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GYMNASTICS SPRING FLOORS – THE BASICS
Spring Floors: The Basics—Spring floors are an essential part of any modern training facility. There are several types of floors on the market today. You must first choose which floor meets your needs, wood or plastic.
Plastic floor is the only gymnastics spring floor that has the durability to withstand the constant moving and are preferable for floors that move from site to site regularly. Though highly durable, this floor is extremely expensive (2-3 times the cost of wood) which makes it unrealistic for most gyms. Therefore, most gym owners will want a wood floor.
Wood floors come in two basic designs, the single and two-layer systems. There are several different types of wood and wood thicknesses used in their construction (OSB, Plywood, Baltic Birch; see below). For this reason, the basic rule of thumb is the thicker the wood, the more durable and firmer the floor will be.
SINGLE LAYER GYMNASTICS SPRING FLOORS
A single layer floor will usually be made with 5/8″- 3/4″ thick plywood and use H-channels and straps to lock the boards together. This floor is simple to take up and down, but the H-channels must follow a specific layout. Channels tend to move around, which is the downside. As a result, you will end up with soft spots over time as they shift out of place.
Additionally, the straps can stretch and allow the floorboards to slowly shift. A single layer spring floor will not stay square over a period of time and gaps may form. Every so often, you may have to adjust the floor system and tighten the straps.
DOUBLE LAYER FLOORS
First of all, two-layer floors are a little more complex to put down. This design uses a top layer of wood to cover up the seams of the bottom layer and to hold the floor together. The wood layout of both layers is critical to ensure the gymnastic spring floor works properly with no seams lining up between the two layers. Typically, you will use a 1/2″ to 5/8″ bottom layer with a 1/4″ to 1/2″ top layer. A thinner construction is preferable for recreational floors used exclusively by young children, to keep the floor softer and bouncier for their low body weights.
However, older kids, especially male teenagers, will easily be able to break this floor apart. Therefore, a thicker floor construction will be ideal for them. A wide size range of children usually use spring flooring in most gyms. To accommodate this range, gyms will typically build a more robust floor, and then use softer supplementary mats on top to keep it soft for the younger smaller kids.
A very inexpensive type of wood for construction is OSB or Chipboard. The main advantage is that the wood is inexpensive. The rather large downside is its durability. This wood is extremely weak and not ideal for spring floors. Over time, OSB or Chipboard spring floors will break up because of the lack of flexure.
Spring Floor Basics-Next Steps
Traditional plywood floors are the next step up from OSB. This wood is more expensive but is dramatically stronger than OSB. Plywood has a better ability to flex without breaking apart like OSB. However, plywood suffers from a lack of clean wood. There are a lot of knots, gaps, and cracks within the wood, which weaken it over time, causing the floor to break apart. Although it won’t break as quickly as OSB, you will tend to have broken boards every 2-3 years.
Russian Baltic Birch is the new wood standard for spring floors. This wood is more expensive than traditional plywood, but the life-span is much longer due to its unique construction. The single layer uses 15mm thick wood while the two layers use 9mm. The main difference in this wood is that the birch is a very clean and flexible wood. There are almost no cracks, knots, holes or gaps in the wood layers as you find with traditional plywood. Additionally, the 9mm (about the same as 3/8″ plywood) has 7 plys/layers of wood per sheet, while traditional 3/8″ plywood only has 3 plys/layers. These 7 plys/layers give the wood incredible strength and flexibility compared to traditional plywood. You will not see broken boards for probably 5-10 years depending upon usage level.
Note that this spring floor’s two outer edges are equipped with a sloping border while the other two butt up against walls. It is crucial the gymnastics spring floor not shift and move away from the walls–and therein lies a true challenge. When a number of people are moving in the same direction on a standard spring floor or landing simultaneously near its edge, that floor can “hop”–even over top of a retention wall. Read more about the US MARINE CORPS Camp Pendleton project.
ATTACHMENT TYPES (DOUBLE LAYER FLOOR)
The most common attachment type is Velcro. The major problem with Velcro is that it’s nearly impossible to get the top layer of wood together tightly because of the way Velcro works. This makes for gaps between the boards, slightly weakening the floor. It can also be a real pain to take apart the layers.
Decking screws are a very easy and economical way to attach the layers together. Customers that use screws for assembly have the advantage of an extremely fast assembly and break-down (even faster than Velcro). You get extremely tight seams between the sheets. You simply put 2-3 screws in each corner of the top boards. The downside is that screws, over time, can come undone or break.
The last method is bolts w/ togglers. This method is more time-consuming to install, but they will never break. The bolts will need to be retightened every few years but will last as long as the floor does. Only use this method if the floor is staying down. It would be extremely hard to take the floor apart and move. If you move the floor and reinstall, it would be extremely hard to line up the holes again for the bolts. Additionally, togglers cannot be reused; so new ones would need to be purchased at a cost of about $400 for a floor.