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Care of filled synthetic turf systems
Ongoing and correct maintenance is an absolute necessity in order to achieve optimal use properties and the maximum life expectancy of synthetic turf surfaces.
Manufacturers of synthetic turf provide written instructions for care which must be strictly adhered to. Taken individually, the required maintenance work does not present any particular challenges. The quality of the turf and as a result, the life expectancy of the synthetic pitch, can be damaged for example with use of the wrong machines or insufficient maintenance work being carried out. In most cases, weekly care of an intensively used pitch has shown to be optimal.
Maintenance tasks include the following steps:
* The surface is to be levelled, returning the filler material (infill) to the spaces where it is missing. Depending on the quality and kind of surface and on the direction of travel, the fibres can also be brushed back up.
* Dirt must be removed before the pitch is used again.
* Missing infill must be supplemented continuously.
* Depending on the ambient conditions and the intensity of use, the turf needs thorough, deep cleaning at least once a year.
* The infill must be loosened / separated at regular intervals
* The surface and joint seams must be checked regularly.
External companies are often given the task of carrying out these maintenance jobs such as thorough and deep cleaning. Annual checking of the turf and examination of the joint seams makes absolute sense and is recommended. As a rule, all other tasks can be carried out by the owner of the pitch or the groundsman. In order to carry out the work properly, corresponding knowledge about care and maintenance of synthetic turf is absolutely necessary. The knowledge and equipment of the groundsman is decisive for the state of the pitch throughout its working life and whether the expected life expectancy can be achieved at all.
Sweeping the surface with a broom and/or mats can involve some risks. If the direction or way of driving is wrong, more infill will be removed from the zones of greatest use. If the surface is not cleaned sufficiently before use of a mat, the dirt is distributed evenly over the whole surface and can then be worked into the turf with the filler material.
Hard and time-absorbing regular manual cleaning should be avoided. This can be carried out by special machines which also even the surface while removing the dirt and small objects. These machines take up the infill with the dirt, separate these from one another and then return clean filler material back into the turf. At the same time, the dirt is removed by suction and the material reworked back between the stalks by a following system of brushes. With correct handling and accurately set machines, the material can be transported from areas where there is too much to areas where there is too little while simultaneously re-straightening the stalks and the infill loosened, i.e. three jobs are carried out in one work phase. This achieves enormous time saving compared to brushing by hand. This major cleaning advantage also guarantees that the surface is always clean and provides optimum surface properties over the whole playing area. The height setting of the machine for weekly maintenance and cleaning corresponds to the depth of a sweeping brush and its lower impact on the synthetic turf.
One of the most important points of maintenance is refilling missing filler material. This is nearly always paid too little attention. Fibres with insufficient infill are subjected to harder wear and tear. Missing filler material should be continually replenished or at least once a week. Zones exposed to especially hard wear such as the penalty box, penalty point and the centre of the pitch should be specially checked. If replenishment is carried out continually, the amount of filler used each time is so small that no extra equipment or external help should be necessary. The filler can be distributed by hand especially in the penalty box and around the goal mouths. Larger areas can be scattered with filler before being driven over with the maintenance brushing machinery. Attention should be paid that dirt is removed before infill is added or it may become transferred deep into the turf structure.
The annual thorough and deep cleaning can also be carried out using the equipment described above for maintenance of the surface (three jobs in one phase). The time required for each football pitch can be between 8 and 16 hours depending on the machine used. Carrying out this annual "spring cleaning" with the usual maintenance crew and equipment can greatly reduce maintenance costs per year.
The cost of a simple sweeping brush (rear-mounted attachment) and purchase of a small pulling tractor (which should last just as long as the synthetic turf pitch) amount to around 10.000 Euro. In addition, numerous non-calculable hours of manual work for removal of dirt and the costs of an external company for the annual thorough cleaning must be taken into consideration. Despite this, the turf is never really in an optimum condition at any time of the year (except in the first year after installation and later just after cleaning). Past experience (infilled synthetic turf has been in use since the 1980s, the latest generations since the 1990s) has shown that this kind of equipment can leave a synthetic pitch in a desolate condition after only a few years of use and long before its usual life expectancy.
Correct equipment, including vehicle costs anything above 14.000 Euro, although with the greatest comfort and the guarantee that the groundsman can carry out all necessary maintenance tasks himself whenever they become necessary. Further costs are only incurred for replacement infiller, possibly repair to seams and a check of the whole system by its manufacturer. Here also, past experience has shown that synthetic turf systems last much longer with correct and regular care of the surface.
Whether a synthetic turf achieves its maximum life expectancy depends mainly on the maintenance teams and their level of knowledge. Also decisive for the success of the groundsman's work is the corresponding equipment. When professional equipment is used for the care of synthetic turf, it will fulfil your expectations.
© 2012 SMG Sportplatzmaschinenbau GmbH, sig. Jochen Bäurle
Stand at the GaLaBau 2012 in Nuremberg: Hall 1/1-422