How To Make a Dance Floor in your Backyard (With Sketch Drawings and Diagrams)
- Requirements of a Dance Floor | Design Properties
- How To Choose or Buy a Dance Floor | Designing and Planning
- Subfloor Construction
- Sprung Dance Floor Installation
- Harlequin Sprung Dance Floors
As long as there was joyful music or song to listen to, people have been dancing since time immemorial. They only needed a reason and a floor. That floor was the natural ground they walked on. It had to be fairly flat, with a layer of fine loose soil or sod to provide some cushion and protection underfoot. Clouds of dust would rise in the air as men and women danced to the beat of drums and folk music.
Nothing can stop you from dancing when you have reasonably soft and flat ground. You can dance on natural grass or sod, you can dance on dusty ground and even concrete. But do you know that modern research has shown that the type of dance floor you dance on can have an impact on risk of injury, joint stress, fatigue and performance? That’s why you have to design your dance floor carefully with regards to safety and health regulations. Dance floor technology is still in its development stage with international standards such as the European Norm (EN-14904-2006) and ESTA (American National Standard Institute) ANSI-E1-26-2006 and ANSI-E1-34-2009 already in place. In some countries, dance bodies and regulatory authorities have come up with regulations for safe dancing and specifications for safe dance flooring recommended by researchers and specialist manufacturers such as Harlequin PLC. As an example, in the United Kingdom, the CDET provides quality assurance certification for those in the dance industry, incorporating recommendations from Harlequin. As a result, the sprung dance floor, a design which first appeared in 1914 in the USA, was developed. It was improved by modern dance floor manufacturers such as Harlequin, and this floor system is widely recommended by bodies in the USA, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for use in schools, training institutions and performance venues. Where there is no central regulating body for dance floors, a sports surface standard such as the ESSS (European Sports Surface Standard) is adopted, as well as standards developed by independent associations such as ESTA (Entertainment Services Technology Association).
Requirements of a Dance Floor | Design Properties
Before you learn how to choose or design a dance floor for your backyard, you have to know the requirements of a good dance floor. The best dance floor does not only take into account the functional and performance requirements for the type of dance that will be taking place on the platform, but it also takes into consideration the safety and health standards mentioned in the previous paragraph. The dancer’s safety and health is of paramount importance when choosing or designing a dance floor. There are about eight types of dance, all which require a particular type of dance floor to minimize injury, protect the dancer’s vulnerable parts and enhance performance and movement. Thus, specialist dance floor manufacturers like Harlequin have sprung dance floors made for each type of dance, available in different product/model names. Sit down and think about what you are going to be using the dance floor for. As an example, if you are going to be doing tap dance, flamenco and other types of aggressive dance, then you must choose an appropriate dance floor that can withstand impact stress, wear and tear. It must be durable, tough and resilient, able to absorb shock and firm enough to avoid too much deflection. Thus, in this case, a floor designed for contemporary/street dance may not be suitable for tap dance, and vice versa.
A good dance floor has the following properties:
- Firmness and Elasticity – It strikes a balance between hardness and softness, maintaining the right amount of firmness and elasticity to prevent ankle sprain injuries caused by a hard surface and muscle fatigue caused by a soft and springy surface.
- Resilience – It makes use of resilient material and design that allows for point or area deflection, providing some lift to the feet (responsive floor). However, the limit for minimal deflection shouldn’t be exceeded or else the platform will feel like a spring or trampoline. Traditional sprung dance floors made use of metal springs in an attempt to achieve responsiveness, but these have been superseded by research-backed modern sprung dance floors which make use of shock absorbent elastomer blocks and pads approved by Dance Safety and Health regulating bodies.
- Traction/Slip Resistance – A dance floor should not be too slippery or too grippy. It must have sufficient traction and slip to prevent injuries caused by either of these two extremities. A non-slip surface impedes movement and sliding which results in tripping or getting stuck. A slippery surface makes you lose balance and speed control. However, the amount of traction or slip required on a dance floor depends on the type of dance that will be performed on the platform, but most dances are characterized by foot control, balance, quick movement and sliding which necessitate some compromised elements of grip and slip on the floor. The type of footwear worn on the dance floor will have implications. What type of footwear does a specific dance need? Footwear will influence performance as well as the type of floor finish required.
- Shock Absorbance – A good dance floor should be able to absorb shock in the event of falls and landings. A hard non-absorbent surface such as concrete can result in serious injuries. Knee pain, tendonitis and ankle sprains are some of the problems caused by a non-cushioned dance floor. Dance movements involve a lot of controlled impact with the floor. A non-shock absorbent surface will unnecessarily put too much stress and strain on your joints and bones, with a lot more energy directly returning to your body instead of being absorbed away by the floor.
