Daily, Monthly and Seasonal Maintenance Schedules
HarTru Tennis Court Maintenance Schedule
Daily Maintenance Schedule:
- Drag and Roll Courts.
- Sweep Lines
Noon: (If necessary)
Drag courts and sweep lines.
Short watering period. 5 – 10 minutes.
Drag courts and sweep lines for play.
Drag courts and sweep lines.
Water courts around Midnight for 20 to 30 minutes.
Monthly Maintenance Schedule:
Check court for weeds.
Check net for proper height (36″ at center.)
Check windscreen ty’s and replace missing.
Quarterly Maintenance Schedule:
Add approximately 10 new HarTru bags per court.
Check sprinkler heads for alignment and rotation.
Clear excess material from under nets, around net posts, and curb areas.
Clean out sprinkler lines to prevent freezing.
Take up lines if courts are not going to be rolled and maintained.
Pull out all nails, store lines and discard bent nails.
Take up net and center strap.
Take down all windscreens.
Roll courts extensively to prepare courts for lines.
Add 25-50 HarTru bags per court prior to placing the lines.
Roll courts after line installation.
Clean and re-paint net posts.
Spray perimeter of court area with weed killer.
Check all sprinkler heads and lines while re-starting sprinkler system.
Put up net and start daily cycle again.
HarTru Court Laser Lift – issues and answers
There has been a lot of talk lately on using laser equipment to add a “lift” to existing/old HarTru tennis courts. I will get into the pros and cons of this but first I want to provide a little background information and terminology to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
HarTru – HarTru is a brand name and in today’s market it is the primary source material for crushed stone clay like tennis surfaces. Over the history of these type of courts there have been many names and brands: Rubico, FastDry, HarTru, TruTop, clay, etc. The primary deciding factor in these courts is that they need daily maintenance, water and rolling. They are not a permanent surface such as asphalt or concrete. HarTru courts allow water to pass through the surface as opposed to simply flowing off of the surface. HarTru courts are much easier on a players legs, back, knees and ankles.
Lift – A lift of a HarTru court is typically the adding of 3/4″ to 1″ of new HarTru surface material. A standard single HarTru court with a dimension of 60’x 120′ would require 40 tons of HarTru when built new. So a lift would add approximately 30-40 tons of new material to the existing surface. Lifts are usually only done when either the base stone or screenings are showing through the surface indicating that the original one inch layer of HarTru has either worn down or eroded to the stone leaving a 1/8″ or less depth of the originally constructed HarTru surface.
Base – When I refer to the base of a HarTru tennis court I am referring to either the 3/4″ washed stone base or a crushed screening base or both. In the 60’s and 70’s we always used a primary base of 2.5″ of 3/4″ washed stone followed by a 1.5″ layer of crushed granite or stone screenings. This combination provided a 4″ stone base under the one inch of new HarTru surface material. The different stone bases offer two different purposes.
3/4″ Washed stone – The 3/4″ washed stone which was the first base layer installed over the existing cleared and graded ground is primarily a structural layer. The 3/4″ stone provides stability and compaction to the playing surface. An additional role is that the washed stone serves as a drainage base for the surface helping to absorb an overflow of water in heavy rains.
Screenings – The screenings layer, which is normally 1.5″ thick, acts as the moisture reservoir for the surface HarTru material. By holding water and then releasing that moisture, when needed, the screenings acts as a storage for the HarTru surface allowing the stored moisture to be pulled up into the HarTru surface as the surface starts to dry out. This is a critical layer, especially in the summer, to keep the HarTru surface as moist and playable as possible.
Some HarTru History – Clay or soft surface tennis courts have been around since the beginning of tennis. Grass courts as well. Asphalt and concrete courts were a later introduction to the tennis court surfacing industry. HarTru courts in the early years, up until the 80’s and early 90’s were mostly built by intensive hand labor. Only the most disciplined and proud builders were able to build HarTru courts to the exacting tolerances these courts required. When you are dealing with layers from 2.5″ to 1″ thick over areas that may measure thousands of square yards the diligence and effort required to maintain these requirements was very very difficult. In the 80’s and early 90’s with the invention of the laser guided grading equipment this situation changed somewhat. Although still not an exact science the laser technology added a great deal of advantages over hand work. But laser technology has it’s issues as well and require operators that are experienced and very methodical and disciplined to operate the equipment properly.
Bottom Line – The bottom line to building a great HarTru tennis court is to make sure that all of the layers of construction – from the ground prep, stone prep, screening prep and HarTru surface installation – are all carried out to near perfection. If there is any deviation off of grade or pitch or any deviance off of depth or integrity of materials the subsequent tennis court will have problems. These problems may be poor drainage, poor water retention, inconsistent drying patches and inconsistent compaction. All and any of which will make maintaining the HarTru court a difficult and expensive proposition. The statement – any house is only as good as the foundation it is built upon, applies to tennis courts as well. There is no “after completion” correction if the installation of the court is done wrong. Build it right the first time – that is the only mantra that works.
