Infill 101

The Rise of Infill

Choosing the right synthetic turf system has recently gotten a lot more complicated. Since 1998, synthetic turf systems mainly consisted of crumb rubber but after two decades of playing on these surfaces, field owners realized that crumb rubber didn’t meet all their needs. A lot of progress has taken place in recent years, offering a multitude of infill, pad and turf options that can be designed specifically for your geography, sport and maintenance expectations. Let us help you sort through the information and make sense of all the options.

Infill Types

Today's market offers a variety of infill options. The major categories are organics, coated sands, virgin polymers, and crumb rubber.

Crumb Rubber
Crumb Rubber
DEFINED: Crumb rubber is made from ground up car and truck tires.
Crumb rubber is widely used thanks to its availability and relatively low product cost.
Advantages
  • Cost
  • Resilience
  • Non-abrasive
  • Availability
Challenges
  • Offensive odor
  • Retains significant heat
  • Dirty
  • 90+ chemicals
  • Must be properly disposed of at end of life
Virgin Polymer
Virgin Polymer
DEFINED: A virgin polymer is made from known components, specifically for sports.
Virgin polymers play very similar to crumb rubber systems so if field owners are looking for familiar playability they have their choice of two categories of virgin polymers: EPDM and TPE. The distinct advantage of these products over crumb rubber is that they are virgin, so they are made from known components which can be modified to enhance the product and avoid specific chemicals.
Advantages
  • Resilience
  • Consistency
  • Non-abrasive
  • Designed to include chemicals known to be safe
Challenges
  • More expensive
  • Quality control of foreign-sourced material can be an issue
Organic
Organic
DEFINED: There are numerous organic options available today including walnut shells, cork and cork/coconut blends.
There are numerous organic options today including walnut shells, cork granules, coconut fiber and blends of these products.
Advantages
  • Free of chemicals
  • Natural
  • Can be composted
  • Play more like natural surface
Challenges
  • Additional maintenance required to replace product breakdown
  • Some products in category require irrigation for optimum performance
  • Some products tend to float and migrate with heavy rains.
Coated Sand
Coated Sand
DEFINED: Coated sands such as Envirofill, are especially round granules of sand coated with an acrylic polymer.
Coated sands offer superior durability and consistent performance. The roundness of the sand avoids compaction and the antimicrobial infused coating inhibits the growth of bacteria in the infill profile.
Advantages
  • Combination of natural and synthetic product made specifically for turf
  • Sustainable: Can be used for two lifecycles (16 year warranty)
  • Consistent Gmax and playing surface over turf lifecycle.
  • Limited migration
Challenges
  • More abrasive
  • Initial perception is often too firm

The Weight of Infill

Infill acts as the ballast, footing, and athlete shock absorption. Not all infills are created equal. Depending on the exact intent of the synthetic surface and the infill selected, numerous turf and pad adjustments may be necessary. Choose your infill wisely. Infill has a greater impact on system performance than any other component. And pound for pound, there is significantly more infill than any other component in a synthetic turf system.

90%
8%
2%
Infill
Turf
Pad

Infill Attributes

There are many considerations when selecting an infill. The field's location, desired performance attributes, durability, safety, budget and maintenance should all be kept in mind when determining which system to choose.

Surface Heat
Surface Heat
DEFINED: How does the infill effect the overall temeperature of the surface.
Synthetic turf systems can be very hot. Many factors contribute to this including the turf fibers, geography, and infill. Crumb rubber is generally the hottest of the infill materials. Coated sands and virgin rubbers can bring the average temperature down as much as 30 degress, while some organics have the ability to lower temperatures by as much as 50 degrees.
Sustainability
Sustainability
DEFINED: For synthetic turf infill, sustainability is factored by considering the product source material, source origin, and end of life considerations.
A product made from virgin materials, sourced internationally, that is disposed of in a landfill is of low sustainability. On the other hand, a product made from waste materials, sourced domestically,that can be reused or recycled at the end of its use is of high sustainability.
Upfront Cost
Upfront Cost
DEFINED: Literally, how much will it cost to buy and install the infill.
Freight, system design, and installation are critical to get a true understanding of the upfront costs for a synthetic turf system.
Lifecycle Cost
Lifecycle Cost
DEFINED: The total cost from day 1 through the end of the infill's useful life.
Maintenance, end-of-life disposal, reusability, and upfront cost play considerably into the overall cost of the infill over the course of its life.
Float
Float
DEFINED: When exposed to significant amounts of water, will the infill float?
Floating infill can cause major challenges from an installation, maintenance, and longevity standpoint.
Maintenance
Maintenance
DEFINED: Does the product migrate excessively, require top-off, irrigation or special care over time?
If your infill is not properly maintained, low infill areas can arise making it dangerous to play on the field in some spots and allowing the turf to wear prematurely. Some warranties also require specific maintenance to remain valid.
Abrasion
Abrasion
DEFINED: Synthetic turf systems as a whole are more abrasive thaan natural turf systems. Does the infill excessively irritate or scratch an athlete upon skin-to-surface interaction.
Some infills can be more abrasive than others, making an athlete more prone to skin abrasions when sliding or falling on the field.
Warranty
Warranty
DEFINED: Is the product guaranteed for a period of time?
A warranty ensures that a field owner gets what they expected out of a product. Often there are terms that must be followed for a warranty to stay valid, but if followed, the infill should remain intact for the life of that warranty.`
Migration/Flyout
Migration/Flyout
DEFINED: Will the infill move around, splash up or float in heavy rains?
When an infill moves around because of activity on the field or heavy rain, this can create low infill areas on the field and can result in dangerous zones on the field and require additional maintenance to keep the field in optimum condition.
Vertical Ball Rebound
Vertical Ball Rebound
DEFINED: Measures how high the ball bounces when falling vertically onto a synthetic turf field.
A field that is too soft will deaden the bounce, too hard will create unnaturally high bounces.

Gmax
A rating given to a field or surface that measures the safety of the surface. Any area of a field that tests higher than 165 Gs is considered dangerous.
HIC
Head Injury Criterion is a test that measures the likelihood of an impact causing a head injury. This measurement is called the Critical Fall Height.
Vertical Deformation
A measure of the “firmness” of a field when an athlete runs across it. If the surface is too hard or too soft, the likelihood of injury increases.
Rotational Resistance
Also known as traction. When the resistance is too high, the risk of injury is higher. If the resistance is too low, the athlete may slip/have insufficient footing.
Energy Restitution
A measure of how much energy is absorbed by a surface and how much energy is returned by the surface. This can impact both injury risk and performance.
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