Reskinning a Stage Floor

Palindrome

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Our stage floor is in a terrible state, I don't think its been reskinned in over a decade. Its MDF so I'm putting a proposal together to pay for it to be reskinned. If we end up doing it in house (more than likely), I believe we need to prep the MDF before laying it down. Someone once suggested to me that the sheets needed to be painted on both sides to prime them, I'm guessing so that they expand before they're layed. Does anyone have any advice?
 

JohnD

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Paging @teqniqal who is up on floors, and other stuff LOL
Also check:
and
 
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josh88

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I prefer tempered hardboard over mdf. Basically the same thing but its sealed on all edges/faces with linseed oil and that does that "priming" process for you. Be sure to leave a space between sheets for expansion or you'll start bubbling. Hardboard has a higher density than MDF due to the wet/dry process which means more durable and less likely (in my experience) to delaminate than MDF.
 

Palindrome

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I prefer tempered hardboard over mdf. Basically the same thing but its sealed on all edges/faces with linseed oil and that does that "priming" process for you. Be sure to leave a space between sheets for expansion or you'll start bubbling. Hardboard has a higher density than MDF due to the wet/dry process which means more durable and less likely (in my experience) to delaminate than MDF.
Thanks for your advice, that sounds great. What kind of gap would you leave between boards? Like a millimetre?
 

TheaterEd

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I would use the width of the puddy knife you plan to use to clean out the cracks. I do it once a year to stop the sawdust from solidifying in there and thus limiting the expansion. Had that issue once that caused my hardwood downstage to bubble up in the summer.
 

JohnD

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I would use the width of the puddy knife you plan to use to clean out the cracks. I do it once a year to stop the sawdust from solidifying in there and thus limiting the expansion. Had that issue once that caused my hardwood downstage to bubble up in the summer.
My apologies, but I just can't help myself sometimes.
51WkVyT3OvL.jpg

Is a puddy knife what Sylvester uses?
 

josh88

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Thanks for your advice, that sounds great. What kind of gap would you leave between boards? Like a millimetre?
I agree with the others, I too usually say a US penny, or putty knife. Somewhere in the range of 1-2 mm.
 
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+1 for tempered hardboard (aka, masonite, etc.) over MDF.

As others have said, you DEFINITELY want a gap. I've used US dimes before (slightly thinner than a US penny and the gap it leaves tends to disappear better from an audience distance) but I *really* like the putty knife idea (never heard of a "puddy" knife....does McMaster sell those?). Whatever you use to make your gap, it should be consistent throughout.

I've always advocated for priming both sides (prime the underside white so your students aren't confused years down the road which is the "UP" side and which is the "DOWN" side...) and have never had serious problems but maybe you might also get some mileage w/ just putting down a vapor barrier (like 2mm plastic, etc.) to the subfloor?

Good luck,
 

MarshallPope

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When you're priming, be sure to paint the edges as well. I've seen ridges form along the seams where moisture has seeped into the gaps and into the edges of the maso.
 
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MPowers

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Our stage floor is in a terrible state, I don't think its been reskinned in over a decade. Its MDF so I'm putting a proposal together to pay for it to be reskinned. If we end up doing it in house (more than likely), I believe we need to prep the MDF before laying it down. Someone once suggested to me that the sheets needed to be painted on both sides to prime them, I'm guessing so that they expand before they're layed. Does anyone have any advice?
I have recovered a number of floors, in a number of ways over the years. The following is what I have experienced with the various possibilities.
Hardboard, Masonite, tempered board etc., of all types and thicknesses:
1. Bring into the facility on stage or as close as possible. Stack with flat, 3/4” ply and a dozen stage weights on top. Allow at least 2-3 days to acclimate to the buildings ambient atmosphere.
2. Prime both sides and the edges with high quality primer, can be tinted if you want. Allow each side to dry/cure 48 hrs or as recommended by primer manufacturer.
3. Base coat each side, allow to dry minimum 24 hrs. or a recommended by manufacturer.
DO NOT STINT OR PUSH THESE DRY TIMES!!! Plan ahead. Allow more than ample time for each step. Build in “just-in-case” days to your schedule.
IMHO 1/8” product is good for only a short time. One summer season, one academic year, one 6 week run of a musical, etc.
4: When installing I always liked to start with the PL+CL and work out from there. Any layout pattern that works for you is fine.
5. Pre drill and counter sink to avoid “mushrooming” around screw heads. Put a stop collar on drill to avoid over drilling the countersink.
6. Allow space between sheets. I’ve always used a dime. YMMV.

The best solution I have found, IMHO, is a product called “Plyron”. It is made with a center core of, IIRC, B-B no void, 5/8” ply, with a layer of 1/8” tempered hard board, fully bonded to each face. It easily lasts several years and in most cases, can be flipped and reinstalled for another several years. The down side is the initial cost, of about $110 per sheet (in 2003), but that is more than made up with savings in maintenance, repair and replacement costs as compared to 1/4” hardboard.

It’s been a few years so I’m not sure of the current availability or price of plyron, but if it’s still available, I strongly recommend it.
 
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MNicolai

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@MPowers I've heard mixed results about the more recent Plyron formulas including that it will tear up from gaff tape like run-of-the-mill tempered hardboard.

One of the bigger problems with it is that you have to do a custom order. You won't find it on a warehouse shelf in most regions. It's coming from a truck in the Pacific Northwest when you order it and there's a minimum order you'll need to fill. I vaguely recall the minimum order when I was looking 6-7 months ago was around 50 sheets, but don't quote me on that.

I think there's an argument to be made that the ubiquity of better-than-average grade tempered hardboard is a better bet, especially if you're in the kind of theater that's going to repaint frequently or may want to replace singular damaged panels as-needed. Off-the-shelf tempered hardboard from Home Depot is not the way to go though. Need to specifically seek out "the good stuff".
 
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derekleffew

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5. Pre drill and counter sink to avoid “mushrooming” around screw heads. Put a stop collar on drill to avoid over drilling the countersink.
I've found that a router, with the proper bit, and at the correct depth setting, far easier. Plunge is best, but doesn't have to be.

Screw pattern: Is every foot along the edges and every two feet in the field the norm/recommended?
Three screws in the middle of a 4x8 sheet doesn't seem enough.
 
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josh88

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What happens to the gap when you repaint the floor? Do you do back around with a putty knife to scrape the extra paint back out or just let it fill the gap?
It slowly fills up. I can't say I've ever done anything about that on repaints and I can't say that I've ever noticed it to have any real impact on expansion and contraction, maybe I've gotten lucky.
 

MPowers

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@MPowers I've heard mixed results about the more recent Plyron formulas including that it will tear up from gaff tape like run-of-the-mill tempered hardboard.

One of the bigger problems with it is that you have to do a custom order. You won't find it on a warehouse shelf in most regions. It's coming from a truck in the Pacific Northwest when you order it and there's a minimum order you'll need to fill. I vaguely recall the minimum order when I was looking 6-7 months ago was around 50 sheets, but don't quote me on that.

I think there's an argument to be made that the ubiquity of better-than-average grade tempered hardboard is a better bet, especially if you're in the kind of theater that's going to repaint frequently or may want to replace singular damaged panels as-needed. Off-the-shelf tempered hardboard from Home Depot is not the way to go though. Need to specifically seek out "the good stuff".
I am sorry to hear about the decline in the quality of plyron. To be fair, the last floor I installed with plyron was in ‘98 or ‘99. I agree if a theatre tends to do a custom “show floors“ , then the higher grade hardboard is very likely a better choice.
 
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