One of the most critical, and most overlooked, elements of gym floor maintenance is the behind-the-scenes partnering that happen with the custodial department. The first of those partnerships should be with the school’s jan/san distributor.

“Training is critical and it has to be ongoing because of the turnover factor,” Uselman says.

Even more important, however, is the custodial department’s partnership with the athletic department. A good communication channel between the two groups ensures that neither does something that negatively affects the other.

For example, coaches sometimes use a solvent product on the bottom of their shoes to help with grip on slippery floors. Another common problem is athletic directors applying floor tape that is not approved for a sports environment. Both of these products can harm the finish.

These issues can be easily resolved if coaches discuss their concerns with the custodial director, who can then make adjustments to cleaning procedures or provide the coaches with the appropriate products.

Likewise, the custodial department needs to better communicate its needs. Often, athletic departments don’t want downtime for cleaning because it interferes with practices or games. If custodians could better explain the benefits of a well-maintained gym floor to the sports program, the athletic director might be more likely to shift his or her thinking. Distributors can help facilitate these conversations and make sure they happen.

“As people out in the field, we need to help bring the two departments together to a common ground to make the wood gym floor program the best it can be, both for safety and attractiveness,” Allen says.

Allen prides himself on helping a school’s athletic and custodial departments get into sync, as he was able to do after the cancelled basketball game that earned him new business. He hopes, however, that it doesn’t take a disaster for districts to begin making the necessary maintenance adjustments to create beautiful and playable gym floors.

“The two main focal points for a school in the public persona are the gym and the football field,” Allen says. “They create the greatest attendance and the public sees them. Those two places should never be skimped on maintenance. They certainly don’t want to have to be stopping a game because of a flooring problem.” 

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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Gym Floor Refinishing Is The Final Maintenance Step