0 Selection and use of machinery for maintaining artificial sport surfaces

Selection and use of machinery for maintaining artificial sport surfaces

By Laurence Gale MSc


The selection and use of machinery for maintaining artificial sport surfaces has now become a major consideration for managers who are responsible for managing artificial training pitches (ATP). There are now so many different types of surface systems being manufactured and developed. That third / fourth generation artificial carpet systems now offer many different components and profiles to cater for a wide range of sports.

Manufacturers state that the life expectancy of these systems is dependent on use and level of maintenance with figures quoted of 8-12 years. Whichever surface is chosen maintenance is important; no longer can these systems be considered a maintenance free surface.

History and development:

Artificial grass surfaces have been in existence since the early 1960s and were first used in the United States of America at the Houston Astro dome and the name has become a synonymous term used to describing artificial grass. (Astro Turf). Rhodes D (1996). However during the next 40 years there as been significant development of these systems with high design technology being used to produce third generation carpets.

These new generation artificial carpets now offer complete all weather systems where the user can play on these systems whatever the weather, with the exception of frost and heavy snow. These systems can now be seen in regular use at leisure centres, private clubs and local authorities providing surfaces for cricket, football, hockey tennis and golf. Offering a wide range of sport playability and performance characteristics provided by the design and specification of these systems.

The playing characteristics of these systems is dependent on a number of factors which primary involve:

  • Surface layers (sand in fill, rubber crumb, water)
  • Carpet materials (woven Polypropylene or nylon fibres)
  • Underlay / shock pads
  • Sub base fully engineered or stone base.

Manufactures and suppliers of the artificial turf systems offer many different permutations of the above factors to produce the desired sports surface required. In general the three main types now being produced are. Non-sand filled; sand filled and sand dressed systems.

Types of Systems

Non - sand filled

This type of surface is carpet woven / tufted 12-16mm pile with no infill material generally specified for high performance hockey pitches and are water based relying on water irrigation systems to water playing surfaces prior to use.


This system is carpet woven / tufted with a pile height ranging between 15-60mm and filled to complete depth with sand or sand and rubber crumb in fill materials to produce a desired playing performance.

Sand dressed

This system is carpet woven / tufted with a pile height 12-20mm and sand dressed to 10-12 mm leaving the top playing surface sand free.

All of the above systems are laid on to a shock pad layer constructed of rubber base materials that may be laid insitu or as prefabricated rolls or tiles. Generally stuck down with adhesives and tapes. Line markings can be woven into the carpet or painted on the surface. These two layers are generally laid onto a fully or semi engineered sub base that has a drainage systems to remove surface water.

Cost of Artificial Systems


Maintenance of artificial training pitches (ATP)

Maintenance is imperative to prolong life of these systems (Rhodes D 1996) states that older artificial systems had worn out because of incorrect and inappropriate maintenance programmes being carried out. New technology has evolved with the new third generation artificial carpets. New infill materials and different pile types has led to the development of new brushing and sweeping machines. A number of companies can now offer specialist services or machinery for these operations.

These new artificial systems have been developed to meet many sporting expectations and some surfaces have to cater for multi sports, they also have to meet guidelines on performance criteria ball bounce, ball speed, slip and traction stated by sporting bodies and institutes. Effective maintenance is necessary to achieve these standards and prolong the life of these systems.

The following problems are associated with poor maintenance of artificial pitches that in time will affect the performance and wear of the pitch

Affects of poor maintenance

Problem / Symptoms



Poor drainage surface water ponding

Lack of brushing and keeping the pile open, no rejuvenation programmes, Little or no maintenance The sand migrates down into the bottom of the carpet and begins to compact.

Regular brushing, carpet revitalisation / rejuvenation programmes to relieve compaction.

Infill contamination

Surface becoming dirty top 5-10 mm affected

Debris, chewing gum, litter soil brought onto playing surface by users, and wildlife.

