Basic Guide to Synthetic Turf: Part 2
Synthetic turf comes in a variety of types and each one requires special treatment and care in order for it to thrive. In part two of our Basic Guide to Synthetic Turf, we explore the various turf fibers in the marketplace and the best approach for painting each of them.
Part 2: Fibers
Many people think of synthetic turf simply as plastic grass. It’s installed, athletes play sports on it and it’s forgotten about. It’s that simple, right? However, it shares more characteristics with natural grass than many may think. Like natural grass, synthetic turf comes in a variety of types and each type requires special treatment and care in order for it to thrive. It’s more than just plastic fibers on backing; each field has its own unique characteristics and traits. In order to know how to maintain and paint your synthetic turf, it is key to know where it comes from, and no one knows more about your field than the very company that manufactured it. We will explore the different types of fibers and the best paint applications for each. We recommend talking with your turf manufacturer to identify exactly what type of field you have to optimize your success.
Mono vs Slit: The Lowdown
Slit film and monofilament are common terms in the industry when describing fiber styles.
- Slit film fields have fibers created from a single piece of flat plastic which create a canopy over the infill. Each fiber from this rake-shaped design is constructed to break down which makes the fibers finer and softer over time. This canopy creates a nice surface for painting in the first few years after installation. It creates a flat uniform surface that helps to keep paint out of the infill and also allows for fairly easy paint removal. In the later years of these fields, however, removing paint becomes a bit more difficult due to the imperfections from the splitting fibers. Think of washing your truck compared to washing your hands after working in mud all day. The surface of your truck is flat and smooth, making it easier to clean, while your hands have many more crevasses where the dirt can get trapped. Like cleaning your hands, removing paint from an older slit film field is not impossible; it just takes a bit more work.
- Monofilament fields have thicker, smoother fibers that are individually created and are not designed to break apart like the slit film fibers. In the first few years of having a monofilament field, because the blades stand straight up, a great deal of infill is exposed. Without the protection from the fibers, the infill is at greater risk of getting coated when applying paint. Ghosting and shadowing can be found during this time due to the infill holding on to that paint. In the later years of these fields, the blades begin to bend and cover the infill allowing for a better painting surface and sheltering the infill from the paint.
There are two main types of materials that makeup synthetic turf fibers. Nylon was the very first material to be used for synthetic turf fields. Today, fields are more commonly constructed of poly materials, such as polyethylene or polypropylene. It is crucial to know the distinction between the two types when painting turf.
- Poly fibers – Soft and Flexible. Paint for these fibers needs to be thinner and semi-flexible. It needs to be able to coat each blade evenly. A thin layer of flexible paint allows for the blade to move freely without peeling off. Great paints to use on poly fibers are Gameline (removable) and Extremeline (non-removable)
- Nylon fibers – More rigid and scratch resistant. Because of the stiffness of these fibers, it requires a paint that has more of a rubbery texture to prevent it from flaking off. Paint for nylon is thicker and it absorbs and stretches. It creates a shell of paint around the fibers to allow the paint to flex. For nylon turf, paints such as Titan (non-removable) and Titan Extreme (non-removable) work best.
New Varieties of Fibers
- Thatch Layer – A popular component in newer synthetic turf fields is the thatch layer. The thatch layer is a curly nylon bush that is interwoven in the infill allowing the poly fibers to stick out. It is intended to serve many purposes including helping the fibers stand straight up, reducing the amount of infill needed and protecting the infill. Because this layer typically falls below infill depth, when applied correctly, there are little worries about getting paint trapped within it when putting down logos and lines. The main fibers to be painted in the thatch layer are made of poly material so a thin even coat of paint is required.
- Natural Synthetic Blends – After briefly appearing in the marketplace approximately 20 years ago, a second generation of these hybrid fields are starting to be installed. They combine the playing surface of natural grass with the stability of synthetic fibers. Pioneer Athletics is currently testing these second generation fields and is working to determine the best practices for painting them. We look forward to sharing our recommendation in the future.
This concludes our segment on synthetic turf fibers. Hopefully you now have a basis for the different types and why it is important to know what your field is made of. When in doubt, remember, talk to your turf manufacturer. They can fill you in on which type you have in order for you to paint your field successfully.
Join us next week as we dig deeper into the wonderful world of infill. We will go into the different types of materials used and how painting fields with each differs.