Remedial and Repair Works

What is actually meant by maintenance of an artificial turf pitch?

Maintenance can include one or more of a range of elements or actions, and encompass remedial or repair works.

Drag Brushing

The principal purpose of brushing the playing surface with a specialist drag mat is to remove larger items of debris and regulate the levels of infill materials, for example the loose rubber crumb in a 3G artificial turf pitch. The natural mechanics of play and the influence of the weather through rain and wind will, in the high usage areas of a pitch, cause some of the artificial turf to migrate or move across the surface.

This irregularity can not only impact on ball roll, speed and bounce but it has the result of leaving more of the artificial pile fibre exposed and unsupported than intended by the design of the system. The consequence may well be accelerated wear, a reduction in the practical life span of the pitch and a higher than usual requirement for surface repairs. From the players point of view they may well notice a reduction in underfoot grip in addition to the changes in ball behaviour.

Regular drag brushing will help to keep the artificial turf in better general condition and avoid these types of maintenance-related issues.

Power Brushing

Power brushing using a specialist cleaning machine goes beyond the work which can be achieved by drag brushing alone. With this application the initial top depth (approximately 5mm) of the infill material is lifted into the machine where it is cleaned, filtered and graded. Contaminant material previously held within the infill is retained within a collector tank (for subsequent disposal) and the cleaned infill distributed back into the artificial turf.

This process helps to take the artificial turf towards an optimum general playing condition and assists in maximising life expectancy of the surface.

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Power brushing a 3G football turf pitch

Decompaction

The introduction of long pile 3G artificial turf surfaces with a significant depth of loose granular infill, has necessitated close attention being given to the compaction of the infill material through regular and sustained play loading. Without attention, play performance will fail to achieve the required performance levels, the user experience will be compromised and the surface wear will accelerate.

To alleviate the effects of ‘natural’ compaction, a decompaction or grooming attachment ‘combs’ through the artificial grass and it’s granular infill to a nominal depth of 15mm. This action loosens the granular material and returns the top section of infill to its original decompacted state.

A regular programme of grooming in this way should ideally be introduced early in the life span of the artificial turf in order to resist the occurrence of compaction and contribute to a holistic maintenance schedule which will maximise the benefits to be accrued from such an artificial turf sports pitch.

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Before and after decompaction of the 3G infill

Managing Infill Levels

Having the correct levels of infill material is vital to the optimum performance of a filled artificial turf playing surface, and of course health & safety considerations. Accordingly the levels need to be regularly and consistently monitored with corrective action taken as and when required.

In addition to the potential of there being insufficient levels of infill in certain areas of the pitch (which can be addressed by brushing and grooming, and when necessary, the addition of extra quantities of infill) there may, over a period of time, be incidences when there is too much infill present in the system.

This can occur as the artificial turf pile naturally wears down (there is a general acceptance of the indicative rate of 1mm per year) leaving an excess of infill on the surface of the artificial grass. Often migration of the infill can ‘balance’ out this excess. However occasionally it may be necessary to remove any excess and return the levels to their correct depth.

Given the importance of managing infill levels and doing the right things at the right times, this area of maintenance particularly requires specialist expertise and input on a regular basis.

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Testing and evaluating an existing pitch

Line markings Inlaid and Painted

Very often the principal one or two sports to be played on a pitch are manufactured in the same artificial turf material as the general playing surface and either introduced at the point of production or seamed into position during installation of the pitch.

The great advantage of such inlaid lines is they do not require re-marking – saving time and money – and obviously retain their colour density over an extended period of time. Nevertheless these lines should be regularly checked, particularly if cut in during laying of the artificial grass, in case their integrity and stability has been affected by accidental damage or isolated failure of the seaming-in adhesive.

If remedial work is necessary it is important it is done quickly and by a suitably qualified maintenance technician.

With painted lines although one has to plan for a regular re-painting regime there tends not to be the technical considerations involved with artificial turf inlaid lines. But it is important to keep the lines to a satisfactory density and clarity to provide an acceptable playing environment for the players and to avoid unnecessary additional costs .