Litter bins, signs paved clean access areas, regular cleaning brushing / hovering

Algae and Moss build up

Will make surface look unsightly, prevent drainage and create a slippery surface.

Shade and wet conditions, lack of regular brushing, recent wet climate conditions favour algae & moss growth.

Regular brushing, treatments with approved Algae & Moss killers.

Infill compaction

Compacted layers will affect ball bounce and playability, the surface overtime will become harder and may cause injuries to players.

The infill material will over time be driven into the carpet by use and climatic conditions coupled with a lack of regular brushing and cleaning, lack of sand movement, lack of rejuvenation cleaning programmes.

Regular brushing after games, annual rejuvenation programmes.

Line and seams joints

Fade and wear and tear.

Line marking may need to be repainted, joints and seams may become loose or damaged by vandalism

Repair and repaint as necessary.

Pile damage, bending over of pile, defiberation of pile (splitting of grass pile)

Too much sand, the carpet will wear. Too little sand the fibre will bend over and flatten causing slippery surface and pile damage.

Correct sand levels, regular brushing and rejuvenation programmes.

Slippery conditions

Players have little traction and control

Too much sand, Contaminated sand moss and algae on surface

Clean off algae and contaminated sand, apply herbicide, Moss / Algae killers.

Player safety

Players may experience injuries through slipping

Lack of maintenance, no top dressing, algae and moss will cause a slippery surface

Keep system maintained

Excess sand

Over dressing with sand. Sand should be within 1-2 mm from pile tip, surface sand will damage and wear down the carpet pile and may cause a slippery surface.

Keep levels within manufactures recommendations, regular brush sand

Lack of water on non-sand filled systems. Break down of irrigation systems

Surface cannot be wetted surface playability will be affected, players may get injuries

Keep irrigation systems repaired

Top dressing to restore levels

Sand can be blown away by wind

Poor sand levels will affect playability and damage carpet pile

Top dress with sand to restore levels

Cleaning and maintenance options

There are a number of cleaning and maintenance options available to ensure that artificial pitches remain operational and perform to its design characteristics meeting guides lines and objectives stated by sporting governing bodies (International Hockey Federation (FIH) 2001) Guidelines for care and maintenance (2001) who's objectives are:

  • Optimise Playing conditions
  • Minimise potential for injury
  • Maximise the longevity of pitch

Economic considerations must be considered carefully, the capitol cost of installing and the cost of replacing or up grading the surface of in-fill later are very high that maximising the interval between these two events is very important this will be achieved by effective maintenance programmes. In some cases correct maintenance will result in the pitch lasting 10-12 years and in cases were little or no maintenance the carpet as lasted only five years. Maintenance operations are divided into three operations

1. Regular treatments daily, weekly or monthly tasks.artificials-mosssurbiton-sc.jpg

This will include hovering, brushing and sweeping to keep surface clean and free of debris, top dressing with sand to maintain levels. Non-filled systems require watering prior to use. All systems require appropriate maintenance to control moss and algae both of which can have a detriment affect on the playability of these surfaces. Water base systems require regular watering to achieve playability, the cost alone for operating and applying 18,000 litres of water per usage can be high especially when using mains water.

Brushing / Cleaning.

The use of a SISIS Zig Zag brush or similar brush system should be used on a weekly basis to keep the sand agitated, and prevent the build up of moss and algae. Any foreign debris, litter, leaves, soil and other extraneous materials should be removed from the playing surface.

The cost of these operations are dependant on how much time is allocated to the tasks and the initial cost of the cleaning equipment. A specialist rotary vacuum brush can be hired to remove surface debris and ideally should be used on a monthly / quarterly basis. this will ensure that the facility remains clean and free of debris.

Line marking.

Line marking may be another regular task that is required. this will depend on what system you have employed. Most artificial pitch suppliers can offer you inlaid / woven permanent lines. That can reduce the need for line marking. however, even the best glues available will and can overtime deteriorate requiring the need for repair or replacement of inlaid lines.

