Supplement Feature - September 2009
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Floor It!

Finding the Right Sports Flooring

By Richard Zowie

Weight a Minute

While hardwood surfaces remain a favorite among those who like wood surfaces or need a wooden surface to meet the guidelines for a specific organized sport, for others, using non-hardwood surfaces (such as synthetic or rubber) for basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

Like hardwood, selecting synthetic or rubber surfaces means choosing from a wide spectrum of options. There are many manufacturers and brands in the market. Proper research is critical. (Be sure to ask for references—maybe even tour an existing installation if you can.) When it comes to how the surface is laid out, there are interlocking tiles, straight edge, rolled surfaces and various types of adhesives.

The University of California - Irvine opened its recreation center in January 2000, with rubber tile flooring in the weight room that eventually presented some significant maintenance issues, according to Associate Programs Director Michael Puritz.

"We had to re-glue a number of tiles on a constant basis," he explained.

Specifically, the recreation center had high moisture issues with its concrete slab and resulted in the surface delaminating. The surface also took a beating from the free weights dropped onto the floor and would dent and scuff easily. Also, the water from perspiration and water spills posed safety hazards.

This changed when UCI changed surfaces. The new flooring consists of 2-foot-by-2-foot tiles laid onto the floor without glue. They're held together by nylon dowels. The flooring isn't adhered to the concrete surface below, meaning it won't delaminate due to excessive moisture on the slab.

Puritz said the result has been a non-slippery, non-scuffing floor that's easy to maintain and isn't damaged when free weights are dropped (accidentally, of course) onto it.

In addition to solving the problems with the previous surface, the new floors provide a pleasant aesthetic. "The flooring looks sharp," he added. "It adds a whole new feel to the room."

Synthetic and rubber flooring is valued by many because of its shock-absorbing qualities, energy return and its ability to last a long time—particularly when used in areas like weight rooms and running tracks that see a lot of wear and tear. This is the case at the John M. Alexander Family YMCA in Raleigh, N.C.

"[The floor] can be cleaned with a mild solution with a mop or scrubbing machine," Corey said. "Rubber tiling is easy to clean and lasts longer. Carpet gets dirty, needs replacing and the spills are hard to clean."