Your dance Floor

Timber or Vinyl?

Article courtesy of Martin O’Neill, Director at STM Studio Supplies.


Many dancers trained on the strip timber floors of their local church, scout or masonic hall. Generally, these floors gave adequate, if inconsistent shock absorption and injuries were limited.

Performance stages were generally of similar construction, yet with the exception of hard spots caused by trap doors, dip traps, revolve machinery, and slipperiness remained an ongoing issue.

From the 1970s on when Tarkett dancefloor or Marley became available, touring with a PVC overlay “dance mat” became the norm.

Yet timber has its advantages. It can be considered more aesthetically pleasing and remains the preference for ballroom, folk, and social dance. Timber floors lend themselves to multi-purpose use, high traffic by the general public, and percussive dance genres such as tap, clogging and Irish. There may also be heritage and aesthetic considerations, which they will appease.

On the down side there is the risk of splinters, unevenness, and protruding nails. As pointed out in the excellent Ausdance, Safe Dance Floors article, they also require a high degree of maintenance and regular re coating. This and the need for consistent slip resistance treatment is the reason most professional dancers defer to a vinyl overlay on top of the wood.

Where timber is used, Wikipedia explains;

A wood surface is ideal for social dancing if maintained properly and is also standard for many indoor sports. Engineered wood is normally used nowadays for wood flooring as it is less liable to warp or shrink and is more economic. Tap dance is especially punishing and a tough hardwood surface like oak or maple is preferred for any regular use. Vinyl is generally a better choice for other types of dance or more general community use.

In the absence of general standards and tests which relate specifically to dance floors, and due to the fact that sports floors share the same requirements of a dance floor in encouraging optimum performance and safety, dance floor installers, if not governed by, are at least guided by the German standard DIN 18032 part 2 and more lately EN14904.

These standards concern themselves correctly with force reduction (shock absorption), vertical deflection, area deflection, and resistance to a rolling load. However, it’s a common misconception that a sports floor will suit the needs of dancers.

In their Guide to Architects Harlequin, a leader in dance floors point out;

Here are two differences: in the construction of the sprung sub-floor and the performance surface. Many think that dancers have the same requirements as athletes when it comes to floor criteria. Sprung floors for sport are tested for adequate ball bounce and athletes require a high degree of energy return – i.e. spring. Evidently, dancers have little interest in ball bounce and are focussed on a combination of shock absorption and energy return.

The same guide points out that conventional wooden floors have inconsistencies of area and point elasticity, which are unavoidable owing to their construction.

It is not by chance that the majority of studios not primarily concerned with percussive dance styles or ballroom now choose a sprung floor option with a vinyl overlay. The choices within these are numerous and a Reference Guide can be found here.

The decision of course is ultimately yours. Effectively that choice comes down to considering appearance and high maintenance over practicality and ease of performance.


Give Emma at STM Studio Supplies a call about your flooring needs. A dancer herself, she speaks your language: 0459 976 744.

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