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Court investment is high and it is essential that the courts are properly maintained in order to ensure
- That the playing surface is kept scrupulously clean, to preserve its playing characteristics.
- That the pile remains supported to prevent flattening leading to inconsistency in ball rebound, foot friction and poor drainage.
- That the free drainage of surface water is maintained throughout the life of the court.
- That the tennis court should look attractive and well-kept at all times.
These objectives are achieved by:
- Regularly sweeping leaves and other detritus from the surface.
- Regularly brushing to freshen the fibre surface, counteracting any slight sand drift or compaction and tendency to form an impervious skin on the sand surface that might impair drainage.
- Applying prophylactic treatments of moss killer and/or algaecide.
15.1 Keeping the surface clean
Leaves, tree flowers, pine needles, and other detritus should not be allowed to remain on the surface for any length of time. If this happens they rapidly decay forming a drainage-inhibiting skin within the surface, and providing a growing medium for algae and moss. A wide soft broom or a rubber-tined rake is ideal for removing vegetable matter and other rubbish. Better still a mechanical leaf sweeper or garden vacuum cleaner will greatly speed-up the operation. The equipment should be well maintained and carefully operated to avoid contamination of or physical damage to the surface. Both sweepers and vacuum cleaners may tend to remove rather too much sand during the first few months of the life of the surface, but thereafter should cease to be a problem. Some disturbance of the surface of the sand may be a positive benefit.
Brushing the surface is a crucial operation if premature loss of pile and deterioration in drainage is to be prevented. Apart from freshening the look of the surface (rather like a lawn mower making stripes on a lawn), the purpose of regular and fairly vigorous brushing is to prevent the formation of a compacted and impervious skin on the top of the sand layer which will inhibit drainage and encourage moss and algae.
Or other similar maintenance machinery – mechanised or otherwise – it is very important that refuse/debris is removed from the surface and not brushed into it. If the debris is brushed into the surface it will clog the surface, compact, cause poor drainage and lead to moss growth.
15.3 Brushing Machinery
Brushing by hand is basically ineffective and hard work. A selection of mechanical brushing machines is now available which will speed up and lighten the operation and these are recommended at tennis venues where there are several courts. The machines vary in the vigour with which they treat the surface – some methods, namely rotary brushing, are rather fierce and only recommended for use by experienced operatives and where heavy remedial brushing is indicated. Combined brush and vacuum machines must be used with even greater care because sand brushed and sucked from the surface may be very difficult to replace especially when the court is wet. The use of a small mechanical tractor with weighted drag brush is strongly recommended for the best long-term performance. The installer’s advice should always be sought when considering the use of any but the lightest machines.
15.4 Synthetic grass court maintenance tractor & brushes
The recommended frequency of brushing must depend on the amount of use the court receives and whether its location is open and clean. Once a week is a recommended norm but it may be advisable to brush more often if the court is heavily used, shaded or subject to ‘pollutions’. Similarly a little used court, in a domestic garden for instance, will come to no harm if the intervals between brushings are longer, provided the location is open and clean. It cannot be overemphasised that to neglect the brushing of this kind of court may have serious long-term consequences even if, in the shorter term, the court does not appear to suffer. Brushing need be neither time-consuming nor onerous but its benefits are profound. To omit the process may result in a court ceasing to drain at half-life or sooner. An un-brushed court will look scruffy and be susceptible to moss infestation.
15.5 Moss and Algae
In certain situations and in some seasons algae or moss can become established on the court surface. Since prevention is very much more effective than cure, it is important to treat the court with a good proprietary moss killer and algaecide at least once a year. Moss is not usually found on that part of the surface that is heavily used, and it may not be essential to treat these areas although it is still a wise precaution to do so. Particular attention should however be paid to those perimeter and other areas that are not heavily used, especially if they are shaded by walls or buildings or overhung by trees. Any good proprietary product is satisfactory provided it is not oil-based. The manufacturers instructions should be closely followed. Some installers can supply specially formulated moss killers. Where moss has become established, repeated applications of moss killer may be needed until the moss can be brushed and cleared away. In the case of very severe infestation, the installer should be consulted. High pressure cleaning equipment is now available but its use is a skilled process. It should be emphasised that moss is only a serious problem if it is allowed to become established. An annual prophylactic application of moss-killer is an easy way of preventing this. Regular brushing and use of the court renders moss an even less likely problem.
15.6 The First Month or Two
Immediately after construction there is an initial working-in period during which the final playing surface is created. Initially the court surface will be left rather sandy but full penetration of the sand infill into the pile and its subsequent compaction into a uniform playing surface occurs naturally with normal processes, especially rainfall and initial play. This usually takes 1 to 2 months.
During construction every effort is made to ensure even distribution of sand over the whole court. Experience, however, shows that increasing the frequency of brushing in the early weeks of use is beneficial in creating the final playing surface. If areas are found which are short of sand it should be possible to brush surplus sand into them from adjacent areas, provided this is done within the first few weeks. If the under-sanded areas are extensive or do not respond to this treatment, the installer should be called in immediately.
