When you’re ready to resurface your courts, how can you best evaluate the court-builder proposals?
By David LaSota and Mary Helen Sprecher
It’s in the budget. You’re planning to resurface your courts this spring. And you’ve already taken the first steps by having specialty contractors come in and review the scope of work to be done.
Now, you’re sitting at your desk, studying the proposals that have come in as a result of those visits. And you’re a bit confused. The prices vary, but how do you know which one is the best? Do you really want to pick just the lowest bid — only to find out you’ve made a mistake in evaluating the proposal? How do you know what you’re looking at?
In this case, you get a little help from a consultant. Longtime tennis facility design professional David LaSota from D.W. Engineering has provided a checklist for tennis court owners and managers to use as they review the proposals in front of them.
Oh, and if you’re not sure whether a proposal includes something, don’t be afraid to call and ask. Most contractors are glad to explain a proposal if doing so makes it easier for the customer.
- Be sure to have court builders provide comparable scopes of work so that an apples-to-apples comparison can be made between the proposals submitted. (In other words, check the wording to make sure all proposals are addressing the same type of job; again, if you have any questions about what is included, call and ask).
- The builder should include cleaning of the court surface as part of the scope of work to ensure a good, solid substrate onto which the acrylics can adhere. This could include pressure-washing, scraping and grinding to remove any debris or impurity that could prevent proper adhesion of the acrylics.
- Proposals should state that the courts will be flooded to identify any “birdbaths,” defined as depressions that will hold water deeper than the thickness of a nickel. Any depressions should be marked and patched prior to the application of the acrylics. The builder should include this in the proposal.
- Cracks in the court pavement should be thoroughly cleaned and filled prior to the application of the acrylics. Various methods for addressing pavement cracks are available. The builder should clearly describe how they plan to repair cracks in the court surface. (Note: The use of a proprietary system may drive up the cost, so make sure which methods are being used so that you can fairly evaluate all proposals). The proposal scope of work should quantify the amount of crack repair to be completed by the builder.
- On courts where staining is present, stain blockers are available to reduce the chance these stains may bleed through the new acrylic coatings. The builder and surface manufacturer should be consulted for guidance on treating stains.
- Depending on the condition of the court surface, the application of a resurfacer may be required prior to the acrylic color coats. The acrylic resurfacer provided a good base from which the acrylics can be applied. Asphalt-based resurfacer materials should be avoided due to their history of failures and surface delaminations.
- As a general rule, it is best to provide a slow to medium-fast court surface pace to provide the average tennis player more time to react to a shot from the opposing player. The acrylic manufacturer and court builder can customize the surfacing acrylics to achieve the surface pace desired by the facility owner.
- The builders should specify in their proposal the application rates for the acrylic materials they will be applying to the courts. This will allow the consumer to ensure adequate material will be used on the resurfacing. For example, if the builder proposes to install two coats of acrylic color to your tennis court at 0.05 gallons per square yard per application, assuming your court is 7,200 square feet (800 square yards) in size, they will need to provide: 800 square yards x 0.05 gallons/square yard/application x 2 applications = 80 gallons of acrylic. Acrylic coatings are generally provided in 55-gallon drums; therefore, the builder should have two drums of material on site to resurface your court.
- The playing lines should use textured line paint to match the pace of the adjacent playing surface. Non-textured lines are available and cause the ball to bounce differently than the court surface.
- If you have asked for 36- and/or 60-foot court lines for youth and beginner play, make sure these appear on the proposals as well.
- Seriously consider hiring a court builder who is a member of the American Sports Builders Association. In addition, ASBA offers a Certified Tennis Court Builder program, which is voluntary. CTCBs have accumulated activity points and passed a comprehensive exam that asks them to display their knowledge of tennis court construction.
Evaluating proposals is nerve-wracking, particularly the first time around. Just remember to pay attention to details and to ask questions, rather than make guesses, whenever you’re uncertain.
In the end, you may be able to form a lasting relationship with a contractor you can trust and turn to for future projects.
Redoing the Courts: How to Define the Scope of Work
Inevitably, someone’s going to say, “We should redo the courts.” Unfortunately, that can mean a broad spectrum of work, which comes at an even broader spectrum of price points. Here are a few options:
- Crack Repair: This generally pertains to an asphalt court, and is a process of filling, patching or repairing cracks. This may be a spot treatment, pertaining to one area only, or it may be a more widespread repair using a proprietary system. It is performed when the cracking is the court’s only problem, and when it is generally a matter of aesthetics.
- Resurfacing: Resurfacing is defined as putting a new surface on the court. The simplest way is by filling the cracks and low spots and then putting a new acrylic coating on top of the court in order to create a smooth, unblemished surface. Other types of surfaces can be laid over an existing court as well. (Note that the court is only as good as its base, however, and a court with underlying problems will have recurrent trouble.)
- Overlays: A court might have underlying issues but still have appropriate slope and drainage. In these cases, contractors often suggest that repair be made using an overlay, or slipsheet overlay, in which a thin layer of stone or stone dust is placed directly over an old court surface prior to a new asphalt surface being laid. The stone acts as a slipsheet and absorbs any movement from the old, cracked court below before it reflects up to the new surface. (In a post-tensioned concrete overlay, an entirely new concrete slab is installed over the problem court.)
- Reconstruction: If the court has severe problems, a contractor may recommend a total court reconstruction. Options include excavation followed by reconstruction of the court, and pulverization followed by reconstruction.
- Court Conversion: Some court owners may decide to explore the option of converting their hard court to one with a fast-dry or synthetic turf surface — or going in the other direction, for that matter.
What you choose to do with a court will ultimately rest on its current condition, as well as the site, the location, the budget, the wishes of the owner, the needs of the players and more. Knowing your parameters when you meet with your court contractor will make it easier to arrive at the right decision for you and your facility.
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