An Ounce of Prevention or a Pound of Cure?

Young Basketball Player on Practice Session. Youth Basketball Team Bouncing Balls on Sports Court. Group of Kids Training Basketball Together
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When it comes to hardwood floor maintenance, there are basically three types of applications: residential, commercial, and sport.

These applications have their own challenges that don’t necessarily translate to the other types of installations. For example, in a residential environment, you probably don’t have the same heavy abuse that many commercial and sport floors see. However, you might be dealing with issues caused by DIY coatings used to “renew the floor.” In a commercial or sport floor environment, you might get the abuse, but you might have the advantage of staff with more training and/or the ability to use maintenance equipment.

This article is focused on the maintenance of sport flooring applications. Examples include basketball, volleyball, racquetball, and dance studios.

Almost all sports flooring installations use Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) approved flooring and installation methods. The MFMA has a lengthy list of recommendations and position statements on products to be used, installation and jobsite concerns, and maintenance. However, it should be noted that the MFMA refers to flooring manufacturers for their specific recommendations and warranty information.

Some of the challenges for sport flooring include heavy everyday use, sweat/body fluids, spilled liquids and foods (including gum), tracking in of outdoor contaminants that can scratch or contaminate the floor, black heel marks, everyday dust/dirt, the use of tape that can tear off finishes/paints, and improper temperature/moisture control.

Other than extreme instances where you might lose power, the easiest thing to address is maintaining proper temperature and humidity at all times. Many problems occur simply because the facility team was unaware of the need to maintain temperature/humidity. Take the time to notify the facility team of the proper temperature/humidity requirements.

Preventing scratches from outdoor debris is an issue for all hardwood flooring applications. The recommendation is always to install mats at points of entry/exit to allow contaminants to be “walked-off” and thus not be introduced to the floor.

Everyday dust/dirt is best addressed “the old-fashioned way” of simply dry mopping the floor as often as needed. That could be once a day or three times a day; it just depends on the environment.

Foods/liquids, sweat/body fluids, the use of any tape, and black heel marks all tend to fall into a similar category. Do your best to prevent it and address it as soon as possible to reduce the potential damage once something happens. Tape is always a “no-no” when it comes to hardwood flooring and is 100 percent preventable. Players sweating or falling, food, and liquid spills are simply going to happen.  These contaminants are best handled by wiping them up immediately with a dry cloth, then addressed with proper cleaners as soon as possible.

Photos courtesy of Robert McNamara | Basic Coatings

One of the most controversial topics in sport floors is using large maintenance equipment such as auto scrubbers. It should be noted that the use of equipment can void a wood flooring manufacturer’s warranty. As such, nobody should recommend using equipment that would negate the flooring manufacturer’s warranty.  With that said, many warranties are only for the first year of use; please check with the specific floor manufacturer, as you do NOT want to void any warranties. Assuming the flooring is no longer under warranty, some consider the use of equipment to be very efficient and practical.

If you are using equipment, it makes sense to do a few simple things. First, check with your flooring manufacturer on what specifically they are concerned with when using equipment. Are they concerned about machine weight, leaving puddles, or water getting under the floor? Some of these issues can be addressed by knowing the concerns and preventing the issue(s).

The proper use of cleaning chemicals is critical. For the most part, properly preventing outdoor debris, wiping up spills and sweat immediately, dry mopping, and maintaining proper temperature/humidity will go a long way to keep your sport floor looking great. However, there is always a need to use cleaners designed for hardwood sports flooring.

When the sport floor is a bit dirtier/grimier than usual, a more intensive floor treatment might be used to help break down the contaminants. These cleaners designed for wood flooring specifically are more on the alkaline side of the pH spectrum and should be diluted per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Once used, these more aggressive cleaners will typically require a rinsing using an everyday cleaner to neutralize the floor and make it squeaky clean.

When the sport floor has normal dirt/grime, using an everyday cleaner designed specifically for hardwood flooring is appropriate and will do a very effective job of cleaning the floor.

Bottom line, every sport floor has its unique maintenance challenges. The proper prevention of contaminants and timely normal maintenance should allow your sport floor to be in tip-top shape. Once you notice the sheen/gloss is beginning to fade, it might be a good time to consult your sports floor professional for advice on a maintenance coat.

Some sport floors get maintenance coats on an annual basis, other floors can last a bit longer.  It’s up to the eye of the beholder to determine when the ounce of prevention (everyday maintenance) needs to be converted to the pound of cure (maintenance coat).

Robert McNamara is the director of marketing and sales for Basic Coatings in Bowling Green, Ohio. He can be reached at rmcnamara@basiccoatings.com.

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