Gym floors are expensive to purchase and maintain, costing upwards of $150,000. Such a large investment must be protected.

Many clients are capable of maintaining gym floors on a daily basis but others will want their building service contractors to handle daily maintenance if the contractor is regularly cleaning other parts of the facility. Either way it is important that maintenance be performed correctly.

The key to maintaining a wooden gymnasium floor on a daily basis is to keep the floor clean. Dust mopping is the starting point.

Traditionally, oil-based dust mops have been used because the oil does a good job collecting the soil. However, if the mop is not prepared correctly too much product can be applied leaving behind a oily residue that can actually attract soil. The oil can also present a safety hazard by causing the floor to become slippery.

For best results, use a water-based mop treatment and a fringed microfiber dust mop.

Dust mopping will gather the minute particles of dirt that abrade away the floor’s finish like sandpaper. If one were to examine the common dirt and debris that get tracked onto gym floors under a microscope, it would be evident why it is so damaging. The visual amplification reveals sharp, jagged edges. These edges cut into the protective coating and abrade the smooth finish. The bright shine that appeared when the coating was first applied can become dull and cloudy. Light reflection is necessary for a shiny surface and soil roughs up the surface so that light will not reflect. Dirt can damage the finish if it is not frequently removed.

When floors are neglected they must be sanded down completely to the bare wood and recoated more often than necessary. When properly maintained, a floor should only need to be sanded down completely every 10 or 15 years, says John Prater, president of Praters Inc., Chattanooga, Tenn.

The complete sanding process is time-consuming and expensive. Floors can be sanded only a limited number of times in their life (usually four or five times). When the floor can no longer be sanded it must be replaced.

Prater also recommends tacking the floor with solvent cleaner a couple of times per month.

“Use an alcohol-based cleaner to soak terry towels,” he says. “Wring the towels thoroughly then wrap them around a broom and push them over the floor. Dust mopping only removes sand and tacking is required to get the sticky soil and residue off the floor.”

An automatic scrubber outfitted with a carpet bonnet rather than a synthetic floor pad (to prevent scratching) can be used once a month for deeper cleaning.

“I recommend a very experienced operator run the scrubber,” says Prater. “You need someone who knows what they are doing and doesn’t leave water on the floor.”

Prater also suggests that companies interested in doing gym floor work familiarize themselves with two trade organizations: Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) and National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). These associations provide resources to their members such as training, certification and more.
Following correct procedure is vital in gym floor care. Those who are willing to learn the right way to do it can reap the benefits of keeping gym floors beautiful.

Louie E. Davis Jr. is a jan/san industry veteran and freelance writer based in Birmingham, Ala.