Dance Floors

Floor Friction - Floor Finish

If you have influence over what kind of floor finish will be used in a ballroom, the following information on floor finishes will be of interest.

The best dance floor I have danced on was maple hardwood with no wax or varnish. It had oil sealer applied only once when it was installed, and eight years later was still a good dance floor, with a shiny appearance. Such a floor can only be dust mopped, not wet mopped. The friction of well worn leather against well worn hardwood is ideal for the Viennese Waltz; if it were not for this lucky accident the dance might never have been invented in the first place.

A bare wood floor must be carefully guarded from spills. Floor finishes can provide some spill resistance. Waxes can provide partial waterproofing, urethane or epoxy finishes even more protection.

Floor wax for dancing should not come off the floor and stick to the shoe soles. When this happens the dancer develops an insecure feeling, and no longer trusts the floor enough for really energetic dancing. The waxes listed below do not have this problem.

The best durable paste wax I have danced on is Trewax brand clear paste wax for wood floors made in City of Commerce, California, http://www.trewax.com. It is primarily a blend of carnauba wax and montan wax, and will last about a year in a dance school before rewaxing is necessary. One such dance school has dancing 7 days per week, and wedding parties with spilled cake and punch on Saturday night. It is not usable on asphalt tile. This floor cannot be wet mopped, but it can be damp mopped.

Urethane finishes are commonly used on gym floors and portable dance floors. Urethane finishes can be formulated to be sticky or slick. The ideal is 33% friction against dance shoe leather that has been worn shiny. If you find a urethane finish that is perfect for dancing, please notify me. Dance floor manufacturers have urethane finishes that are perfect for dancing, but they keep the make and model of these finishes secret for competitive reasons.

If the floor is too sticky as is, do not be tempted to sprinkle any kind of powder or flakes to make it more slippery. The resultant friction is too uneven and unpredictable for use with the Viennese waltz, and will render the floor unusable. The management might let you apply a mop-on finish just for your event. A good mop-on latex polymer finish is called "Centrifugal Force", made by Sanitek Products, Los Angeles, 818-242-5155. It will not stick to wax or oil, but probably will to most other finishes. A more readily available mop on finish is Mop & Glo, available at most grocery stores. It has perfect friction for dancing, but I have not seen it used on a public dance floor, and do not know its wear properties. Both of these products are water based and therefore should not be used on wood unless it is already protected with a waterproof sealer or varnish.

The best gym floor finish that I have measured is an epoxy finish, Trophy Gym Finish No. 278 made by Hillyard, http://www.hillyard.com/WF.HTM. It is very tough and durable. I saw it in a senior center where it had been walked and danced on with street shoes seven days a week for two years. It still looked new and the friction was usable for dancing, though was definitely a bit slicker than ideal. It had Hillyard Trophy Epoxy Seal 348 under it, and was polished regularly with National Sanitary's Pathfinder polishing fluid. Unfortunately, this finish cannot be allowed to dry in some metropolitan areas because of air pollution regulations.

A good portable dance floor that I have danced on was made by Sico, http://www.sicoinc.com/vm/pdf.html. It is good with worn chrome tanned cowhide soles.

Many gym operators do not like street shoes used in their gym. Some worry about black heel marks on their floor. Some gym finishes are soft, and grit embeds in the finish. When ladies high heels wear down exposing the metal pin, they will dent any wooden floor regardless of the finish. These dents are about the size of the dents in a new golf ball. On an 18 year old dance school floor used seven days per week the dents were still not numerous enough to affect the floor's utility for dancing, and presumably not for basketball, either. This is especially interesting in contrast to the way some gyms are managed. Some gyms sand the finish off each year along with some of the wood under the finish, and refinish the floor. After a very few years the wood is so thin that it has to be replaced with new planking.

No survey of floor finishes has been conducted. The ones mentioned here are merely good ones I have stumbled across. There are no doubt many other good ones, as well as many that are no good at all for dancing.