You and your teachers and students are on your studio floor every minute they are dancing. Your floor is the most important piece of equipment you have and probably the most expensive. It can keep you safe, sound and even enhance endurance and performance. These are just some of the reasons it is important to be an informed consumer when shopping for flooring. There are four distinctive elements you should consider that go into making your "ideal" flooring system. Understand that "ideal" is not the same for everyone. The ideal ballroom floor is not the ideal ballet floor.
First thing you need to do is determine all the activities that will take place in the studio. That information will play an important role in determining the type of floor surface and subfloor required to meet your needs.
The four keys to getting the floor right are: lateral foot support, co-efficiency of friction, shock absorbency and maintenance. The first three issues are addressed when you select and install the flooring system. Maintenance is forever.
The term "floating subfloor" is used to designate the method and means of having a flooring system that absorbs shock from the countless jumps and hops executed by staff and students. If you are dancing on a hard unyielding surface, the impact to your body is three times your body weight. The result is fatigue, chronic pain and injury.
The floating subfloor gets rid of this excess impact two ways; it absorbs or wicks away energy through movement and transference. In other words the high density foam used in floating subfloors compresses. The second way to dissipate impact is the safe return of reliant energy. This occurs when the wood flexes and springs back, transferring non impact energy to the dancer. That is what gives you that "springy" feeling. Together, absorbent and reliant materials combine to reduce the impact on the body by about 50%. Floors are either energy absorbent/reliant or they are not. There is no rating for impact on the human body. So beware of claims of "more" or the "most reliant/absorbent". Either the floor is or is not energy compatible for the human body.
Lateral foot support relates to balance. You can balance on a smooth, level firm surface such as wood. You cannot balance on a trampoline. The ability of a floor to provide support for the foot, while balancing, is called lateral foot support. A gym mat may be safe to jump on, but it's a tough surface on which to balance, and balance has a lot to do with your ability to dance. If you dance directly over foam, you will have less lateral foot support than if working over a suspended wood surface. Remember we are talking about subfloors, not a wear layer or top surface which can be vinyl, hardwood or engineered wood.
For every style of dance there is a different co-efficiency of friction. Better to describe a floor's co-efficiency of friction as slow or fast, rather than slippery or sticky. Faster floors are ideal for ballroom and bare feet. Medium speed floors work well for tap, jazz and contemporary. Slow floors work the best for ballet.
So if you are planning to have multiple activities on your floor, be prepared to compromise. However, dance floor surfaces are adjustable by employing both physical and chemical applications. Also keep in mind that temperature and humidity play an important role in how fast or slow your floor will be. The floor's "speed" can also be regulated by regulating the room temperature and humidity.
Get all the facts. There are internet myths, bad advice and short cuts that will compromise your health and pocketbook. Follow directions, check with the manufacturer and reach out to experienced studio owners and experts in the field. Be prepared to purchase the right flooring system that works for you, your school and your budget.
I will be at the Dance Teacher Web Conference in Las Vegas (Booth 210) and will be happy to answer any of your flooring installation and maintenance questions