When my kids were young, I cringed every time I watched them play basketball at their elementary school gym. Like many schools built 20+ years ago, there were no affordable sports flooring options, so many schools were value engineered with VCT. Vinyl Composite Tile, otherwise known as kitchen tile by yours truly, seemed to be the go-to product everywhere in schools because it was cheap. Unfortunately, it often found its way into gyms and multipurpose rooms, which was a nightmare for students. Imagine sprinting down a shiny VCT floor in your Nikes and then trying to stop quickly. Back of your head, say hello to rock hard kitchen tile, and wave to your friends as you’re carted off to the nurse’s office.

Gaining Traction

Back in the day, the common choices for a gym floor were wood, VCT, carpet, traditional linoleum, or simply concrete. Wood was and still is the dominant choice for high schools and upper education, but there wasn’t much thought given to floors in the K-8 segment. Thankfully, there are floors manufactured today that are designed specifically for sports, physical activity and multipurpose use for all ages. They have high shock absorption values for safety and comfort, proper ball rebound, and — perhaps most importantly — the right levels of friction.

Give A Little, Gain A Lot

So what is the “right” level of friction? Well, it depends on the sport or activity. A weight room needs high levels of friction for stability while lifting weights, so rubber flooring is the best choice. However, rubber is too tacky for a gymnasium or multipurpose room. Using the example of running down the court in your Nikes, replace that VCT with rubber and your head will still meet the floor. But instead of falling backwards, you’ll fall forward because rubber has no “give” to it, so you will stop on a dime and pitch forward, or twist an ankle or knee. The right friction for a gymnasium has a bit of give to it so any user, regardless of age or ability, can stop without tripping, pivot without sliding, and fall or dive without fear of skin burns. A newly finished hardwood maple gym floor is a great example. The problem there is that the finish wears down over time, creating inconsistencies in the surface friction. And wood is expensive to own, but that’s a topic for another article.

Technology to the Rescue

Today’s resilient floors are extremely popular. Everywhere you look there are new materials and designs popping up in new construction and renovations, and sports flooring is no different. Cushioned sport vinyl like Omnisports is just one great example of a surface that provides excellent performance properties for sports at an affordable price. Omnisports has the right friction for sports and physical activity. And unlike wood, its finish does not wear down or have to be recoated. It is a permanent PU treatment that is baked on during manufacturing, ensuring durability and consistent playability for a long time.

But don’t take my word for it. Many sports floors are tested for their performance through independent labs for compliance with ASTM F2772, the North American standard for indoor sports flooring. The performance criteria includes shock absorption, vertical deformation, ball rebound, and friction. The F2772 standard labels friction as Surface Finish Effect. The acceptable range is between 80-110 per the testing methodology, and anything outside of this range is considered too tacky or too slippery. It is a pass/fail test. Omnisports passes the friction test, as well as the other three tests, and is therefore considered an ASTM F2772 certified system for indoor sports. In other words, it is ideal for basketball, volleyball and other activities that involve running, jumping, pivoting, and diving.

So What Gives? My Floor is Slippery!

Why is it, then, that facility owners sometimes complain that their sports floor is slippery? They invested in a great product that was formulated to have the proper sports friction, yet users complain about sliding and maybe even falling. What gives?

Assuming that the surface is a high quality indoor sports floor like Omnisports and not LVT or other flooring not designed for sports, then the reason the surface is slippery almost always is the result of no maintenance or improper maintenance. Omnisports never needs to be waxed, coated or refinished, but it does need to be cleaned. There is no such thing as a “maintenance free” surface. If the surface has a layer of dirt and dust, or if there is residue from cleaning solutions left on the floor, then the friction levels can be affected.

Have you ever been driving down a road during a rainstorm and your vehicle suddenly started to swerve or slide? Even though the tires usually have great traction, the water on the road’s surface can create a hydroplaning effect, leading to a loss of contact with the road and causing the vehicle to slip and slide. Although not as dramatic, when there is a substance on a gym floor’s surface that creates a barrier between sneakers and the floor, there can be a loss of friction and an increase in slipping and sliding.

The Right Solution

To keep Omnisports — or any gymnasium sports floor — performing at its best and minimize slipperiness, the surface must be clean. Here are general guidelines to follow for Omnisports. For other surfaces, please be sure to contact the product manufacturer for best practices:

  • Dust mop daily, or as often as needed, with a clean, dry dust mop or broom. Do not use oil-treated mops as they will leave a residue, which will affect friction. In high traffic areas it may be necessary to mop between events. In addition to traditional mops or brooms, Court Clean or similar systems are effective and fast
  • Scrub the floor with an auto scrubber using a white nylon pad and diluted neutral pH cleaners. Vacuum the dirty water and let dry. A mop and bucket with cleaning solutions can be used instead, but most gyms are too large for this method.
  • Less is more. Using too much cleaning solution can leave a residue on the surface, which could affect the surface friction. Tip: look at your game lines. If they are hazy, then that’s a sign there is a residue from cleaning solutions.
  • Use high quality walk-off mats to remove as much dirt and dust as possible from shoes as people enter the room. This will help keep the floor clean between maintenance sessions.
  • Limit the accesses to the room to reduce the introduction of debris. Some facilities have many doors leading into a gym from exteriors, hallways and classrooms, which makes it difficult to keep the floor clean if they are all used

That’s it! These simple and fast procedures will keep your floor performing at its best for many years and keep the friction at the ideal level. Your mileage may vary with other sports flooring systems.

For more information about Omnisports, other Tarkett Sports indoor sports surfaces, floor maintenance, industry standards, samples, or pricing, please click on this link to find your area Tarkett Sports representative: https://www.tarkettsportsindoor.com/find-an-expert

David Rosenthal

Regional Sales Manager, South Central United States