Indoor Sports Floors FAQ

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Like all projects, the development of indoor sports facilities can be complex, whether creating a new facility or upgrading existing surfaces. As well as the different types of flooring and construction that exist there is a multitude of different products to choose from, offering a wide variety of performance characteristics, so that individual sports facilities can be designed for the range of use and levels of play that are needed.

There are different Standards that can be used, as well as specific technical requirements that are recommended for individual sports by their governing bodies. These are usually based on accepted test methods, developed to measure and specify the most important performance requirements – such as friction, shock absorption, deformation and ball behaviour.

When managing an indoor sports project it is also important to consider other key factors, such as ongoing maintenance requirements, longevity, warranties and costs, as well as the choice of specialist contractor to employ.

The following guidance, in the form of Frequently Asked Questions, provides a useful introduction to the subject, for all those considering indoor sports projects. More detailed advice and support can be provided by the many SAPCA member companies that specialise in indoor sports floors, whether as independent consultants, approved contractors, or manufacturers and suppliers of indoor surfaces.

Please use the Find a Member section to identify which companies are able to help you.

What are the main types of indoor sports floor in terms of actual materials?

There are four main types of material used for indoor sports flooring projects – Vinyl, Timber (engineered or solid), Linoleum and Polyurethane. Depending on the sports performance requirements, the playing surface maybe installed directly onto a concrete substrate giving a point elastic floor, or maybe installed onto a batten or sprung undercarriage to create an area elastic or combined elastic sprung system.

What do the following terms mean? Area elastic (A), point elastic (P) and combined elastic (C) and mixed elastic (M)

How a sports floor surface responds to athletic movement, can be used to classify (term) its elastic properties through the relative area of vertical deflection when a downward force is applied to the surface. The most common types of flooring are area elastic and point elastic, however, there are combined elastic and mixed elastic flooring systems which combine the properties of area elastic and point elastic flooring within a single product.

Area Elastic flooring is generally synonymous with “sprung” systems which comprise timber battens and/or shock absorbing pads or elastic layers to create a sprung undercarriage or base on to which a clients chosen playing surface can be installed. The Vertical deflection/shock absorption occurs over a large area when a downward force is applied, dispersing energy farther across the surface, hence the term A3/A4 Area Elastic.

Point elastic surfaces include products where the area of deflection is much smaller than in area elastic systems and the impact is contained within a localised area. The flooring absorbs the impact at the point of impact rather than spreading the load, hence the term P1-3 point elastic.

Due to the need for multi-sport/multi-use arenas where the use of heavy equipment or seating systems are a common requirement, solid playing surfaces are combined with an area elastic sprung substructure/base to provide high indentation resistance. Point elastic resilient playing surfaces can also be combined with a sprung area elastic base, leading to the term C3/C4 combined elastic.

Point elastic surfaces with a rigid non-timber stiffening layer gives an area elastic feel and are referred to a mixed elastic product. In the UK market these flooring systems are not common.

What are the most important criteria to consider when selecting an indoor sports floor?

The four main considerations for the selection of an indoor sports floor are the follow:

  1. What combination of sports are being considered for the surface and is the hall going to be considered for multi-use or as a sport specific venue?
  2. What level of sport will be required for the surface ie, community level or in some cases international level?
  3. What is the age profile of the users and their requirements from a performance point of view?
  4. Are there any non-sporting requirements (leisure centre, school sports hall) such as exams or community events.

Once these questions have been considered and answered, products and sport specific requirements can be discussed, and a suitable surface type chosen. Other things that should be considered initially include:

  1. Will the facility be hosting a large amount of elite level disability sport?
  2. Does the hall have or plan to have underfloor heating?
  3. Does one sport take priority over all others?
  4. Many projects have numerous stakeholders investing time and money, do any of these stakeholders have guidelines that should be met? These could include Sports Governing Bodies, offices such as Department of Education/Education and Skills Funding Agency.
  5. What are the ongoing maintenance costs of the installed surface, and might this affect any warranty given and the longevity of the performance of the floor?
  6. What is your initial installation and annual maintenance budget?
  7. If you are planning a refurbishment will the renovated floor be compliant with EN14904?

You should ensure that any floor that is to be used for multi-sport should comply with EN14904 (see next question).

What standards exist for indoor sports floors?

Many international and national governing bodies such as FIFA for Futsal and FIBA for Basketball, have standards for indoor flooring which have specific requirements for that individual sport. At a community sports facility in the UK the surface will need consider multisport use and therefore the sports floor will need to comply with EN 14904 Surfaces for sports areas – Indoor surfaces for multi-sports use – Specification. This is a European Standard which covers all flooring used in a multi-sport setting throughout Europe.

