Maintaining Paved Recreation Surfaces The People's Court

Recreation spaces such as tennis courts or basketball courts are always a welcome addition to any community, and the community associations that already possess these amenities understand the value they represent to homeowners. Though it might not seem like much care is required when the area in question is a paved surface, a certain amount of upkeep is necessary to preserve the value of the amenity for current and future residents.

Getting Started

When it comes to installing a new tennis court or other athletic court, you will most likely be using asphalt to create the hard surface. There is such a thing as a soft court, but they are rarely used in New Jersey and most paving companies only deal in the hard courts. Before your association members start re-stringing their tennis rackets though, there are some things that must be done.

"First, you need a building permit from the community—and then you can set down the court," says Kurt Vollherbst of Kurt's Kourts in Pennington. "Preferably, you lay it out so that players are playing in a north-south direction."

"A typical court consists of stone, two layers of asphalt, and then a color surface," says Ron Lozowski of Universal Court Contractors in Bloomsbury. "The color surface is customized to fit your needs at the time. Most of the courts are built as per the American Sports builder guidelines—American Sports is the organization that is the authority."

Nowadays, according to the pros, condo developments aren't just installing basketball or tennis courts and leaving it at that—they're putting in what's called "athletic courts" that welcome several sports. Multi-purpose courts like these can accommodate basketball, volleyball and even roller hockey.

"For our residential people, these courts tend to end up like a giant playpen, because you can do a lot of different things on them," says Lozowski. "It's not just about tennis and basketball anymore."

"The [installation] process is essentially the same for a tennis court as it is for a basketball court," says Leonard Liberto of Rusling Paving in Trenton. "A good sub-base is necessary for both of them, because no matter what you put on top, it's only as good as what's on the bottom."

A standard tennis court measures 60 by 120 square feet, and a basketball court is 60 by 90. Most condo developments tend to go with two tennis courts, so more than one game can be played simultaneously and pairs don't have to wait their turn to play.

On The Surface

"When a tennis court is ready to be repaved we come in, we put a wood barrier around the perimeter of the court because we're going to make it slightly higher, and we put in stone and two layers of blacktop," says Tom Eosso of Eosso Brothers Paving in Matawan. "Then we use another company to put the actual coating on top. Courts are just pitched one percent, so you want it as flat as possible. You have to survey and engineer it and get everything just right. There are possibilities of puddles, of course, because water doesn't run too much on one percent. But once you get your coating on top of it, it rolls off pretty well."

Many paving companies rely on laser-guided tools and machinery to make sure that the surface is perfect for tennis conditions.

"Our courts are laser-paved, which means that the paving equipment is laser controlled for accuracy—which is important when you're doing a tennis court or athletic court because of quality concerns," Lozowski says. "After you pave the courts you put an acrylic coating on top of them."

The material used in building a hard court is different than what's used for driveways. "There's an asphalt material called 'tennis court mix' that has more sand in the mixture, so it's really smooth—it's a lot finer than what's used to pave a road or driveway," says Eosso. "We've used different grades in tennis courts."

Not a Racket

Considering the value it adds to a community, putting in a tennis court or athletic court isn't too pricey and most companies are willing to sit down with the board and work out a plan and a price point that satisfies all concerned.

"Usually a standard tennis court, including the fencing but not including disposal, from start to finish, is about $39,000," says Liberto. "A basketball court is a little less because it is smaller, but it's based on the square footage."

Eosso agrees, saying that courts can range anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 depending on if it's a single or a double, whether it needs fencing, or if it's a brand-new or repaving project.

Care for a Game?

"If a hard court is built properly, there isn't a heck of a lot of maintenance you have to do with them," says Lozowski. "You need to keep them clean, and you have to keep them dry. If you let excessive leaves accumulate on the court, and they hold moisture, it will break down the acrylic surfaces. If you have trees or any type of debris on it, don't just let them accumulate because it will allow the moisture to stay there and cause damage over time."

Lozowski also recommends that if snow piles up on the court, just let it be. Snow shovels can do more damage than the snow itself, and you're better off waiting for it to melt. Most water will dry up in a day's time without any need for homeowners to do anything.

One thing that can be done is trying to keep kids from skateboarding and rollerblading, and otherwise vandalizing the courts, as that's always a big problem in developments.

Aside from kids, the weather is the biggest culprit in damaging courts.

"All the weather elements damage the courts—that's why you coat them," Liberto says. "You protect the asphalt against the elements and you cushion and enhance the game a little bit. The acrylic gives the ball a bounce instead of a thud."

Winter can be particularly hard on any court, be it for basketball or tennis.

"It's the freezing and thawing," Lozowski says. "If your court has cracks in them, you should minimize the amount of water that gets into cracks—that will minimize the expansion and contraction, which can lead to bigger trouble if you let it go on."

Cracking Up

Tennis courts also get a lot of fatigue from the net posts, which are up all summer long, Eosso explains: "You have to crank the nets to get them really tight, and when you crank the posts up, it takes a toll on the concrete. Eventually, it creates a crack down the center."

If you get to the cracks quickly, they can just be patched up and can provide as much as five years of use before needing a major repair.

"If you're just going to patch the crack in for the season, you can do what we call a 'layered fabric' repair or asphalt procedure," says Lozowski. These use products that can save associations money by allowing their courts to last longer, even with cracks. One surface treatment that's doing a good job is called Armor Crack.

"It's a very good intermediate for the next step rather than spending money on repaving," Vollherbst says. "You can use this, and that will hold cracks in place for five or six years."

Bigger problems—and cracks—on athletic courts are usually the result of improper construction. Cracking occurs over time due to weaknesses somewhere in the structure or paving joints, insufficient footings or unstable base materials. Eventually all asphalt will crack, but poor construction will bring on the problem much faster, and will cost more money to repair.

Court Order

Even if a court is totally run-down with cracks everywhere, rather than destroy everything and start over, companies today often just put a new court right on top of the old one.

"What's been happening in the tennis industry in the last 10 years is the process of stone dust overlay—and that really changes things," says Vollherbst. "Rather than take things out, we'd rather use what's there. If you take it out, you expose the new court to the exact same problems. You have a good solid base, so you add a stone layer between the old asphalt and new asphalt."

Eosso is a great believer in the stone dust overlay method. "When we come in, we actually are putting six inches of material over the existing tennis court," he says. "Stone dust is like really fine crushed stone, and we install it with our paving machine. In the winter when the ground is expanding and contracting, the stone acts as little ball bearings and moves with the cracks and helps the court from cracking."

A court should last more than 10 years without any major care needed. If problems do develop earlier, it's probably because it wasn't put in correctly in the first place. But with some simple cleaning of leaves and guidelines on what is and isn't allowed on the courts, there should be plenty of tennis, hoop-shooting, and roller-hockey playing opportunities for years to come.

Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The New Jersey Cooperator.

Related Articles

You're Invited! - the CooperatorEvents New Jersey Expo 2023 is Wednesday, June 7

You're Invited! - the CooperatorEvents New Jersey Expo 2023 is Wednesday, June 7

10:00am to 4:00pm at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus

CooperatorEvents NJ Expo Returns to the Meadowlands!

CooperatorEvents NJ Expo Returns to the Meadowlands!

Wednesday, June 7 - Register for FREE at