How To Choose or Buy a Dance Floor | Designing and Planning
You have three options as a homeowner. You can either design and build your own DIY dance floor from scratch or buy a site assembled floor system or installation from manufacturers such as Harlequin, StageStep, Robbins, Ballet Flooring, SpringFlex and O’Mara. The third option is buying or renting a portable dance floor from suppliers such as CPDF and DanceDeck.
The disadvantage of building your own DIY dance floor is that it’s not subject to quality assessment tests nor built according to safety and health requirements. Most probably, you will build this floor in your backyard to save the contractor’s costs as well as the cost of hiring a portable floor. Budgetary constraints will prevail over design and standard requirements.
When choosing a dance floor, ask yourself the following questions:
Usage/Type of Dance: What are you going to be using the dance floor for or what type of dance will be performed on the platform? If you are going to be using the floor for many or all types of dance, including exhibitions and fashion shows etc, then you are better off choosing a multi-purpose floor. However, Harlequinn has sprung floors for eight dance styles, namely zumba, ballroom dancing/salsa, contemporary, hip hop/street dance, tap/flamenco, theatre/opera including classical, concerts, tv studios, fashion shows and exhibitions.
Floor Structure and Construction Technology: Does your floor need shock absorbent features, and do you want to enhance performance using modern floor construction technology? Does the type of performance being carried on your floor involve a high risk of accidents and injuries? You have a choice between sprung floors and non-sprung floors. Sprung floors will be needed for active medium to intensive dancing, and where there is mild to no dancing required with little to no risk of injuries, such as a choir, orchestra, fashion shows and expos, a sprung floor will not be needed. Sprung floors are being recommended and made mandatory by dance regulating authorities in many western countries for safety and health reasons, so anyone who is running a dance academy, dancing studio or training institution may be required by law to install sprung floors. Concerts and other venues where dance shows are held may be subject to the same rules and regulations.
Backyard Space: You must have enough space in your backyard or front yard to accommodate a specific number of dancers who will be attending your party or event. According to various event/party and dance floor rental companies, there are various sizes of dance floors available, ranging from 12×12 feet (144 sf) to 21×21 feet (441 sf). The smallest platform (12×12 feet) can accommodate up to 36 people at a time, and the biggest platform (21×21 feet) can accommodate up to 110 people. Note that you can have sizes much larger than this, from 24×24 feet (576 sf) up to 42×42 feet for 392 dancers.
About 2 to 3 square foot per person is needed for a dance floor. About 20% to 50% of people at your party or event may be dancing at any given time, but depending on the function, it may be up to 60%. If 40% of your guests are dancing, you will need 2 sf of floor per person. If it’s 50% and 60%, you will need 2.5 and 3 square foot per person, respectively. It’s always good to give more room on your dance floor by increasing your budget to 4.5 square foot person. The only thing that limits the size of your dance floor is the size of your backyard and the space available.
Fixing Method and Duration: Depending on whether you are installing the dance floor for short-term or long-term use, you can choose between temporary installation and permanent installation. Portable dance floors can be temporarily fixed to the site through methods which allow them to be easily unfixed or removed when required. This kind of floor is suitable when you are renting a home or other type of dwelling, for example a studio. In most cases, additions and improvements which change the structural and surface elements of the building are not allowed in a rented home, apartment or studio. You should find out from your landlord if additions or renovations are allowed on the property. There might be a limit on what you can or cannot do. Another reason for installing a portable dance floor is cost and urgency. Portable floors are less expensive to install than permanent floors. They can also be used instantly soon after installation, so you don’t have to wait for construction to end or make final touches.
A permanent dance floor can be installed in your backyard without seeking permission if you are the owner of the residential property.
Type of Sub Floor: A suitable subfloor is required to support a sprung or non-sprung dance floor. The subfloor should be flat, level and firm, with a high compressive strength to sustain loads. Outdoor portable dance floors can be installed on top of existing grass/lawn, concrete slab, timber deck, asphalt paving or any yard block paving. Outdoor permanent dance floors need a prepared structural subfloor such as concrete slab, block paving, asphalt paving or timber deck (plank subfloor). There are different types of sprung and non-sprung dance floors. Some need a solid subfloor such as concrete, and some need a timber deck etc. Others can be installed on two or more types of platforms.
