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  • 1.  Stagelam Stage Floor

    Posted 10-05-2022 14:13
    Our black box theater space was renovated over the summer, and there were some issues with the installation of the floor. Our school's facilities department, which has never been a fan of the new floor as designed (masonite surface over 2 layers of tongue and groove plywood) is advocating for taking up the masonite and putting down something like Stagelam. Ease of cleaning is a big point for them -- our flooring contractor recommended only dust-mopping the floor, and sawdust is collecting in the gaps between the masonite.
    If you have any experience with Stagelam, or other suggestions for me, I would so appreciate it. I like the masonite despite the issues with installation and am nervous about a new surface being installed that I have no experience with.
    Thank you in advance!

    Cora Turlish

  • 2.  RE: Stagelam Stage Floor

    Posted 10-06-2022 06:47
    I understand their grief, I typically see when the masonite is put down, a penny used for spacing for expansion, the masonite should have been painted on all sides to prevent warping from moisture. For the gaps I see gaff tape being applied over the seams prior to painting, this keeps the dust from getting into the cracks.

    Jerry Onik
    V.P. Theatrical Supplies and Equipment
    Heartland Scenic Studio

  • 3.  RE: Stagelam Stage Floor

    Posted 10-07-2022 06:47

    Most people don't understand 'masonite' stage floors.  For starters, Masonite Corporation has not made 'masonite' hardboard for about 20 years now.  The correct term is 'tempered pressboard' and there are five grades of the material.  You can find the ANSI A135.4 specifications here:

    The lower three grades 1 thru 3 are the junk that you get at the big box stores and most lumberyards.  The grade 4 & 5 product has to be special ordered.  The grade 4 is common in most schools, and the grade 5 is typical for colleges and professional facilities.  Odds are, if you are having trouble with the floor you have, it is because they used the lower grade product.  The good stuff is hard as a rock and almost indestructible.  That is what you want.

    Since the grade 4 & 5 material is so hard, you can't easily drive a screw or nail into it, and if you do, you still can't get the head to sit flush as the material won't squish out of the way.  You have two choices:

    1.  Pre-drill and pre-countersink all the securement screw holes (that's a nightmare unless you have a CNC router table that you can program. A typical stage floor has between 1000 and 2000 screws in it if it's done correctly);  -or-

    2. Use double-sided 3M Very High Bond (VHB) tape at about 16" o.c. and around the perimeter of each sheet.  The tape is a bit pricey, but it saves a lot of labor drilling the screw holes, and you get the benefit of a stage without a polka-dot pattern of screw heads at 12" o.c..

    There are a lot of other things that can go wrong with a stage floor if the builder doesn't know what they are doing (and most don't).  If they keep assuming it is just like a basketball court floor, you are going to get a very difficult surface to work with.  IT IS NOT A BASKETBALL FLOOR.  There are also concerns as to the vapor barrier used and how it is sealed, the shock absorbers under the floor (spacing, thickness, softness), and how the layers of plywood and tempered hardboard are staggered as the floor is built-up.  If any of these things are not done properly, then the floor can fail and/or performers can get injured.

    Also, the finish on the floor is not like a basketball court.  The type of paint (sheen, base stock, curing time, etc.) all affect the outcome.  Yes, there are 4200 shades of 'black', and only a small number of those work well theatrically.  Do they understand the function of the stage floor?  Probably not.

    And finally, there is the use and maintenance of the floor:  You don't wet-wash it!  That can cause the floor to warp and buckle.  You don't wax it!  That can injure dancers and performers.  And you don't drive nails and screws into it:  You use sandbags for light duty anchorage, and threaded inserts with bolts for heavy anchorage.

    As to the StageLam product, I am not a fan of it.  People don't know how to maintain it, it can get very slippery and shiny; and being made of plastic, if there is a fire it will turn into a molten slippery mess that produces large amounts of dense black toxic smoke.  Grade 4 & 5 tempered pressboard doesn't do that, and can be treated with fire retardants right in the finish coat of the floor paint if the AHJ requires it (fire code does not require it).

    Like most things in the theatre, the devil is in the details, so have your maintenance department hire a stage floor consultant (NOT a sports floor consultant) to get them pointed the right direction with some drawings and specifications to go by.  Investing a small amount of money with someone that understands theatre and stage floor construction can save them (and you) a lot of frustration and grief.  A good stage floor that is properly installed and maintained can last 30-50 years, and then you only have to re-skin the top sacrificial surface.  PM me if you would like me to speak with your maintenance department.

    Erich Friend
    Theatre Consultant
    Teqniqal Systems LLC

  • 4.  RE: Stagelam Stage Floor

    Posted 10-10-2022 09:38
    Thanks so much for these responses, Jerry and Erich!

    Cora Turlish