Gymnasium floor refinishing, resurfacing or replacement? Important considerations when restoring wooden courts

Gymnasium floor refinishing, resurfacing or replacement? Important considerations when restoring wooden courts

gymnasium floor refinishing

There comes a time in every wooden court’s lifecycle that a decision has to be made. The aging process is inevitable, and with every year that passes, the wood will become more worn, chipped, and damaged. You’ll need to decide whether to refinish, resurface or replace your gymnasium floor.

Your wooden court can last for many years with proper maintenance and care. But when the time comes to make a change, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider.

Refinish, resurface, or replace?

Each option comes with its pros, cons, workflows, and requirements. We’ll walk you through when each might be the right choice for your unique situation.

We have create a gym flooring cost calculator that gives you a customized cost estimate for your project in a matter of minutes. Give it a try! 

Kick Off Your Gym Flooring Project

We’ve created a comprehensive set of tools designed to assist facility managers and project planners in initiating their projects and connect them with the professionals in the industry.

Gymnasium Floor Refinishing

The first option for breathing new life into your wooden court is refinishing.

Gymnasium floor refinishing is the process of adding a new topcoat to an existing floor. This is usually done when the current finish is starting to wear thin or if some minor chips and scratches need to be addressed. Refinishing can also be used to change the color of your floor (very handy if your team, organization, or school rebrands!)

For gymnasium floor refinishing projects, your service partner will begin by sanding down the uppermost layer of flooring. Next, a fresh coat of stain and lacquer will be applied to the existing wood.

The most significant advantage of refinishing is that it is less disruptive than resurfacing or replacing your floor. You won’t have to close your facility for as long, and the process is generally less dirty and messy. The equipment needed for refinishing is less specialized, so it’s typically more affordable than the other two options.

How often should you refinish?

Most experts recommend refinishing your wooden athletic floor every 5 – 10 years. This will depend on how much traffic the floor gets and how well it’s been maintained.

If you start to see wear and tear before the 5-year mark, it’s probably time to rethink your maintenance program.

When You Shouldn’t Refinish

The main downside of refinishing is that it won’t address any deeper issues with your floor. If the wood is warped, damaged, or otherwise needs repair, those problems will still be there after refinishing.

Refinishing can also only be done so often before the wood becomes too thin and needs to be replaced.

gymnasium floor resurfacing

Gymnasium Floor Resurfacing

The second option for renewing your gymnasium floor is resurfacing. Resurfacing is similar to refinishing in that a new topcoat is applied to the existing floor. The main difference is that resurfacing also involves replacing damaged or worn boards.

For gym floor resurfacing projects, your contractor will begin by removing any boards that need to be replaced. Next, they’ll sand down the existing floor to level out any uneven spots. We find that this can occur around high traffic areas of your floor. Once the sanding is complete, new boards will be installed, and the floor will be refinished with stain and lacquer.

The most significant advantage of resurfacing is that it allows you to replace damaged boards without replacing the entire floor. This can save you money, and it’s much less disruptive than replacing the whole floor.

However, the number of materials, tools and working hours involved in resurfacing can make it more expensive than refinishing.

How Often Should You Resurface?

In most cases, resurfacing can be done less frequently than refinishing. It takes a lot of wear and tears to create the need for new boards, so you may only have to resurface your floor every 10 – 15 years.

Signs It’s Time to Resurface

Some key indicators that it might be time to resurface your floor are:

  • The current finish is wearing thin
  • There are many scratches
  • Boards are turning grey or black

When You Shouldn’t Resurface

If we liken the process of upgrading your floor to a car, refinishing is only a fresh paint of coat. Resurfacing is a new bumper or a replacement door due to damage. While it is an improvement, it is not as good as a complete replacement.

gymnasium floor replacement

Gymnasium Floor Replacement

The third option for upgrading your athletic floor is replacing the entire floor. This is usually only necessary if the wood is severely damaged or warped or if the floor has already been refinished or resurfaced multiple times.

Replacing your gymnasium floor is a big project, and it will require your facility to be closed for an extended period. For this reason, replacement is usually only done as

How Often Should You Replace Your Floor?

