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When we think of outdoor court surfaces we think typically of post-tension concrete and asphalt. Indoor court surfaces are typically either gymnasium floors or in some cases where the conversion of a warehouse to pickleball courts is involved, the surface might again be concrete.
In order to be complete we should mention one other category. Less frequently, either outdoors or indoors, you see a cushioned sports-court surface in the discussion as a candidate for resurfacing. It happens most often when someone has an unused sports court and simply wants to reline it for pickleball. Often the two courts are nearly identically sized and this is an easy one to reline. This doesn’t amount to too much in this conversation because most of what we are talking about are appropriate surfaces for multiple courts, either as conversions (most often from unused tennis courts) or new construction.
(A final note on that before we move on…sports-court surfaces can actually play pretty well, some of them. Some of them suck..it depends. Before you invest any energy into conversion of a sports-court surface go out on the existing surface and just bounce a pickleball off it. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) If it doesn’t bounce well you are probably in a bad situation and you don’t want to be replacing a sports-court surface unless you really have to. If you truly feel you have to, get in touch with us and we’ll put you in touch with someone who successfully did it. One in a thousand in our book.)
We have not experienced building new indoor courts. We have participated in refinishing and re-striping indoor gymnasium floors in order to “add” permanent pickleball lines in with all the other lines (volleyball, basketball, etc. etc.) that these multi-use gym floors seem to have. But let’s focus more on outdoor courts where we have more experience.
We think most people would agree the choice between post-tensioned concrete and asphalt is a no-brainer; that post-tensioned concrete lasts longer, cracks far less, and so on. This could be true in some cases but certainly is not in all, and we actually prefer the play of the pickleball off a very good asphalt surface to that of a very good post-tensioned concrete surface. This is true for us if there is a good (similar) coating on both of them so you can make a real comparison. IOHO, a lightly (or poorly) treated asphalt court plays better than a lightly treated concrete court due to the “skip factor” off the poorly-treated concrete, and in both cases the asphalt feels a little softer after being on the courts for hours, so it isn’t always as clear a difference between the two constructions.
Back in the day, one real reason for going asphalt was cost; for a long time it was much less expensive than concrete. Today it depends on the price of oil, asphalt being a petroleum-based product, and it depends on who does the construction. For instance, in Bend, given a choice (meaning no low-bid-wins rule in place) we would always to do business with Dan Hanks of Cushion Tennis Courts in Redmond (Phone: 541 550 0941) who can do both asphalt and concrete and does a lot of both but is an amazing overseer of any project.
One project we were recently involved in, in an housing development (where we own a home), involved dumping the old and dilapidated tennis courts and replacing the whole thing with a “sports complex” consisting of tennis courts, volleyball, practice facilities with backboards, and (need we say it?) pickleball courts. Dan won the bid and bid two different solutions; one with post-tensioned concrete, the other with asphalt. The HOA chose asphalt. There Dan very creatively determined that the most cost-effective solution was to pour asphalt directly over the old concrete, using the old stuff as a firm base. The Mountain High development in Bend has every reason to expect years of good use and minimal cracking of this extremely well-developed asphalt core.
Here is a pretty good site for reading more about the differences, with the specifically linked article being a good way to start.
Here’s a picture of the first eight courts Dan Hanks did for the partnership of the Bend Pickleball Club and Bend Parks and Recreation District at Pine Nursery Park in Bend. Again, these are asphalt courts. We could have probably had post-tensioned concrete for about the same money.
The last part of surfaces goes beyond court construction and deals with the court paint. Typically there is grit added to these very specifically designed paints to allow the ball to bounce true without skipping. The more grit the “slower” the ball plays….it stays more in place and doesn’t bounce as much towards you. The proper level of grit is Tennis Two (2). This has enough grit for pickleball but not too much. Several companies provide these paint products. Recently folks have been favoring SportsMaster. DuraCourt is another you’ll here described with favor.
Here is a brochure from SportsMaster. They provide lots of court finishes. The colors being used on the eight courts above, which is a dynamite color combination in a rustic outdoor setting like this one, is Sportsmaster Brown (the darker almost-reddish color) and Sportsmaster Sandstone (the lighter almost tan color in the kitchen and around the courts).