Over one hundred years ago Dr. Naismith taught a group of boys the game of basketball. His goal was to entertain these youth indoors during winter months. So, Naismith and his students were soon playing atop their YMCA’s hardwood maple flooring. Little did Naismith know that the benefits of maple wood sports flooring would make it the “game standard” for indoor sports flooring.
Traditionally, school gyms have used maple wood sports systems. But in recent years, synthetic flooring has become a popular choice for indoor sports. For the purpose of this post, many manufactured materials (vinyl, rubber, polyurethane pad and pour, linoleum) make up synthetic sports flooring. It’s important to take certain considerations when deciding which sports flooring option to use.
Athlete safety is a top priority when considering sports flooring. Equally, one should also consider the general purpose, life expectancy, durability and maintenance requirements of flooring systems. Here we will take a look at these considerations to show maple wood sports floor benefits.
According to the MFMA, hardwood maple makes up 70% of sports floors installed around the U.S. Maple sports floors are the industry standard for basketball, volleyball and dance sports because the benefits for athletes far outweigh synthetic sports flooring.
Synthetic flooring may be safer for younger athletes who are finding their footing. Then again, synthetic flooring will not have the same absorption and bounce of maple flooring systems. This proper absorption and bounce can affect player performance and fatigue. Synthetic flooring is better suited for multi-purpose uses: weight rooms, indoor tracks or trade shows. Think heavier traffic such as large gatherings.
Maple flooring provides sports such as volleyball and basketball proper shock absorption and performance. The MFMA has created Performance & Uniformity Rating (PUR) Sport Specific Standards that rate shock absorption, vertical deflection, area of deflection, ball bounce and surface friction. This strict pass/fail rating ensures maple sports flooring is appropriate for athletes.
It is easy to think that synthetic flooring could outlast organic maple flooring. This is not the case. Maple wood sports flooring can last up to 50 years if well-maintained. Whereas, well-cared for synthetic flooring will last anywhere from 10-30 years according to some experts.
Large open spaces like a school gymnasium or cafeteria attract all sorts of traffic by design. When it comes to hardwood maple versus synthetic flooring though, one is appropriate for sports and the other for high traffic gatherings.
Synthetic flooring is indentation resistant from heavy equipment and traffic. When it comes to floor abuse, synthetic flooring will bounce back from minor indentations. And still, wear and tear is visible on synthetic flooring sooner. This is especially true for key areas of a basketball court such as the low-block or free-throw areas.
Synthetic floors will need to be replaced if there is major damage. Hardwood maple sports flooring can be repaired, sanded and recoated. The benefit of a properly maintained floor pays for itself over time.
There are many hardwood horrors that staff must address with maple sports flooring. That being said, synthetic flooring may appear to be a maintenance dream. Facility maintenance can cut cleaning-time with auto-scrubbers. Additionally one wouldn’t need to worry about the relative humidity of the facility affecting the sports floor. Yet again, synthetic flooring will need to be replaced sooner than maple if severely damaged.
A major benefit of maple flooring is that it is protected by a double-layer of finish. Annual refinishing of this coating simply makes your gym flooring stronger and helps protect against minor incidents.
Yes, hardwood sports floors are a lot of work. But in the end, if one properly cares for their floor with annual refinishing and sanding every 7 to 10 years, hardwood maple brings a greater return on investment.
In past QHF articles we have described the regular maintenance needs of hardwood sports flooring. But we cannot talk about the benefits of maple wood sports floors without discussing cost.
Hardwood floors do come with a higher installation cost compared to synthetic floors, due to the expense of the material itself. But the return on investment in maple flooring is far greater. Synthetic options are initially affordable. But one should consider both the initial and further costs such as the life expectancy, maintenance and durability of their sports floor systems.