By Kjell Nymark
Installing sports courts share some similarities as residential installation. The nailing schedule and racking rules still apply. I think the most significant difference is that the flooring mechanic is generally responsible for installing the subfloor. Generally sports courts are built as “sprung” floors to protect the athletes that play on them. There are many different systems that get specified for these sprung floors.
Some of the most common systems in the past were a sleeper system, these systems were generally made up of 2 x 3 boards with rubber cushions stapled to the underside spaced a foot apart. The on center spacing between the sleepers would depend on whether or not plywood was installed on top of them, sometimes flooring was laid directly over top of the sleepers. It was necessary to pay attention to the condition of the sleepers if the sleepers were bowed or twisted the cushions would not make contact with the concrete substrate and the result would be “dead spots”. Dead spots refer to a spot on the floor that will not provide the same bounce back as the rest of the floor. This is especially important if basketball is to be played on these courts.
Floating plywood systems are probably more common now than the sleeper systems. The floating plywood system consists of stapling rubber cushions to the underside of a sheet of ½” plywood. The cushions are spaced a foot on center with 32 cushions per sheet. The 1st layer of plywood is placed on the concrete substrate cushion side down. These sheets of plywood are loose laid over the substrate and tied together by another sheet of ½” plywood typically laid on a diagonal. Since the floor is designed to flex it is important that appropriate spacing between all the sheets of plywood be maintained to minimize squeaking. Once the floating plywood system has been placed, the maple strip flooring can be installed to them. The result is a consistent sprung floor, provided that the concrete substrate is flat.
Installing sports courts are a difficult but gratifying job. The project seems a little daunting at first when you first observe the size of the space that has to be covered. It takes a certain type of installer to work on sports courts, one that likes a challenge and not afraid to work up a good sweat every day. The satisfaction comes at the end of the job when you’re standing on this massive work of art, that took such great effort to complete.