For months we had be looking into the use of reclaimed gym flooring to see how we could reimagine this material to produce new and exciting furniture. We kept a close eye on how others had been using it, but it when we saw it used on an episode of Grand Designs; we thought that we had to get our hands on some before everybody bought it! It became a race to get in early, we knew that after an appearance on a show like Grand Designs the price would increase and availability would decline.
After some quick research, we found a supplier in Peterborough. By the next day, we had arranged a meeting with the supplier and soon after drove down to Peterborough to pick up our new material. We were very excited.
The location of the meeting was in a strange place, a metal fabrication yard, we remember thinking ‘why the hell would there be gymnasium flooring here?’ Jason, our contact and quite a character met us outside. He showed us to a warehouse where a big pallet stacked with the flooring lay outside. We remember looking at one another, with that look in our eyes thinking ‘what the on god’s earth is this?’ after 4 hours driving, copious cups of coffee, and the voice of Chris Evans from BBC radio still two ringing in our ears, and we were greeted with a pile of absolute shit. (We sat down for hours trying to find to articulate how we felt into a single word, but we could not). Jason assured us that with a quick wipe down it would be good as new, what else could we do apart from trust him, pay for it and drive home.
Before we left Jason had given us the fully history of the flooring and it has had a very interesting life. It had started life in the early 1900’s as flooring for a local workings man club’s sports and dance hall, where it had many years use. Jason himself then salvaged it when they refurbished the sports hall and reused it as flooring in his local rugby clubhouse. Stories are incredibly important in our line of work, and to understand the history and life of something is invaluable to us.
When we arrived back at the workshop and cleaned it down, in all credit to Jason, it was ‘as good as new’. When we say as good as new, we mean it looks good for its age and use. Chips and markings don’t bother us, it adds a certain character to our work. However, we had no idea what we had let ourselves in for buying it, it is a tough material to work with, something we quickly learnt. It is full of 45-degree nails, messy tongue and groove joints and had a messy plastic coating over it. Because it is so dense, it ruins every saw blade it graces. The most painful part above all had to be the varnish that it was finished with; we tried attacking it with 60 grit sand paper, NitroMors, Chemical Strippers, even slavered it with Varnish Remover but nothing would happen. In the end, all of this was all undermined when josh just simply wiped it down with a cheap pub bar cleaner and it came up trumps. However, as with any reclaimed material that we deal with, it takes a lot of trial and error and 90% of the time, it is more error than success. If we had to give any advice on buying gymnasium flooring we would say, try and buy some that doesn’t require loads of cleaning. You’ll probably find that you will spend more money for it but this will all be accounted for by not spending copious amounts of hours cleaning it up.
After its all cleansed and tidied up it’s a nice material to work with, simply biscuit lengths of the flooring together too any size you want and use them to build table tops, cabinet doors etc. The overall final aesthetic is second to none. Every time it provides a different pattern of lines that creates so much diversity with one single design and that is why we think it is such a special and unique material to reclaim for furniture design.