Type of Floor Finish and Texture: This is the most critical element on a dance floor because a variation in the slip resistance of the floor surface affects its grip and slipperiness, which in turn determines the type of dance or activity that can be safely performed on the platform. Manufacturers like Harlequin and StageStep have produced a wide range of vinyl surfaces to meet the demands of various dance styles and performances. Thirteen types of floor surfaces can be found in the Harlequin range, of which eleven are vinyl surfaces and two are wooden surfaces. There are cushioned and non-cushioned varieties. StageStep has 15 types of floor surfaces which include a fibreglass stability layer sandwiched between the base and wear layer (top layer). The base layer is either PVC, foam or some other type of energy transfer layer. In non-cushioned floors, the base layer is the same as the wear layer which is made of a multi-layered laminate. StageStep has six types of subfloor systems with different characteristics, including two state-of-the-art systems, all optimized for each type of dance or performance.
Ground Terrain: How do you build an outdoor dance floor on uneven ground? If you are living in a rented home, most probably you will not be allowed to do extensive excavations in the yard to flatten out the land. Modification of land and structures is usually not allowed on rented property unless you obtain permission from the landlord.
If you have uneven ground in your backyard, you can either do cut-and-fill excavation to level and flatten the ground and if the ground is not so uneven, you can build a dance floor platform i.e. a subfloor with a plinth height which is equal to / or more than the average height of the ground elevation.
How To Build a Dance Floor
Planning and Design:
Before you start building a dance floor on your private property, measure the size of your backyard, side yard, front yard or wherever the floor will be located. Take a measuring tape, preferably a digital laser measure and measure the perimeter of the backyard space, its length and width. If your backyard is irregular in shape, you can still find its area by following the square footage calculation method outlined in this post. Jot down the site dimensions on a sketch book and transfer them on your CAD program like Google Sketchup or AutoCAD. Open your CAD program and draw a site plan based on your measurements. Use the sketch drawing to determine the appropriate size of your dance floor. Let’s say your backyard is 42,000×21,500mm (137.8×70.5 feet), this is big enough for a 42×42 ft dance floor. Find a suitable location on your site plan and draw the floor. Print out the dimensioned drawings on paper, so that you can refer to them on site.
Before you dig or excavate on the site, you must conduct a site investigation to determine the location of underground utility services such as water supply pipes, sewer pipes, gas pipes, electricity and telecommunication cables. Contact the utility operators in your area through the Common Ground Alliance site or call the Dig Safe Number 811 in the United States. The state 811 call centre will take your request and tell you to wait for utility operators to come to your residential address. This can take 24 to 72 hours or longer. Utility operators will mark the positions of underground services in your backyard as well as any site where you are building. Do not remove the line markings or flags inserted by utility inspectors, the markings will guide you during the excavation to avoid hitting buried pipes, cables and inspection boxes.
Setting Out Levels with Profiles and Stringlines:
After locating underground utility services, you must clear the site of all rubbish, debris, bushes, vegetation and obstructions, then set out levels on the site with profiles and stringlines. Find a baseline or benchmark from which you can set out the floor and its perimeter. Your backyard fence or screenwall may be used as a baseline, as well as the rear wall elevation of your house. Setting out a rectangular perimeter is easy. Drive corner profile boards into the ground starting from the baseline, then set up stringlines from corner to corner to complete the perimeter. Finally, set up diagonal stringlines inside the rectangle, running at an alternate angle from one corner to another. If the diagonal lines are of equal length, then you have a perfect rectangle. If not, then you must adjust the stringlines until the diagonals are equal. Once the diagonals are equal, you can mark the stringline perimeter on the ground with aerosol athletic field paint or lime paint.
Following the stringlines and line markings on the ground, start excavating the area within the rectangle using either a pick and shovel, mini-bulldozer or scarifier. First of all, calculate the depth of excavation:
Concrete Slab with smooth trowel finish: 100mm
DPM: Negligible thickness
Sand Blinding: 50mm
Coarse Sub-base Filling / Hardcore: 150mm
(100+50+150) = 300
Total Depth: 300mm
Strip the topsoil to a reduced level of 300mm deep, dump excavated material on spoil heaps on the site, then level and compact the ground to 95% Mod AASHTO Density in layers not more than 150mm thick. Spread excavated material on site, breaking up lumps of soil and filling holes with excavated material. Moisturize the soil if necessary to prepare the ground for compaction. Spray the excavated surfaces with weed killer and soil insecticide.
Your next step is building the subfloor on which our sprung dance floor (timber deck) is going to be installed. We are going to build a concrete subfloor. Building an outdoor concrete subfloor is just like building a concrete pavement or hardstanding.
