If your company already offers sealcoating and line striping, you might want to consider adding tennis court maintenance to your lineup of pavement services. Tennis court surfacing and striping is a logical extension of the skills you and your crew already possess. Many paint and sealcoating suppliers offer the materials you will need for these jobs and can be a good source for advice when starting out.
Tennis court work, however, does require additional knowledge and the patience to meet the high standards set by your customers, but in the end it has the potential to pay off for you.
"Contractors just looking to consider tennis court work sometimes are scared off by the price," says Jeff Gearheart of SealMaster. "When you see driveway sealer for $1.50 a gallon, and then you see tennis court surfacing at $8 or $9 a gallon, some people might not want to make this initial investment, but they get so much more money for the area they are doing."
"Money wise, we've done quite well," says Brad Buck, partner at C&B Buck Bros. in Holland, OH. "If we're slow in one area, the tennis court striping seems to pick up some of that. I do a lot of six-court areas, and for a school system it takes seven days to do it. So that's seven days that my guys have more work and we've got other crews who are out sealing driveways and parking lots."
J&S Asphalt in Rocklin, CA, has been working on tennis courts since the late 1980s and has their own tennis court crew that does surfacing, striping, and building. President Roy Sampson says the tennis business has been successful for his company, too.
"It's a niche," he says. "There aren't a lot of people who do it and for us there isn't a lot of competition."
Tennis court work isn't just for anyone, however. The crews working on these jobs need to be very meticulous. School systems and private clubs will use these courts for competitive play, and homeowners who have a tennis court in their yard certainly want it to look as close to perfect as possible.
"You can get away with a little more when you're doing driveways," Gearheart says. "But with tennis courts you have to be very careful and very clean or you could run into costly repairs."
If you're familiar with the process of mixing and placing driveway sealer, tennis court surfacing material will be easy for you to adjust to. Just follow your manufacturer's directions for mixing and placing. There are a few different layers involved in the process, and not all of them are necessary in every situation.
On a new court, let the surface cure for two to four weeks before working on it. When ready to start working on a court, clean the surface using blowers, wire brushes, or any other tools necessary for a successful sealing environment.
Check your court for "bird baths," areas where water remains on the court one hour after it stops raining or after you flood a court. There are two approaches you can take to leveling off a court that holds standing water.
"If it's something small, we can build it up with multiple coats of sand and acrylic resurfacer, which you can squeegee. It's the same material we would use on a new court to build it up," says Sampson. "If it's something deep, we would do an overlay with asphalt."
If you're surfacing an asphalt court that isn't brand new, you'll probably have some cracks that need filling. When and how you address those cracks will vary depending on your customer, because there's really no cosmetic way to fill cracks.
"To make repairs on a tennis court is very noticeable, so typically people wait until it's time to resurface the entire court before they make any type of repair, unless it's something that is going to cause failures to the court during that period," Sampson says.
Buck says the school systems in his area aren't putting in new courts, instead they're maintaining the ones they have.