In the UK market, it is currently a legal requirement that multisport floors comply with the requirements of EN 14904. SAPCA also notes that despite the UK no longer being part of the EU, this requirement remains in place, and we not see this changing in the short – medium term.

In EN 14904 the testing categories generally fall under performance, safety and construction tests. In order to confirm compliance with the standard, products are tested in a laboratory. A number of verification tests can also be carried out on completed installations if applicable.

  • On the performance requirements these can be described as user – surface or ball – surface interaction.
  • On the safety requirements these can be described by things like Resistance to Fire.
  • On the construction requirements these can be described by things like the Surface Evenness of the sports flooring.

Do individual sports have specific preferences or requirements for types of indoor sports surfaces?

Yes, different sports require different performance requirements based on the player and ball surface interaction. For information on these requirements please visit the relevant sport’s governing body website.

What are the most important performance requirements for indoor sports floors?

The most important performance tests for multi-use indoor sports floors are listed below and generally constitute the test programme of BS EN 14904:2006 Surfaces for sports areas – Indoor surfaces for multi-sports use. In addition, many sport specific performance standards will reference some of these methods as part of their own requirements.

  • Friction Road and airfield surface characteristics. Test methods. Method for measurement of slip/skid resistance of a surface: The pendulum test EN 13036-4.
  • Determination of Shock absorption EN 14808.
  • Reaction to fire; Reaction to fire tests —Ignitability of building products subjected to direct impingement off lame — Part 2: Single-flame source test EN ISO 11925-2:2002.
  • Degree of evenness EN 13036-7.
  • Determination of the effects of a small source of ignition on textile floor coverings (hot metal nut method) BS 4790:1987.
  • Content of Pentachlorophenol (PCP) in sports floor coverings shall be extracted with a potassium carbonate solution and analysed quantitatively according to EN 12673.
  • Determination of Vertical deformation EN 14809.
  • Determination of Vertical ball behaviour EN 12235.
  • Determination of Specular reflectance EN 13745.
  • Determination of Specular Gloss EN ISO 2813.
  • Resistance to a rolling load EN 1569.
  • Resistance to wear Determination of abrasion resistance. Taber abrader EN ISO 5470.
  • Formaldehyde emission EN 717-1 / EN717-2.
  • Resistance to indentation EN 1516.
  • Resistance to impact EN 1517.
  • General visual inspection, dimensions – Court marking. layout.

Is it important to ensure an indoor sports floor has been tested to meet specific standards?

In the UK market, testing of indoor sport floors is not carried to the same level of testing carried out on outdoor sports facilities. Generally speaking, the design and specification of outdoor sports facility construction has been led by specialist sport consultants often using sport specific performance specifications. In the case of indoor sports surfacing projects, non-sport specialist architects will be engaged in the building design and the sports flooring specification will often state compliance with EN 14904. There will not be a specified testing requirement, simply compliance with the relevant standard.

Testing of an installed floor for parameters such as Shock Absorbency, Vertical Deformation, Energy Restitution, Ball Rebound or Surface Evenness could highlight imperfections in the installation of the flooring caused by poor workmanship as an example and should often be considered to ensure a high-quality construction.

Which surfaces can be applicable for multi-sports use?

All surfaces from reputable suppliers and SAPCA members can be deemed as multi-sport floors. Consideration should be given that some sports have specific performance requirements so there will often be an element of compromise for other sports using that surface.

EN 14904 is the European standard for indoor sports flooring and principally covers the use of all sports halls used for a multiple number of sports. Non-sporting use also needs to be considered. If a hall is being used for a sole sport it is relatively common that EN14904 be replaced by very sport specific guidelines.

Which surfaces are suitable for disability use?

Like all sports, a floor cannot be perfect for all sports, including wheelchair sport and other disabled sport. It is worth remembering that not all disabled sport is wheelchair sport. Point elastic floors will have a resistance to rolling loads so will not be ideal for higher level wheelchair sports making area elastic the preferred option for these higher levels. Point elastic floors have a higher level of comfort making them more suitable for sitting sports.

How are indoor sports floors constructed or installed?

The method of installation varies depending on the system. An area or combined elastic system can be made up of components that allow it to be adjusted and therefore installed on concrete substrate which is not perfectly even. This system of battens and pads is laid over a concrete substrate with the playing surface fixed to the under carriage.

Point Elastic floors can be laid in several ways but are generally fixed to a concrete substrate or levelling screed using adhesive. The use of an isolator membrane means that some point elastic and area elastic systems can overlay existing old sports floors without the need for uplift and disposal costs. Some products or systems can combine with specific adhesives or damp isolation products to be installed on to sub-floors that would be deemed damp.

