Building a Basement Dance Floor

My daughter’s dance floor is held together by screws and glue, and love, and sweat, and dreams. It’s surrounded by mirrors and the ghosts of every Feis she has attended.

A kangaroo helped to build it.

My daughter prefers to practice in hardshoes and ghilles and her feet would take quite a pounding if I allowed her to dance on cement. There are some wonderful dance floor manufacturers out there, but none of them were within my budget for the size floor my daughter wanted (12 x 16 feet).

So I built her basement dance floor myself using plywood, lumber cross-braces and closed cell foam which creates a rather impressive “sprung wood” effect and at considerably less cost than comparable floors in a studio.

She is the only one using the floor and weighs less than 80 pounds so I went with the following:

On top: 1/2 inch plywood in 4×8 feet sheets.

Underneath: 1″ x 2″ cross braces (actually measures 3/4″x 1.5″) 1″ x 4″ cross braces where plywood sheets were joined. 1/2″ closed cell foam (I used the foam bedding rolls available from camping or surplus stores)

Additional Supplies: Screws Wood Glue and Plastic/Foam Glue Harp Lager (estimate two beers for each full plywood sheet if two people are building the dance floor).

The materials listed above are fairly light-weight and offer extraordinary stability and shock protection. In lieu of the foam, a full carpet or carpet padding offers some shock protection, but not to the same degree as the foam. In either case, a lattice system under the plywood sheets is still recommended for consistency and stability.

If multiple dancers or large kangaroos are using the floor, you may want to consider heavier grade lumber or plywood.

Oh, and hide your beer from the kangaroo, they can get rather nasty “under the influence”.

I would recommend using full sheets of plywood in whatever geometrical pattern is appropriate for your basement size and daughter’s dancing dreams (two, three, four or more whole sheets.) It eliminates cutting and keeps the measurement math for the lattice to a third or fourth grade level. Besides, a kangaroo with a power saw is not a pretty sight.

We created a support lattice with 16 inch by 16 inch squares using the 1″ lumber (for the most part, you’ll use 1″x 2″ lumber to make the lattices, but on the edges where you are joining two plywood sheets overlap the sheets with the 1”x 4” lumber).

Here is how an 8 foot x 8 foot stage (using two, 4 x 8 plywood sheets would look from underneath). The lattice was glued and screwed to the bottom of the plywood using screws, standard lumber adhesive and caulking guns. I highly recommend the screw/glue combo as it makes for a very stable floor. In addition, after a few beers, glue-squirting caulking guns have immeasurable entertainment value.

We cut the foam pads into long, 1.5 inch strips and glued them to the bottom of the lattice using the same caulking gun with a different glue appropriate for plastic and foam.

I built the floor in 4×8 foot sections and assembled them together all at once. Make sure you allow the glue to dry for at least 24 hours prior to using (you also want to let your dance area air out a bit too, or your dancer may be a little light on her feet from glue fumes).

One more thing, don’t ever, ever, let the kangaroo put a beer can in the caulking gun….trust me on that!

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34 Responses to Building a Basement Dance Floor

  1. David says:

    Great to have you, and this post, back online, Z&B! Lots of folks looking for your wisdom and humor . . . and your stage plans.

  2. Pingback: Build Your Own Irish Dance Practice Stage | David Whelan

  3. Aslan says:

    Will this work for someone who weighs over 200lbs? What adjustments would need to be made to the design?

  4. ZandB says:

    I just went downstairs to hop up and down on my daughter’s 4 x 8 portable stage (it breaks down into two interlocking sections and she uses it at pubs and and venues that don’t have adequate flooring).

    I think it’s safe to say no adjustment to the materials listed would be required for dancers up to 250 lbs as the floor is braced every 12 inches. I would make sure the “closed cell foam” mentioned is fairly “stiff” to give the required shock protection.

  5. Thank you for these detailed directions.

    At your convenience, how are the interlocking sections attached?

