There are really only two materials used for dance floors; vinyl and wood. Fortunately or unfortunately, each offers a dazzling array of options, styles and colors. Before exploring those options, there are materials you should never use as a dance floor surface. They include VCT tile, plywood, Masonite, wood laminate, carpet, concrete, stone, ceramic tile and rubber. While there are even more unsuitable materials that have been used, my advice is choosing wood or vinyl.
Let’s start out with vinyl or as many prefer to say 'Marley'. The fact that the Marley Company stopped making 'Stageflor' in 1979 and that the company itself was bought out years ago has not stopped our community from calling every roll out floor Marley. The problem is in doing so it doesn’t really identify what you want and need. It is paramount to asking for a car when in fact you really need an SUV.
So first off, it is real important to detail all the activities going on in conjunction with the use of the floor. If you are in a studio, will you be holding receptions, meetings and parties there?
Vinyl floors are manufactured in very different ways; calendared, resulting in soft pliable flooring and extruded, resulting in a harder, denser floor. Soft floors are ideal for ballet, modern, lyrical, and jazz. Harder floors work well for tap, clogging, hip hop and ballroom. Denser surfaces are generally used as multi-use flooring for most commercial dance studios. The one exception is Super Timestep, soft flooring that can handle percussive dance.
Hardwood flooring and how well it works in your studio is dependent on two critical issues; what type of species of wood is being used and what type of finish is used after installation. Laminate wood is not recommended simply because it is way too slippery and there is hardly anything you can do to correct it.
Pine is very soft, while maple, oak and birch are hard. Hard is always better, especially when it come to wear and tear issues. Check the hardness of the species before investing in a hardwood floor.
Stay away from oil base finishes or any product that has oil in its name. When it comes to finishes you need to know three things:
1. How easy is it to apply and maintain;
2. How long will it last
3. How non-slip is it considering the movement activities you are planning on it.
One final consideration when it comes to wood flooring, that is temperature and humidity can impact the condition of the wood and the co-efficient of friction. Uniformity of temperature and humidity is key to consistency for wood floors.
One key element to flooring is co-efficient of friction or how slippery or sticky is the floor. Since all flooring is impacted by your environment (temperature and humidity) it can be a bit tricky. Sometimes it is not the floor that needs attention. Most dance floors can handle bare feet, pointe, and tap; despite the fact the ideal co-efficient of friction for each dance style is different. Dance floors can be adjusted after installation to comfortably fit your dance requirements. It could be a change in the cleaning product or adding a dehumidifier. Once again your flooring supplier should have the products and advice to get things close to perfect. Ballet and tap on the same floor is possible, but it may not be ideal for either. Ballet dancers like slow floors, tap dancer’s faster floors. There is a common ground and it starts with getting the correct floor. Today floors come with fiber glass lining for stability and better lie flat. Others feature foam backings with varying thickness designed to cushion the blow, or even replace building a subfloor.
Before you invest in flooring, do some homework. Get samples and prices and compare for yourself. Check out installations in your community if possible. Make sure there is plenty of tech support for installation and maintenance. Find out what else you need to buy to install your floor. You have color options and choices to make. Remember that black makes rooms look smaller and absorbs light. Very light floors will show scuff marks more readily.
Check out all the bells and whistles before diving in. Flooring is a big investment. Take your time, get the facts and be comfortable with your choices.