Schools wrestling with the problems of updating sports facilities often hit a notorious trouble-spot when they come to consider surfaces. Should indoor sports halls have a sprung-wood floor or a power-floated concrete floor with a multi-surface carpet cover?
Most secondary schools have a sports hall that is used for other purposes, so the finished surface and substratum (the concrete beneath it) must satisfy both the school's sports and curriculum requirements and the evening badminton club. Often, you will end up having to make a series of compromises.
The first thing you should do is get hold of a copy of the Sports Council's guidance notes, Surfaces Indoor Multi-Sports (Pounds 3). One of the best finishes is multi-surface sheet flooring, which can be plastic, rubber, lino or cork. It ranges from an overall thickness of 2mm to 15mm. A recommended supplier is Sports Surfaces UK, which produces Uni-Turf, a 6mm floor surface with an underlay of 6mm.
Underlay is important for shock absorbing and is easier on feet and knee joints. Such material reduces muscle fatigue and strains associated with repeated impact.
Multi-surface sheet flooring is textured, which allows players to grip the surface, so that running and turning is easier. If you fall over, it doesn't hurt as much as other surfaces either. But games players will notice that the ball bounces at a lower angle than on a harder surface.
If you don't want a plastic look, there are smart-looking sprung, or semi-sprung, wooden floors. These are laid on joists or pads that allow the floor to deflect heavy loads, making it easier on feet and knee joints.
A sprung floor is generally hard-wearing but is not good if it gets soaked; water makes it expand and lift, and if there is not a damp resistant membrane, moisture from under the floor could also affect it. Recommended suppliers include Granwood, Junkers and Tarkett.
Whatever the surface, the floor colour needs to contrast with the line markings. These should not confuse. The dominant sport (basketball, tennis or whatever) should come first. You will need to think about the colour of the balls to be used, too.
One of the advantages of a wooden floor is that lines can be stuck on with coloured tape, which is quick and allows immediate play. For multi-surface floors, you will need a special paint as the colour needs to impregnate the textured surface. (It takes a few days to dry.) Installing a new sports floor is a huge job. Funding, contractor's obligations, meeting British Standard specifications and, not least of all, cost needs to be taken into account. For a hall of around 600sq metres, you are looking at a bill of around Pounds 35,000, excluding VAT and professional fees. This would cover the costs of laying adequate foundations and installation. Extras, such as raising the door thresholds to accommodate the surface, or problems involving contractor's access (if the work is being done in term time), will also need to be taken into account.
* Sports Council Tel: 0171 388 1277
Education Show stand H7
* Suppliers Granwood Tel: 01773 606060
Junkers Tel: 01376 517512
Sports Surfaces UK Tel: 01244 3212000
Tarkett Tel: 01753 084533