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Synthetic Turf Field Application and Removal: Interview with Eco Chemical

Posted by TruMark / Friday, March 9, 2018 / Posted Under:
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We Interviewed Griffin Brady from Eco Chemical about the application and removal of paint regarding synthetic turf fields. Eco Chemical manufacturers Templine Synthetic Turf Paint and Templine Natural Grass Paint. In his position he has seen a wide range of situations that gives him the unique ability to give advice to groundskeepers who will be accepting the challenge of painting there synthetic field. A lot of what is discussed is applicable to natural grass fields as well, specifically the best practices for application.  From recreational programs to professional teams, there is need for paint on the field; Griffin is a great resource.

Can you give a summary of your position, experience and why you are uniquely qualified to answer some questions about paint and its uses for synthetic turf fields?

Over the last three years with Eco Chemical, my position has been focused around Sales and Marketing, product development, and sales support. Throughout this period, I have stood on hundreds of fields all over the nation to look at unique painting situations, and challenges. It’s amazing how different every playing surface can be, even with the same type of construction. Short answer is; every day is a new learning experience!

Can you give me a quick rundown of some of the factors a groundskeeper with a new synthetic turf field should know?

When it comes to painting new synthetic fields, the biggest asset is patience. In the process of manufacturing synthetic turf there is occurrence called spin-transfer. This is where oils used to lubricate the manufacturing equipment, transfer onto the fibers of the new turf. This causes issues with paint adhering to the field initially. Problems with adhesion can last anywhere from two months to over a year, depending on how much foot traffic, grooming, and weather the field gets. Due to this situation we developed a product called Pre-Game that acts as an adhesion promoter. Pre-Game is a clear primer that you put down on the field before you paint. If that isn’t an option or you, just be ready to touch up the field frequently until the spin-transfer wears off. Grooming the field at the manufacturers suggested interval also helps prep the field for painting.  Lastly, make sure to paint using the least amount of paint possible, that still results in a good line. This will set you up for long term field health.

What are the supplies/equipment/items a person who is about to apply paint to a synthetic field should have on-hand? (full football field application vs. small project – painting a ribbon)

Painting a field often requires a lot of equipment to be done correctly. Obviously, every painting situation is different, but the main tools I would suggest are: A set of marking tools to make field layout easy, a quality airless sprayer with adjustable PSI, high-quality bulk paint designed for synthetic, and drill with a good mixing attachment.  I prefer using a removable paint system, rather than permanent paint.  For smaller projects like a logo, you can easily get the job done with a stencil and a high-quality aerosol paint. In both cases, you always want to have access to water close by and a waste bucket for testing spray pattern, flushing pumps, etc.

What sort of time frame and man power should be accounted for? (full football field application vs. small project – painting a ribbon)

For a full field application, you will want to have at least two people to tackle the project. This is necessary when it comes to moving sprayers around, changing colors, holding spray shields, keeping sprayer hoses off freshly painted surfaces, etc.  It truly depends on how involved your paint job is, and if you have someone available to help you.  If you have the flexibility in your schedule, give yourself two days for painting a full field. This will give you plenty of dry time for the paint, opportunity for touch up, and make adjustments if needed.  For smaller logos on the field, this can be generally be done with one person, in a couple of hours. 

What sort of impact does indoor/outdoor or weather have on the application/removal process?

The difference between painting and removing paint, indoors v.s. outdoors is huge!  There are advantages and drawback to both.  It truly depends on what time of year you are painting. Outdoors is nice in the summer (who doesn’t like being outdoors?) because the sun and moving air help paint dry quickly.  Too much wind however can make overspray a problem.

During the winter, the opposite is true. Colder weather drastically adds dry time to your paint job.  It also requires you to keep track of the weather very closely. It is always better to paint while the surface is dry, but rain is imminent, then waiting for the rain to pass, and then trying to paint a wet field. Get the paint down and worry about touch up later!

Painting indoors removes the weather variable, but can make fumes a consideration with your equipment. If you are going to be painting indoors a lot, then a battery powered airless sprayer is the way to go. When it comes to performing removal indoors, it can be very difficult.  Most indoor facilities do not build drainage into the base of the field.  Since removal requires a lot of water be applied to the field, it can make things complicated.  The best option is to use a machine specifically designed for paint removal that has vacuum functionality built in like a Mantis Hydroextractor 2.0

Conversely, removal in the summer sounds like a dream because you don’t have to worry about drainage. However, synthetic turf can get very hot which causes your remover solution to evaporate much faster. When the remover solution evaporates, it stops working and you then need to re-apply. To avoid this, just work in smaller sections.  No Sweat! Get it?

What does the application process look like?

Application is everything. Meaning, how the product is applied will determine 90% of how effectively the product performs to its claims.  Most of the bulk paint products for synthetic turf are ready to apply (RTA). This means there isn’t any dilution needed before you use the product. This is done for a reason.  As soon as you start diluting a paint product, you are effectively changing it’s chemistry.  We make them RTA, because a synthetic turf paint product is very technical compared to a grass paint product.  To make sure it performs the way we want it to, we eliminate any variables that could be introduced when you start diluting the product in the field. 

