Sports Floor Care

What is Wood Floor Panelization? (HINT - Don’t Use "Cheap" Finishes on Wood Flooring!)

Unveiling the Mystery of Wood Floor Panelization: A Crucial Consideration in Sports Floor Care

Wood flooring is a timeless and elegant choice for sports facilities, but ensuring its longevity and performance requires a nuanced understanding of wood floor finishes. In this article, we delve into the concept of wood floor panelization and the crucial role that the choice of finishes plays in preventing this issue.

Evolution of Floor Finishes

Over time, floor finish manufacturers have navigated the intricate landscape of stringent Volatile Organic Compounds ( VOC) regulations. These regulations have significantly impacted the manufacturing of solvent-based floor finishes. With the rise of waterborne floor finish products, including some lower-quality options available in box stores, there has been an observable surge in panelized floors.

The Impact of VOC Regulations

The stringent VOC regulations have prompted the industry to adapt and innovate continually. Solvent-based systems, facing restrictions on selected solvents and polymer modifications, have paved the way for the development of water-based finishes. However, this transition presents its own set of challenges as water-based finish manufacturers strive to fill the void left by solvent products.

Rise of Water-Based Wood Floor Finishes

While water-based finishes have been in existence for decades, their widespread acceptance on wood floors is a recent phenomenon. Advancements in polymer technology, featuring polymers within polymers and cross-linking technologies, have played a pivotal role in the performance and acceptance of water-based wood floor finishes.

Understanding Panelization Challenges

Panelization, also known as side bonding, poses unique challenges in the realm of wood floor finishes. The Maple Flooring Manufacturing Association (MFMA) defines panelization as a condition where localized excessive cracks develop between some strip flooring boards while adjacent boards remain tightly bonded together with no apparent separations.

Causes of Panelization

For panelization to occur, two critical factors must align:

  • Significant environmental changes leading to the expansion and/or contraction of individual boards.
  • Tight bonding of individual boards, causing the floor to move as one large panel.
  • Control of either of these factors prevents panelization. Given the impracticality of maintaining constant humidity, it becomes imperative that the sealer/finish doesn’t overly bond the boards together.

Importance of Side-Bond Strength

Traditional oil-modified urethane sealers had a minimal bond strength of 9 lbf/in., aligned with the frictional forces required for the natural movement of wood. At Scrub n Shine, we prioritize water-based oil-modified wood floor coatings with a side-bond strength of 12 lbf/in., preventing panelization while offering optimal adhesion, appearance, slip resistance, scuff resistance, and sheen.

Beware of High Side-Bond Strength

Buyers, especially those considering “cheap” finishes, should exercise caution. Testing conducted by North Dakota State University revealed water-based sealers/finishes with side-bond strengths as high as 414 lbf/in. At this level, the likelihood of panelization significantly increases, emphasizing the importance of choosing finishes wisely.


Wood floor panelization is a nuanced challenge that demands attention in sports floor care. By understanding the intricate dynamics of environmental factors, bonding strength, and the implications of finish choices, facility managers can make informed decisions to ensure the longevity and performance of their wood floors. For personalized advice tailored to your situation, don’t hesitate to contact us – we’re here to help you navigate the complexities of wood floor finishes.

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