15.7 Play Lines
Your court will normally be supplied with permanently in-laid playing lines. However, if additional lines are required for special events, these can be painted onto the surface using water based paints. Chalk lines can be applied but these tend to leave a lasting powder spread in the area of the line. Permanent lines require no special attention.
15.8 Stain Removal
Most stains can easily be removed with a solution of hot (NOT BOILING) water and a household detergent e.g. washing up liquid. The removal of chewing gum can be simplified by using ice cubes to harden the gum.
No matter how much care is taken, weeds may occasionally appear on the surface usually as a result of wind blown seeds. Small numbers of weeds can be removed by hand without damaging the surface. Localised areas of weed seedling infestation can be treated with domestic weed-killers without causing damage to the surface of your court. Oil based weed-killers should not be used.
15.10 Snow and Ice
Snow and ice are not harmful and can be permitted to melt through. If it is important to remove the snow to enable play to start sooner than would otherwise be the case, brushes or wooden scrapers may be used. Metal shovels or scrapers may damage the surface and should not be permitted. Rock salt and chemical de-icing agents should not be used. Provided that the foothold is adequate the court may be played on when frozen, but heavy use is to be discouraged because the fibre is relatively brittle at low temperatures. Of course Safety becomes a major consideration if playing under snow and ice and players are actively discouraged form playing in such conditions. If heavy rain falls immediately after a very cold spell, the court may become flooded for a few hours. This is because the sand beneath is still frozen. Do not worry; the ice will soon melt and the surface will then drain normally.
15.11 Footwear and General Court Care
Make sure that suitable footwear is used i.e. tennis shoes or plimsolls. It is strongly recommended that your court is a “NO SMOKING” area. A dropped cigarette will melt the fibres down to the surface leaving an unsightly mark. Chewing gum should be banned too. It is also recommended that food and alcohol be prohibited from the court area.
15.12 Maintenance Schedule
15.12.1 Daily – at the end of the day’s play
- Make sure the gate is shut
- Clean debris from court
- Brush court to re-distribute sand
- Clear leaves and rubbish etc. from the court
- Deal with any new weeds, moss or algae
15.12.4 Periodically – at least every six months
- Check for moss and algae growth, food-stains, shoe-marks etc., and remedy as appropriate
- Apply grease to the winding gear
- Treat court with moss-killer/algaecide
- Call in installer if any aspect is causing significant concern
These are minimum recommendations. Cleaning, brushing and court inspection can always be done more frequently. Common sense and careful observation should prevail. If any serious doubt exists about the effectiveness of the maintenance regime or the condition of the court(s), call in the installer immediately. It is better to be safe than sorry. Great care should be exercised if sand compaction is being dealt with or seams have lifted. If the compaction is not properly treated the seams can be disturbed (blasting with high pressure water). If seams have to be treated make sure that it is done professionally and the proper adhesive (suitable for Irish conditions) is used.
Does it need much maintenance?
It is essential to keep the sand evenly distributed and free from dirt and debris. Effective brushing should be carried out at least once a week using a mechanical method. Brushing by hand is ineffective, hard work and does not penetrate deep enough into the pile. Contractors offer maintenance packages but these tend to encourage clubs to neglect maintaining the courts themselves.
Our courts are not draining properly, what is the cause?
Bad drainage is usually a sign that an ageing court has a build-up of moss, dirt and debris contaminating the sand infill and causing it to compact. Compaction effectively blocks water from permeating through the carpet and results in ponding. If the problem is severe the contaminated infill can be replaced with new sand. There are two methods using either high power water pressure or compressed air. Vacuuming using compressed air is the most effective because the surface remains dry, allowing immediate and complete re-sanding. The water pressure method needs to be carried out in two stages. Once the sand is removed the carpet must be allowed to dry out before the new sand is installed. If the carpet is wet the sand will not flow evenly into the carpet pile. There is also the risk of some contamination being washed to the bottom of the carpet and causing a problem in the future. Great care should be exercised, when using water pressure, not to break the seal which bonds adjacent bits of carpet together; this can lead to carpet lifting, additional wear on the seams and finally the need for complete carpet replacement Both of these methods are available through contractors but they are expensive and the choice of companies offering the dry version is limited. The only effective way of avoiding contamination is to follow the recommended maintenance guidelines.
When is the best time to brush the courts?
The courts should be brushed when they are dry.
Method of replacement
The synthetic grass carpet is removed in its entirety and replaced with a new surface and new sand infill. In order to ensure adequate drainage for the life of the new synthetic grass carpet the macadam base of the court may need to be pierced and back filled before resurfacing. With medium and particularly short pile carpets there is a possibility of the pierced holes causing small depressions in the playing surface. This can distort the bounce of the ball after it has made contact and is therefore unacceptable. To ensure the holes do not become a problem it is strongly recommended that the pierced macadam surface is overlaid with a new macadam layer. Overlaying also has the advantage of ensuring the surface regularity of the macadam base for the carpet is to the highest possible standards – giving the best possible ball consistency. A new layer of macadam with raised kerbs will cost approximately €6000 per court excluding VAT.