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.
Part 1 – The Modern Synthetic System
Today's market offers a variety of infill options. The major categories are organics, coated sands, virgin polymers, and 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.
- Offensive odor
- Retains significant heat
- 90+ chemicals
- Must be properly disposed of at end of life
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.
- Designed to include chemicals known to be safe
- More expensive
- Quality control of foreign-sourced material can be an issue
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.
- Free of chemicals
- Can be composted
- Play more like natural surface
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DEFINED: Synthetic turf systems as a whole are more abrasive than 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.
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.`
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Part 1 – The Modern Synthetic System
Part 2 – INFILLosophy
Part 3 – PADemonium
Whether you're an athlete, coach, parent or designer, we are here to help you select the perfect synthetic turf system for your specific needs. Answer a few simple questions and in just a couple short minutes you will have your customized results at your fingertips!