Lifts and Laser Grading
All of the above information has brought us to this point. All tennis courts are not created equal. All tennis courts do not have perfect grades, perfect pitches, perfect depths of base material and perfect elevation changes. And if they don’t – you should not laser grade your courts to provide a lift.
As seen in the below cut this is how a properly built HarTru court should look if you were able to have a side view. All layers consistent depth, all layers consistent materials and all layers consistent compaction. A well built tennis court:
As seen in this fictitious cut of an improperly built court below, this is how some courts are built. Inconsistent layer depth, inconsistent compaction and inconsistent material quality. A poorly built court makes it all but impossible to simply laser grade.
In this representation we are showing you that a laser guided piece of equipment although very accurate and consistent does not have the ability to think. A laser is somewhat like a bulldozer in that it doesn’t care what it cuts or fills. It only cares that it cuts or fills to stay in line with the laser beam. In other words it can’t tell if it is completely cutting through the surface layer, screening layer, stone layer or two of the layers or even all of the layers. The laser only knows that it has to stay on line. So, whatever gets in the way it will cut and wherever it is low, it will fill. It will fill even though there may already be an inch or more of HarTru material there. The laser doesn’t care what is there or isn’t there. The laser only cares about keeping itself at the exact elevation line.
So here lies the problem. If an existing tennis court doesn’t have perfect grades, perfect depths, perfect elevations the act of using a laser to re-grade the existing tennis court may, in fact, cause a much worse situation than it fixes. If the laser re-grade cuts through the screenings, the court in that area, will drain way too fast and not hold/retain any moisture. If the laser fills, by adding more HarTru or more screenings, that area of the court will drain very slow and become, over time, very soft. You can not destroy the integrity of a court and expect the court to work properly.
The only solution to the laser re-grade issue is to take careful boring of the existing courts to check out the depth and quality of the base materials in multiple (6 or more per court) locations. By doing these geotechnical borings you can ascertain whether or not the court(s) are built in such a way that the laser re-grade will work. If they are – then great. If the existing court(s) were not built properly or if over time they have settled, sunk or shifted the laser re-grade won’t work. In this case you have to do a surface re-build. You will have to add a new curb, new base materials and a new inch of HarTru. You will still have your fencing and irrigation system so there will be monies spared there. Your net posts can be raised or re-installed but the surface itself will have to be re-built.
The great news is that once the re-build is done your courts will play much better and the maintenance labor and dollars necessary to keep them up will be much less. You will finally have what you should have had the whole time – a great playing surface that is relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain!!
HarTru Courts Spring Prep
Here are a Few Tips for Preparing Your Court(s) for the Spring
HarTru or Clay Courts
1. SPRINKLER SYSTEM: These courts require water and plenty of it. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a HarTru tennis court is your sprinkler system. It is very important to check all of your heads and especially the nozzles. If Rain-Bird heads are used they may require cleaning, which is best done by a Rain-Bird dealer. The cost on the average for cleaning an old sprinkler head and/or replacing some of its parts is about $16.00. If Toro or some other pop-up style sprinkler head is used, it is just as effective to replace the inside of the unit with a new insert. These run approximately $18.00.
Another important point to check with the sprinkler system is your valves. They need to be cleaned periodically. A dirty valve will cause a delay in the ability of the sprinkler head to shut off. This will result in a slow trickle of water being released from the head, leaving watermarks in the court surface. Check your manual before cleaning your valves. Damage can be done if this work is done improperly.
2. DRAINAGE: Make sure that the ground around the low side of the tennis courts (the side to which the water drains) is below the height of the curb. If it is not, water will be dammed up on the court surface and the affected area will drain much more slowly than the rest of the court and flood much sooner after a rain. Also, remove any excess material which has accumulated on this same side of the court, as it will also cause a damming affect when it rains. A 12″ wide ditch with a positive flow away from the courts should work to remove the excess surface water in normal rain conditions.
3. DEAD MATERIAL: Remove all dead material from the court surface. Dead material is any HarTru material which no longer has any fines in it. Typically, this material will accumulate under the net, around the sides and in the corners of a tennis court. The dead material should be saved as it can be re-used if heavy winds deplete the court’s surface material.
4. LINE TAPES: Check all of the lines and replace any worn or torn tapes. Old tapes can be a hazard to the players as they become very slippery when worn. We recommend replacing all of the lines on a HarTru tennis court every 2-3 years in the South and as needed in the North. Copper nails are expensive, but they can usually be saved and re-used. Aluminum nails are much less expensive and generally work best when new, so we do not normally recommend using them again.
