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Tips for Successful Sport Surfacing

Tips for Successful Sport Surfacing

by Greg Walters, Sealmaster


Tennis court construction is a costly undertaking, and resurfacing is a necessary step in prolonging your investment. The good news is that a court should only need to be resurfaced every five to seven years, at an average cost range of $.60 to $.85 per square foot. Acrylic tennis court surfaces are very durable and hold up extremely well in all environments, from cold and snowy climates to blistering hot temperatures and humid conditions. If kept clean and free from debris and long-standing water, they can be expected to perform five to seven years between resurfacing cycles.  

A standard resurfacing project would entail a thorough cleaning, crack and low-spot repairs, followed by three to four coats of textured acrylic surface coatings. The key is to maintain your surface and perform general cleaning and easy crack repair steps between complete surfacing projects. Sweeping and rinsing off dirt and debris can extend the life of the coatings by minimizing abrasion of hard particles beneath scuffing of the players' feet. Using trowel grade acrylic crack sealants can help to keep water from flowing into the base and loosening the compacted gravel that is supporting the pavement structure. Some manufacturers even make colored sealants to blend in with the existing surface colors for added convenience and aesthetic value. 

The successful installation of an acrylic system should follow some basic tips to minimize failures and increase the lifespan of the tennis court surface. Consult the ASBA (American Sports Builders Association) website for detailed guidelines.

1. Longevity and performance of color coating systems are dependent on proper construction of the court.  

• Proper slope requirements are.8333% - 1.0%

• Adequate surface and subsurface drainage should be installed to prevent water accumulation beneath the surface.

• Concrete courts should have a vapor barrier installed beneath the slab (10 mil thickness recommended).

• Concrete Courts should be finished with a medium-broom texture, and no curing compounds should be used.

• Consult the coating manufacturer's specifications and guidelines for full concrete preparation instructions.

2. Make sure that new asphalt or concrete is fully cured.

• 28 days for concrete

• 30 days recommended for asphalt (during prime curing conditions of moderate sun to draw out oils and rain to rinse away.

• Make sure that the existing surface is not coated with a pavement sealer. Acrylics do not bond well to coal tar or most asphalt-based sealants.

3. Surface Repair:

• 1 Hour after a rain or flooding the court, outline any puddle areas with chalk that cover a 5-cent piece (American coin). These areas should be repaired with Acrylic Patch Binder patching mix.

• Fill all cracks over 1/8" wide with a suitable acrylic-based crack sealant. Never use a hot or cold applied asphalt-based crack filler.

4. Clean the court surface prior to application of repair products or coatings. Any areas where mold, mildew, or fungus is evident should be treated with a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part household bleach.  Spray and broom in the bleach solution and allow it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.  Scrub with brooms or suitable equipment, and then rinse thoroughly with a pressure washer.  It's a good idea to treat any areas exposed to shade with this method.

5. Always follow the manufacturer's mixing instructions. Never over-dilute the coatings in order to "stretch" coverage.  The specified sand size and shape are very important to the look and performance (speed of play) of the surface.  If the proper sand types are not available in your area, purchase the coatings directly from the manufacturer with sand pre-added.

6. Follow the manufacturer's application and curing temperatures.

• Apply products when temperatures are 50 degrees and rising

• The best time to apply is in the morning when the surface is cooler.  If application during hot temperatures is unavoidable, the surface can be lightly misted to cool the pavement.  Do not puddle.  Use a garden pump sprayer or a hose nozzle with mist setting.

• Acrylic Resurfacer and Color Coatings normally dry within 1 hour of application in the full sun (based on 75 day with low humidity).  Shade, low temperatures, and high humidity can increase drying times.

7. Use the proper tools and equipment for mixing and application:

• Floor Scrapers:  Use to scrape foreign objects off of the surface prior to application, and gently scrape the surface between coats to remove small bumps and imperfections.  Do not scrape the finish coat.

• Grass Trimmers:  Trim around the court to prevent grass and weeds from hanging into the application path.

• Blowers & Brooms:  Blow, broom, and gently scrape between coats.

• Pressure Washer:  Use to prepare surface for color coating system. Blast the dirt and debris out of cracks and surface voids.

• Sport Squeegee:  Make sure to use a squeegee that is designed for sport surfacing to minimize squeegee marks on the surface.  A rubber blade that is 50 to 60 durometer (measure of softness) with a tapered/rounded edge is ideal.

• Drill and Paddle Mixer:  A 1 to 1.5 horsepower drill is recommended. Agitated tank systems are also available.

• Line Taping Machine

8. Proper Application Technique

• Watch an application video or consult a sport surface manufacturer for proper application techniques

• Have enough materials mixed for the entire coat before starting application.

• Never squeegee the entire windrow dry during application, and make sure to pour the material directly into the existing wet puddle to minimize pour marks on the surface.

• When applying the material by squeegee, only pull about ¼ of the entire width of the squeegee head. Pulling too much material at once can make it difficult to apply the coatings to the desired thickness.

• Avoid putting the wet squeegee blade down on a dry, hot surface.  Many times the squeegee blade lines can be seen through the finish coats.  This is the same for wet shoes during application, so try to avoid stepping in the coating windrow.

9. Always use a good quality masking tape for line striping, along with a line primer. This will minimize bleed under of the line paint for sharp lines.  Two-inch wide masking tape is recommended for tennis court striping. One-inch tape works best for circles and arcs.  The narrower tape can curve better without billowing.

10. 100% acrylic sport surfaces require very little maintenance. However, general cleaning will go a long way to extending the life of the surface.

• Clean the court regularly:  Once a month is suggested.  Watch for evidence of mold or mildew in shaded areas and corners where organic debris tends to accumulate.  Indoor courts require both frequent vacuuming and at least one annual wet vacuuming with mild detergent solution and soft bristled equipment.

• Remove Standing Water:  Rain showers help clean your court. However, dirt accumulates in standing water, leaving stains. Remove water from birdbaths as often as possible.  Irrigation systems around the court should not spray on the court.

• Remove foreign matter: Leaves and pine needles not only can stain your court, but also are breeding grounds for mold and mildew. It is especially important to remove leaves in the fall and keep your court free of debris all winter.

• Use proper equipment: Use soft nylon or hair-type brooms for scrubbing your surface. Scrubbing too hard with hard bristles can damage the surface. When using a water broom, limit pressure to 70 p.s.i. Be very careful when using a power washer.