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How to Install a Quality Running Track pt 3

As I noted in part 1 and part 2 of this blog series, there are 3 primary components to installing a quality running track:

  • Preparation,
  • Materials,
  • Technique.

In this blog, we’ll cover how the application of the materials is key to building a quality running track.

We’ll take an approach similar to the one we took in part 2 of this series and talk about application of materials at the 3 layers of the running track:

  • Sub-base,
  • All-weather surface (asphalt or concrete),
  • Rubber surface.

Applying the Sub-base

Whether you’re building a new running track from the ground up or tearing out and replacing an old running track, and whether you use an Engineer/Architect design team, a Paving Company, a General Contractor or a Sports Surfaces Company, there is one very important step that cannot be overlooked and that is having the existing soils tested by an Engineering Testing Company which will in-turn give a recommendation on what needs to be done to prep the soil for the rock base.

This is the absolute most important step to ensure a quality foundation for everything that comes next.

The recommendation should be followed on how to prepare the soil and compact it. There are a lot of things that go into this such as moisture content the compaction percentage. The soil substrate should be tested to make sure it meets the specified requirements.

Then comes the rock base. Again the recommendation of the type of rock, size and depth should be strictly followed. The Engineer would engineer this to meet your local soils and stability factors to ensure the base will perform under the conditions in your area.

Applying the All-weather surface

After the rock base is installed and compacted to the Engineers specification and industry standards, you would be ready to install the all-weather surface.

You may be installing inside and outside concrete curbs and/or a flush trench or slot drain system on the inside or other methods of drainage to insure water is captured and transported away from the track surface. This all would need to be done and installed before your asphalt or concrete is installed.

The most common place for asphalt is the track oval and the “D” area for the High Jump Apron. We recommend building stand-alone High Jump Pads and all runways in concrete. Concrete holds up ground movement and fluctuations better than asphalt, especially for runways.

Building the entire track and events with concrete is gaining in popularity, whether using the standard rebar reinforced concrete or post tensioned concrete system.

If building any outside sports all-weather surface out of concrete, it is mandatory that a heavy-duty 15 mil plastic vapor barrier be placed directly under the concrete. This is to retard all moisture from flowing up from the sub base through the concrete and causing hydrostatic pressure which in turn can cause the rubber system to lose its adhesion to the surface and bubble.

Tolerances are much more stringent on paving asphalt or placing concrete for sports surfaces. It is not like paving a road or a parking lot or side walk. The planarity must be flat and not be greater than a 1/8” in 10’ in anyone direction. The slope must be maintained as well to ensure all water sheds off of the surface. It is important that an experienced paver do the job. Many other regulations and best practices must be followed to build a quality surface for the rubber sports surface to be installed over.

Here are some considerations when applying the all-weather surface…

Applying the rubber surface

We mentioned several rubber surface systems in our last blog. A Black Base Mat, Black Base Mat with a Colored Structural Spray (Wear Course), Black Mat with a Pore Sealer and a Structural Spray (Impermeable), Sandwich Systems and Full Pour Systems. All of these have many things in common to facilitate a quality installation. I will list a few below.

One is they all incorporate rubber and polyurethane single or two component binders. The asphalt or concrete surface must meet its proper curing time prior to the installation of the rubber surface. The surface must be cleaned and free of oil spills and other contaminates that could affect adhesion. They all require a quality primer being applied to the surface to ensure a good mechanical bond to the asphalt or concrete surface. They all require clean tools and equipment that is mechanically sound and can be calibrated properly to do the job correctly by metering out the correct mix ratios of binder and rubber. You need a quality experienced installation crew that has the skill to do the job correctly. They all require proper temperatures and humidity levels and dry surfaces with no rain imminent.

Getting the Right Running Track for Your School

If you’ve read this whole blog series (see the first 2 blogs here and here), it should be clear that the process of getting the right prep, the right materials, and the right application for your soil conditions and weather conditions it’s a fairly complex process.

But that’s what we do at Pro Track and Tennis.

If you have specific questions regarding your running track, feel free to email me at lance@protrackandtennis.com.

