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8 Questions to Expect When Choosing a New Hardwood Sports Floor

floor-planning-questionsWhether you’re a facilities manager at a large arena or the athletic director of a high school, purchasing sports flooring is a major investment involving big decisions.

When it comes time to make plans for a new maple hardwood court, you’re going to get some questions from architects, contractors and flooring dealers. Plus, you’ll likely have some questions of your own.

These eight subjects are a good place to start preparing to ask the right things and give the right answers. They’ll help you develop a basic understanding of what goes into choosing the right hardwood maple sports floor and ensure your project turns out the way you expect.

1. Is Sustainability Important to You?

One of the first things you should consider as you plan your project is the impact of your sports flooring choice on the planet. Most manufacturers claim to be sustainable and environmentally-friendly, but talk can be cheap.

In order to help you evaluate the sustainability efforts of sports flooring manufacturers, we’ve developed a special grading system. The SCORES card provides a set of criteria in the form of a comparative checklist. SCORES stands for Sustainable Construction of Renewable Engineered Surfaces.

Click here to find out more and download your own SCORES Card.

Architects and builders may want to specify more sustainable products in project plans because they need to meet LEED certifications set by the U.S. Green Building Association.

We are proud to say that Action Floors is leading the way in sustainable practices for sports flooring manufacturers. Currently, we are the only MFMA-accredited mill to be certified as a Carbon Negative provider. Our company is also FloorScore® certified, meaning our systems meet indoor air quality (IAQ) standards. Click here to view our FloorScore® certificate.

2. Anchored Resilient, Floating, or Portable Sports Floor?

At a certain point during planning stages, you’ll need to determine the basic type of floor system that will work best in your facility.

The difference between anchored resilient and floating floors is fairly simple, but choosing one or the other may depend on your answers to some of the other questions you’ll be asked.

Anchored resilient floors are mechanically fastened to the concrete slab (or substrate) underneath. Yet, they still allow the floor to naturally expand and contract. Floating floors use no fasteners to connect it to the substrate, hence they are “floating.” Portable flooring systems are a type of floating floor designed to be removed and replaced in venues like convention centers, stadiums, and arenas.

While certain floor systems can be a more economical option, choosing the lowest-priced hardwood floors should not be your goal. Choose the right sports floor for your facility.

3. What Activities Will Take Place on the Floor?

There’s a good chance basketball will be one of the sports regularly played on your new maple hardwood floor. You also need to consider other sports and activities that will make use of the court.

There are systems that meet athletic performance requirements and also offer the ability to support larger bleachers used in competition gymnasiums. Most maple hardwood floor systems are appropriate for multi-use applications. There are systems designed for specific uses as well as systems for recreation centers and auxiliary gyms where bleachers won’t be used. Plus, there are also specific floor designs for activities like squash, racquetball, dance, and specialty studios.

To make your initial research easier, we’ve assembled a collection of recommendations based on applications, guiding you to the appropriate system based on your intended use.

For commercial venues in need of a portable flooring system, an option like Action NitroPanel®  from Action Floors works well. It involves an interlocking panel system for quick and easy assembly or breakdown. Yet, although it is a portable system, it still provides the certifications and performance requirements of a professional level floor. The Milwaukee Bucks use this product in the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

4. What Kinds of Athletes Will Use the Facility?

Not only should you consider what sports will be played on your new flooring, you also need to think about who will be playing on the court. User groups all have different priorities for their activity, and these priorities can change based on age groups.

You should consider which performance characteristics will be most important to the athletes using the floor system. Is it shock absorption, ball bounce, uniformity, or a certain balance of these characteristics?

On our website, we’ve identified systems that would be considered the premium option as well as flooring that makes an ideal alternative.

Choosing a quality sports floor gives you more than bragging rights. It can also protect athletes and help them avoid injuries. Read more here on the Action Floors blog.

5. What Grade of Maple Do You Want?

At some point during the planning process, you may be asked about your preference for the grade of maple flooring used in your new court.

First, understand that the grade of hardwood flooring will not affect performance, it is purely an aesthetic choice. The Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) gives out three grades to northern hard maple. They are used to differentiate between levels of natural color variation.

hardwood maple sports floor grading
  • First Grade: The highest MFMA grade. Boards are hand selected to minimize natural character variations. It is the most monochromatic.
  • Second Grade: Most often used in project specifications. It exhibits slightly more variation than first grade flooring.
  • Third Grade: Displays significant color contrast and is slightly less expensive. Yet, this grade still provides the same structural integrity as the other grades.

First grade maple does offer some benefits for athletes. For example, the lighter color provides superior light reflection and makes it easier for players to see game lines during competition.

6. What Kind of Finish Will Work Best?

There are two types of finishes for hardwood maple sports floors – oil based and water based.

In part, this is also an aesthetic decision. Oil based finishes may give the floor a slight amber appearance over time, while water based finishes are clear. Flooring experts recommend starting with an Oil Modified Urethane (OMU) gym floor finishing system when installing a new hardwood sports floor.

Most OMU finish manufacturers have a low VOC (volatile organic compound) option, which will allow use of an oil based finish in regions of the country where there are regulations concerning the use of such products.

The risk of using a water-based finish is that it can sometimes cause an issue known as panelization or sidebonding, which can occur on new floors. Athletic Business Magazine describes this as strips of maple bonding together so that the floor is unable to self-adjust. When flooring can’t expand or contract under changing environmental conditions, the floor boards have a greater chance of getting damaged.

7. What is the Climate Inside Your Building?

Humidity levels affect hardwood sports floor systems. Maple expands when humidity levels are high (as it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere), and the wood contracts when the air is dry (as it releases moisture back into the atmosphere). A professional sports flooring contractor should understand the best practices and installation techniques to allow for proper expansion and contraction.

If you are replacing hardwood sports flooring due to damage caused by moisture, make sure you investigate to determine what caused those issues, and fix the problem before the new floor is installed.

Click here to read about signs your sports floor may need to be repaired or replaced.

8. Who Will Install the Hardwood Sports Floor?

One of the most important decisions you will make in planning for a new hardwood sports floor is choosing the right people to install it in your facility.

You’ll want someone with expert knowledge you can trust, which is why we strongly recommend you work with a professional sports flooring dealer and not just any independent contractor. Investing in the right sports flooring includes choosing the best people to work on your project.

Need help finding a qualified sports flooring dealer in your area? Contact Action Floors today or call us at 800-746-3512. Once we know a little more about your project, we can point you in the right direction.

Plus, our flooring experts are more than happy to answer your questions regarding hardwood sports floors, synthetic sports floor sys

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