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There is still high demand for porous asphalt courts. SAPCA’s Chris Trickey identifies some of the important issues to consider when choosing an asphalt playing surface.

IN the history of sports surface evolution, there are references to basic asphalt and concrete courts as far back as the early 20th century, but it was in the 1950s that asphalt surfaces were first constructed in very large numbers. Tens of thousands of courts were built in the post-war period, mostly as part of the school building campaign, within the development of the welfare state. The fact that so many municipal parks did

not see the return of their groundstaff after the war contributed to black asphalt courts being laid almost everywhere, as they met the demand at that time. Asphalt surfaces were often not, however, considered good enough for club play and most tennis clubs kept their red shale courts, despite the relative difficulty of maintaining them to a high standard. It was in the 1970s that the modern-day

modified asphalt surface emerged, produced by taking out the ‘cut-back’ oils from the asphalt and mixing in various additives, which had the beneficial effect of raising the point at which the material would soften in warm weather. The other main advantage was that the surface could be colour-coated after only two or three weeks, rather than the following year, making it much more visually attractive. This proved to be an important

development, and by the late 1980s well over 80 per cent of the tennis courts installed were some form of bitumen-based surface.


advantages of asphalt While porous asphalt is generally not the preferred surface of most recreational sports players – for one thing it is relatively hard and unforgiving – it continues to represent a significant proportion of the outdoor courts constructed or resurfaced each year for tennis, netball and basketball courts as well as multi- use games areas. But when considering all the various factors involved in surface choice, it scores highly in many areas. A well-constructed porous asphalt court

should be free-draining and usable very shortly after rainfall, throughout the year. It should provide a true ball bounce with consistently

good slip resistance underfoot, and require relatively low levels of regular maintenance. It should provide very good durability and longevity, typically lasting eight to 10 years before needing to be renewed. And – certainly not least – a porous asphalt surface requires lower levels of capital investment (for both initial construction and subsequent resurfacing) than most other surfaces. As porous asphalt is frequently used as the

base for the installation of other sports surfaces, such as synthetic turf, there is also the advantage that asphalt courts can usually be upgraded or converted relatively easily, so long as they have been well specified and built to a high standard initially. This also allows a project to be split into two phases if necessary, perhaps due to financial constraints.

the limitations A porous asphalt surface is typically constructed on top of a frost-resistant, stable and permeable base of graded aggregate. A two-course construction is strongly recommended, consisting of a binder course and surfacing course, as this will provide greater constructional stability and more consistent compaction, promoting more even surface texture and finished levels. Where required, particularly to improve the

aesthetic appearance (and potentially increase usage), the surfacing course can then be

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