What can you do when your asphalt courts start to crack? Here are some options.
Death, taxes … and cracks in asphalt tennis courts. Some things in life are unavoidable, and a natural part of the aging process, which your tennis court is going to undergo, no matter who builds it or where it is. The good thing about tennis court cracks (unlike death and taxes) is that these days, you have a chance for a do-over. And while you can’t have a completely new court without reconstruction, you certainly can have a court that looks better and plays better. This article includes crack repair systems that are applied to the affected area of a court. These are recommended for courts with minor to moderate structural cracks that can be filled and patched, then recoated. More severe or widespread cracking often is addressed with another system such as an overlay; these products and others will be in a future article in RSI. (Note that all are multi-stage systems and differ from commercially available compounds purchased by the tube and squirted into cracks.) The systems discussed here are proprietary, and are installed by a network of contractors nationwide. There are many different types of cracks in tennis courts, and while some are relatively minor, others can indicate more serious underlying problems. A facility owner may not be adept at identifying different types of cracks, so be sure to have all court problems examined by a tennis court contractor who can tell you what type of cracking you have, and what is causing it. (To learn more about types of cracking and causes, get a copy of the book, Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual, available from the ASBA. The book includes a diagram showing different court problems, including various cracks and recommendations for them.) Pricing for systems shown here is based on the lineal foot of cracking on the court; company owners note that once there is more than a set amount of cracking, court owners should consider more comprehensive approaches including those to be discussed in future articles. No product or system can stop a new crack from forming elsewhere on the court. Your choice of repair method should be predicated on the type and extent of cracking your court has (and any underlying problems), your budget and other factors. Check references and do all the necessary research, then select a method that fits your needs.
Armor Crack Repair System
On the market since: 2000
What it works on: Structural cracks
What it doesn’t work on: Spider cracking or hairline cracking
Description: The Armor Crack Repair System is a multi-layered flexible repair that goes over a crack but does not cover the entire court. “Unlike fiberglass,” says company President Dan Clapp, “the Armor system utilizes two layers of a T-shirt-like fabric that covers the filled crack and expands as the crack widens in cold weather.”
How it works: Contractors fill a crack, then put a 6-inch-wide slipsheet over it. Two layers of Armor’s crack repair fabric follow, and then both sides are secured down with a yellow mesh reinforcement fabric. Once the system has been put into place, the tennis court can be resurfaced; according to company materials, the process renders cracks invisible and undetectable to players.
Important advice: According to Clapp, figuring out the cost-effectiveness of the Armor system means figuring out how many feet of cracking the court has. “If you have a 60-foot crack, it’s a no brainer; it’s the best option. But when you get up higher, we tell people anything more than 500 feet, it’s more responsible to do something requiring reconstruction. For example, if you have 800 lineal feet of cracking in your court, it is going to cost you the same to put Armor on it as to put new asphalt down.” Notes: According to Clapp, structural cracking is caused by conditions under the court. Armor’s system repairs existing cracks. It does not keep new cracks from forming on other areas of the court.
Guardian Crack Repair Product
On the market since: 2003
What it works on: All types of cracks, including structural
What it doesn’t work on: Company owner Chris Rossi says the system “works on all cracks, no limitations.”
Description: Guardian is described as a “peel and seal” system that covers a crack on the court.
How it works: Contractors clean and fill a crack, then put down an 18” wide laminated flexible fabric that bonds to the court with a strong adhesive. The edges of the seal are beveled with court patch binder between 6” to 8” beyond the edge of the seal. A fabric patch is then put on top of that. Finally, multiple layers of acrylic color coating are applied to the court, rendering the patch invisible. Inventor and company owner Chris Rossi notes that once a court has been properly finished, players are unable to tell where cracks have been patched once a court has been recoated.
Important advice: “Everyone waits too long to have cracks fixed,” says Rossi. “Once you have a crack, water starts penetrating into it, and makes it worse. The acrylic caulks and traditional crack-filling products people buy don’t really seal the crack, so the problem comes right back. The key to any crack repair system is that it has to be waterproof.” Notes: All proprietary crack repair systems have specific multiyear warranties that cover work performed on the affected area. But, cautions Rossi, “The ground is going to move and shift and eventually new cracks are going to develop. Nobody can control ground movement and prevent expansion and contraction.”
Riteway Crack Repair
On the market since: 2006
What it works on: Multiple types of cracks, including structural
What it doesn’t work on: Spider cracks which, according to company owner Carvin Pallenberg, “are a complete deterioration of the asphalt and should be replaced.”
Description: The Riteway Crack Repair system is a flexible system that covers a crack and allows players to use a court without knowing the system is in place. Pallenberg says the system “gives a true bounce with no bubbles, dead spots or hollow sounds.” How it works: Contractors clean and fill a crack, then put down a patented micro sealant tape with an adhesive that does not harden or crystallize. This is followed by a stress mat, then the edges are bonded down to the court. Finally, the edges are buffed smooth and a layer of color coating is put on top.
Important advice: “We’ve been seeing a lot of school systems interested in this product,” notes Pallenberg. “They don’t have it in their budget to fix cracks year after year. A lot of contractors will write into their contracts that the cracks will come back but people don’t hear it. We’re now seeing that the crack repair systems are starting to take over the repair end of that market because people want something cost-effective that lasts for years.”
Notes: As with all crack repair systems, Pallenberg is quick to caution court owners that repairing a crack on one part of the court does not guarantee that new cracks won’t form in other areas, or that repaired cracks can’t get longer over the course of time.
On the market since: 2010
Description: According to president Rick Burke, TitanTrax Shield is a dimensionally stable membrane crack repair system applied over either the entire asphalt or concrete tennis court or just the affected section, to mask cracking in the underlying surface. The product covers the existing pavement and conforms to it, giving the court a new look and feel.
How it works: Once a crack has been filled, the TitanTrax Shield membrane, which is approximately 1/8” thick, is laid in place and anchored at the edges so that it “floats” over the surface. Acrylic surfacing can then be applied on top of it. What it doesn’t work on: A problematic court is still going to have problems under the membrane. “If you put the shield on something that has major defects — high spots, low spots or a crack that opens up again after it’s been filled,” says Burke, “you can end up with a dead spot on the court.” (Like all crack repair systems, it can’t keep new cracks from forming.) However it can be removed so that the pavement can be repaired and then relaid.
Important advice: “This product is designed as a lightweight overlay,” says Burke. “The market for it includes park districts and municipal facilities, where people are looking for something very affordable.”
Notes: The system is durable with heavy loads, but can be damaged by careless use, or someone dragging a heavy piece of equipment over the surface.
See all articles by Mary Helen Sprecher
About the Author
Mary Helen Sprecher is the managing editor of Sports Destinations Management Magazine, a niche business-to-business publication for planners of sports travel events, in addition to being an RSI Contributing Editor. She is the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and works as a newspaper reporter in Baltimore City.