Installation methods vary as does the installation time. A generic Pad and PU can be installed from 3 days on depending on area size. Whilst surfaces are generally bonded to the substrate, some products can be loose laid.

How long do indoor sports floors last?

The lifespan of the flooring product can vary and, in that lifespan will require different levels of maintenance. For example, an area elastic floor with a natural finish may have a longer life but will require significantly more maintenance than a purely synthetic surface. It should also be noted that the lifespan of a floor will be very different to the warranty period.

A typical timber floor may last 25 years, and synthetic floors are routinely found in service 20 years after installation however, these surfaces would have had

Synthetic surfaces have a warranty of between 5 years and 12 years typically however they also can have a life expectancy of 20 – 30 years. PU surfaces require surface refurbishment throughout this life expectancy therefore this must be factored into the life cycle costs and client expectation.

The typical time before a synthetic sports floor will need some attention is between 5-10 years depending on usage and maintenance. A simple recoat of colour is a basic and minimal cost that can give a new lease of life into the surface. For a more worn and used surface a PU self-levelling layer can be applied to cover more extensive wear patterns. This is completed with a colour coat and re application of the desired line markings. This can give a further 5-10 years of use on the surface.

What is a common warranty for an indoor surface?

  • Point Elastic = 10-12 years
  • Area Elastic with timber = 25 years
  • Area Elastic with solid linoleum or synthetic / sprung base 25 years and playing surfaces as per point elastic.

What is an operations & maintenance manual and why is it important retain safety and sports functional performance?

Sports surfacing should be supplied with an operations and maintenance manual and training specific to that product. In some circumstances the maintenance maybe carried out by the installer or manufacturer under contract however it may also be carried out by a local subcontractor. In any event the maintenance should be done in line with the guidance in the O & M manual to ensure the flooring maximises its life expectancy and the product warranty is not breached.

It is common to have some indoor flooring surfaces cleaned from debris, sanded, varnished, polished, lacquered to improve the sports functional and safety properties. One example being slip resistance.

Guidance on the finer maintenance details is usually provided with examples being (not exclusive to); Approved products, machines & application pressure, product application rates, product application techniques, and general maintenance conditions (Humidity / Temperature).

In addition, a maintenance log would normally be provided but in the event, it is not a working log should be opened. This allows a historical record of venue maintenance that can be correlated versus usage and assessed prior to further undertaken works.

Are indoor sports floors easy to maintain?

As a rule, yes but guidance can easily be given for different types of surfaces. General cleaning advice can be obtained from the flooring manufacturer and providing those floors are regularly cleaned and treated more significant maintenance shouldn’t be required until surface renovation or re-coating is required.

Each floor type is different. Natural floors whether they be engineered, or solid timber will need routine maintenance like sanding and re-coating that should be budgeted for and time allocated. Synthetic floors tend to be maintenance free aside from the following of cleaning guidelines.

All floors will need to have game lines remarked at some point in their lifespan.

What methods should be used in the maintenance of indoor sports floors?

Manufacturers provide detailed maintenance packages that are easy to follow, along with details for aftercare products and treatments. This information will be in the Operations and Maintenance Manual.

Is there specific machinery to be used in the maintenance of indoor sports flooring?

A sports floor can be a major investment; therefore, it would make sense to invest in the maintenance for that floor. Investment in an automatic floor washer, be it self-propelled or ride on will mean it is unlikely for third party cleaning specialists to be needed. Should the funds not be available for specific equipment, daily maintenance of sweeping to reduce dust build up is essential and combined with periodic visits from specialist contractors for deeper cleans to remove contaminants should provide a good package of care.

Can incorrect maintenance cause issues with the validity of warranties?

Generally, warranties from most companies will have stipulations to ensure the operators have maintained the sports floor to the required level. If the floor is in a poor condition, it will normally be apparent if a lack of basic maintenance has not been undertaken.

As an example, the use of incorrect cleaning equipment can effect the general performance of the surface or could have more specific issues like a loss of colour or premature wear that could impact on slip resistance. On the materials side of things, excess water, bad cleaning methods, strong or incorrect chemicals (with high bleach, acid or PH content) or abrasive pads could cause damage to the flooring, which could impact on the validity of the warranty.

What are the typical costs of the different indoor sports floors?

Prices can vary from project to project due to varying site conditions and construction methods as well as the sports performance and non-sporting requirements. The different types of surfaces and systems can often be found for similar installed costs. It is important to remember to look at the complete project costs should a new floor mean that other remedial or preparation works are needed to create a smooth level surface. It is worth noting that each project can be so different that the best next step is to have site surveys carried out by recognised SAPCA manufacturers and installers. It is worth noting that the true costs of sports floors are both the installation and future maintenance costs over a fixed period.