The latter can occur if the existing lines are allowed to become so indistinct that one cannot accurately simply re-paint using the incumbent lines as the working ‘template’. On such occasions re-marking may involve completely re-setting out the playing lines taking more time and costing more money.

Seams

In the majority of cases, the joining, or seaming, of individual rolls of artificial turf is completed by using a carrier tape under the join and seam, onto which a specialist adhesive is applied. Although current seaming technology has developed significantly in its effectiveness and reliability, an occasional faulty run of seam, usually under a metre, does occur from time to time.

Such a fault potentially poses a health & safety risk as well as affecting the integrity of the surface. Accordingly, seams should be walked on a regular basis and checked for their soundness.

Weed and Moss Control

The presence of moss, algae and weeds can form within the pile of an artificial turf surface most likely at the perimeter of a sports pitch. The incidence of this type of infestation can now be seen more frequently, perhaps due to the cycle of wet and mild weather this Country has tended to experience – ‘Global warming?’

However, ‘shade’ is a major cause very often resulting from the presence of overhanging trees, solid rebound walls or kickboards, and the general layout and topography of the location/site. Failure to remove leaves and other organic matter which have been allowed to accumulate on the surface, will as it breaks down, create conditions ideal for the growth of such infestation.

Removal can either be by purely mechanical means or a combination of chemical treatment and subsequent mechanical or hand brushing/scraping.

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S&C Slatter has a specialist artificial turf maintenance division

Sports Equipment

Fixed and portable pitch equipment – goals, posts, nets, team shelters should be checked regularly for any signs of latent defects, damage and or wear. This supports a pro-active health & safety programme, and allows the opportunity to introduce early remedial actions which may limit the amount of necessary equipment renewals.

Perimeter Fencing

Perimeter fencing whether chainlink, roll form or rigid panel weld mesh, can receive a tremendous amount of impacts and loading during a typical sports year – it one of the reasons we have it in the first place. Consequently it’s good practice to regularly audit a fenceline to ensure its structure remains sound, with no breaks or weld failures, and firmly attached to the system uprights. The latter should be assessed to ensure they remain perfectly vertical and soundly bedded in their foundations.

One should also ensure that the specification of the fencing remains relevant to the needs of the sport or activities being played, and can deliver the performance being asked of it.

Again the rule has to be if a problem is located; action remedial work as soon as possible as delay can result eventually in higher costs as well as creating health & safety concerns.

Collection of Litter and Organic Debris

As referred to previously, the presence of general litter and organic debris creates a number of important operational and performance challenges and is ideally dealt with, if necessary, on a daily or certainly weekly basis.

Detox Areas

Detox areas, which act as a transition point between the artificial turf pitch and other adjacent areas, are an important element of a practical and functional facility. Given their role in reducing the transportation of mud and other soiling onto the artificial turf playing surface, they have to themselves be regularly cleaned and maintained to a good condition if they are to be effective. Too often ‘transition’ mats are allowed to be become totally ingrained with soiling, rendering them ineffective and very often, a slippery health & safety issue in their own right.

Signage

There are certain guidelines and information which you need to make available to users of your facility. These include advice on footwear and what you can and can’t do on the artificial turf pitch. The objective is to make the facility a safe environment in which to enjoy sport and protect the playing surface from damage or contamination which might impair performance, shorten its lifespan and or necessitate repairs or remedial work.

Typically appropriate signage will be prepared and located in a high visibility position at the relevant points of access, and carry details such as:

Please do:

  • Wear clean shoes
  • Keep surface free from debris
  • Report any damage immediately to the booking office
  • Keep drinks in plastic containers only
  • Close all gates during play
  • Ensure goals and posts are secure before playing
  • Enjoy!

Please do not:

  • Smoke on the pitch
  • Eat on the pitch
  • Drop litter
  • Chew gum on the pitch
  • Use shoes with metal studs or “Blades”
  • Allow dogs on the pitch
  • Allow spectators on the pitch
  • Drag goals or heavy items across the surface
  • Allow bikes on the pitch

Having provided the signage it is important it is kept clean and in good condition at all times.

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