Winter Maintenance

Winter Weather. Stop Maintaining?
Once the winter weather sets in what maintenance should you being doing and not doing on artificial turf pitches? Garry Martin of maintenance specialist Replay Maintenance, outlines his top tips.

All-weather synthetic turf pitches should in fact be called most-weather synthetic turf pitches! They are not, as many think, always playable. Sadly, we can’t stop the weather, but with a little planning most synthetic sports surfaces can be made
available in nearly all weathers. So, let’s go through the different types of winter weather we’re likely to get and how to deal with it:

Wind & Rain
Naturally, in autumn, the leaves fall off trees. So, it probably goes without saying that you need to ensure they are regularly swept up and cleared. If not, they can encourage the development of moss and algae and as the natural detritus breaks
down will become increasingly difficult to remove effectively. If moss is present you will need to apply an approved chemical and remove once “dead”. You can do this yourself or you may find it is included in your service agreement with your
maintenance provider.

To help alleviate drainage issues during more prolonged periods of wet weather a pro-active planned approach to maintenance is necessary. By implementing the following procedures the pile will be more fluid and fill more mobile, both imperative where drainage is concerned.

Use a process that encompasses de-compaction, extraction of dust, removal of dirt and detritus and redistribution of the infill. Maintenance is not just about what is on the surface but should also cater for what is in the surface. For all of
the aforementioned to take place and be fully effective it must preferably be dry. This does not mean that wet weather maintenance should not take place, but you must be sure that the correct wet weather procedures occur.
Removal of dirt and detritus, and redistribution of the infill (with care) can take place during wetter periods. However, rotary brush techniques are not ideal for wet weather maintenance as they may only succeed in driving retained dust particles deeper into the cleaner bottom half of the surface. Using a rigid brush with airflow is preferable.

You may have your own grounds staff and equipment that undertake the above. If using a maintenance company ensure that they take a considered and intelligent view of the weather and adjust the maintenance procedures accordingly. Replay, for example, only undertakes two site visits a day to ensure that each site is correctly assessed and treated –quality, not quantity
should be the watch-word. And the processes and equipment that Replay uses are fully adaptable for either wet or dry weather.

In the worse cases a pitch may be at a point where it actually needs rejuvenating. This process can restore compacted and contaminated synthetic football, rugby, hockey and tennis surfaces to ‘as new’ performance and appearance using compressed air to remove the contaminated top layer of sand and restore the pile to vertical. However, it is a treatment that
has to be undertaken by a reputable maintenance company and is not fully effective if the surface is frozen.

Frost & Snow
With a lot of hard work, the correct machinery and good products it is possible to clear snowfall and ice.

Snow can be cleared to the side of the pitch, albeit you need to make sure that the weight of the snow doesn’t cause any long-term issues on the carpet underneath it. Freezing conditions and ice are slightly more problematic.

If you are intending to apply a treatment to prevent freeze or encourage thaw, firstly, check with the surface manufacturer or installer before doing so. Secondly, you need to check that the whole depth of the synthetic turf carpet has in fact defrosted. Appearances can be misleading and a surface may look ice and frostfree when in fact it is only the top of the pile that has defrosted.

In most cases, a shock pad will sit directly below the carpet layer with a further two layers of bitmac (Tarmac) beneath that. All of these layers are black in colour and are excellent at absorbing ambient heat from their surroundings. In simple terms, this means that thaw from below (ambient heat held by the earth) can be very slow to reach the base of your carpet. As surfaces get older natural drainage may get slower, meaning moisture can sit at the base or midway in the carpet for prolonged periods. In winter, this moisture, without ambient heat, may freeze. This can lead to a surface that looks safe for play from the top down, but is in fact holding ice further into the pile. Worse still this can occur in isolated “pockets” making the hazard harder to spot.

As previously stated It is worth noting that a good pro-active (year round) maintenance regime will help to keep the carpet pile open and the fill mobile. This helps fluid and moisture to pass through the surface, helping to negate ice and frost.
Something like the Revive process from Replay, is ideal for pro-active maintenance prior and during bad weather.

Operator beware!
A final word of warning. If you allow the surface to be used and a player sustains injury as a result of the ice, snow or rain the responsibility will be yours! Make sure the pitch is completely safe before allowing play.

Garry Martin is happy to offer advice or discuss any maintenance questions people have. Just call him on 01636 640506 or ask a question online.

Winter Maintenance