New gym floor shrinks to reveal large gaps

Water being applied by staff, says Klooster

The gym floor at Stark County High School has numerous gaps like this throughout the surface. The installers say it’ll improve over time.

By Jason Musselman
[email protected]

It’s well-known that wood shrinks and expands with the seasons. The wood doors in your house might stick in the summer and then become drafty in the winter. It’s all because of the moisture in the air and wood’s ability to act like a sponge.

The fibers of the wood swell when the humidity is high and then shrink when the air is drier, which is normally in the winter season. Typically construction takes in to account for those changes with expansion gaps and methods to seal the wood from the changing air.

A new gym floor was installed this past summer in Glenn Buchert Gymnasium at Stark County High School by Prostar Surfaces at a cost of $88,200. And now that it’s winter, the floor was dramatically shrunk and is showing large gaps. In some places the substructure can easily be seen.

Many have wondered if there was there an issue with the installation or the floor itself, but Superintendent Jerry Klooster says he’s been in contact with the flooring company and they state all is normal.

Prior to the final payment from the district to Prostar, a checklist of items that needed addressed was first given to Prostar and Klooster reported all of those items were successfully addressed.

Those items included an error in the logo at mid-court, which was fixed at no cost and final payment was made. The gaps become apparent afterwards.

Klooster points to the several different factors highlighted by the installers, including the heating system in the gym causing very low humidity levels and the age of the floor. The latter is because the floor has only had one coat of sealant and not yet has received the numerous coats that will eventually seal all moisture in and from the wood. The floor will be sealed again this summer as scheduled.

The district considered sealing the floor now, but in doing so they would be filling the gaps when the wood is at its smallest size. Any expansion in the summer would then cause cupping in the surface, which is far worse than the original gaps.

In the meantime, Terry Mercer and the district’s maintenance staff have been manually adding water to the wood by using a wet mop and allow the moisture to soak in. Klooster says that process has helped, but the cracks are still present.

Prior to installation the wood was left in the gym to acclimate to the room conditions, however without air conditioning those conditions were similar to the outside in June and July and the wood swelled. Most floor installations nowadays are in air conditioned spaces which lowers the humidity, shrinks the wood, and results in less change when winter arrives.

It’s unlikely the gym will be air conditioned any time soon, but the district’s plan to remedy the situation and protect their investment is underway.

One thought on “New gym floor shrinks to reveal large gaps

  • February 20, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Wood is a hygroscopic material. When exposed to varying temperatures and humidities, it will release or absorb moisture until it is at equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere.

    The Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) recommends that the facility’s environment be stable when the flooring materials arrive — air temperature between 55 and 75 degrees and indoor relative humidity between 35 and 50 percent. In some cases, the maple should be stored in the room where it will be installed for a period of time to acclimate. Consult your MFMA installer for specific acclimation information.

    After installation, maple flooring typically requires a year or two to stabilize — through a complete cycle of seasonal changes. The floor will continue to adjust to environmental changes throughout its life span.

    The appearance of shrinkage cracks during winter months is not unusual. These cracks will normally close in the spring and early summer, as the floor picks up moisture from the air. We do recommend the use of humidification/dehumidification systems if available to maintain proper humidity levels.

    If cracks persist, and the indoor atmosphere has been maintained between 55 and 75 degrees and between 35-50 percent indoor relative humidity (or no more than a 15 percent fluctuation between highest and lowest average IRH), contact your flooring installer or the MFMA immediately.

    Adding water by wet mopping the floor is NOT recommended. Water is your floor’s worst enemy. Permanent damage that includes splintering, splitting of individual pieces of wood flooring, raised or uneven sides, or cupping are likely to occur if that practice continues.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *