The athletic floor is often the hub of action for many facilities, including schools, community centers, and local gyms. It can experience a wide range of wear and tear in the span of a single week. Basketball games, school dances, and community events all present their own unique type of wear on a hardwood floor not to mention the mud, dirt, and dust that are tracked inside from the outdoors.
While a properly installed and finished floor can withstand high levels of foot traffic and action, proper care and maintenance is a critical component in getting the most life out of a hardwood floor.
Full new floor installations typically occur every 15–25 years and can range from US$75,000–$125,000, depending on the square footage and type of wood. A complete refinish of the wood floors—including sanding the existing floor down to bare wood, repainting, and applying new finish—typically occurs every 5–8 years and can range from $20,000–$30,000.
However, facilities can extend the life of a floor just by applying a yearly maintenance finish and recoat, which can range from $2,500–$4,500. Putting off this annual maintenance can decrease the lifespan of the refinishing and replacement floor by as much as 30 percent.
In addition to yearly maintenance, a facility can save hours of labor and thousands of dollars by implementing a smart, consistent maintenance program. Here are a few considerations to ensure a long-lasting hardwood floor:
Learn your materials. First and foremost, know the type of wood and finish on the floor. Education is the key to ensure use of the right products and processes on the floor. Using the wrong product can not only lessen the life span, but it can actually damage the finish, resulting in safety hazards and a lackluster finish. Unsure of the type of wood or what’s on the floor? Most hardwood flooring experts will offer consultations to assess the materials used on the floor and can advise the best way to care for it.
Make time. One of the greatest challenges for most facilities is resources; not only financial resources, but also time. Maintaining a hardwood floor can take time and attention to details, but the cost benefits may be significant.
Be consistent. A regular, ongoing cleaning routine will go a long way toward keeping a floor beautiful and long lasting. The simple act of dust mopping a floor between two events on one day will prevent slip hazards and help keep dirt and dust off the floor. It will also make cleaning at the end of the day faster and easier. Additionally, implementing a regular cleaning regimen with the proper tools will address any tough spots and keep the floors dirt free.
Use the right tools. Investing in the right tools is a core component to extending the life of hardwood floors. A well-maintained autoscrubber along with the proper microfiber pad, microfiber mop, and dusting pads will go a long way in keeping a hardwood floor beautiful and durable. Make sure to also clean the dusting and microfiber pads before every use—using dirty pads defeats the purpose.
Use the right cleaning solution. This is critical to the wood floor care process. All-purpose cleaners and hard surface cleaners are not only too harsh for hardwood floors, but will also dull the finish and leave residue behind, which can be a slip hazard. Other cleaners may not have enough power to get the floors clean. Consider a professional strength, pH neutral, and nontoxic cleaning solution formulated for hardwood floors. During winter months, consider implementing a specialty cleaning solution that removes damaging salt or calcium chloride. When using a cleaner concentrate, be sure to use the recommended mix or balance of water versus cleaner. The wrong mix of water and cleaner may do more harm than good.
Consider third-party certification. Look for products and solutions with third-party certifications. Knowing that a product has been vetted by an unbiased organization will demonstrate which products are best-in-class and really make a difference.
Train your staff. With the right tools in place, it’s important that your maintenance team knows how to use them. It’s no secret that water and wood don’t mix. Too much water in an autoscrubber will buckle and damage a floor, while not enough cleaning solution may be ineffective. Know how to get the most out of the maintenance tools before diving in.
Be proactive. Simple, inexpensive floor mats at key entry points can make a tremendous difference. Catching dirt, mud, and dust before it ever touches the floor will not only save cleaning and maintenance time, but it will also prevent damage to the floor, such as scratches and ground-in dirt. Daily vacuuming of these floor mats is another quick and easy way to keep dirt off the floor. Make sure to clean the vacuum air filters to keep remnant dust out of the air and prevent it from ending up back on the floor
The Right Foundation
In addition to these cleaning and maintenance tips, it’s important to note that starting with the right foundation—a durable finish—is also an important part of the equation. The wrong finish can damage or limit the life of a floor, or adversely affect the surrounding environment. Today’s water-based finishes offer the same level of quality as oil-modified finishes with some added benefits. Most importantly, water-based finishes are healthier for the facility. Low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and quick dry times make water-based finishes an important consideration, particularly for schools or community centers. With proper care and maintenance, water-based finishes will also stand the test of time just like oil-modified finishes.
The Benefits of Hardwood
Wood floors are a beautiful and durable addition to any facility. Today’s hardwood floors are not only functional, but can be artfully designed and painted to reflect any aesthetic. Just look to the NBA and some of the recent floor redesigns to see the creative and unique approaches facilities are taking to make their hardwood floors shine.
However, whether the hardwood floor is in a local community center or in a major league sports arena, the care and maintenance requirements for it should not change. Some simple, easy steps can help save valuable time and resources.
Caring for Athletic Floors
Hardwood athletic courts can take a beating. Proper care can reduce expensive maintenance work and keeps floors safe for use.
Follow these five simple maintenance tips for a safer, more beautiful floor.
- Minimize dust and debris by installing walk-off mats in front of doorways to prevent soil from reaching the athletic floor. Vacuum on a daily basis.
- Keep air filters clean in all air handling equipment and ensure proper installation.
- Remove floor dust daily with a mop and dusting pad.
- Autoscrub floors at least once per week. Do this more if your floor experiences high volumes of traffic. Consider a nontoxic, pH neutral, no-residue cleaner for best results. If the floor is less then two years old, consult with your original floor manufacturer’s warranty before using an autoscrubber.
- Ask an expert if you’re unsure of any product or procedure. A quick consultation can save valuable time and money.