New Gym Floor Installation

About twice a week customers ask Quality Hardwood Floors if we offer gym floor installation. Yes! And those same customers then ask: How much does an installation cost? Trust us, we wish there was an ‘off the shelf’ answer for you. Then the customer asks: How long do installs take? There are a number of reasons a customer may ask us this question. Well…why do you want a new floor installed? Did your existing floor experience some irreparable hardwood horror? Or are you wanting a new floor due to renovations / new construction? 

Not all gym floor installations are a result of catastrophes. In reality, new gym facilities go up every day. However, a majority of customers calling us need help following some form of disaster. In reality, the gym floor installation process itself is relatively the same whether repairing damaged, unusable flooring or following new construction. This post will walk through the process of gym floor replacement after major water damage occurred. After all, our customers typically call us after experiencing some form of catastrophe.

Removal of Damaged Hardwood Flooring

Extremely water-damaged gym flooring is typically beyond repair and thus unusable. Thus one must rip-out the warped wood flooring and hauled it away.  If the facility discovered water damage quickly, one can hope not all of the court was directly affected.  However, it is necessary to remove the damaged flooring. Removing the damaged floor and questionably compromised adjacent flooring eliminates further spread of water damage.

A Note On Water Damage Triage

Water-damage is the largest of hardwood horrors our customers experience. That being said, the first thing the QHF pros ask is if the source of the water damage has been stopped? 

Hopefully you spotted a problem soon enough to stop wide-spread damage to your gym floor. And still, water-damage troubles spread even after the storm. This is why it’s important to get a hold of your gym floor specialists quickly and stop further damage

It’s important to mitigate and fix the source of water damage as soon as possible. Obviously you’re not going to install an expensive new maple gym floor just for the damage to reoccur. So address issues before any repair work begins.

Regulating Gym Moisture Levels

After extreme water damage, it’s important to let the concrete slab dry.  Standing water will have seeped into the concrete and could remain for sometime. Even with dehumidification equipment, the concrete slab (what the wood flooring rests on) can be a 60-day dry-time according to industry standards. 

Additionally, the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) recommends maintaining indoor relative humidity between 35 percent and 50 percent, and air temperatures between 55 degrees and 75 degrees year-round.  QHF usually hides a device in your gym that measures indoor relative humidity. Did someone say ‘scavenger hunt’? This helps maintain proper temperatures perfect for acclimating your new flooring to the facility.

measuring relative humidity
Hidden, a moisture reader continuously measures facility levels.

New Flooring Acclimation

New maple wood sports flooring needs to acclimate to an indoor space. It is usual for gym floor specialists to deliver both the playing surface maple and subflooring some time before installation.  QHF professionals continue to monitor both maple hardwood moisture content and the facility’s relative humidity levels throughout gym floor installation.

The maple industry standard says the moisture content should average between 6% and 9%. It is important to consult your maple manufacturer for recommended moisture content for areas with harsh climates. This is very important! This is to say that new hardwood can buckle, or worse, if not properly acclimated. So acclimate, acclimate and acclimate!

QHF reading moisture content

Gym Subfloor Installation

As the name implies, subflooring sits beneath your surface flooring. Wood subflooring should also acclimate to the indoor conditions. Industry standards state that the moisture content readings of subfloors should sit around 4 percentage-degrees from what your surface flooring measures.

The MFMA discusses a number of subflooring systems. There are pros and cons for each type of system, but we’ll save that for another post. For the purposes of brevity let’s take a look at the popular double-plywood subfloor system.

This subfloor system consists of two layers (a bit on the nose, right?) of 4-ply 4’x8’ plywood boards. The first subfloor layer is generally installed at 45 degree angles while installing the second layer at 90 degree angles to the direction of the finished maple playing surface. The bottom layer of plywood will have resilient pads mechanically fastened between the wood and concrete. Additionally, a 6-mil polyethylene sheet that acts as a vapor retarder sits under the subfloor.