The choice of line marking materials will depend on what surface you have (long / short pile. sand filled / non sand filled) some products are better suited than others. frequency of marking out will also be dependant on usage and weather conditions. generally marking out will be a weekly basis.

Algae / Moss treatments.

Even the best maintained facilities will at some time or other suffer from an attack of algae / moss during the year. especially on areas that receive little activity. Near fence lines and corners of the pitch. (Areas were machinery cannot get) It will be important to spray with an approved herbicide to control any moss and algae found at the facility. Moss and algae will and can affect surface playability, reducing traction thus becoming slippy which may result in players sustaining injuries. You have a duty of care to ensure that the playing surfaces you maintain are safe and in good playable condition.

2. Annual renovation (revitalisation) works.

The term renovation implies a twice yearly or annual operation to redistribute and agitate the top 5-7 mm of sand in-fill ensuring that the carpet pile remains upright and reduces compaction. Pedestrian or ride on specialist machines are used to achieve this task, a contra rotating brush complete with debris collector and sand filtration unit. There are a number of companies that can provide or hire this service. These operations can cost in the region of £3000 per operation.

During the year infill material will have moved around and in some cases especially on exposed sites can been blown away. It is important to keep the correct amount of infill in place. Topping up of sand and infill materials is important and should be done on an annual basis.

3. Rejuvenation works (5-6 years).

Rejuvenation of the system involves specialist machinery usually supplied by a specialist contractor, It involves a specialist machine that removes all the sand in-fill and debris to a depth of 12 mm and replacing it with new clean approved sand. there are a number of companies who can supply this service at a cost of around £25,000 per occasion.

Other maintenance issues.

During the life of the carpet there may be a need to replace and repair areas of the carpet. that may have become damaged by acts of vandalism or by wear/ overuse. Carpet seams often become unglued and prone to lifting through use and periodically require repairs.

Predicted life maintenance costs of an artificial pitch

When taking into account all the appropriate maintenance and depreciation costs when managing an ATP facility the costings can be quite staggering. The table below shows comparative costs based on current labour rates and charges for services.

Description Cost Total
Supply and installation cost of facility including flood lights and fencing based on a single full size pitch sand filled system. Initial cost £400,000 £400,000
Annual maintenance that includes brushing, marking, cleaning, annual repairs, materials and chemical treatments. Annual £6,000 x 10 years £60,000
Hire of specialist rotary hoover / brush for cleaning off debris. 4 operations per year Annual £1,400 x 10 years £14,000
Hire of revitalisation hoover for cleaning top 3-7mm of infill materials Annual £3,000 x 10 years £30,000
Hire of rejuvination machine to replace top 12 mm of infill materials Every 5th -6th year £25,000 £25,000
The need to replace the top carpet pile and shock pad after ten years £160,000 £160,000
Total cost for facility over ten years £689,000

The total cost for this facility over a ten year life expectancy is £689,000 . It is important to note that their are no general guarantees to ensure that this or any of these facilities may last there full term. Even when you only cost up the ten year maintenance elements of this facility. The total cost is still substantial at £129.000 giving you a annual maintenance figure of £12,900 which is comparatively much more than many currently spend on existing artificial systems.

An investment in an ATP is a substantial investment and will if managed and marketed should provide over 60 hours use a week, but the performance and safety and playability of the surface will deteriorate if not maintained to manufactures recommendations, There are no such facilities that are maintenance free.

There is no doubt this new third generation of synthetic carpet systems will lead the way for future development in artificial surfaces, with many different infill materials (Sand, rubber crumb and other materials) being used to achieve a desired surface playability. But remember there will be a cost for maintenance and replacement.

References :- The Maintenance of Artificial Sandfiled Turf used for Sport David I Rhodes 1996.

Editorial Enquiries Editorial Enquiries

Contact Kerry Haywood

07973 394037

Subscribe to the Pitchcare Magazine Subscribe to the Pitchcare Magazine

You can have each and every copy of the Pitchcare magazine delivered direct to your door for just £30 a year.