    Are there screws or nails attaching the hardware from the top of the floor?

    Thank you again, and best wishes to Kangaroo 😉

    • ZandB says:

      Good questions!
      I’ll be updating this post shortly to show a detailed view of the overlapping sections and specific recommendations on attaching the cross frame underneath.

  6. Irene says:

    Did you put any sort of covering over it, paint it (with what), or just leave it bare? My husband just finished building a dance floor and it came out great! Thanks for the instructions.

    • ZandB says:

      We never had a problem with a slippery dance floor and it has always been a “bare” surface.

      I heard of people using Marley (expensive, heavy and difficult to install) on floors to improve adhesion, or as an alternative, shower liners from hardware stores.

      In the southern region, some Feiseanna use “Treblekote” to improve adhesion and my daughter has competed on them with “two thumbs” up as her approval rating.

      http://www.treblekote.com/shop.htm

  7. Tara says:

    We are going to try this, if you did 4×8 sections how do you lck them together? We have room for a 12×16..any other tips you have would be welcomed!

    • ZandB says:

      To all the folks that have ask about how the different sections are linked together, my apologies for not responding. I’ve got a travel stage that is two 4ft x 4ft squares that I’ll use to update this post regarding joining them together shortly.

  8. Amanda says:

    I am looking to build a practice floor in my garage (there are no basements in California!) and I was just wondering about the possibility of occasionally parking a car on the floor. This would probably only happen when we go out of town for a length of time. How heavy duty do you think I would need to get the plywood and lumbar to hold up to this? Or should I just try and make it small enough to tilt up against the wall (or in pieces small enough)?

    Thanks!

  9. ZandB says:

    In response to Amanda,
    I would not recommend parking a car on the floor as built for two reasons:
    – The weight of the car sitting on the floor would more than likely warp the floor and widen the cracks where joined together making for an un-true surface that would trip up a dancer.
    – In addition, the fluids that tend to drip from a car would, at the very least stain the wood and make it slick, but could also cause deterioration of the surface.
    If possible, you may want to make the “joining seam” in the middle of where the car is parked and, while away for extended periods, un-screw the two sides and lean them up against the sides of the garage.
    Regardless of your decision, please let us all know of the outcome!
    Good luck!

    • Amanda says:

      I figured that it wouldn’t be a good idea 🙂 I think I will have a seam where it is easy to unscrew when needed. Or I was also thinking that I could put hinges so that it can fold in half for storage against the wall.

      It will be a few months before we will probably tackle this project, but I will be sure to let you know how it works out!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi ZandB!
    I love this site and am going to build my practice floor, but I have a few questions:
    Instead of cross-braces, can I just put some thin boards underneath? And for the closed cell foam, would some weatherproof taping work? I have 3/16 and 3/8 of an inch or something along those lines.
    Thanks!

  11. ZandB says:

    ^The plans that I’ve posted provide for a stable, flat surface and decent measure of shock absorption which I believe is very important to any type of percussive dance. The cross bracing offers stability of the surface as, if not supported in some manner, plywood can “jump up and down” on it’s own. You can do a small test drive with a few thin boards, but I’m concerned you wouldn’t eliminate floor motion. The closed cell foam I used was very tight (stiff) and about one half inch thick. I don’t think the weatherproof taping would give the same absorption as a thicker closed cell foam. You can test out the various materials on a two foot by two foot plywood board and see if there are any differences in the effect. If you do, let us know how it turned out.

  12. Rachel says:

    Hi ZandB. I am just a little confused on where the foam goes. Does it go between each cell or under the lattice grid or between the lattice and plywood? Sounds great! Thank you

    • ZandB says:

      Rachel,
      The foam is cut in strips and is glue on the lattice grid and as such, the foam lays on the floor with the lattice grid above it and the plywood glued/screwed above the lattice.

  13. Lizz says:

    Thank you for the post! Is the lattice screwed from the bottom up?

