Innovative Options for Creating Color on Gym Floors

With the newer technology in the gym coating business, we were able to add color without painting the floor during this recoat.
With the newer technology in the gym coating business, we were able to add color without painting the floor during this recoat.

The sports floor industry is seeing an increased demand for different looks when it comes to color on sport courts. To achieve these special looks, some contractors are now using pigmented sealers and finishes to add color to gym floors. Even though this is not a new idea, newer technologies are expanding what is possible on a wood floor.

The latest in gym floor color

Customer demand was exceeding the limitations of traditional products, which prompted some manufacturers of gym finish products to now offer options that combine two products to create unique ways to achieve colors.

With the newer processes with color, contractors are adding pigments to their coatings to suspend color in the finish. Some are using paints in their sealers or clear stain; others are adding stains to their sealers or finishes. Some of these combinations are creating vibrant colors, which, when added to sealers, build coats, or even topcoats, offer tremendous versatility.

With manufacturers expanding their color palettes, contractors now have new possibilities to meet the customers' demand. The newer methods being developed are more fade-resistant compared to methods used in the past, such as tints and dyes that may have looked good on application but did not maintain their color over time.

A gym world without paint?

With these newer techniques, contractors can eliminate the need for traditional paint coats on a gym floor, and we all know that paint is generally at the core of many of the issues contractors run into when working on a gym: delayed dry times, bonding, peeling and bubbling.

Another benefit to using these newer methods is that when the color is suspended in the finish and applied over a sealed floor, the pigment will not penetrate deep into the wood. This means you can save time by saying goodbye to sanding red stain off of maple, for example. And because it helps reduce sanding, it saves the life of the gym floor.

The final result: a vibrant purple achieved solely by recoating the floor.The final result: a vibrant purple achieved solely by recoating the floor.

A recent job: adding color during a recoat

We recently had an opportunity to show a contractor how to implement one of these new concepts. A school had contacted the contractor to refinish the floor and add updated graphics. Unfortunately, after evaluating the floor, the contractor decided the gym floor was too worn and could not be sanded again. It had been sanded too many times over the years, and now nail heads were visible throughout the floor. If the school wanted to update the look of the floor, the only option they had was to completely remove and replace the floor. Budget restrictions would not allow this replacement, so the contractor was forced to seek a different option.

To show this contractor how he could update the floor through only a recoat process, we accompanied him to the job site. The first step was to thoroughly clean and abrade the existing finish. Next, we laid out the areas to be highlighted. The school system had requested the addition of a purple-stained look inside the three-point area. To accomplish this, we taped out the arches and created a ¾ inch reveal so the new color wouldn't be touching their existing purple game lines, helping to define them.

While the floor was being revamped, the coach also requested adding volleyball court lines. By leaving the new lines as the natural floor color, it allowed them to be highly visible through the key. Preparing and taping the floor only took a half day, and then we began applying tint coats of water-based finish with water-based stain mixed in.

An important tip for even color

The secret to getting a uniform, transparent look with this technique is through multiple tinted coats. We are finding that using a lower mix ratio on the first coat will better hide applicator marks. To create a deeper color, add a higher mix ratio on your additional coats if needed. As I mentioned, we needed to create a purple stain color. To achieve this, we mixed two parts deep red to one part blue stain. For the first coat, we used 3 oz. (approximately 2%) of stain per gallon of finish.

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Once the moisture reading was within 1 point of where we had started, we then applied the second coat of tinted finish again with 3 oz. of purple stain per gallon of finish mixed in. The school requested a deeper color; they wanted an "LSU purple." To make the color deeper, we bumped the ratio to 4 oz. (approx. 3%) of purple stain per gallon on our third and final coat. Of course, a benefit of using water-based product is quick dry times—all of these steps were completed in one day. To finish the project, we returned the next day and applied two topcoats of a two-component water-based gym finish over the entire floor.

One highlight of this project was seeing the amazed looks from the kids at the school as they peeked in the doors of their gym. They could not believe they were watching the floor be completely transformed in just two days. Because it was a fully water-based system, the school did not have to shut down nor did they have to air out the building due to odors. With this high-end, two-component finish, they could start playing on the floor as early as 24 hours after the job was completed. This was a huge contrast to their only other option: Ripping out the entire floor, replacing it, sanding it, painting it, and coating it. This gym could have easily been out of service for at least a month.

Options for residential, too

This method is not something that will resolve every situation, but is a nice option to have in your toolbox. In addition to the obvious benefits to gym floors, residential application options are limited only by your imagination. Is the homeowner ready for a color change? Using this method, a screen and recoat can achieve that look. Maybe they want a special accent such as a border or medallion. These can be added to the floor with the use of this new method.

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