Bowling alley lanes

Why Do Bowling Alley Floors Never Become Dented? Here Is Why

Bowling alley operators use maple as flooring, a sturdy and denser type of wood for flooring. Some even use native walnut that is also tough and hard to dent. Such wood can resist impressions, but it is not solid, dent-proof. 

Nowadays, there are other synthetic materials used for bowling lanes that are much cheaper and easier to maintain. 

The setup of the bowling alleys comprises maple placed at the immediate contact site of the bowling ball, while further lanes are fitted with pine. 

Those who are just new to the game are allowed to drop the ball, taking into consideration that they still don’t have control over it. Doing this often, their attention will be called, and sometimes be asked to leave if they keep on dropping the ball on the floor. 

Bowling alley operators also don’t want to push it and abuse the durability of the wood used for the floors and avoid denting the alleys as much as they can. 

Bowling ball has the risk of damaging the lane with too much throwing and dropping of the ball. 

This is the reason wooden bowling lanes require yearly or twice yearly maintenance so they can have their surface looking its best. 

The popularity of a bowling alley can also depend on how perfect and playable their bowling alley is. Any bumpy or too slippery will cause many players to look for a bowling alley elsewhere. 

There is also the use of oil to coat the lanes to protect them from denting. The balls will not make a dent with it on. Oil also makes the lane slick, and therefore a player must know how to balance and throw the ball even with the slick surface. 

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The commonly used oil is mineral oil as it better conditions the bowling lanes. 

There are patterns in placing the oil in bowling alleys, including what they call the House Pattern. It is when more oil is applied in the middle of the lane compared to the outer lane. 

Other patterns arise from heavier coats at the front and less at the back or vice versa. 

Experienced players know how to adjust their stance when they notice the oil application used on the alley. They can switch and adapt according to the condition of the bowling lane. 

Another material used for bowling alleys is aluminum, made to look like wood. It is aluminum with a thin coat of hard plastic and the seeming wood image place on top, but it was all synthetic. 

Advantages of using this material

  • It has the appearance and the feel of classic wood
  • A pleasant sound with every impact of the bowling ball 
  • More cost-effective for bowling alley owners 
  • It requires less maintenance
  • It has a highly consistent surface without creases
  • Not required for refinishing every six months
  • The floor last longer more than the usual wood

How Are Bowling Alleys Maintained?

They sand the old finish off to bare wood, and they smoothen the lane where the dents or rough surfaces are removed. Then a base coat and topcoat are applied to the lanes. 

There is also re-coating where another layer of clear coat or finish is used to the existing finish. 

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Lane Cleaning

Even if the lane is of wood or synthetic, it requires dusting and cleaning. A duster may be used if there is also liquid lane cleaner. Dusting is done in the morning before the start of operation and then another at night to remove the pooled dirt during the entire day operation. 

Approach Cleaning

This cleaning removes spills or dust or any liquid drops on the floor, even shoe marks. The approach area gets all forms of dirt and stain that immediate cleaning can solve. This type of cleaning is more helpful before, and after a league bowling cause, if you do it in between the game, there is a risk of the floor becoming slippery. 

Lane Stripping

It is best done every week on the same day. The stripping should be consistent. Using liquid-based cleaners, if left too long, can damage the wood and its finish. Lane stripping can clean the floor better and faster without the risk of damaging the floor’s appearance. 

Lane Conditioning

They do this with the use of a conditioning machine or can be manual. Lane conditioning protects the floor from the friction from bowling balls. The lane conditioning application must be just enough and not too much. Worn lane surfaces can benefit from lane conditioning, and bowling lane operators sometimes use lane conditioning instead of spending for resurfacing or re-coating. 

There is also a downside to frequent lane conditioning as the oil can penetrate the inner wood and soften the quality, which leads to more damage later on. 

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Pin Deck area coating

Coating with a clear urethane finish will help the pin deck area and its longevity. The coating is done once or up to three times per year. The area requires cleaning before any coating is applied. They do not advise using the bowling lane after coating and should wait for six to eight hours till it dries.


Damages will appear sooner or later, and it is better to look for them before the damage worsen. There should be an annual check-up or even a biennial one. Cracks, scratches, rough surfaces are repaired. 

This is also the time to check for dents or any structural disturbances on the bowling lane. Sometimes the need for repair may be immediate to prevent any area from turning unusable. 

Ensuring that everything works will provide a smooth operating bowling alley and will not cost any money loss to the owners. 

There are also bowling lane proprietors who are now turning their wood flooring to synthetic as this gives them lesser expenses with maintenance and cleaning. 

Sanding is no longer required, and the alley will last for many years. Though there is the usual touch-up and keeping everything at a 100 percent performance, it causes lesser stress to the owners.