Supplement Feature - September 2008
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Choices in Indoor Sports Surfaces

By Sue Marquette Poremba


So how do you make your decision between wood and synthetic surfaces?

"If it is a space relegated just for sneaker functions and you have a strong budget, you'd probably want to go with wood," Mitchell said. But any time you are thinking of multiple uses for the floor, that it is the time to strongly consider synthetic. "You don't need to be as finicky with a synthetic all-purpose floor. The beauty with a synthetic is that you don't have to be as careful with it as you would a wood floor."

For the up-and-down sports like basketball, you want a floor that is easy on the knees, and you want a floor that won't leave you sore after a workout.

"For a gym floor, good cushioning and a good slide factor are essential, while for a weight room, you want something that can take a lot of punishment," Mitchell said.

"A weight area needs a more solid product that is stronger than other floors."

The cushioning of a wood floor is done with rubber pads. Every 16 inches along the width of the gym you have sleepers, which are rubber strips with little pads fashioned to the bottom. This gives the floor some flexibility because the pads give it a cushioning. With synthetic flooring, the cushioning is built right in. A prefabricated rubber mat is glued directly to the original floor base.

Cushioning is most important in a dance or aerobic area, where the flooring takes on different types of considerations than elsewhere in a sports facility.

"For a dance floor, shock absorption is the most important aspect," Heney said. "These floors need to be softer and have more resiliency. Sometimes the difference between them is simply the rubber pad used, with softer pads used in dance situations."

When setting up a dance floor, Traum added, the facility's owner needs to decide between a wood floor—and then choose between a hardwood or a softwood—or a resilient vinyl floor. "Another decision is the purchase of either a permanent or temporary installation," she said. "Each type of flooring offers different features, which must be weighed in terms of what the actual use of the room will be. Just remember to analyze all the variables because a floor that is inexpensive to purchase can wind up being costly in the long run, if it is not adapted to the types of activities taking place."