From the athletic activities perspective, “You can’t do much better than hardwoodbut that is the most expensive alternative,” according to George Freebersyser, head of Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina-based AssistBasketball, a provider of basketball coaching, training, and player development services.
Freebersyser’s church (Triangle Community Church, a non-denominational, 800-member church in Apex, North Carolina) makes multiple uses of its suspended hardwood maple floor. What he describes as “a top-of-the-line, regulation-sized basketball and volleyball court” is the underpinning of a combination auditorium/gymnasium facility. The court is lined for basketball and volleyball; it also has painted markings that accommodate games/activities that are part of the AWANA children’s ministry. A stage sits at one end of the court, and a small portion of the floor lifts up to provide plug-in connections for sound equipment.
From the standpoint of providing a floor to play sports on, “Hardwood is going to be your best choice,” says Freebersyser. “It is the most forgiving when it comes to wear and tear on your athletescarpet is grabby,’ and can result in a lot of twisted ankles, while tile-on-concrete is hard on the legs.”
Maple hardwood flooring is a popular choice for church multipurpose rooms, including worship spaces, according to Dan Heney, technical director of the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association Inc. (MFMA), a Northbrook, Illinois based source of industry information about maple flooring and related sports flooring systems.
“It is light in color, so not only does it provide good contrast for game lines, but it also doesn’t darken the roominstead, it provides a cheerful feel,’ which is particularly appropriate for a room used as worship space,” Heney says.
Properly maintained, the typical maple floor will last 30 to 40 years, according to Heney. Proper maintenance includes an annual “rough-up” of the top finish and the application of a new layer of polyurethane, and a resurfacing every seven to 10 years, with the timing of both of these items adjustable depending upon usage.
As far as the cost of maple hardwood flooring, MFMA life-cycle cost comparisons reflecting original installed price plus manufacturer-recommended maintenance over a 30-year floor life show that a Northern hard maple floor runs 79 cents per square foot per year; poured urethane, $1.10; and PVC tiles, $1.15.
Suspended Polypropylene Systems
Hardwood is indeed the “Cadillac” of flooring materials, according to Mike Fisher, head of Cary, North Carolina-based Multiplay Flooring, a manufacturer and installer of suspended polypropylene interlocking tile flooring systems.
But when it comes to churches and their multipurpose rooms, “They want a floor they can not only play basketball or volleyball on, but one they can meet, eat, and roller skate on,” Fisher reports.
That’s where suspended polypropylene floor systems come in. Polypropylene is a plastic resin very similar to polyurethane, the finishing surface of a wood floor, so the traction and surface appearance is similar to that of a hardwood floor, Fisher says. The way a ball bounces on this floor, or “ball response,” is very similar to that of a hardwood floor, adds Fisher. Tiles are available in a variety of colors; the finished floor typically has a lifespan of 30 years; and these floors “can take about as much abuse as VCT tile but VCT has no resiliency, and if it gets the slightest amount of moisture on the surface, you can’t walk on it.”
In the upkeep department, “All floors need maintenanceif you don’t mop them, they aren’t going to last,” says Fisher.
Hardwood flooring is extremely susceptible to water damage, according to Fisher. “If you’re in an area where you have had water damage to a floor in the past, or can envision that it might happen in the future, the expense to repair a wood floor is extremely high and labor-intensive,” he says. On the other hand, suspended polypropylene floors are impervious to water damage, and should some tiles become damaged, repair is quickly and easily done.
Ease of maintenance and replacement; no need for screening and periodic recoating; and wood-like ball response and performance characteristics have garnered the “Floor of Choice” designations of the U.S. Volleyball Association and the NCAA for SportCourt, another brand of suspended polypropylene interlocking tile flooring, according to Robin Brinkley, owner of Moriah LLC, a Matthews, North Carolina based authorized dealer for this product and a variety of other sports flooring.
Churches using this type of flooring in a multipurpose room need to be aware that these floorsjust like their hardwood counterpartsdon’t handle heavy rolling loads (like carts on small wheels stacked with chairs), Brinkley notes.
“You need to use pneumatic tires on your carts when they are loaded up,” says Brinkley. “Hard plastic wheels put too much pressure on the floor, and can crush the surface over the course of two or three years.”
Poured Urethane Perspectives
One popular multipurpose floor option for churches is the Padenpor Multipurpose flooring system, manufactured and installed by Lancaster, Pennsylvania based Abacus Sports Installations Ltd.
A poured urethane surface available in a variety of thicknesses, Padenpor was originally designed as a sports surface. “It was originally designed as a sports floor, and has excellent ball rebound and slip resistance characteristics,” reports Abacus President Spencer Proud.
A Padenpor installation is comprised of a prefabricated rubber basemat glued to a sub floor and integrated with seamless, self-leveling polyurethane topcoats poured on top. “The rubber pad creates resilience, comfort, and safety, all very important when you are talking about athletic activities,” says Proud. At the same time, the urethane surface “is also very hard, so you get great ball rebound, the same as you get with hardwood flooring,” he adds.
The Padenpor surface also readily accommodates non-athletic uses. It is easy to maintain with simple wet-mopping or dust-mopping, according to Proud. The surface is both seamless and non-porous, making it impervious to the liquid spills that often accompany multipurpose room activities. “And even though Padenpor is a soft, resilient surface in design,” adds Proud, “the topcoats are hard, making it durable enough for use in any gathering space’ within a church.”
For churches that are combining athletic, worship, and other activities in the same large room, poured urethane is often a good choice as a multipurpose floor, in the opinion of Brad Oaster, president and founder of Colorado Springs, Colorado based Harvestime Inc., a provider of strategic and facilities planning for churches.
From the cost perspective alone, a basketball- court-sized hardwood floor is easily going to run in the neighborhood of $100,000 installed, notes Oaster. The lack of seams in the poured urethane product (compared with polypropylene interlocking tile) gives it an advantage in the aesthetics department, especially when it is used in conjunction with appropriately placed aisle carpeting at times when the space is being used for worship.
With common sense mopping and care, flooring from wood to suspended polypropylene and poured urethane can last, provide versatility, and serve a variety of needs at your church. The key is to choose a floor that matches your needs and fits well with the activities you’ll be doing atop the material.
Martin Sinderman is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.
Abacus Sports Installations Ltd.
Gym, sports and rubber flooring
(800) 821-4557 or (717) 560-8050
Strategic and facilities planning
(719) 532-0780 www.harvestime.com
Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association Inc.
(847) 480-9138 www.maplefloor.org
(704) 814-6823 www.moriahllc.com
Suspended polypropylene flooring systems
(877) 673-5667 or (919) 467-4103
(800) 727-7505 or (770) 455-7072