Why is subflooring so important?
There are three basic elements to a dance floor system; the slab, the subfloor and the floor surface. The slab, usually concrete, is your foundation. It should be level, dry and structurally sound. It should also be sealed with a vapor barrier, either a liquid or a vinyl sheeting.
The subfloor is the critical element when it comes to the displacement of energy. When a dancer jumps and lands on a solid surface, three times their body weight is returned causing fatigue and injury over time. It is flat out dangerous to dance in such an environment. Dance school owners please note if an injury occurs in such an environment, your business will be exposed to possible litigation. For the most part, it is the teachers that spend more time on that floor and are more likely to get hurt. It is not good for your students or your pocketbook to be dancing directly over or on a solid slab.
A floating wood subfloor addresses a number of safety and performance issues and helps create the proper environment in which to work. Remember that your littlest students need that protection, just as much as your top competitors.
Essentially a floating or sprung subfloor takes you off the concrete surface and puts a layer of air between you and the slab. This air pocket allows wood to flex and return safe energy to the dancer. This is called resilient energy. Trampolines and diving boards are an example of resilient energy safely returned. The use of foam in subfloors allows it to absorb additional energy, plus reduce residual vibration by absorbing energy from the vibrating wood after impact. The result is a subfloor that is both reliant (springy) and energy absorbent, along with being quiet after impact.
The top wood portion of a floating subfloor provides lateral foot support, very important for maintaining balance. You can’t dance on a trampoline because it does not have any lateral foot support. A true floating subfloor must have air under it at every surface point. Therefore, beware of using just wood to build a raised subfloor, such as plywood over two by fours. That kind of subfloor will be very hard over the two by fours and resilient between. You end up with a soft/hard floor that defeats the purpose of creating a safe dance environment.
There are all kinds of floating subfloor configurations using all kinds of materials. Some have to be built piece by piece using lots of screws, cables and other hardware devices. Others can be snapped together and cut to fit the studio. Some are permanent, others are transportable to a new location. They differ in their percentage of shock absorbance and resilience. High impact activities require a more resilient subfloor. Lower impact activities need shock absorbency. Your floating subfloor can also provide sound amplification for tap when there is air or a space between the wood and concrete. Look for the subfloor configuration that will work for you.
Floating subfloor providers should indicate the cost of materials and the time it take to put together (labor cost if others are putting it together). Know what you will be doing on your subfloor before deciding what to get. Be wary if the provider has only one kind of subfloor. It may not be right for you. And one final point. Do not dance directly on a subfloor or put a finish on it and fudge a dance floor surface. In the end you will ruin the subfloor and spend more money and effort replacing it with a proper top wear surface.