Are you finding surface damage or bits of dark gravel on your gym floor? Have your bleachers been leaving grooves or rough trails through the finish, or maybe even into the wood itself? You might be suffering from built up dust, dirt and gum– or the problem could be much more serious.
Facility managers struggle to keep their gym floors in top condition. Foot traffic, moisture, dust and spilled food can work to destroy even the best finishes and cause gym floor damage. However, there could be something else eating away at your gym finish. Something with a little more weight behind it, unseen in the dark, waiting to wreak havoc on your gym floor. So what is this potential destroyer of gym floors? The problem could be your aging, dried up intermediate bleacher wheels. A typical gym bleacher uses between 3 and 5 rubber wheels on each rolling frame to distribute the weight of the seating structure and its occupants. The surprisingly soft intermediate wheels protect the wood floor from shock yet still allow the heavy steel system to roll freely into and out of storage position.
We recently spoke with Scott Graen of Iowa Direct Equipment and Appraisal. Scott says that deterioration of intermediate wheels is on the rise. “In the past we would get a couple calls each year for replacement wheels,” Scott said. “But now, the last few years, we are finding dried out crumbling wheels in an alarming number of gyms.” So what causes these wheels to dry out and fall apart? “We’re not exactly sure,” Scott tells us. “We think it might be off gassing from cleaning agents, or, ironically, the floor finish itself.”
Scott believes airflow plays an important role, citing the fact that the wheels closest to the front skirt-board tend to break down much faster than the rearward wheels. The exact causes of wheel degradation are unknown. There are likely numerous things working together, speeding up the aging process of these semi- soft wheels. This leaves them hard, sharp, and in the perfect position to do permanent gym floor damage.
One of the first roadblocks maintenance staff encounters after identifying hard cracked wheels is the sheer number of them under a typical bleacher. It is not unusual to find hundreds of wheels dried up and falling apart. The volume of wheels along with the difficulty in changing them out can turn normal summer bleacher maintenance into a real nightmare. This keeps facilities and maintenance staff from focusing on other important projects.
The good news is there are many companies that can provide the wheels and the trained technicians to install them. A knowledgeable bleacher maintenance company can bring in the necessary tools and labor, along with temporary lighting and jacks to change out the wheels the right way. Bringing in an outside contractor also provides a fresh set of eyes under your bleachers, and is a great opportunity to identify and remedy bent structural members. They inspect wiring and safety devices, lubricate, and answer any maintenance or operational questions a facilities supervisor might have. On your next building walk-through take a flashlight along. You just may find potential maintenance monsters hidden in the dark!
Scott is a third generation union carpenter specializing in overhead athletic equipment as well as gym bleacher installations and service. Starting as an apprentice in 1996, Scott worked with laboratory buildouts, overhead basketball, curtains, batting cages, commercial cabinet installations, indoor and outdoor bleachers, partition doors, lockers, mobile shelving and many other fixtures associated with education or healthcare. Scott has worked for Haldeman Homme Inc. since 2005 becoming the service manager for MN, WI, ND and SD in 2013.
Scott has a well-rounded background in welding, machine repair and engine maintenance, and he also possesses a working knowledge of electricity, electric motors and controls for the equipment he has installed. Scott followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps installing and maintaining fixtures for sports, education and laboratories. Scott has worked on projects and customers such as University of Minnesota, Target Center, the Metrodome, the Excel center, countless schools, hospitals, community centers, military air bases, and prisons.
*The information shared in this article is for educational purposes. If you feel your bleacher wheels are causing gym floor damage have it evaluated by a specialist.