How Do I Finish my Recycled Maple Gym Floor?

I priced hardwood flooring to cost thousands, so instead I found and had installed a gym floor ($1600) from the Nazarene Church. It is old maple, and has very cool squares of red, white and black paint that used to be the stripes on the floor.

Also old half-abraded urethane appears to be on the surface of many of the boards. I want to keep the paint squares and still get a glossy floor with all the character left in.

The lumber guy recommend a wood floor primer, then an acrylic sealer. Have any of you repurposed a floor like this? Will anything stick to the old urethane patches?


Done a hundred of these in my rentals and had to redo over a dozen of them experimenting with different methods. If you don’t sand it, it’ll most likely flake off in a few months and then you’ll have to redo everything with a drum sander (ex, someone will drop something heavy on the floor and it will look like an awful looking bubble (several inches long) in between your coat and the original coat). If you sand it lightly with sandpaper, the stain probably won’t look even. Worse yet, if they waxed it (which I’m guessing they did), lightly sanding it isn’t going to take off all the wax and it’ll make those bubbles. Whether you use primer or put another coat of urethane on it won’t make a hill of beans of difference. Unless you want to do it twice, you’re going to have to sand it down to the grain (personally, I would restain it with a dark stain like dark walnut after resanding it so repairing the scratches from the last tenant are not as noticeable).

Depending on how even the floor is from years of warping and how many times it’s been sanded, you may even have to get down on your hands and knees with an electric palm sander and sand it down to grain so the edges don’t splinter off from a drum sander. Seeing the end results of glorious hardwood floors feels rewarding, but there are no shortcuts to avoid sanding if want the end result to look professional. You’ll also need to sand between the new coats too or you’ll risk getting those bubbles.

Thanks, Dave. Yes, I experienced the flaking off of the new urethane in another floor where we just put it on over the old urethane. A short cut that didn’t work.

This floor went into my "new " residence, an old stone house with a lot of character. I want to keep the scratches, discolorations and paint squares but I just want it all glossy.

I’m guessing that hand-sanding is going to be the only way to get the old stuff off without removing the rusticity?


Although I also believe Dave is correct in that effective long term adhesion requires sanding down to the raw wood, you could try using “liquid sandpaper” that removes gloss and improves adhesion before applying the new polyurethane.

My only concern with liquid sandpaper is what happens to the wax if you pour liquid sandpaper on? Wax is a solid. Does it spread out? Real sandpaper will take the wax off with the finish and the dust can be swept off. I remember when I went to grade school and every few days the janitor would pour wax on the gym floor and then go over it with that standup floor buffing machine. I’m guessing the Nazarene Church would have had someone doing the same thing to their gym floors. But try it if you like and let us know how it holds up.

Another thought. If it’s in your residence and you want to keep the existing discolorations and scratches, why not just buy a used buffing wheel and wax it like they used to do?

The buffing wheel could work but the floor will then be covered with furniture, rugs, etc.

My big question was “Did they wax gym floors?” Looks like I have an answer-yes. I am going to try scrubbing it good first and see what it looks like. I like the whole multi-colored, used look but I want shine. We are going to try different products on the flooring that will be covered by the frig.

I was hoping someone else had re-purposed a gym floor.

Thanks for the tips.


I hope this info will help you out. I have some experience with wood work and finishing and I have a ton of experience with stripping and waxing floors. Wax is a good floor finish because it will absorb all abuse and it shines up real nice. The downfall is that it takes a ton of maintenance and it isn’t cheap depending on the products you use. I would call up Stanley Steemer and see if they would do a quote for you if you want to keep the current wood color. Once the floor is stripped and re-waxed you will probably only need to touch up wax every year or two if you take good care of it. If you want to apply coats of wax yourself it is pretty easy. You’ll need to do a light wash and scrub on the floor (assuming this is a year or two later after you had professionals redo it) then you may need to apply a neutralizer to the floor depending on the type of cleaner you used. After the floor is completely dried and neutralized you can begin to apply wax. You’ll want to use a flat looking applicator and a microfiber pad. It will look a lot like a swiffer with a thicker pad. You’ll pour a small amount of wax on the floor and spread it out with the applicator. Always do the perimeter of the room first then fill it in. Make sure to not leave any streaks and don’t paint yourself in a corner. The wax will become tacky very quickly and if you step on it you will now have a nice foot print that won’t come out unless you strip it. Once you are done with the room don’t step on it for at least 24 hours. And make sure when you start to walk on it that you are using soft sole slippers, bare feet, or socks. I don’t care that it says quick dry on the bottle DO NOT STEP ON IT WITH HARD SHOES FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS! If you have the time only apply thin layers of wax and do it several times. Remember you don’t need to apply a bunch of wax at the walls because it will just build up and nobody walks on it. Hope this helps.

Dang–what a lot of work! I remember my Mom waxing our kitchen linoleum floor when we were kids, but it was pretty easy to do. Then we all got to skate around on it wearing big tube socks so it could get shined.

I’m going to have to experiment with this. Thanks for your expertise.


I did this while working for stanley steemer and we never had to strip any super old wood floors. It is pretty easy and straight forward as long as you take your time and get the right products. Again, it could take a lot longer for you depending how much build up is on your floors. We had a small machine that we filled with our water/chemical and it would scrub the floor and pick up the liquid as you moved forward. It looked kind of a like a miniature lawn mower. I’m not sure where you buy/rent one but I have to imagine it shouldn’t be too hard to locate. It may end up being cheaper to hire somebody to do it instead of rent it though. If you hire somebody to strip the floor then you could easily do the waxing yourself to save some money. If you have them do the waxing too make sure to find out what kind/brand of wax they use so you can apply more coats if you want to.