Timber or Vinyl surfaces for Dance Floors?
Many dancers trained on the strip timber floors of their local church, scout or masonic hall.
Generally, these floors gave adequate, if inconsistent, shock absorption and injuries were limited.
Performance stages were generally of similar construction, and with the exception of hard spots caused by trap doors, dip traps, and revolve machinery, slipperiness was an ongoing issue. From the 1970s on when Tarkett Dansflor or Marley became available touring with a PVC overlay “dance mat” became the norm.
Timber has its advantages; it is aesthetically pleasing and remains the preference for ballroom, folk, and social dance. Timber floors lend themselves to multi-purpose use, high traffic by the general public, and percussive dance such as tap, clogging and Irish. There may also be heritage and aesthetic considerations, which they will appease.
On the down side there is the risk of splinters, unevenness, and protruding nails. As pointed out in the excellent Ausdance Safe dance floors article, https://ausdance.org.au/articles/details/safe-dance-floors, they also require a high degree of maintenance and regular recoating. This and the need for consistent slip resistance treatment is the reason most professional dancers defer to a vinyl overlay on top of the wood.
Where timber is used Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_surface tells us;
“A wood surface is ideal for social dancing if maintained properly and is also standard for many indoor sports. Engineered wood is normally used nowadays for wood flooring as it is less liable to warp or shrink and is more economic. Tap dance is especially punishing and a tough hardwood surface like oak or maple is preferred for any regular use. Vinyl is generally a better choice for other types of dance or more general community use.”
In the absence of standards and tests which relate specifically to dance floors, and due to the fact that sports floors share the same requirements of a dance floor in encouraging optimum performance and safety, dance floor installers, if not governed by, are at least guided by the German standard DIN 18032 part 2 and more lately EN14904. These standards concern themselves correctly with force reduction (shock absorption), vertical deflection, area deflection, and resistance to a rolling load. However it is a common misconception that a sports floor will suit the needs of dancers.
In their “Guide to Architects” https://aus.harlequinfloors.com/uploads/3/downloads/Architects_Guide_-_AUS_-_LR2.pdfHarlequin a world leader in dance floors point out;
“here are two differences: in the construction of the sprung sub-floor and the performance surface. Many think that dancers have the same requirements as athletes when it comes to floor criteria. Sprung floors for sport are tested for adequate ball bounce and athletes require a high degree of energy return – i.e. spring. Evidently, dancers have little interest in ball bounce and are focussed on a combination of shock absorption and energy return.”
The same guide points out that conventional wooden floors have inconsistencies of area and point elasticity, which are unavoidable owing to their construction.
It is not by chance that the majority of studios not primarily concerned with percussive dance styles or ballroom choose a sprung floor option with a vinyl overlay. The choices within these are numerous and a Reference Guide can be found at http://www.stmstudiosupplies.com/pdf/VinylQuickReference.pdf
The decision is ultimately yours and effectively comes down to appearance and high maintenance over practicality and ease of performance.
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