5. NETS: Clean the head band with some strong mildew remover. After cleaning, spray on a good silicone or Armoral type preserver. Check to make sure the side lacing is secure and that the anchor pipe holding the center strap is clean and rust free. Now would also be a good time to check the center strap, in particular the double-snap hook which connects it to the anchor pipe.
6: NET POSTS: Wire brush, prime and re-paint all net posts. Special care should be taken with the crank if the crank is exposed to the weather. Internal crank posts should be sprayed with silicone or some other lubricant to ensure against oxidizing and locking up. If your posts are bent, they can be re-heated by a welder and pulled back into shape. If the poles are pulling up the concrete base, it is best to dig them out and re-set in a new foundation. Typically this hole should measure 2.5′ x 2.5′ x 3′ utilizing 3,000 psi concrete. Posts are set 42′ apart.
7. NEW MATERIAL: Add new material to the court(s) as needed. Generally you want to add at least 20 bags to the court in the spring (50 bags over the entire year). Pay close attention to the wear areas such as the baseline and the doubles net area. Make sure that the court is a light grey in color and therefore dry, before adding any new material. Also, it is a good idea to scarify any areas that you are patching before you apply the material. Drag and water immediately after adding the material. Roll at least three times after the court has dried. The courts will be soft for a week or two, but play is the best thing for them, so after you have finished the rolling, by all means let the play begin.
8. STERILIZE: Place a good vegetation sterilizer within 12″ both inside and outside the perimeter curb. A border of at least 12″ is necessary to prevent encroachment of weeds, grasses and roots. Follow all directions when applying weed killers and sterilants.
9. LIGHTS: Check all fixtures for rust, loose bolts and loose connections. Pay close attention to any signs of wear. Clean and paint where necessary. Completely clean the lens of the lights. As much as 50% of your lighting can be lost with dirty lenses.
10. EQUIPMENT: Oil and lube your roller and/or power unit. Clean and repaint any metal that has rusted or shows sign of wear. Check oil, plugs, tires and hinges for wear. Check all of your brooms and line sweepers making sure that you have spare brushes and brooms. You can get by not rolling the courts for a few days, but the court lines must be brushed daily and the court should be broomed twice a day at least.
Rolling Clay Courts
We get asked frequently about rolling clay tennis courts. How often? When to or not to roll? Roll in the winter? After rains? etc. To help clarify the confusion I hope the following information helps.
New courts, refurbished clay courts and winterized courts (courts that get considerable freezing and thawing in the winter months) should be rolled every day for the first 3-5 weeks. Whether that is morning, lunch or evening it doesn’t really matter. I have always found the morning to be the easiest as there are no occupied courts. Plus, the morning typically provides the roller with courts that are moist, from the nights watering and relatively smooth. Regardless, new courts and refurbished courts need to be rolled every day for 3-5 weeks. This is necessary to re-compact both the surface and sub-surface.
Assuming that the courts are established and have been in use for a year or more the amount of rolling will depend on a couple of things. First, the finish that you or your members want to play on. Some players love the clay courts to be loose and gritty. Others like their clay courts to be very firm with minimum surface material. There is no right or wrong. There is only the particular playing characteristics that they/you prefer. I fall in the middle. I like clay courts to be firm, but not hard and minimal surface granularity. This particular setup allows the courts to play slow but with good bounces and maximum water retention. Which brings up another point of rolling.
Most people assume that you only roll your courts to tighten them up and keep them firm. That is one and perhaps the most important reason. However, there is another reason. Rolled courts retain more moisture than soft/loose courts. The same was that dragging a court helps to dry a court out, rolling a court helps to keep the moisture in. That is why, especially in the summer months, I always recommend that clubs roll their courts with the front brush down (to smooth out the courts) and the back brush up (to keep the moisture in). This works the opposite in the winter and high rain months but is absolutely important in the summer/dry months.
Another important point to make is that you should try to roll you courts in perpendicular directions if at all possible. With the advent of tow rollers this has been made a little more difficult because once the net is up the standard procedure is to roll from side to side. However, this can cause an excess buildup of material along the sides of the singles, doubles and center service line. Whenever possible it is a good idea to take the nets down and roll the length of the court. Always try to turn the roller off of the lines. Turning the roller on the lines can cause the lines to twist and move, resulting in crooked lines.
So, rolling isn’t an exact science. It is a preference. If you want your courts to play firm and hold their moisture – roll them more often. If you want the courts to play loose, with more surface “dead” material, and to help dry them out – roll them less. Either way, you get the courts to play the way you want them, not the way someone else thinks you should want them.