Finish Line store designer plays up the sports theme with durable, maple hardwood flooring. When Austin, Texas-based Mann & Mann Architects was asked to upgrade the Finish Line athletic footwear and apparel stores, Dwayne Mann didn't hesitate about the key material: hardwood floors.

"Wood flooring is the perfect material," says Mann, president of the firm. "It is both traditional and contemporary. It definitely has connotations of quality. And wood, specifically maple, has obvious sports connotations. Since Finish Line is primarily a shoe store, we are tying into the imagery of a maple basketball floor."

In deciding on a hardwood floor for the Indianapolis-based shoe retailer, Mann sought the highest quality finishes that would be durable under heavy commercial traffic. "And we were looking for a color that was complimentary to the overall color scheme for the entire store," he says.

Mann & Mann tried several kinds of wood flooring but found nothing to equal WearMaster, an acrylic-impregnated hardwood floor from Dallas-based Bruce Hardwood Floors.

"Bruce makes a very high-quality material," Mann explains. "Finish Line stores use four different flooring finishes: wood, carpet, porcelain tile and Marmoleum, which is an all-natural linoleum product. All these finishes are different thicknesses, so there are technical construction issues about how to bring them together. The transition between materials is always critical and may be one of the most difficult installation aspects. We like the Bruce floor because it's only 3/8 of an inch thick."

The WearMaster collection comes in individual, tongue-and-groove planks 3 inches wide that can be glued or stapled to a variety of sub-flooring materials. Finish Line uses Maple Maize, but the collection also comes in cool colors such as Berry (maple), Violet Mist and Cayenne (hickory), and Midnight and Empire (basswood).

"Most hardwood floors have a topically applied stain and wear layer," says Maureen King, director of marketing for Bruce Hardwood Floors. "The WearMaster process injects a liquid acrylic and stain into the open pores of the wood. The wood goes through a solidifying process that makes it significantly harder than non-impregnated wood. Then, Bruce's new Permion finish goes on top, making the product 10 times more abrasion resistant."

Because the stain is actually injected into the wood, the color goes all the way through. "If it were to become scratched, you would not see bare wood underneath," King says. "In addition, because the surface is so durable, you're not going to have the usual maintenance issues."

The product is appropriate for commercial applications because it has a three-year commercial-finish warranty, a lifetime structural warranty and a 25-year wear-layer warranty, and it meets the Americans with Disabilities Act recommendations for slip-resistance, King adds.

"We think wood is the key material in the store," Mann says. "You can substitute for the other materials, but I can't think of anything I'd substitute for wood. That was an easy decision."