From The Ground Up

Tennis has been around since ancient times, but your tennis courts don’t have to look like they it. If courts suffer from sagging fences, cracked surfaces and torn nets, it is time for a makeover.

Before the maintenance department gears up for one more round of cleaning, filling, fixing and resurfacing the courts in the spring, create a list of priorities that will help turn a crumbling facility into a smooth project. Are you trying to buy some time before completely refurbishing courts, or is the time now? Is only color-coating an option? What about those cracks? How long will the repair work take? And, equally important, how much will it cost?

Decisions, Decisions

Knowing how much attention a tennis court requires will be important in preparing the budget. Before getting the first bid for a project, look at where courts are located, who uses them, and how weather affects the playing surface. Durability and turnaround time on repair may be factors in the decision. Are courts located in a shady area or does the sun beat down, causing glare and unbearable surface temperatures? Examine surfaces that stay cool and reduce glare. If weather brings lots of rain, a surface that dries quickly is important. How much time does staff have to devote to court maintenance? If they are already stretched to the limit, a low-maintenance surface is vital.

Digging For Answers

Regular maintenance of tennis courts is a necessary evil. This means routinely filling in cracks and applying an acrylic coating overlay, re-stripping and making necessary net repairs. But if your court seems to have more cracks and dips each year, it is time to have the area under the court analyzed. Mark Montemayor, president of Environmental Sport Surfaces, recommends a geotechnical engineer do the analysis. Oftentimes, cracking is “a symptom of problems underneath.” Generally, it costs less than $1,000 to analyze the dirt and asphalt under the court, which will reveal if you need to replace the base or the asphalt, re-grade or patch and re-surface.

If patching is an option, there are different products available from elastic crack filler to an actual patch offered by Armor Crack Repair System. The latter is a membrane-like patch that is placed over the crack and overlaps onto the surrounding area. It forms a bond that allows for the cracked area to breathe, or move with temperature changes, which is important for avoiding additional or new cracks. As with any other crack repair, the surface then can be coated with your choice of acrylic overlay colors. When professionally applied, the Armor Crack Repair blends into the court, leaving a level playing field. This system can be used in most parts of the country and lasts for 10 years. Before repairs can begin, however, the surface should be clean and stable. Pressure-washing and removal of any loose surface material are recommended.

Resurfacing--Making Old New

When a patch-type surface repair is not an option due to extensive cracking and divots, Premier Court offers an alternative option--a complete tear-out and rebuild. The company’s surface is a polyurethane covering made of the same material used for the insoles in tennis shoes. As a free-floating system, it is put over the current surface, then color-coated with acrylic overlay. The whole process takes seven to 10 days, can be used on both indoor and outdoor courts, and is applicable to courts anywhere in the country. Jeff Henderson of Tennis Technology explains the four-step process:

· The court is leveled with a leveling compound, and cracks are filled

· The Premier Court material is rolled onto the court surface

· A color-coated acrylic overlay is applied

· The court is stripped and nets are replaced

Although the cost to have a Premier Court surface applied is about $35,000 for two courts, the product comes with a 25-year warranty, which requires the court be color-coated every five years at a cost of around $3,000. The product needs to be applied when the court surface temperature is 140 F, so most courts will have to be done in the summer months. Henderson explained the 140 F temperature is achieved on a day that is 80 F and sunny or warmer. “If there’s a cloud in the sky, we can’t do it.”

Starting From Scratch

If a court’s old asphalt needs re-grading, the irrigation needs updating, and the surrounding fence needs attention, the only option may be a total tear-out. After having the asphalt, base and soil underneath the court analyzed by a geotechnical engineer, you and your contractor will be able to work out a plan for re-construction. Vern Houghting of The Court Devil Inc. uses a laser-guided grader to level the four- to six-inch stone base, a process that reduces labor costs because only one person is needed to operate the equipment. Prior to the laser system, a team hand-surveyed the court and leveled the base, using a manually computed grid system. Once the base is leveled, the asphalt is applied. Houghting recommends laying a two-inch-thick asphalt pad prior to final surfacing. With the rising costs of oil, it may be tempting to skimp on the asphalt; however, there is a risk of unstable courts that will not last without proper underlay. For the final surfacing, there are many choices. Houghting prefers a Har-Tru surface, a product that has been around since the 1950s. The crushed stone surface offers many benefits, including a no-glare surface that dries quickly and, with proper maintenance, will not crack. Additionally, the surface allows players to slide, thus reducing injuries. A Har-Tru surface can be applied over asphalt as well as on concrete courts.

Now that the courts are in top shape, don’t forget to upgrade the surrounding fence. To solve sagging, contractors recommend a three-rail system--top, middle, and bottom--which not only stops sagging, but increases durability. For additional strength, an 8-gauge, vinyl-coated material is recommended. The fencing surrounding the tennis court area should look good and last for years.

Doing Your Homework

There are options to consider for tennis court projects--from court colors and surfaces to contractors. Finding a reputable contractor and the right surface for a court does not have to be a challenge. The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a good source of information that offers buyer guidelines, a list of Certified Tennis Court Builders contractors, and professional design listings. Formed in 1965, the ASBA sets the industry standard for tennis courts, running tracks and indoor and outdoor synthetic sports surfaces. A goal of the ASBA is to offer consumers information to help them through the process of constructing or repairing sport surfaces. The ASBA also provides information on court maintenance, site selection, design professionals, questions to ask contractors when receiving bids and the certification process. Access its Web site at

Pam Kutsick is a freelance writer and contributor to Parks & Rec Business magazine. She can be reached via e-mail at