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Hard Floor Care

The Gem Of The Gym

April 04, 2012
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Gymnasium floors.

Chances are that you have spent some significant amount of time on one of these surfaces.

They are typically the same from location to location: They have a high-gloss shine and a characteristic sound that often transports anyone setting foot on to the floor back to the days of kickball and school dances.

And, as the end of March Madness — that time when the spotlight seems to shine brighter on collegiate hardwoods — draws to a close, some facilities may be looking more closely at how their floors have held up throughout a long season, leading to an even longer off season when many floors are used for activities other than the typical basketball game.

These activities, and more, can lead to the need to refinish the surface of the floor; even if the floor looks like it is still in good condition, look it over carefully.

There may be any number of problems lurking just below, or on top of, the surface.

Maintaining your floors is, of course, the easiest and most cost effective way to keep them pristine and attractive.

However, there will be times when a little extra elbow grease is needed in order to get a floor back to the state it rightly deserves to be in.

In such cases, refinishing is the way to go.

Multiple Uses; Multiple Problems

Gym floors can be a living, breathing organism; there is rarely a time when they are not being used or are not in demand.

The most common gym floor, when you think about the term, is the floor found in schools at every level and sports arenas.

No matter where these floors are, chances are they take a daily beating.

Even if there is not a game or event scheduled in an arena, there may be practice; gyms in K-12 schools are rarely, if ever, used solely for sporting events.

If the custodial or maintenance staff at a school or other athletic facility is proactive, they will take steps to make sure their floor remains in good condition.

"The cleaner the floor, the longer it will last. It really is that simple," says Pete Rowan, national sales manager for Proguard Coatings. "Gyms, like all floors, have daily care, intermediate care (screening and recoating) and restorative care (sanding)."

According to Rowan, there are two main reasons a gym floor ends up needing to be refinished: Time and damage.

While the average life expectancy of a floor can range from 15 years for vinyl tile to upwards of 50 years for wood flooring, this number can decrease dramatically if daily maintenance is not taking place.

Damage can take place in the form of water damage or from more frequent sanding due to the "faster breakdown of water-based finish versus oil finish, or from the incompatibility between finishes and/or paint."

When damage occurs, refinishing is the next step.

The Details Are In The Specs

Wood floors, which the majority of gym floors are made of, should always be sanded down with a heavy powered drum sander.

According to Freedom Floors LLC, the first cut of a floor needs to be transverse in both directions, going with the grain of the floor with a low-grit sandpaper (20 to 36 grit) to cut off the finish.

The floor should then be sanded with a higher grit paper (50 to 80 grit) in order to take out scratch marks; skipping grits is not recommended.

After the secondary sanding, the floor is screened with a rotary buffer and 100 grit screens, or a fine-grit sandpaper.

The final step is to vacuum and clean the floor of any residue from sanding before moving on to sealing the floor.

Typical sealers would require occupants to stay off the floor for anywhere between 24 and 48 hours, which can sometimes be a hassle.

New technology allows for faster curing times, which can virtually eliminate any wait or downtime.

UV Curing

The most promising new technology is not new it all.

Those who have used the technology and have seen its benefits believe it has promise and potential to change not only how floors such as those found in gyms are refinished, but the janitorial business as a whole.

The new finishes are oligomer and monomer-based, rather than the polymer-based finishes of old that required a carrier such as water, oil or paint thinner.

Basically a plastic, the finish, once applied, can be instantly hardened using energy.

Ultraviolet (UV) curing is a process in which UV energy produced by a mercury discharge lamp is absorbed by a sensitizer, causing a reaction in the monomer, which makes it hard and dry.

Depending on the chemicals involved and the thickness of the coating you are curing, this process can be virtually instantaneous.

UV cured floors are more durable than sealants used in the past, as the bonds do not break down like current products, which makes the finish harder, more durable and requires less maintenance.

According to UV Cure Now, refinishing a floor with the new UV technology is also more environmentally friendly.

Most conventional coatings contain high levels of solvents or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which we now know are harmful to the environment.

Strict federal and state air quality guidelines are forcing contractors to explore new uses of UV curing, as these finishes meet or exceed these guidelines.

In addition to the environmental aspect, contractors are realizing that there are significant cost savings when using UV curing, as their results are instant, significantly reducing the drying and down time involved in refinishing a floor.

Maintaining a gym floor is the best way to be sure the facility always reflects a well put-together look and feel.

If, however, the time does come where refinishing must take place, consider the new technology that will help save money and the environment.

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