You may not realize it, but there are actually many different types of synthetic turf infill these days. In part 3 or our Basic Guide to Synthetic Turf, we focus on the importance of understanding your infill variety and what it means when painting.

Part 3: Everything Infill

Synthetic Turf Guide Pt. 3Synthetic Turf Guide Pt. 3

Now that you know what type of fibers make up your synthetic turf, you may think, "It's time to start painting." Wrong! Another important component to painting synthetic turf is recognizing what kind of infill it has. Of course the objective is to not get paint in the infill; however, knowing what is under your fibers will help you keep your Gmax (surface hardness) within regulation.

Good ol Reliable

Do you ever wonder while watching a football game played on synthetic turf, what in the world is that little black stuff flying all over the place? What you are seeing is the most popular type of infill on the market: SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber).

SBR, also known as crumb rubber, was the very first material used for infilling synthetic turf and is made from ground-up scrap tires. It can be used by itself, or in many cases, SBR is used in combination with sand.

Painting: It is important to avoid getting paint in SBR infill as much as possible. Each granule is uniquely shaped which makes removing paint a tougher task. Imagine trying to remove paint from a rock; now try to imagine removing paint from millions of rocks at one time; there are a lot of nooks and crannies for paint to get caught in. A nice feature of crumb rubber is that it is not absorbent, so if you happen to get paint on this type of infill, it will not soak into the material. Another favorable quality of SBR is that it can also be easily relocated and replaced in instances where paint has gotten into the infill.

Synthetic Turf Infill – SBRSynthetic Turf Infill – SBR

The New Kids on the Block

Although SBR and sand are the most cost effective and prominent infills out there, they have some competition. New materials are constantly being tested and used for synthetic turf infill. A lot of manufacturers are going down the “green” path, trying to be more environmentally friendly. A small sample of some popular contemporary infills include:

  • Cork
  • Coconut
  • Corkonut - Mixture of coconut husk and cork
  • Walnut shells
  • Coated sand – Sand coated by a non-toxic , flexible shell, protecting it against bacteria and wear
  • TPE (Thermo plastic elastomer) - Rubber-like material that incorporates the attributes of rubber with the recyclability of plastics.
  • EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) - Durable granules made of rubber and other environmentally friendly substances

Painting: Like when painting any field that has infill, it is crucial to keep paint out of this layer. However, there are some new types of infill that have smoother surfaces making paint removal easier. These include TPE and coated sand. Organic materials, on the other hand, tend to be very absorbent, making them more of a sponge for paint. This absorbent element is key for holding in water to cool down the turf on a hot day. However, when paint gets trapped and dries in these particles, it causes them to harden and to become impenetrable, losing a significant feature that makes these materials desirable in the first place.

New Types of Synthetic Turf InfillNew Types of Synthetic Turf Infill

Painting tips

So we’ve concluded that getting paint in your infill is a BAD IDEA! One of the main reasons paint ghosts is because it gets trapped in the particles of this layer. This captured paint also creates compaction hurting your Gmax level. Don’t worry, there are some things you can do to avert this crisis.

  • Grooming: Before applying paint, groom your turf. This stands your fiber strand straight up, allowing for the blades to be coated uniformly.
  • High pressure: Another way to avoid ghosting and shadowing is by using a high pressure machine to apply your paint. Using a machine between 900-1000 psi (pounds per square inch) will atomize the paint, creating a very thin, even layer that coats only the turf blade. Low pressure machines (around 45 psi) tend to allow paint to seep into the infill.
  • Thin layers: It is also important not to apply paint too thick. The more paint you put down, the more likely it is to get into the infill. When using removable paint on your field, it is best to remove the paint between every application.
  • Clear Coat: But what if it just can’t be avoided? What if you have a newer, monofilament, polyethylene field with a lot of cork infill exposed? We advise using a clear coat, such as GameLine Clear, before applying paint. GameLine Clear soaks into the infill, coating the particles, helping to prevent paint from getting stuck in the porous material.
Closeup of Painted FibersCloseup of Painted Fibers

That is all we have for infills. Come back next week for the final installment of our Basic Guide to Synthetic Turf. We will take a look at E-layers and see how they relate to painting your field.