Gym floor maintenance best practices Q&A with Robbins Sports Surfaces expert Kevin Price

A Gymnasium floor tends to be resource intense investment for most schools, colleges, and commercial sports facilities, which is why squeezing the maximum number of years out of it should be your priority. The key to its longevity is upkeep.

Most of the maintenance work comes down to regular cleaning, sweeping, and mopping. Using the appropriate cleaning products is essential to avoid damaging the gymnasium floor. If your gymnasium hosts non-sporting events like concerts or meetings, the gym floor should be protected by placing a floor cover on top of it. In case you don’t have a protective floor cover, you should make sure people leave their non-indoor sports shoes outside before entering the gymnasium. 

If your gymnasium floor is made of hardwood, you will need to keep an eye on any signs of wear and tear. Depending on the frequency and intensity of use, you can expect to have to recoat or refinish your wooden gym floor approximately once per year. This is a task best left to the professional sports surfacing companies. 

Kevin Price, regional sales manager at Robbins Sports Surfaces explains the best practices of gym floor maintenance in more detail and with expertise in this full interview. We highly recommend reading it through to get a solid understanding of what it takes to keep a gym floor in tip-top shape and ensure its longevity. 

What is a screen & recoat?

A screen and recoat is when the gym floor contractor slightly abrades the floor and applies one to two coats of gym floor finish. This method simply cleans up the floor and restores optimal friction characteristics.

There are a few ways to abrade the floor, but the most common method is to screen it with a 100 to 120-grit screen, this is called a dry-screen. There are a few companies that will use a scrubber-vac to “clean” or abrade the floor and will then apply finish over the floor, this is called a wet-screen. As a manufacturer in unison with the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA), I would not recommend the use of a scrubber vac on a hardwood maple floor.

Which method do you recommend and why? 

As a wood floor manufacturer, our preferred method is a dry screen.

How often should you screen/recoat the floor?

Depending on the use of the floor, it should be screened and recoated once a year, at a minimum. There are certain instances where a floor can be screened and recoated every other year. The advantage of a screen and recoat is that it adds a new luster to the floor but also restores the friction characteristics of the floor, making it safer for the end user.

How long does it take to screen/recoat a floor?

There are a few different processes that can be used for a screen and recoat but a typical screen and recoat should take 1 to 2 days. The finish will then need to cure, which will take 3 to 5 days depending on the finish (oil vs. water) chosen.

What harm is there if I only screen/recoat the floor every other year or every third year? Will it influence the performance of the floor and the athlete?

The harm of not screening the floor is that the friction characteristics of the floor will break down over time, making the floor slippery. This can become a safety concern. Often, lack of use and/or the owner’s finances play a role in the decision-making process, however, the key factors are to protect the athlete and to protect the floor. Screening a floor annually addresses both issues.

Can recoating and/or refinishing extend the life of the floor?

Absolutely! Just like a car, if you take preventative actions, the car will last longer. The same holds true with a floor, the more that you protect the floor, the longer the floor will last and perform.

What role does safety/comfort play in the decision to screen/recoat?

As addressed above, the big safety concern is friction characteristics. If the finish is dull or fading, the floor will become slick. When the floor becomes slick, the possibility of injury increases.

What is the daily maintenance of a floor after it has been screened and recoated?

The best course of action is to dust mop the floor daily and as many times as possible. Make sure that you do not use a dust mop treatment on the dust mop as they often will have some type of wax, which may contaminate the finish. If you have a spill, you may need to mop it up AND we strongly encourage you to dry the floor after you mop it. Remember, water and wood do not mix! Some devices are made to help “clean” a floor that have been highly effective. If there are scuff marks, you may remove them by rubbing your shoe over the scuff mark or by rubbing a tennis ball over it. Daily maintenance includes dust mopping the floor. All finish manufacturers have their own protocols regarding maintenance. Please consult the finish manufacturer as needed.

Can you use a scrubber-vac on a wood floor?

It is Robbins and the Maple Floor Manufacturers Association’s (MFMA) position that scrubber vacs should not be used on a wood floor. In fact, water damage from a scrubber vac on a newly installed floor is not covered by the floor warranty.

Can you use any hardwood floor contractor to screen & recoat the floor? Or should you choose one that specializes in sports flooring? Why?

It is my experience that you should only hire an MFMA-accredited sports flooring contractor to perform a screen & recoat on your floor. The reason why is that they are trained, tested, and certified in the processes and procedures set forth by the finish manufacturer. After all, the process takes time and money, if the gymnasium is closed for longer than expected, then the athletic department or the owner will be scrambling to find places for the teams to practice and play their games, often having to pay to use a different facility. More importantly, does an owner or athletic director want to trust the work of someone that is not qualified to protect the safety of their players?

What does a typical screen and recoat cost?

This really depends on the process used and what finish (oil-modified or water-base) is used but the cost can range from $.40 to $.80 per square foot.