I’d be glad to help you understand what it takes to build the best running track for your school or facility.

How to Install a Quality Running Track Pt 2

As I noted in part 1 of this blog series, there are 3 primary components to installing a quality running track:

  • Preparation,
  • Materials,
  • Technique.

We’ll cover the materials of a quality running track in this blog.

Running Track Materials

A running track is made up of 3 layers:

  • The sub-base,
  • The all-weather surface,
  • The rubber surface.

Let’s take a look at what comprises each of these layers.

The Running Track Sub-Base

The running track’s sub-base is the layer is the compacted dirt/soil and the crushed rock base.

The sub-base is the foundation for everything that is built on top of it so a properly designed and installed base is very important in determining the life span of the all-weather surface regardless if it is asphalt or concrete.

It is very important that the base is the proper depth for the soils on site and that it gets compacted to industry standards. This will insure that the asphalt or concrete surface placed on top will hold up for a long time. This will prevent premature cracking as well.

When you see a 20 plus year old track with no cracks in the asphalt or concrete surface you know the base was installed to industry standards.

The Running Track All-Weather Surface (Concrete or Asphalt)

The most common surface used for the running track oval is asphalt. The oval can be built using inner and outer concrete curbs, and slot drains can be incorporated along the inside edge for drainage.

The high jump aprons and runways for the pole vault and long and triple jumps events are built using asphalt and or concrete. Concrete tends to hold up better for these events.

The Running Track Rubber Surface

The rubber surface comes in many different types. The leading Polyurethane systems are the following:

  • Black Base Mat: This system is comprised of mixing 1-3mm rubber granules with a poly binder and paving it in place on the track at ½”/13mm depth. This is the entry level track surface. A Base Mat is permeable which allows water to pass through the mat. This is an entry level High School system.
  • Poly Structural Spray: The Base Mat System mentioned above should have a Structural Spray applied on top as the wear course to protect the Base Mat from wear, spike damage and to add UV protection from the sun to keep the Base Mat from getting hard from being exposed to the elements. A Structural Spray consist of mixing pigmented binder with .5-1.5 EPDM rubber granules and then is spray applied to the Bae Mat or as a maintenance coating to an older Base Mat or Base Mat Structural Spray. Many track companies do not propose or install this to the Base Mat during the initial installation to keep the costs down. A Base Mat should at the very latest have a Structural Spray added with in the first five years of its life to keep the base mat from getting hard and cupped out in the lanes from spike damage. A Structural Spray is also permeable. A Structural Spray is used as a maintenance coating to tracks when they need to be refurbished.
  • Base Mat Structural Spray (Impermeable): This system does not allow water to penetrate through the system. It is comprised of the Base Mat which is then sealed with a squeegee applied two component Poly Pore Sealer material that when cured makes the base mat 100% water proof or impermeable so no water can pass through the mat. The system is then covered with two coats of Poly Structural Spray. This system is impermeable and has a finished depth of ½”/13mm. This is a High School and small College system.
  • Sandwich System: This system is an impermeable system comprised of a paved in place Poly Base Mat and then it is sealed with a two component Poly Pore Sealer to completely seal the base mat. The finished top coat is called a Flood and Chip and is comprised of squeegeeing out a two part poly binder. As the binder is being applied 1-3mm EPDM rubber granules are then broadcast into the wet two component poly binder. After the cost is cured the excess rubber is swept up and recycled. This system can also get sealed and varnished for longer wear and UV protection. This is both a high end high school and college level track system.
  • Full Pour: This system is usually installed at the college and division one university level but can be found at some high schools as well. This system can come in several different formulations but generally consists of two or three coats of two component urethane with or without granulated rubber installed and with a variety of optional seal coats that can be applied on top of the finished full pore coating. The layers are squeegee-applied in liquid form.

Next Time… Track Installation Technique

In part 3 of our series on “How to Install a Quality Running Track”, we’ll discuss the role application technique plays in installing a quality running track.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions regarding your running track, feel free to email me at lance@protrackandtennis.com.

I’d be glad to help you understand what it takes to build the best running track for your school or facility.