INSPECTING A TENNIS COURT TO PLAN FOR RESURFACING OR NEW SURFACING
The first step of your tennis court resurfacing or new court surfacing project is “Inspection”, whether you plan to hire a tennis court contractor to do the work or do it yourself. Just as you stand a better chance of a reasonable price by speaking knowledgeably to a mechanic about a problem with your car, you will be assured of the best value for your tennis court resurfacing project if you know exactly what surface preparations and repairs are needed. It’s not always possible to know specifically what car repairs are needed due to their complexity, but a tennis court is much simpler. By following the inspection steps below, you will know exactly what your tennis court will need and be able to communicate intelligently with tennis court surfacing suppliers and contractors. A thorough inspection and recording of your findings will allow you to plan and price your tennis court resurfacing / surfacing as a do-it-yourself project, or to provide local court contractors with the information needed for them to easily give you their best pricing for a turn-key job.
WAIT FOR A GOOD RAIN OR FLOOD YOUR COURT WITH A HOSE
The only time to inspect a court is after a heavy rain. The gloss from the water reveals highs, lows and other imperfections that are more difficult to see when the court is dry. Slight humps created by roots intruding onto the court are a good example of identifying high spots. Standing water can best be identified one hour after flooding. If you don't want to wait for a good soaking rain, flood your court with a garden hose. Immediately after the court has been flooded, walk over every square foot of it looking for any imperfections (except standing water). You should have a big yellow crayon in hand to mark each area you think needs repair. Don’t hesitate to write on the court where you want to be reminded of details of the problems.
You should wait one hour after a good flooding to find and mark areas where water is standing. The U.S.T.A. (United States Tennis Association) regulations state: any area holding water deep enough to slightly cover a nickel (1/8” or greater), one hour after flooding, should be patched to eliminate, or at least reduce, the standing water. In our industry these areas are called, “Bird-Baths”, oddly enough. The U.S.T.A. is primarily interested in eliminating these Bird-Baths because they slow the drying of the surface after a rain, delaying the resumption of play. As a court owner, you should eliminate them because water standing on the surface too long will allow mildew to flourish, creating a slip hazard when damp and eventually degrading the paint. So, one hour after flooding, use your yellow crayon to mark around the outer edge of any Bird-Baths you find.
Typical crayon markings might look similar the graphic below (black lines represent cracks). Don’t be alarmed if your court has many more marks than show here.
NOTE: If you plan to resurface the court relatively soon, you should consider cleaning your court (including pressure washing if needed) before you perform the inspection steps above. Cleaning with water will remove many of the markings. Rain will erode them away after a month or so.
Once you have inspected the tennis court and marked the areas needing work, it’s a good practice to document these areas with a diagram and digital pictures. These will be invaluable to anyone you contact to either supply materials for your tennis court resurfacing / surfacing or for contractors pricing the work. If you would like a blank tennis court diagram for your notes, click on one of these links for one of ours: SINGLE COURT DIAGRAM, TWO COURT BATTERY DIAGRAM. They are free. Pictures should include close-ups of the problem areas and a few half-court and full-court overview shots. If you are taking pictures of areas that are rough, drop a coin in the close-ups for perspective. When finished your diagram will look something like the one below.
WHAT REPAIR ITEMS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Root Intrusion is usually found around the first 15 feet of the court perimeter, all though I have seen roots reach well into the playing area. The telltale sign of root intrusion is a long, relatively narrow hump (4” to 12” wide) emanating onto the court from its edge. A crack is often, though not always, present running along the top of the hump. With your crayon, mark the lowest point of both sides of the hump. Root intrusion is not as hard to repair as most believe. Mark the root intrusion on the court with the yellow crayon and record it on your diagram.
Most root intrusion will occur on asphalt courts, where even small roots can grow between the base rock and the asphalt. Only very large roots will distort concrete. Where it occurs on concrete, the distortion is pronounced and can only be fixed by cutting out the concrete and replacing it. Repairing root intrusion on an asphalt court is much simpler. Many people think they should cut out the hump in the court down to the root. Not only is this unnecessary, it is unwise. Every cut in a court will create a future crack.
Standing Water. As previously described, standing water (birdbath) is any area holding water deeper than 1/8” one hour after flooding. Mark these areas with your yellow crayon. It is useful for future reference to make a note inside each birdbath such as: D for deep, S for shallow, 1/8”, ¼”, ½”, etc. After the surface is dry, sketch the birdbaths on the diagram including the same notations on the court. Measure the dimension of each patch you have marked on the court and record them on your diagram. These measurements will help you and your coatings supplier determine the length and number of straightedges you will need for patching, if you decide to tackle the tennis court resurfacing project yourself. Your detailed diagram and pictures will also be instructive to prospective contractors should you decide to solicit quotes. You will see much more interest from contractors if you have these materials ready to email or text to them.
Court Cracking – Cracking is the most common repair item which must be addressed before tennis court resurfacing (repainting) can begin. Unless you are one of the lucky few who have a post-tensioned concrete tennis court you will very likely have some cracks to repair. In the inspection phase you should sketch in all the cracks on a scaled diagram of your court or courts. Note the width of each crack. Once the cracks are mapped out on the court diagram you or prospective tennis court contractors can estimate the total lineal feet and average width of the cracks to be repaired. Now it’s time to decide whether you want to invest in repairing the cracks permanently or just fill them and continue to treat them as a maintenance item. All crack fillers will re-crack, usually starting the first cold days of Fall or Winter. Our patented permanent crack repair system, CrackSpan, costs around $6.00 per lineal foot. Contractors typical charge between $15.00 and $25.00 per foot for turn-key installation of similar systems.
Humps or Dips That Could Affect Play - These areas are best seen right after flooding when the surface is still glossy. Mark them with the crayon and sketch them on your diagram.
Rough Areas – Rough areas can be seen whether the court is wet or dry. If they are prominent you won’t need to mark them with the crayon, but you should draw them on your court diagram and note their dimensions.
Surface Delamination Or Cracking Around Net Post or Fence Post Foundations - This also a common repair issue for most tennis court resurfacing projects. Note them on your diagram.
Delaminating Patches and Surface Coatings – Sometimes, due to defective products or improper surface cleaning, you will find areas on the court peeling or delaminating. You should make a note, and take pictures, of these areas, but you will not know their true size until you blast their edges with a pressure-washer. Your new tennis court surface will only be as sound as the old surface beneath it. You will have to follow the weak surface where ever the pressure washing leads. While the area may not be much larger after pressure washing, you must get rid of the weak surface areas.
Foreign Substances on the Court That Could Affect Adhesion – The most common foreign substances that will affect adhesion of the new patches and court resurfacing coatings are: mold, mildew, algae, and mud. These are all easily removed by a combination of cleaning chemicals, and a good strong pressure washing. Record these areas needing cleaning on your diagram and take a few pictures.