Coarse Sub-base Filling:
Add a layer of coarse sub-base filling (G5 imported material) or gravel on excavated ground. Spread, level and compact the material in a single layer 150mm thick to 100% Mod AASHTO Density. In place of gravel, your hardcore filling can be crushed bricks, stone or concrete.
Add a layer of 50mm sand blinding on top of the hardcore filling. Sand blinding is used as a levelling base, providing a level surface on which concrete can be poured. This layer also protects the damp-proof membrane, by separating it from the sharp hardcore material which may puncture the membrane.
Damp Proof Membrane:
The damp proof membrane also known as DPM prevents underground moisture from seeping through to the surface. It prevents soluble and non-soluble corrosive minerals from attacking the concrete. The DPM also assists the wet concrete in retaining moisture, delaying rapid drying and percolation of moisture to the subgrade. Rapid drying is usually the cause of cracks and decreased final strength in concrete.
Formwork To Edges:
After laying the damp-proof membrane, erect some smooth formwork to vertical edges around the perimeter of the base excavation. The formwork should be at least equal to or higher than the depth of excavation from natural ground level. Make sure that the internal width and length between the internal sides of formwork is equal to the floor dimensions on the drawings.
Roll out and place some fabric mesh wire reinforcement (Type A142) over precast concrete spacers placed at regular intervals over the DPM. Allow a minimum top, bottom and edge cover of 50mm.
Prepare a concrete mixture (of strength 25MPa or 30MPa), then pour the wet concrete over the steel mesh wire reinforcement. Tamp the concrete with a steel rod to eliminate air bubbles and achieve a smooth flowing consistency that fills space. Pour some more concrete until you reach the top of formwork. Tamp the concrete and level off the surface using a levelling board. So when do you start finishing the concrete surface after the pour? After 30 to 45 minutes, you should start shaping the edges of the slab using a stainless steel concrete edger to make a right-angled edge. Test the wet concrete for plasticity by depressing the surface with your finger. If your finger leaves a point depression on the surface, then you should start edging the perimeter.
After edging the perimeters of the slab, you should use a steel, aluminium or magnesium float to make a smooth finish. Once again, test the wet concrete for plasticity by touching and depressing the surface with your finger.
As long as the surface is not bleeding (i.e. bleed water rising to the surface of concrete), you can start edging and thereafter floating the surface with a magnesium or aluminium float to achieve a smooth finish.
Allow the concrete to set and harden for at least 7 days before you install the wooden dance floor. However, concrete will set and harden within 24 to 48 hours, which is the minimum time allowed before it can be used and walked on.
Sprung Dance Floor Installation:
As mentioned previously, a sprung dance door is not always necessary depending on the style of dance and activity that will be performed on the floor. When the subfloor is done and complete, you should decide on the type of dance floor that you want to install. Do you want a sprung dance floor (shock absorbent/cushioned floor) or do you want a non-cushioned dance floor? If you want a sprung dance floor, then it’s highly recommended to get a patented system installed on your subfloor. Get a local installer to install a Harlequin or StageStep dance floor. These patented systems are manufactured to technological standards and certified for quality and use in specific conditions. Building your own DIY sprung floor is a hazardous risk that you would want to avoid because of the delicate requirements and precision that must be met for safety, health and performance. On the other hand, you can build your own DIY floor if it’s not a sprung floor, because it will be classified under a normal hard floor.
The followings are types of sprung and non-sprung dance floors that you can install on your concrete subfloor:
Harlequin Sprung Dance Floors
Harlequin has three types of sprung dance floor systems, which can be customized with various vinyl performance surfaces and cushion layers to meet the demands of a specific dance or activity. The Harlequin sprung dance floor range includes the Harlequin Activity, Harlequin Liberty and Harlequin WoodSpring.
Harlequin Activity Dance Floor Installation
This is a sprung dance door with three layers (excluding the performance surface) sandwiched together to form a continuous solid floor. The overall thickness of the triple sandwich floor system excluding the performance surface is 46mm, and its surface density is 15 to 19kg/m2.
Step 1 – Clean and Dry the Subfloor
This floor system should be installed on a smooth concrete surface. Before installation begins, clean the concrete surface, make sure it’s dry, dust-free and scrub off any old coating, glue or gum sticking on the surface.
