Sports Turf Online, August 17, 2011


“I did what you told me to do!” That’s the best defense for any field manager faced with a warranty issue on a synthetic turf field. And the way for the manager to document that defense is to maintain a simple log book that lists dates of sweeping, brushing, infill replacement and other maintenance practices.

However, field managers at all levels agree that most companies—especially if they expect to be in business for the long term—will do the right thing by their customers. “Don’t stress about the letter of the law,” says Darian Daily, head groundskeeper at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals. By that, he means that a grounds crew should do what needs to be done to keep the field in good shape.

“I keep a calendar log, day by day, of maintenance,” says Abby McNeal, CSFM, director of turf management at Wake Forest University. If they sweep the field, she notes the date and whether the field was power swept or simply dragged. They note when the mound clay is spruced up, entering that job in the daily log along with all the other maintenance practices. That way, McNeal and Wake Forest have proof that they complied with the manufacturer’s warranty.

The standard warranty in the industry is for 8 years. . . Why 8 years? Good question. John Sorochan, co-director with Jim Brosnan at the Center for Safer Athletic Fields at the University of Tennessee, says warranties are typically based on lab tests focused on the life of the fiber…not the field’s use or location, or maintenance practices.

Keep in mind that you are dealing with a carpet that will be outdoors for a decade or so. It will be exposed to UV light that will break down the fibers. Depending on location, it will be subject to snow and ice or to pine needles and leaves. A typical warranty will cover issues like the fibers remaining in the backing and the field draining as specified.

That’s what the manufacturer promises. The city or college that owns the field has to do its bit, too. That means regular maintenance, by the book.

All good companies offer basic training in maintenance. Yet field managers will also learn from others in the business. For example, one of the benefits of artificial turf is that it becomes playable right after snow, if the snow is removed correctly. But it is incumbent on the field manager to know how to remove snow and ice properly so the field and its markings do not get torn up in the process.

“A common misconception is that these fields are ‘maintenance-free’,” Serensits says. Regular maintenance must be performed to maintain the safety and playability of a field. Common maintenance practices such as grooming, debris removal, and adding additional infill to heavy wear areas are a great start to maintaining these fields correctly, he adds. 

“In areas of high wear, such as sliding areas on baseball fields or lacrosse goal mouths, infill can be moved resulting in reduced infill depth,” Serensits says. “Reintroducing rubber into these areas maintains the safety and playability of these areas.”

“Then, keep a log of what you do,” Cook advises. That way, you can validate the activities you did to keep the warranty valid and current.