Although synthetic surfaces are often described as being suitable for all weathers, just like any outdoor facility a synthetic surface will be susceptible to extreme weather conditions such as harsh frost. Playrite Area Manager Sean Colbert has put together some information below on why pitches freeze, how you can prevent frost occurring and most importantly how to protect your pitch throughout the winter.
Why are artificial pitches affected by frost?
Basically, low winter temperatures allow for the freezing of any moisture present in the infill of the carpet. A vast majority of outdoor carpet will contain a sand component and aggregate at the base of the carpet is likely to retain moisture for some time, especially during the winter months. Low temperatures will allow this moisture and consequently the sand to freeze.
What problems can this create in terms of play?
This can severely inhibit the playing and draining characteristics of the carpet and pose a health and safety risk to the users of the facility. The severity of the risk is something that will need to be determined locally and take into account the nature of the users and the types of sports – it’s worth remembering that where the infill fills the carpet completely then the risk to the users will be greater.
Can the frozen surface simply be left to thaw?
This is the less risky option, leaving the frozen surface along with the natural surface to thaw. Occasions of freezing weather have tended not to last long, and the synthetic nature of the fibre can hold residual heat and thaw relatively quickly.
Does covering the surface work?
This is only really effective on small areas such as tennis courts. Covers can be fitted across the carpet and this may be enough to prevent the surface from freezing in the first place.
What can be done if the surface is covered in snow?
If snow fall is experienced on the surface it can be removed by hand or by machine. Extreme care needs to be taken and this should be done in degrees and in the direction of the seams to help avoid damage. Space is needed at the edge of the surface to store the removed snow, and don’t forget to replace any infill that may have been removed when temperatures return to normal. The removal of the snow may reveal a frozen pitch beneath that may need to be thawed.
Can frost be prevented in the first place?
Agents can be sprayed onto the pitch prior to the freezing conditions arriving, usually taking the form of a de-icing liquid mixed with water and sprayed onto the pitch. Depending on the product used, this will have an element of de-icing exiting frozen infill as well as preventing freezing in the carpet pile for a pre determined time. Drawbacks of this are the cost and the fact that the product will only work for so long and only down to a certain temperature. These conditions may be acceptable to the operator of the surface if they have a specific important event at the facility.
Can salt be used to melt the ice?
Yes, but it’s very important to remember that the salt used needs to be a certain variety, in the same way that only certain infills in the carpet are fit for purpose. Salt needs to be near a human consumption level – sometimes known as vacuum dried salt - as this product will be extremely low in any contaminants and will act quicker on any frost build up. The use of rock salt or similar products must be highly discouraged, not only will the various contaminants within this salt break down and sit at the bottom of the carpet, possibly affecting drainage and causing standing water, the nutrients within the salt will provide a resource for various mosses and algae to form within the surface. This is likely to lead to problems with the pitch for years to come.