Planning for the big game starts with the gym floor

For those that have not been in a school for quite some time, it may come as a surprise that one of the most essential rooms has changed quite a bit. Once used by students just a few hours a day, the gymnasium is now a multi-purpose space, utilized by other  education facilities and athletic teams as well as for public programs, community meetings, plays and performances, among other non-sports related activities.

“School gymnasiums are being used up to six days per week, often exceeding 15 to 16 hours per day,” says David Shauers, a former marketing director for a gym floor installation company. “This makes it much harder on the floor.”

As schools often pride themselves on their gym floor — many, particularly secondary schools, brand the floor with their logo or mascot to show school spirit — they invariably want it to look its best at all times. To achieve this, a cleaning and maintenance program is required. The program will depend on the type of gym flooring: vinyl, synthetic or wood, with the latter being the most common. It’s also the costliest but has the greatest life expectancy and tends to have more ‘bounce,’ making it less stressful on athletes’ feet and legs.
The first step in maintaining wood flooring involves the ‘smart’ placement of mats, carpet and runners at all gym entries and crisscrossing the gym floor. This provides a direct walking path from one side of the gym to the other to protect the floor. With all the functions this space now serves, asking people with rubber bottom shoes or heels — both of which can damage the floor — to remove them prior to walking on the gym surface is an impossible task.

From here, an effective wood gym floor maintenance program includes mopping, stripping and refinishing.

Regularly wet or dry mopping the floor is probably the most effective way to extend its life because it removes dust, grit and soils. These contaminants can be pounded into the floor with gym use and foot traffic, damaging the floor finish and surface itself. Using a microfibre or flat mop for this task is recommended, or an automatic scrubber for a deeper clean. The more frequently the floor is cleaned, the longer intervals between refinishing cycles, saving considerable time and money.

It’s important to select a good quality pH neutral cleaning solution that will clean the floor without impacting the shine. Also, because gym floors are most often used during winter months, a cleaning solution that breaks down and removes ice melt residue is ideal as it can damage the floor finish.

Stripping a gym floor can be disruptive, time-consuming and the costliest part of a maintenance program. The process requires a high-quality wood floor cleaning solution formulated to remove the floor’s finish and a low-speed floor machine.

The cleaning solution should be applied to a small area of the floor at a time, ensuring it does not dry. Then, a low-speed floor machine is used to strip the area. Make sure the correct grit sanding screens or floor pads are employed. If too aggressive, they can cause problems that require extensive remediation. Typically, the darker the pad, the tougher it will be on removing soils, shoe marks and other unsightly floor marks. If unsure of which pads to use, check with the school’s janitorial distributor to prevent damaging a very valuable asset. Once the floor has been stripped, rinse two or more times to remove chemical residue and soils.

When selecting a gym floor coating, the British saying, “penny-wise, pound foolish”
rings true. Always select the highest quality coating possible. A water-based, urethane
acrylic coating is made to leave a high-gloss shine on the floor.

Many times, it is recommended that a sealant be applied first but only when it is a brand-new flooring installation. This provides added protection for the floor and serves as a foundation for the floor coating.

When selecting a floor coating, inquire about the drying and curing times. Drying occurs before curing and is essentially when the solvent has evaporated from the coating and it’s safe to touch. Curing is when the coat has reached proper hardness. This is required before a second coat can be applied. The latest water-based gym floor coatings have a much faster cure time; a second coat can be applied in approximately two hours, depending on the air temperature, air circulation and humidity levels. Typically, two coats should be applied to the floor using a weighted bar/applicator.

If you have questions regarding gym floors please email us at


Article originally posted in Facility Cleaning & Maintenance September 2018