, contact your sports floor manufacturer or installer to identify optimal cleaning solutions that are intended for your hardwood floors. The MFMA has identified a list of cleaning solutions that are safe to use on maple floors and will effectively kill the COVID-19 virus. While it may be reassuring to have the smell of bleach or a shiny floor as you clean your floors to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, it’s important to consider how chemicals affect the surface of the gym floor to avoid damage. When used directly on a wood floor, sterilizing cleaning products can break down existing finishes, resulting in premature wear and discoloration in the wood finish.
The MFMA recommends never cleaning with scrubbing machinery or power scrubbers on maple sports floors. While these devices can take time off of the cleaning process, if used incorrectly, they could create significant damage and over-saturate an area of the floor. This, in turn, affects the surface tension, creating an opportunity for slip hazards. The use of power scrubbing equipment may also void warranties administered by your MFMA maple flooring system manufacturer and/or sports floor installer.
Ideally, a maple floor should be cleaned with a soft towel. Mopping is not always an ideal option due to risk of over-saturating and increases the risk of cross-contamination. If a mop is used for a hallway and used again on the sports hardwood floor, it could leave the floor looking cloudy and unclean due to leftover residue. Chemicals used to clean a school hallway are not the same ones recommended to clean maple sports floors.
4. Inspect the floor often
It’s important for school maintenance crews to watch for signs of damage, including tightening or shrinkage, as the sports floor undergoes daily sweeping. Crews should remove debris from expansion voids. Another important preventive measure is to restrict the grit and germs from coming into the gymnasium as much as possible. Walk-off mats should be located in the school entranceways in addition to the entrances of the gym. This allows dirt to be trapped before it gets anywhere near the hardwood.
Spills and moisture on the gym’s floor surface need to be wiped up immediately. Moisture and water can get down into the cracks of the sports floor, changing the entire moisture content and ultimately ruining the floor. When hardwood floors absorb excess moisture, the flooring boards expand potentially resulting in cupping, crowning, or even compression set.
The longer a floor goes without proper maintenance and attention, the more difficult it becomes to get the floor back into great shape when students come back or when recoating is needed. Daily cleaning is the key to decreasing the spread of COVID-19.
At Action Floors, we believe a well-designed and properly-installed hardwood maple sports floor is a thing of beauty. Check out our gallery to see installations in schools and universities that we’re proud of. You can also read some of the stories behind our floors in our Project Profiles and Case Studies.
For more information on how to care for your court throughout the year, you can read more in our article on seasonal maintenance tips for sports floors.
If you have questions about any of our maple sports floor systems, contact us today.