In the “This is a Bad Idea” department, one of the most common questions - and temptations - we run across is whether applying tape lines will harm a finished gymnasium floor. Wood stage floors are another area where this comes up. Can we mark the spots our actors must “make” for their play?
Fun Fact: Spike - In stagecraft, a spike is a marking, usually made with a piece of tape…put on the stage. This marking is used to show the correct position for set pieces, furniture, actors and other items which move during the course of a performance and are required to stop or be placed in a specific location. - Wikipedia
Of course, the answer is certainly, you can apply tape - but only if you want to ruin the finish almost every time. Instead, in a clear voice and with stern gaze, say, “No.” And then say it once more for good measure.
We completely agree with the thought that where finished wood floors are concerned, “tape is a four-letter word.”
You may ask, aren’t there safe tapes, like painter’s tape? Easy-release tapes? The answer is perhaps there are less-dangerous tapes, and the less time they are in contact with the floor, the lower the risk - but if you call and ask a manufacturer if their tape is guaranteed not to pull the finish from a wood floor, they will tell you it is not. So just don’t do it, and let the coach, principal, drama teacher, aerobics instructor and after-hours program directors know, “Do not use tape on our gym floors.”
Nobody in the industry recommends use of any tapes on finished wood floors. This includes floor manufacturers, finish manufacturers and floor associations.
When the tape pulls off finish, even a fairly small amount, you cannot easily (or practically) repair just a single damaged area. To fix the issue, you have to remove the entire floor of its current finish, down to the bare wood, taking all paint markings with it, repaint the lines, re-do the graphics and then refinish the floor. The overall cost when labor and materials are calculated can easily run into in the tens of thousands of dollars. When faced with this calamity, then the question of, “Can we live with these damaged areas?” comes up. Unfortunately, where competitive sports are played, the answer again is often, “No.”
This topic is worth a spot on the agenda in your next all-staff meeting – and then periodically after that. Anyone who uses your gym or stage or other wood floors after hours or on a rental basis also needs to know that tape is not allowed. It should be in any rental agreements you use.
SO HOW DO WE MARK TEMPORARY GAME LINES?
Crayola® makes Tempera® (think “temporary”) paint that is commonly available at a number of stores. Your own art teacher may have it by the gallon. Use the paint carefully, being aware that on older floors where there are imperfect areas between boards, the paint may run along crevices and be time-consuming to fully remove. However, on a good floor, once done you can usually leave the added game lines as long as necessary, then damp-mop them away when they are no longer needed.
See the caveats below.
- Never apply anything to a floor surface within the first 30 days of refinishing. It is preferable to leave two full months for curing before application of anything foreign to the surface.
- Select only white, because colors may tend to leach into the existing finish and leave a permanent discoloration.
- Remove a segment of the lines in a month or two to make sure no unintended consequences are occurring.