Rehab: Asphalt Tennis
A Brief Overview of Methods and Costs
by Andrew R. Lavallee, ASLA and Sheldon Westervelt, P.E.
|Is your asphalt
tennis court fading, peeling, or riddled with cracks? Do water puddles
remain on the court hours after it rains? Is grass thriving in jagged crevices
that seem to get bigger every year? If you answered yes to any of these
questions, the good news is that you are not alone. In fact, throughout
the United States there are literally thousands of asphalt tennis courts
just like yours. And probably just like you, owners and managers of these
courts are daunted by the prospect of having to make repairs.
Most of these dilapidated courts were built during the tennis boom of the 1970s and early 1980s and are simply suffering from old age rather than neglect or improper construction. People often are intimidated not only by the potential costs to repair their courts, but also by the confusing array of potential rehabilitation methods, each of which has its own associated merits and liabilities over the long term. The purpose of this article is to help alleviate this fear by explaining what some of the more common court problems are, outlining the most common repair options currently being recommended by landscape architects, engineers, and contractors, and, finally, identifying ways to choose the ones best suited to your specific needs and budget.
The Fundamentals of Asphalt Courts
1) A stable, compacted, and well-drained soil subbase;
If constructed properly, an asphalt tennis court should have an expected life of 18 to 20 years, requiring a minimal acrylic resurfacing every five to seven years, depending upon seasonal usage.
The cost for a new asphalt tennis court without lights typically ranges between $25,000 and $50,000 depending upon your geographic location, specific site conditions, the type of surface chosen, and the number of courts being built at the same time. Municipal class courts generally cost between $25,000 and $35,000, while club and competition class courts generally cost between $35,000 and $50,000 due to their more expensive surface systems and finishes. It is not unusual for a single residential court to cost $60,000 or more.
Typical Asphalt Tennis Court Problems
1) improper design or engineering;
The ability to recognize basic problems with your own court or courts will make you better able to discuss repair options with your professional consultant and contractor. It will also allow you to more adequately estimate the potential cost of repair and rehabilitation. Some of the most common problems are listed in Figure 1.
Generally speaking, problems such as the fading or discoloration of the court surfacing, or even the presence of birdbaths, are minor and can be solved relatively inexpensively Problems such as bubbles and rust spots, while more severe, can readily be solved. The presence of alligatoring, raveling, or hair line cracks, though not excessively costly to repair, indicate the possibility of more serious problems and the potential for continued degradation of the court if not repaired quickly Structural cracks, upheavals or depressions, indicating major problems, often require more complicated, intrusive and costly repairs.
Experience shows that court problems seldom occur alone. More typically, two or three of these problems are apparent upon close inspection of an aging asphalt tennis court. The more severe court problems are most often simply the natural signs of a court's old age. However; if these more serious problems occur within the first two or three years of a court's life, they can usually be attributed to poor design, construction, or faulty materials.
Varied Solutions for Your Varied Problems
Because there are multiple solutions for each of the problems mentioned above, choosing the best solution for your needs requires weighing the potential advantages and disadvantages of each method with the overall cost of the repair. For example, if your court surface exhibits fading, bird- baths, alligatoring, and only a few feet of minor structural cracks, you could choose to install a fabric overlay and resurface the court. This could cost from $6,000-$7,000 and would last up to three years. For three times the cost, you could elect to install a roll-out court surface which would last almost four times as long, with the added benefit of a cushioned surface. In another case, you might have a court with multiple birdbaths and a moderate amount of structural cracking. Your options for repair might be either to install stone screenings and asphalt overlay, or mill the existing pavement and install a new asphalt pavement. The price difference between these two systems is only about $2,000-$3,000. However, with the stone screenings solution, if the structural cracks continue to move below the new pavement or if the three inch overlay pavement were to crack, which it would do with the natural aging of the asphalt, the system would deteriorate rapidly With the milling and new pavement procedure, though more expensive, you are buying a completely new court pavement without the potential for problems from below The lesson to remember is that you get what you pay for: a less expensive system is generally going to offer fewer advantages than a more expensive system.
You should not always opt for the more expensive system, however; just to play it safe. If you had a court exhibiting structural cracks that were determined by your professional consultant to be reasonably stable and the result of poorly constructed pavement joints, rather than the result of heaving due to moisture or subgrade instability, a slip sheet overlay system or a geotextile and asphalt overlay might very well meet your needs. To choose a post-tension concrete slab overlay system, for instance, would be overkill. Not only would it cost you upwards of three times that of either of the two less expensive systems, but it is also unnecessary. Post-tension systems are best used with subsurface problems such as unstable base material or differential settlement.
Some Helpful Hints
When talking to contractors, be sure to ask for a range of estimates to solve your problems. Do not rely on a contractor who gives you only one option for fixing your court: he or she may not be sufficiently experienced in or capable of carrying out a more appropriate solution. Also be wary of the contractor who claims to have a simple solution for a complex problem: for example, repairing cracks in asphalt courts. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions. The only way to repair a crack in an asphalt tennis court successful is to replace the pavement. Barring this, you can only temporarily cover the problem, which will eventually reappear.
Perhaps the most fundamental lesson to take away from this discussion is that if your current tennis court problems or their underlying causes are allowed to persist for an extended period of time, they will only worsen, leading to more severe problems and, inevitably, increased costs for rehabilitation.
About the Authors: Andrew Lavallee, ASLA, is a landscape architect with Signe Nielsen Landscape Architect P.C., New York, NY 10013. Sheldon Westervelt, PE., is a civil engineer with Global Consult Group, Inc. located, in Manasquan, New Jersey.
"When you play with the best, you are the winner."