Feature Article - July/August 2005
Find a printable version here

A Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

Sure Footing

By Kyle Ryan


Studying your vocabulary can take you far in the hunt for the right surface. If you understand these terms, you can better understand what a manufacturer is trying to tell you—or sell you—and communicate more effectively with your building team.

POINT ELASTIC SURFACE   A surface that bends at the point of pressure and absorbs energy. Most synthetic surfaces belong to this category.

AREA ELASTIC SURFACE   A rigid, nonbending surface that yields gradually to pressure and can return energy, such as wood floors

COMPOSITE SURFACE   A surface with characteristics of both point and area elasticity, often a synthetic surface over wood

RESILIENCE   A floor's ability to bend or give. Synthetic surfaces often have greater resiliency than wood.

MOISTURE CONTENT   The weight of water contained in wood flooring, as a percentage of a kiln-dried sample

SLEEPER SYSTEM   Wood flooring system where the wood strips are installed atop strips of wood studs

PANEL SYSTEM   Wood flooring system where the wood strips are installed atop sheets of other material, often plywood

ANCHORED SYSTEM   Wood flooring system where the wood strips are installed atop sheets of other materials, often plywood, with 2-by-3 "sleepers" under the plywood, then mechanically attached to the subsurface

ACCLIMATIZATION   The process where wood flooring materials must sit in the facility for a number of days to adjust to moisture levels

FORCE REDUCTION   The ability of a sports floor to absorb the shock of impact, compared to a nonresilient floor

BALL REBOUND   The percentage to which a ball bounces back to the height from where it is dropped, compared to a nonresilient floor such as concrete. Ball rebound, or bounce, should be at least 90 percent on a basketball surface.

STANDARD DEFORMATION   The depth to which a floor indents under a load of weight

DEFORMATION CONTROL   The spread of a deformation, or the area it covers, when a floor indents under a load of weight

DUROMETER   This measures surface hardness. Its value is expressed as "Shore A." A synthetic floor may have a durometer of 55 Shore A, the higher the number, the softer the floor.

SLIDING BEHAVIOR   The distance a floor can permit an athlete's foot to turn or purposely slide, while preventing uncontrolled sliding. DIN standards require floors to have a sliding distance of 0.4 to 0.6 meters.

EPDM    Ethylene propylene diene monomer, a type of synthetic rubber flooring that comes in granule form

SBR   Styrene butadiene rubber, another granulized form of synthetic rubber

PVC   Polyvinyl chloride, a common form of synthetic flooring that, yes, is the same stuff that is used for plumbing pipes

POLYPROPYLENE   Another form of plastic, often used for flooring squares or tiles

PREFABRICATED SHEET SYSTEMS OR SHEET GOODS   Synthetic flooring manufactured off-site and delivered in rolls or sheets

CAST-IN-PLACE SYSTEMS   Also known as poured-in-place or full-pour systems, these are synthetic flooring systems created on site by covering the floor in a liquid that hardens into a seam-free surface.

VULCANIZED RUBBER   This can be the real thing: natural rubber used for point-elastic surfaces. Technically, rubber is not a synthetic, but this type of flooring falls under the synthetic category since it's not wood. Synthetic vulcanized rubber also exists.

BACKGROUND PHOTO: When owner D.J. Bosse opened his health club in Sudbury, Mass., two years ago, he wanted the tennis courts to look and play just like the ones he played on in the Australian open in the early 1990s. The club features nine indoor courts.