Step 2 – Lay Down the Damp Proof Membrane
To install the system, start by laying down the damp proof membrane. A liquid-based damp-proof membrane will be suitable for our outdoor concrete subfloor exposed to weather elements. You have a choice between Drybase Liquid Applied DPM and Drybase ECS Epoxy Floor Coating. The former is suitable for situations where the DPM will be covered by the floor finish, and the later is recommended where it will be used as the final floor finish because of its durability and high resistance to wear. In this project, the Drybase Liquid Applied DPM will be suitable for our Harlequin Activity sprung dance floor.
Apply the liquid DPM according to manufacturer’s instructions (at least 2 or 3 coats). The waiting period before applying the next coat shall be 12 to 48 hours, do not exceed the maximum limit.
Step 3 – Lay Down the Cellular Polyurethane
The next step after applying liquid-based DPM on the subfloor is laying down a 25mm thick layer of cellular polyurethane.
Step 4 – Lay Down the Bottom Semi-Flexible Panels
On top of the cellular polyurethane, lay down the first 12mm thick layer of semi-flexible panels.
Step 5 – Lay Down the Top Semi-Flexible Panels
Apply some non-hardening glue on the bottom layer and lay down a second 9mm thick layer of semi-flexible panels, fixed in staggered pattern, also known as the stretcher bond.
Step 6 – Lay Down the Vinyl Performance Surface
Select your vinyl performance surface from the Harlequin range. Apply some glue on the surface and install the vinyl floor finish. Weld the seams between the sheets to provide a continuous uniform surface. The vinyl floor finish required for this system is 2 to 3mm thick, with a surface density of 2.3 to 2.6kg/m2
How long does it take to install a vinyl sprung dance floor? According to Harlequin, it takes 5 working days (40 manhours) for two labourers to install 100 to 150m2 of floor. That’s a production rate of 2.5 to 3.75m2 per hour. Our 42×42 feet dance floor (12.80×12.80m) is going to take:
12.80 x 12.80 = 163.84m2,
Latest time: 163.84/2.5 = 65.5 hours
Earliest time: 163.84/3.75 = 43.7 hours
It will take 44 to 66 hours to build the 42×42 feet dance floor.
Harlequin Activity (Vinyl Surface) Sprung Dance Floor Cross Section Details
Overall thickness of floor excluding vinyl surface is 46mm, with surface density of 15 to 19kg/m2.
- Performance surface (Vinyl 2 to 3mm thick)
- 9mm Thick semi-flexible panels in stretcher bond pattern
- 12mm Thick semi-flexible panels
- 25mm Thick cellular polyurethane.
- Damp proof membrane
Harlequin Activity (Hardwood Surface) Sprung Dance Floor Cross Section Details
Overall thickness of floor is 52mm, with surface density of 16 to 22kg/m2.
- Performance surface (14mm Solid hardwood or 14mm engineered 2-ply OSB board with 4mm thick hardwood layer)
- 12mm Thick semi-flexible panels
- 25mm Thick cellular polyurethane.
- Damp proof membrane
Harlequin Liberty (Tongue and Groove Plywood) Sprung Dance Floor Cross Section Details
This sprung dance floor is a modular system making use of tongue and groove panels which are fitted together by sliding in the edges and fastening the latch and lock system. The floor is suitable for both permanent and portable use. The panels are 37mm thick, weighing 12.5kg per m2 and available in (2×1)m full size and (1×1)m half-size. Laminated birch plywood with resin bonded layers is used to make the panels.
Install the panels in stretcher bond layout on the concrete subfloor, supported by dual density shock dampening elastomer blocks placed at corners and suitable spacing on longitudinal sides.
It takes one working day (8 manhours) for two labourers to install 100m2 of floor. That’s a production rate of 12.5m2 per hour. Our 42×42 feet dance floor (12.80×12.80m) is going to take:
12.80 x 12.80 = 163.84m2,
Installation time: 163.84/12.5 = 13.11 hours
It will take 13 hours to build the 42×42 feet dance floor.
Harlequin WoodSpring (Solid Hardwood on CounterBattens) Sprung Dance Floor Cross Section Details
This sprung dance floor is built like a counter-batten roof or deck. A triple layered counter-batten frame is supported on dual density shock absorbent elastomer pads or blocks. Normally, a minimum of three batten layers fixed on top of the other in a perpendicular direction to each other is recommended by Harlequin. The flexibility of the floor can be increased by adding more layers.
A 12mm thick WBP plywood is fixed on top of the counter-batten frame, followed by a 9mm thick water-proof solid hardwood panel or OSB board with hardwood veneer. If you want a vinyl surface, it will need to be fixed on a water-proof board.
The typical size of softwood battens used in the frame construction is 75x20mm sections. This floor system has an overall thickness of 91mm and its weight per square metre is 24kg/m2.