Tim Gerrits, ASLA & Travis Vruggink, PE

Among the most common frustrations I hear from court and facility owners who have asphalt courts are cracking and unsafe surfaces. Owners looking for an improvement in court-surface life cycles often look to post-tensioned concrete surfaces as an alternative to the maintenance merry-go-round that asphalt courts can sometimes present.

Despite its tendency to crack, asphalt was the hard-court construction choice for decades. While asphalt is a flexible pavement, those flexible material properties can lead to failure in tennis court applications. Thermal expansion, UV exposure, and freeze-thaw cycles all contribute to asphalt surfaces degrading in quality over time.

Poor drainage and unstable subgrade soils also cause poor surface conditions on asphalt courts. A well-designed court or facility will include drainage to carry water away from the sub-base and provide stability for the court surface.

The American Sports Builder’s Association (ASBA) recommends sawing joints in asphalt courts. This helps relieve tension in the court surface and encourages cracking to occur on the sawed joints, which are outside the area of play. Sawed joints are a preventative measure, but new cracks can still form within the play surface, which needs to be taken into consideration when resurfacing courts.