For many sports fans, nothing quite beats the sight of a gleaming hardwood floor prior to a big game. Whether it's high school, college or in the pros, the playing surface is one of the most important components of the event.

The end result doesn’t happen by accident, however. The selection, installation and finishing of the playing surface is an extensive process with important choices to be made every step along the way. The type of materials to be used and the contractor who will eventually install it are all key decisions. However, none of these choices are more critical than the selection of the proper floor finish for the new surface. Ensuring the playability and long life of the floor means selecting the appropriate gym floor finish.

Before getting to that stage, however, there are a number of steps in the process that must be decided on first:

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Selecting the gym floor surface

The first decision involves selecting the material to be used when constructing a gym floor. For most organizations, the choice is simple. An Athletic Business magazine article noted that 95 percent of new gym floors are constructed with northern hard maple.

According to the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA), this specific grade of maple is produced from trees grown north of the 35th parallel where shorter growing seasons and longer winters produce maple with a tighter, more uniform grade. Northern hard maple features flexibility, resilience, durability, finishability and low demand maintenance. This hard-but-resilient character enhances athletic performance.

Environmental factors should be considered when installing maple flooring. Maple will expand when it takes in moisture then contract as it dries, especially when first installed. These variations must be accounted for during construction. Including expansion gaps and designing the subfloor to accommodate these changes are among the things that must be considered.

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Picking the right gym floor finish

The final touch – and the one that is most visible to fans and players – is the gym floor’s finish. In some areas, choices are limited due to regulations surrounding Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – gases emitted from certain solids or liquids. For example, California VOC regulations essentially prohibit the use of oil-based finishes.

Hue and gloss – the color and look of the completed floor - are two factors to be taken into account when choosing a gym floor finish. Oil-based finishes take on an amber color over time while water-based finishes are mostly clear. High gloss floors can causes problems for spectators and players especially in buildings with enhanced lighting systems. In those cases, semi-gloss or satin finishes may be more appropriate

Sika’s finishing solutions

There are a variety of choices when in comes to choosing a finish for your athletic surface, and Sika Corporation offers products to fit any need. Many of Sika's solutions have been approved by MFMA for use with maple flooring. To earn the MFMA endorsement, a finish must undergo third party testing at least once every three years.

Oil-based finishes

Sikafloor WP-1 Super Pinnacle and WP-2 OMU Wood Finish are oil modified urethane varnishes with clear coating formulated to provide a durable, solid protective film. Approved by MFMA, they can be used on new and existing wood sports floors in public and private schools, universities, professional arenas and health clubs. They provide a superior gloss finish and are abrasion resistant with excellent film hardness.

Sikafloor WP-4 Fast Dry 550 and WP- 4.1 Fast Dry 350 are oil modified sanding sealers providing a clear coating formulated for application to bare wood to seal it and provide a surface for the finish coat. WP-4 emits less than 550 g/L VOC. WP-4.1 emits less than 350 g/L VOC and is MFMA approved. Both dry quickly and can be sanded in as little as two hours.

Sikafloor WP-8 and WP-8.1 are reduced VOC, oil-modified urethane varnishes with 50 percent solids, both approved by the MFMA. WP-8 has low viscosity to ease application and WP-8.1 has been the benchmark in 350 g/L varnishes since coming on the market.

Sikafloor WP-11 550 Polyurethane Sealer is a traditional oil-modified sealer with excellent film hardness. WP-11.1 350 Poly Sealer is oil-modified polyurethane sanding sealer that deeply penetrates wood. It is faster drying than WP-11 and 350 g/L VOC compliant. WP-14 One Coat 275 Polyurethane Finish features is a higher solids, higher build oil-modified urethane varnish with less than 275 g/L VOC. Formulated at 57 percent solids, this is a true one coat product with superior gloss and excellent abrasion resistance.


Water-based finishes

Sikafloor WP-36 Finish is a water-based acrylic modified aliphatic urethane with low odor and is easy to apply. This quick drying product is non-yellowing, has excellent gloss and durability, and is MFMA approved.

Installing a gym floor is one of the most important investments an organization or educational institution can make. It’s critical that the right decisions are made from selecting material to choosing the right finishing products. Choosing the appropriate products from the start will ensure that the investment will continue to pay off for years.

Contact your Sika consultant for expert advice on choosing the best gym floor finish for your building.