Don’t worry if you are just planning a new installation and trying to get a sense of future work involved, don’t worry. Replacing your floor should only happen every 50 – 60 years.

Signs It’s Time to Resurface

  • Some boards have turned black
  • There are warping or uneven spots
  • Water has damaged a portion of your floor

When You Shouldn’t Replace

Replacing your floor should only be done as a last resort, and usually only when the wood is so damaged that it can’t be refinished or resurfaced.

If you’re considering replacing your gym floor, we recommend first talking to a contractor about the other options. In many cases, resurfacing or refinishing will be as effective and much less expensive.

FAQs about gymnasium floor refinishing

1 – What does gymnasium floor sanding mean?

Sanding means removing the top layer of the gymnasium floor, that includes the finish, paint and seal, with a specialized sanding equipment operated by professional sports flooring companies.

2 – What does gymnasium floor screening mean?

Scrrening is the process of removing the top protective layer a.ka. the finish. Once the top layer is removed a new coat of finish is applied to make the gym floor look like brand new again. This process is less invasive and less expensive than sanding. However, if your sports court has deep scratches or stains, screening will most likely not be enough .

3 – What does gymnasium floor sealing mean?

Sealing refers to applying a layer of transparent protective sealant on top of the sanded down wooden court. The sealant absorbs into the porous wooden floor and protects it from moisture and other typical threats to wooden floors. 

4 – What does gymnasium floor finishing mean?

Gym floor finishing – or coating –  refers to the shiny, top most layer of the court surface. An oil based, polyurethane, finish is the most common type of solution found today in gymnasiums across the country. The purpose of the finish is to protect from wear and tear and give a nice glossy look to the floor.

What damages gymnasium floors?

The leading causes of damage to gym floors are:

1 – Heavy traffic

We can file this under normal wear and tear. However, a gym floor used for dances and other non-athletic events will see more foot traffic than one mainly used for basketball or volleyball.

2 – Improper cleaning

Using water or power scrubbers can cause splinters and long-term irreversible damage. Ensure you’re using the right products and following the manufacturer’s instructions.

3 – Heavy loads

Gym floors are not designed to support heavy weights. Concert equipment, for example, can cause severe damage.

4 – Weather and moisture

You might be thinking your indoor floor is safe from the elements. 

However, humidity and moisture can cause nasty cracks and damage if your gymnasium isn’t properly weatherproofed or insulated.

Special Considerations

Whether you choose to refinish, resurface or replace your floor, it’s the perfect time to upgrade the look of your facility.

Athletic directors at high schools and colleges across the country these days have many options to make their sport court stand out. You can choose from a variety of generic colors to match the court surface color with your school’s brand.

Another option is to keep it natural and not paint over the hardwood floor. Some schools and sports centers have gone for a hybrid alternative of painting a thin layer over the wooden court with the desired color(s) but maintaining a level of transparency to be able to see the wooden texture of the floor.


Additionally, you might want to print the name and logo of your school or facility on the court to boost the aesthetics of the court to the next level!


Just be sure you understand the entire process before beginning. You’ll want to time the project around your facility’s schedule. Proper planning will ensure minimal impact on revenue-generating events.

Kick Off Your Gym Flooring Project

We’ve created a comprehensive set of tools designed to assist facility managers and project planners in initiating their projects and connect them with the professionals in the industry.

Why You Should Work with a Professional Floor Company

And finally, make sure you consult with a professional. They can help you understand the different options and make the best decision for your facility.

Fixing your gymnasium floor might seem easy, especially if you’re only opting for a refinish. However, the knowledge needed to properly sand, stain, and finish your floor is extensive.

And while you might be able to find a how-to video on YouTube, it’s not worth the risk. A single mistake can lead to big problems down the road.

Bottom line

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best option for your gymnasium floor. The best way to make sure you’re making the right decision is to consult with a professional.

They can help you understand the different options and make the best decision for your facility.

If you require a new gym floor, or if it’s just time for a refresh, we’ve created an easy-to-use calculator. Our gym flooring cost calculator will give you insight into the cost of your project and get you connected with some of the top professionals in your area.