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How Wear-and-Tear Varies Between Turf Types

Talk with anyone who has experience managing, playing on, or dealing with artificial turf, and you might hear a few unfortunate stories about turf fibers disintegrating, splitting and pulling loose, infill splashing and compacting, and other situations that result in a worn-down playing surface. 

However, you can practically eliminate many of those issues during the turf’s lifespan by carefully looking into the construction before making a purchase. It comes down to the science behind how the turf is manufactured, the types of fibers used, and how the system functions as a whole. 

turf
Photo: Sky Noir / Creative Commons

I’d like to provide you with the background knowledge so you can ask the right questions before you choose the artificial turf that’s right for your facility. 

Tufted vs. Woven Turf

The most common type of turf is tufted, meaning the turf fibers are glued into a backing in rows. With woven, the fibers are interlocked together in a matrix pattern to create one integrated, solid piece, practically eliminating fiber loss. Wear and tear happen faster with a tufted turf because the glued-in fibers pull out more easily. Plus, with tufted, the fibers are aligned in rows, creating “valleys” in-between in which infill can become compacted or displaced, resulting in an inconsistent playing surface. A woven design reduces infill compaction and splash. 

Wear and Tear By Turf Yarn Type

When it comes to turf fibers, thicker and wider ones are best to prevent fiber disintegration, curling, and splitting. There are mainly two types of turf fibers — monofilament and slit film (some turf products feature a combination of the two). 

Monofilament fibers break down easier, particularly if they have a spine (a thin strand of material running down the fiber’s middle). The strongest monofilament fibers come in a diamond shape for increased resiliency to destruction. 

As for slit-film fibers, they are thicker, wider, and much more durable. At Tencate, to ensure our slit-film yarn stands up to the world’s toughest sports, we stretch it in four directions and cool it as it gets extruded. We own the only two machines that do this, resulting in the most stable fibers available in the market.

A Warranty Is a Company’s Stance on Durability

An easy way to tell how long a manufacturer is willing to stand behind its turf’s longevity is to look at the warranty. The industry standard is an eight-year warranty, but I encourage you to ensure that the warranty isn’t prorated (meaning the warranty loses value over time). For example, for TenCate’s IRONTURF, we offer a 10-year, non-prorated warranty for our woven turf product because we’re confident in its resiliency to wear and tear. 

The turf system’s shock pad, which protects athletes on impact, should also come with a warranty for around 16-20 years (essentially two turf lifecycles).

A turf system that breaks down sooner than it should is not only costly but also creates numerous safety issues. For example, if you’re dealing with fiber loss and disintegration, then your athletes will be left with nothing but the rubber on which to play. And if the turf itself isn’t designed to prevent infill splashing and compaction, then players can’t easily pivot, cut, and turn, increasing rotational resistance and lower leg stress for players. 

In recap, I’d like to share easy-to-reference questions you should ask before selecting your synthetic turf (along with condensed key facts from the sections above): 

  • What type of fibers are used? As I shared, you want a surface that will last a long time, so thicker and wider fibers are preferable. 
  • Are the fibers glued into a backing or are they woven together, creating one solid piece? Tufted turf means the fibers are glued in; by choosing a woven turf, you practically eliminate fiber loss, infill migration, and numerous other headaches. 
  • How long is the warranty? A 10-year warranty is preferred and considered the “gold” standard. Also, pay attention to the fine print, and avoid prorated warranties. A prorated warranty loses value, giving you a fraction of the coverage, as time passes.

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By researching, or asking about, your new synthetic surface’s overall construction, fiber design, and warranty, you can ensure you’re making a smart investment in the best playing surface for your facility and athletes.