In today’s world of athletic turf fields, replacing old fields or “retrofits” are more and more common.  Replacing old, worn down turf systems with the latest in synthetic turf technology such as AstroTurf’s RootZone systems with our TRIONIC fiber (latest in fiber technology combining nylon with polyethylene).  There’s more to a retrofit than just tearing out of the old turf system and replacing with new.  We will try to cover as many considerations as we can when replacing your turf system.

TIME:  Starting with time.  Time is of the essence and planning is key.  We recommend starting the research process two years ahead of the project kickoff.  Contact turf providers and industry professionals.  Get references on who you are considering working with.  Doing the leg work now will help simplify a potentially confusing industry when making your final decisions.

EXISTING DRAWINGS:  Having the existing as-built design drawings always help.  It will give you and the turf vendor a clear understanding of the existing drainage and potential issues.  Working with an experienced design professional and engineer is also a key component to ensure that there are no changes in the existing site or local regulations that may affect the project. Performing a dual-ring infiltration test should be done to establish the current rate of the field’s drainage rate.

     Surgical Turf Removal

REMOVAL:  Removal of the existing turf and infill needs to be executed surgically, therefore disturbing the aggregate base as little as possible.  If there is an existing track around the field it needs to be protected.  Hire a contractor experienced in removing turf as to keep the project on time and the site disturbed as little as possible.  Inexperienced contractors can add delays and do more damage to tracks, parking lots or other structures that could require change orders and costly repairs.  The typical time frame to remove and dispose of the existing turf is two days.

DISPOSE, REUSE, RECYCLE:  What is to be done with the existing turf and infill?  You’ve decided to remove the turf, now what?  There are a few places to take an old turf system, but the most common is a landfill.  In some areas of the country disposing of turf and SBR infill is not permitted and the turf must be taken to an alternate disposal source such as an incinerator.  This can be a costly option.  The turf can be reused in areas such as batting cages or small indoor areas.   There are some recycling options beyond reuse but synthetic turf involves three types of polymers not including the infill.  Recycling operations prefer to only work with one polymer at a time.  Most recycling plants can handle two polymers (polyethylene fiber and polyester backing) but, does not like mixing three different polymers for repurposing.  Removing an 8 to 12 year turf system and trying to reinstall it as a whole field at a different site will prove very difficult and so costly it’s almost the same price as buying an all new infilled system.  Depending on the type of infill and use it is possible to reuse the existing infill or sent it to an infill reclamation company.  An infill reclamation company may come pick up your turf for a fee; depending on their proximity to the project.  If you’ve invested in an EPDM, TPE or other infill besides SBR rubber, check with the manufacturer and turf vendor to see if it can be used.  Odds are you’ve invested mightily in your infill if that’s the case and reusing it in the new field would be very much considered.

            A Dynamic Base

DYNAMIC DRAINAGE BASE/EDGE DETAIL:  After the turf has been removed, now is the time to make sure your dynamic stone drainage base, or in some cases a drain mat, is working properly and good for another life cycle.  Working with industry experts such as engineers and landscape architects is  recommended to ensure a properly working drainage base.  Important questions need to be asked.  Has the field rutted?  Has there ever been any flooding?  Have there been any sink holes?  Settling of the stone base is especially common around the edge of the field and needs to be corrected.  Running an inspection camera down your perimeter drainage pipes to ensure clear pipes, testing the existing stone with a percolation test, testing your stone for compaction, planarity and stability, checking your perimeter edge detail and concrete curb, these are all important considerations when inspecting the base.  The stone may have settled over the years and needs to be regraded requiring you to bring in fine stone.  Over time the existing fines may have worked down into the coarse aggregate of the drainage layer; these fines usually need to be replaced.   Some bases require the top 2” of stone removed new stone brought in to get required planarity.  The concrete curb may have cracked and needs repair.  Same goes for the nailer board, as the pressure treated wood may have rotted and needs replacement.  When the turf is off and the base is open, it’s a must to ensure that the base is working properly.  Performing additional dual-ring infiltration tests before and after the stone is adjusted, confirms that your field’s drainage is functioning as designed.

          Elastomeric Layer (E-Layer)

E-LAYERS/SHOCK PADS:  As the overall concern for athlete health and safety rises, considerations of whether to install an Elastomeric Layer (E-Layer) or shock pad with the new turf system is warranted.  These systems will help with a consistent G-max, bio-mechanical testing (FIFA) and lower HIC scores.  The drainage base may have to have an altered profile to add a pad to the system since the E-Layer or shock pad will add depth to the turf system.  Likewise, certain pad systems also are used to assist in creating more efficient drainage over an existing stone base that is not performing optimally.

NEW ASTROTURF SYSTEM:  Now that you’ve taken into all the considerations of your turf removal and drainage systems it’s time to install your new turf system.  If you’ve done your research, I’m sure the AstroTurf RootZone 3D line of turf systems will be given serious consideration.  They incorporate the latest in athletic turf technology, providing excellent game play and safety no matter the sport!  Please contact me or any of our AstroTurf staff with further questions and assistance with your retrofit!

              The Final Result

Todd DeWolfe
AstroTurf VP of Architectural Sales