    • ZandB says:

      The method I used was to screw from the bottom up as it was easier to line up the lattice boards. You obviously have to be careful in screw lengths to not push a screw tip through the surface, but that’s where the glue helps to keep the lattice in place.

  14. Lizz says:

    If you don’t mind my asking, what typ of ply wood did you use? And Are there knots in the surface?
    Thank you

    • ZandB says:

      There are several grades of plywood so you want to make sure you purchase a medium to better grade with a smooth surface. I avoid wood with any knots on the dance surface side, or chips on edges that might catch a hard shoe/ghillie. If constructed well, with good materials, the stage should last years, so a few extra bucks on initial purchase is worth it in the long run.

  15. Sam says:

    Awesome floor plans, could you please tell me how you can interlock the sections for a bigger dance floor. My daughter can’t wait to get her new floor.

    • ZandB says:

      I get this question a lot, and really need to take some pictures.

      For the most part, I use 1” x 2″ boards as the “bracing” under the plywood. When two or more plywood boards are adjacent to each other, I increase ‘the size of the bracing on the adjoining edge to 1″ x 4″ boards with two inches of the brace attached to each piece of plywood.

      Hope that helps.

      • Sam says:

        Yes it does! Thanks again for all the info, I will post after I get my daughters dance floor done. All I have to do now is find a kangaroo, got everything else….

  16. Shawn says:

    Thanks for the DIY tutorial! This is an excellent piece and very timely for me. I need to build a dance floor for my daughter, who is into Irish step dancing. The basement space I am planning to use is carpeted (regular pile-not Berber or shag). Can I or should I put the foam underneath the support strips if I want to put the floor right on top of the carpeting? Also, assuming no history of moisture problems in the basement, should I be concerned at all about trapping moisture underneath the floor?

    • ZandB says:

      If you are putting the dance floor over carpet, you shouldn’t need the foam and the carpet would provide the shock-reduction. Not as good as a similar layer of foam, but adequate.

      Our basement dance floor was installed over tile and had had no moisture problems. I can’t give you a good answer regarding trapping moisture under the carpet as I have no experience and, if it is wall to wall carpeting, it would be difficult to periodically check for moisture issues.

      I’d also be concerned about the long term effect on the carpet in terms of permanent indentations caused by the grid frame of the stage.

      I’ll check about to see if anyone has history on your issue and post results later.

  17. Dennis says:

    Just finished a 6×8 with marley on top, use 3’2′ x 4′ square so it is “portable” thanks for the guidelines. They were most helpful

  18. Bart says:

    My son is just getting started in Irish Dance so I was looking for some home-grown instructions for a practice floor. Came across your site. Appreciate that you posted your build.

    Quick question… can I replace the Harp with Guinness? How will that affect the build? 😉

    • ZandB says:

      ^ Bart, you should do just fine with any of the fine products of the Guinness Brewery! I myself am fond of Smithwick’s ale as I seem to pace myself better with it. In truth, there have been unsubstantiated stories of folks successfully building dance floors using Miller Light as their “Adult Beverage of Choice” (ABC).

      • Bart says:

        Thanks ZandB, appreciate that! I firmly believe anything with “light” in the name should never be considered an “ABC” 🙂

  19. Dancersmom says:

    Last year I purchased a piece of marley 8×10 for my girls to practice their turns on in the garage. The garage floor has Expoxy finish. Every time they practice they roll it out and when the are done roll it back up. I spend about $200. Now I would like to figure out a way to put the marley on a piece of plywood. Im not sure if this would be a good idea. I know the hard surface is not good for practicing dance. I think it would be better for them to have a little cushion. Can you give any direction, would I basically follow your same instruction and put the marley on top? I part my car in the garage so it has to be portable.

    Thank you

  20. lisa says:

    I have purchased stall mats from the local tractor supply store. They are 4 x7 and don’t flake provides adequate cushion and protects wood floor !

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