Different Types of Subflooring

  • Floating Systems “floats” atop the concrete slab unfastened mechanically.
  • Fixed Systems are mechanically fastened to a concrete slab with anchor pins, screws or adhesive. 
  • Anchored Resilient Systems are a combination of materials that allow varying degrees of resiliency while anchored to the concrete slab.
subfloor install 90 degree

'Rack-Out' New Gym Flooring

Next a gym floor installation crew will begin to “rack” the acclimated surface hardwood on top of the maple. The maple flooring is carefully laid out row by row. 

In our court repair scenario, a crew would start from the remaining gym flooring (remember water only damaged one of the three courts) and work towards the wall. In a single court scenario, installers will start from the middle of the court and simultaneously work outwards.  If we place a basketball court’s goals at North and South, installation crews would rack one row from south to north, end to end. Then row by row crews rack boards outward in both east and west directions.

racking out gym floor install
Here the maple flooring is 'racked-out'. Notice the boards are loose and not nailed in place.

Gym Floor Installation

Finally, row by row, crews nail the maple flooring in place. This process can take a few days, but it is very important to pace this process and pay attention to what and where boards are going down. During this process, installation crews must pay attention to floor expansion rows and accessory locations.

Expansion Rows

Wood reacts to moisture in the air. Even when maple flooring is nailed in place, the hardwood will expand and contract with moisture conditions such as seasonal changes. For this reason, sports floor contractors install “expansion rows” throughout the playing surface.

Gym floor installers tend to place expansion rows at regular intervals (i.e. every 8-10 board face widths). These expansion rows (sometimes called “washer rows”) are typically 1/32” to ⅛”. The MFMA states that the 1/32” expansion can go unnoticed better while allowing little movement.

expansion row
Expansion, or 'washer', rows allow the maple floor to expand and contract.

Accessory Cover Plate Locations

Generally maple sports floors are multipurpose. A majority of school courts host both basketball and volleyball. Since volleyball uses a net, post-holes are typically present in the floor. During installation, crews cut away the play surface to accommodate these accessories. Locating accidentally covered accessories is not a good time.  

Besides volleyball, badminton and pickleball post holes are growing in popularity. It’s typical for recreational gyms to have multiple game-post-holes across the playing floor. Other recessed accessories could be sports equipment anchors or electrical / scoreboard connections.

Gym Floor Installation Sanding & Paintings

After gym floor installation we move on to sanding and painting. Just like any garage wood project, it is a good idea to sand bare wood down before you paint. The gym floor sanding process occurs every 7-10 years and after any repairs or installation.

Sanding

For sports flooring to be as safe as possible, sanding is necessary for an even playing field. Milled hardwood maple, though uniform, will have slight variations. These variations can be as small as ⅛” difference in height, but are hazardous to athletes. So it’s important to sand to get as even a playing surface as possible.Following the sanding process, the floor is both vacuumed and “tacked”. The tacking process removes remaining fine dust from the bare floor.

Painting

After a gym floor has been sanded and vacuumed it is time to mark game lines. In the event of a gym floor repair, game lines will usually be set as they were before damage. Alternatively, this is a good time to add any new, or popular, game lines your court may not have.

Generally painting can go pretty fast and cure within 24 hours. Be sure to use the correct paint for the sports finish you will coat the finished floors with. For example, use water-based paint for water-borne finish. 

painting game lines on floor install

Finishing

The final steps of a gym floor installation consist of mostly finishing touches. Ha! See what I did there? Honestly, if you have read this far about gym floor installs, you probably know enough about hardwood sports flooring and its protective finish. Gym floor professionals apply finish after installing accessory cover plates and the floor is again tacked. 

Sports floor finish protects your hardwood floors. Finish also allows peak game floor performance and safe playability. Gym floor finishing requires a few days to cure in most cases. All that remains then would be a punch list of any threshold installations and wall bases. The vented bases along walls of a gym sit on top of maple flooring allowing areas underneath to breathe.

Contract The Gym Floor Installation Pros

As you can see, gym floor installation is a lengthy involved process.  Whether you are experiencing issues with an older floor or some floor-killing catastrophe, contact a gym floor professional.  Our QHF Pros can assess and discuss any of your gym floor maintenance needs.

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