Well, this is a Great question! We will attempt an answer:
Like any other product the longevity of a gym floor will depend on several factors, such as:
How well it is cared for?
how hard it is used?
has it ever suffered a flood?
Is there a good reason to replace it?
These are just a few things that effect the service life of a gymnasium floor.
This is the Doremus Gymnasium on the University of Virginia Campus. It was built in 1915, it has been recently sanded and repainted and is still being used on a daily basis after more than 100 years.
As pictured above, there are many examples in this country of 100 + year old gyms. However, they are the exception, not the rule.
The MFMA (Maple Flooring Manufactures Association) says that 25/32nd (3/4”) Maple Gymnasium Floor should last 75 years.
While I do not dispute this number in principle, in practice there is more to this story. Roofs leak, fire suppression sprinklers turn on, toilets overflow, pipes burst, fires occur, and buildings are deemed surplus and torn down. Sometimes improper equipment is used to do overhead maintenance work, inadvertently damaging the gym floor. (to name just a few of the reasons that gym floors end their life cycle early)
The following is an excerpt from the MFMA website: “In 1997, MFMA statistics showed that less than one percent of replacement floors were necessitated by depleted wear surface on the existing floor. Floors are far more commonly replaced due to flooding, improper facility maintenance and even building demolition/replacement than are replaced due to the “wearing out” of the surface.”
Granted this study is 25 years old, but my guess is that an updated study would confirm this trend is still largely unchanged.
Furthermore, technology moves ahead, the MFMA member flooring mills have done fabulous work in designing and engineering floor systems that provide athletes with safety and excellent biomechanics.
Working with Sports medicine experts, engineers, and basketball programs, todays floors offer the athlete superior lower extremity protection. (hips, knees, ankles)
The floor system below is from Connor Sports, it is the VIP II. It features vibration control pads on 2 levels to increase athlete comfort and safety.
The Action Concord Ultra is another example of a high-performance sport floor.
The Action Concorde Ultra floor system features a factory fabricated subfloor system with recycled polymer anchoring T-block retainers for vibration control, vertical athletic deflection, and horizontal expansion. Continuous 5/8” strip foam, combined with all-natural rubber pads, provides optimum ball rebound, vibration dampening, and uniform playability while maximizing the athletes’ comfort, safety, and performance.
My point in demonstrating these modern highly engineered floors is this:
Another significant reason why gym floors are removed prior to the absolute end of their life is technology. Older floors are typically firm, many systems have no padding or pads that hardened with age. Newer floors provide better shock absorption AND vibration control. These features help to keep today’s athletes healthier with increased performance.
What lies ahead?
Technology in gymnasium floors will continue to improve the performance and safety aspects of the floor systems. As I am writing this HIC (head injury criteria) specifications are being written and gym floor designs are being tested with the goal of limiting concussions on Maple gym floors. The following video discusses the work being done to address HIC in gymnasium flooring. https://youtu.be/EihMn61rCtw
As technological innovations improve gymnasium floor designs, some institutions will elect to upgrade their floor systems. This will have the effect of shortening the overall life span of gymnasium floors, particularly competition courts.
So, there is good news: A facility that takes good care of their gym floor, will likely get the 75 years of useful life out of it. Generally, if the floor is damaged by floor or fire, insurance will pay to replace it. Meaning that facility owners will still get to the 75 years (or beyond) on the original investment.
And more good news: A Maple gymnasium floor can be recoated annually to bring back its original luster and shine. After another number of years (usually 8-12) the gymnasium floor can be sanded back to the raw Maple and then be re stained, re painted, sealed & finished. Bringing the floor back to a near new condition again and again!
This floor is 50 plus years old, was sanded & re painted & looks better than it did new!
Whether the goal of your facility is great value from a long lifespan or keeping up with the newest technology to maintain athlete health & performance. Maple gymnasium floors offer owners, athletes, and the public: proven performance, beauty, and longevity!!