Why Do Bowling Alley Floors Never Crack?

Why Do Bowling Alley Floors Never Crack

Bowling alley lane floors sustain constant abuse when the alley is open. Bowling balls are very heavy, and some can even weigh up to 16 pounds! Bowling beginners and younger bowlers have a tendency to simply drop or throw their balls onto the lanes, and the extreme weight of the ball seems like it should cause the lane floor to break. However, bowling alley lane floors almost never break and only occasionally sustain damage, though it is far less than the wear and tear you would expect to find. This is in large part due to the composition of a bowling alley floor, and the treatment it receives to make it more resistant to damage.

Typical Bowling Alley Lane Damage

While bowling alley lane floors never crack, they are susceptible to other forms of damage. Typical damage seen is bumpy or dented floors. A significant contributing factor to floor damage is the popularity of the venue, as increased use of the lanes can lead to an increase in dents and other damage to the lanes’ flooring.

Bowling Alley Lane Floor Composition

With an average thickness of 2.5 inches, bowling alley lane floors can be made of several different combinations of materials. The most commonly used materials for bowling lane floors are pinewood, maple wood, and synthetic flooring.


A typical type of wood found in bowling alley lane floors is pinewood. Pine is plentiful and tends to be less expensive than other types of wood because of its abundance, which also makes it easier to replace. It is usually the material used for the middle part of the lane between where the pins sit and where the ball first hits the floor. Pinewood is also strong and is not affected by changes in temperature or humidity like most other types of wood, which protects it from shrinking or expanding with changes in the climate.

Maple Wood

Maple is harder, more durable, and more shock resistant than pine wood, which is why it is usually the material used for the area where the ball hits the floor and the area where the pins sit. Bowling alleys that are primarily for tournaments or in highly populated and/or affluent areas may have bowling alley lane floors comprised entirely of maple. However, most bowling alleys use a mixture of pine and maple.

Synthetic Flooring

Synthetic flooring looks like wood but is made in a factory and is harder and cheaper than wood. This flooring fares better than wooden floors and requires less maintenance and oil, which helps the owners of the bowling alley save money or reallocate it to another aspect of the bowling alley’s business. Synthetic floors are also much smoother and have less friction than wood surfaces, making it more difficult to produce spin on the ball.

Oil Treatments

The final component of most bowling alley lane floors is an oil-based substance that coats the wood. Some commonly used treatments are polyurethane and mineral oil, which add an extra layer of protection from impact and dents. The oil also allows the ball to roll smoothly and relieve pressure from the floor. This is part of why you should not overstep the line at the beginning of the lane. Not only is it cheating, but it may also mess up the oil pattern or become dangerous for the players.

Bowling Alley Lane Floor Maintenance

bowling alley lane floor maintenance

Bowling alley lane floors often require annual or biannual maintenance. The old finish is sanded off, and dents and other rough surfaces are smoothed out. Finally, another base coat and topcoat are applied, along with another layer finish. The lanes are also cleaned regularly by dusting and cleaning with lane cleaner.