Athletic directors spend a lot of time managing sports programs, coordinating events, and working on budgets. But, when a major sports-related development like a gymnasium remodel lands on your plate, things can quickly become confusing and complicated.
An undertaking like this may only happen once during a facility manager or athletic director’s career, so it’s possible they have little experience managing all the aspects of such an renovation project.
At Action Floor Systems, we’ve watched many sports floor installations and full gymnasium renovations go from start to finish, and we’ve noticed several areas where roadblocks and challenges tend to occur.
Action Floors Vice President, Ron Fenhaus, and Midwest Regional Sales Representative, Gary Zander, provide some insights into how schools can effectively manage projects involving a hardwood gym floor replacement.
Time: Managing Your Most Valuable Resource
Time is a valuable resource, and it’s the most important thing athletic directors, facility managers, and other school officials should be managing throughout the course of the remodel.
“One of the things people often miscalculate is how long the installation will take,” says Fenhaus. “They wind up with unreasonable expectations for completion.”
Expect the actual installation to take about six weeks for a 10,000-square foot gymnasium. However, this does not include tear out and removal of an existing floor, and it assumes that everything has been prepped and conditions in the gym are ideal for a hardwood court installation.
Fenhaus also says procrastination when it comes to signing a contract with the sports flooring contractor can cause time management issues. You may have discussed specific dates, but until there is a signed contract, nothing is guaranteed.
“They are going to continue providing quotations to other potential customers until somebody sends them a contract for that particular timeframe,” Fenhaus says.
Gary Zander says one of the most common ways time gets mismanaged involves the coordination of different contractors.
“That’s where the biggest delays come in with gymnasium remodel projects,” he says. “Everything is contingent on the time and space that’s available to contractors of various trades. You have to consider who else is working in that space.”
In addition to the sports flooring contractor, you could have different companies painting the gymnasium, installing lighting, setting up basketball hoops, or adding wall padding. It can’t all happen at once.
The time of year chosen for a gym renovation project is yet another aspect to consider. Summer seems like a convenient time, but don’t make too many assumptions.
“It used to be that June, July, and August were considered ideal for renovation work,” says Fenhaus. But now, it’s usually only June and July. With high schools, for example, girls’ volleyball starts practice in August.”
“Between the summer camps, basketball camps, and cheerleading camps, there’s rarely a free week to do anything,” Zander adds. “So, if you’re going to replace a gymnasium floor you need to clear the schedule and make other arrangements for activities.”
Athletic directors should coordinate schedules with coaches and program directors. Many schools use other district facilities or local YMCAs during remodeling.
The best approach to time management is to research all the different variables: contractor availability, estimated time to complete tasks, event schedules, and hard deadlines. Then, create a master schedule with added breathing room for major project milestones in case of unexpected issues.
Know Your True Colors
A new maple hardwood court in your school’s gym will look impressive, especially with finishing touches like logos, borders, and color-coordinated game lines for different sports.
Zander and Fenhaus warn that failing to know your school’s true colors, could lead to frustration and delays during the final days of the project. They advise creating clear, detailed, and signed documentation specifying the correct colors and locations for all game lines on the floor.
Your staff needs to be on the same page. Athletic directors should meet with coaches and physical education teachers to determine what types of lines need to go on the court.
“It’s incredible how often projects will get to the point where the contractor is ready to paint lines and there are still internal arguments over colors,” says Fenhaus.
An important piece of advice from Zander is to use Pantone colors when specifying paint for the gym floor, otherwise you may not get what you’re expecting.
“If you say you need “hunter green,” you could have several slightly different shades depending on whose paint product is used,” Zander explains.
Pantone colors are accurate and universal. Check out Pantone.com for help identifying the right paint colors for your project.
Avoid Air Conditioning Delays
Controlling the environment of a school’s gymnasium is not only key for maintaining the quality of a new hardwood court, it’s also important during installation.
If you aren’t always around to help control the air handler, make sure to coordinate someone who can help when your contractor needs to adjust the HVAC settings. Better yet, show the flooring installer how to use your system and give them access.
“The environment in the gym needs to be ideal for the install, and the sports flooring experts are the ones who can make sure the temperature and humidity levels are right,” says Zander.
He recalls a recent project in which the owner wanted everything turned off during sanding of the floor, and then it didn’t get turned back on. As a result, the gymnasium was too humid when the contractor put the seal on the court. Even after someone identified the issue, there was no one there to operate the HVAC system. This meant it took longer for the seal to cure and completion of the job got pushed back several days.
Watch Your Step: Controlling Foot Traffic
Keeping students and staff out of the gymnasium during renovations is important from both a safety and project management perspective. Obviously, you don’t want anyone getting hurt, but having people walk in and out of the area during a sports floor installation can cause other problems, too.
It’s especially important to limit access to the areas during the final steps of replacing a gymnasium floor. During the sealing, game-lining, and finishing process, it’s wise to put up signage telling people to stay out. Or, lock the doors to be absolutely sure no one enters.
“You would not believe how many times people walk out into wet finish,” says Fenhaus.
“They get about three or four steps inside and they go ‘Uh oh!” Gary laughs.
“Then they walk back out into the school and they track it through the hallways,” Fenhaus adds.
It may be funny to think about, but you won’t find it very humorous when it delays completion of a project and creates a mess.
First Things First
Before your school’s gymnasium remodeling project can begin, you need to do some research and find the right local companies to help you get the job done.
Action Floors manufactures high-quality, hardwood maple sports flooring systems in Northern Wisconsin, which are sold through a network of qualified dealers around the country and across the globe.
We take pride in how we specialize in helping schools of all sizes find sports flooring solutions. Check out our gallery of K-12 court installations and see how we’ve worked with schools when you view our Case Studies and Project Profiles section.