When putting new flooring into a dance studio, there are a number of factors to consider that would not affect the normal home or business owner. Soft ballet shoes are unlikely to do much damage to most flooring, but tap, modern and ballroom heels all require a sturdy floor that stands up to wear, tear and gouging. Slickness is another factor a dance studio owner must take into account, lest "Swan Lake" resemble "Swan Lake on Ice." Laminate and hardwood are both great options for a dance studio, but the particular needs of your studio will determine which is best.
Wear and Tear
Laminate is in general more resistant to wear and tear than hardwood flooring. Some extremely hard woods are available, but they are more costly and difficult to obtain, given that many come from now-endangered species of trees. Laminate flooring is rated on the AC scale for its durability. AC 5 is the highest rating and a must for any dance studio. Hardwood flooring's resistance to wear and tear is scored on the Janka scale, which measures how much force is required to push a steel ball halfway through a plank of wood. The higher the pressure required, the more resistant the wood is to denting. Some of the hardest woods include rosewood, teak and mahogany.
Probably the most important factor for the safety of dancers is the slickness or slipperiness of your flooring choice. It's difficult for dancers to focus on perfecting their faille when they're sliding across the floors like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business." Historically, laminate floors have been much more slick than hardwood floors due to their veneer surface. New laminate options are less slick, although you will pay extra for the feature. Hardwood is not overly slick when properly cared for and maintained, but an overzealous wax application will make any hardwood slippery.
Expense and Maintenance
Hardwood is almost always more expensive than laminate, but it increases the value of your space more than laminate. Hardwood also requires more maintenance in regular cleaning and waxing than laminate. The financial benefit of hardwood is that it can be repaired with refinishing. Because laminate is created by layering a picture of wood grain over composite woods, when it is gouged or worn, the entire piece needs to be replaced. When hardwood is worn, it can be sanded and refinished instead of the owner having to tear up the whole piece and replace it. Some laminate floors are also difficult, because once the floor is in place, a single plank cannot be removed without tearing up and ruining the entire floor. If you opt for laminate in a situation where there is likely to be damage, be sure the individual pieces can be removed with minimal damage to surrounding pieces and the color is popular enough that it will be easy to find a replacement plank.
For many people, nothing beats the warm natural appearance of real wood floors. This is reflected in the fact that hardwoods add more value to a room than laminate. Hardwood is graded by appearance, with the A rating being the highest, meaning there is uniformity in color between the planks and fewer knots and natural imperfections in the wood. Laminate is actually the image of hardwood over composite board, so it's always uniform in color and has no imperfections.
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