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On the surface

Bradleys Surfacing Systems offer their tips for sports facilities

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 06, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

Selecting the right sports surface for a school or academy can be a tricky process, as there are so many factors to consider and a range of different products and surfaces on the market to choose from.

Whichever sport is being played, durability, quality and accuracy for a high level of play is imperative, as well as some form of shock absorbency or cushioning to project from injury.

First, it’s good to have a clear view of what you want from a synthetic turf surface. Generally, the easiest way to determine this is by application, so what sports you’d like the surface to cater for. The following is a good guide:

  • Football only –  3G/4G Synthetic Turf

Depending on the type turf selected, this may or may not require a shock pad.  A longer pile turf, such as a 60mm surface can be installed without a pad.  A shorter pile surface, such as a 40mm product will generally need a pad, but has other advantages such as the fact it requires less maintenance 

  • Football/Rugby – 3G Synthetic Turf

With this combination, a shock pad is almost a certainty in order to achieve enough cushioning to allow rugby to be played safely. A typical system would be 65mm 3G turf installed on a 10-15mm shock pad. 

  • Multi-Sport -  Sand-dressed Synthetic Turf

In this instance a sand dressed system would be most appropriate with a shock pad. A hockey turf on a shock pad will generally be good for a multi –use surface 

  • Tennis only -  Sand-dressed Synthetic Turf

For tennis, a sand dressed synthetic turf with no pad is required. Many varieties are now on the market including synthetic clay which is becoming very popular. 

  • Hockey -  Sand-dressed Synthetic Turf

Sand dressed synthetic turf with a shock pad is most appropriate for hockey. A typical system would be an 18mm turf on a 15mm shock pad. 

Buyer’s guide

Shock pad

Shock pads can take a variety of forms, from pre-formed rubber and foam products made in factories, to pads which are installed in-situ with the materials being mixed and levelled on-site.  Both pre-formed and in-situ shock pads have pros and cons. With a preformed option you get a factory level consistency, whereas with the in-situ method, the product is seamless, but can be affected by conditions on site during the installation such as the weather.

What to look for

Ensure the pad is fit for purpose and tested to meet the necessary criteria for the sport application, which is especially important for sports like rugby.  

Sand Dressed synthetic turf

These are shorter pile surfaces which are dressed with a kiln dried sand. 

What to look for

Modern products generally comprise of Polyethylene (PE) fibres rather than the older Polypropylene (PP) fibres as you get much less resistance from Polyethylene and it reduces grazes and other injuries. ‘Texturised’ surfaces offer a non-direction surface and are generally preferable.

Third Generation Surfaces (3G)

These are long pile surfaces normally ranging from 40-65mm and filled with sand and rubber, most suitable for sports such as football and rugby. 

What to look for

As with the sand dressed surface, a Polyethylene surface is generally preferable.  It’s also worth looking for a ‘profiled’ monofilament fibre as these generally stand up better and therefore last longer. 

Fourth Generation Surfaces (4G)

These are dense non-infilled products suitable for football.  The products are designed so that the weight of the surface itself holds it in place and there is enough fibre so that studded footwear can be worn without the need for sand and rubber.

What to look for

These products are still relatively new, so its safer to go for a product that has already been installed. I’d also advise a site visit to see if it’s exactly what you are looking for. There is a lot of hype around 4G surfaces, but in many cases the school or academy may still be served better by a sand dressed or 3G surface.


By Tom Bradley, Director of Bradleys Surfacing Systems

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