To use TempLine synthetic turf paints, just open the lid, mix, and load into your sprayer.  The sprayer then needs to be primed. At this point your field should already be “strung out” so you just need to follow the line.  For synthetic turf you want to do two things for a successful paint job. First, use the least amount of paint possible to achieve good line quality. This will help the paint last longer. If you apply the paint really heavy on the turf by walking slow, or using a giant spray tip, it will cause the paint to clump up and break off, as opposed to bending and flexing with the turf fibers like a lighter coat of paint will.  Depending on the situation a 419 down to a 317 tip size is ideal for line work. Secondly, if you can tilt your spray gun forward slightly (not pointing straight down into the turf) you will avoid painting the infill. This will help keep the field healthy and make removal easier, if you need to remove it later.

Now that the paint is applied, how long will it last?

The durability of your paint job depends on many variables.  Is it a new field? How much play/ foot traffic does it get on a weekly basis? What is the weather like in your area?  To help work around these variables, paint manufacturers often have multiple paint offerings with different durability levels. Some paints are durable for a weekend, and some can last over a year on the field.  The good news is you have options! Once again, I would suggest a removable system. Schedules aren’t always perfect, and people do make mistakes. If you use a removable paint system you can work around both challenges.  In my experience, almost everyone who has used a permanent paint, has regretted it. I get a lot of calls asking how to remove it.

If touch-ups are needed what does that process look like?

Touch ups are super easy! Prepare the paint like you normally would, then instead of stringing out he field again, you just to just follow over your existing (probably faded) lines.

For a field that needs a quick turnaround, what does the removal process look like? What kind of equipment should be used? (full football field application vs. small project – painting a ribbon)

A quick turn-around (or conversion) at the professional Stadium level means going from soccer lines to full NFL end zones and logos in 24 hours.  Quick turn-around on a small-scale means removing two logos on a college football field, with inlaid lines.

The steps are fundamentally the same, but one instance requires much more manpower and equipment than the other.  For a full football field conversion to soccer, you will need the following things.  Six willing individuals, paint remover formulated to work with your paint of choice, and a machine that can scrub the turf like a Scrub Bug or Mantis. The Mantis has rinse water on board for cleaning, but if your cleaning equipment doesn’t have onboard water, you will need access to a hose as well.  

For smaller logos, you can get away with two people, proper remover solution, and deck brushes for scrubbing. This is the hard way of doing things but is still effective.  Budget 2-5 hours for this process.

To kick off the removal process, apply the remover solution to the painted line and let it sit for 15 seconds to a minute. Then use whatever your scrubbing method is to agitate the surface. This helps the paint breakdown and makes sure the remover is hitting all parts of the fiber. Then use low-pressure water to rinse the fibers clean.  Specialized machines like the Eco Chemical Mantis 2.0 have a vacuum system built in that will suck the rinse water, remover solution, and re-liquified paint out of the turf.  This is the ultimate in maintaining your field where there is frequent painting and removal.

What are the long term effects of applying paint to synthetic turf? Both permanent and temporary applications

Long term effects really depend on how much paint is used each time, and how many times you paint annually.  The more paint that is used, the more you have chances for issues like ghosting and field hardness. Synthetic fields are very durable, and they can handle a lot of painting and removal. The issues only arise when an irresponsible amount of paint is being used.  Permanent paint is a different story. Permanent paints are often much thicker and the coating “builds” more on the surface. This can make the fibers glue together, become crusty and effect the way the fibers move when a ball, or an athletes cleat hits them.  Permanent lines will usually fade in about 2 years.  Then you have a faded line that can be really difficult to remove.

What advice would you give to a groundskeeper under budgetary constraints?

Working with a budget is normal, we all have to do it. It isn’t fun, but it’s necessary evil.  When it comes to painting a synthetic field which can cost often over a million dollars, I would always suggest you protect your investment. Make sure the products you are using on it are high quality. That would be my justification for spending a little more, on a solid paint and removal system.  Additionally, if you can make a case for how certain products can save time and money in the long run, you will always have a better chance of getting what you need.

What would you say are some of the biggest pitfalls you see?

The biggest pitfalls I see are when people try to cut corners, like diluting the paint when it’s not designed to be diluted. Other issues like applying paints incorrectly, happen as well. Usually it is putting too much paint on the field.  Have I said that before? 

What are some of the best practices you see?

The best practices I see are when people are detailed about what goes on the field.  For example, one of our customers locally, keeps a log of any painting that happens on his synthetic turf fields. That way he always has something to refer to for history and future scheduling.   Also, sprayer maintenance is another best practice. This can get overlooked with a busy schedule but maintaining your sprayer will prevent it from letting you down when you really need it. 

Do you know any “hacks” that could be used under certain circumstances?

If you don’t know something with absolute certainty… call your supplier. Pick up the phone and ask us! No matter how small the questions we are happy to help out. It is a much easier phone call then trying to figure out why our paints aren’t working right, after the paint was used incorrectly.   If you are faced with an abnormal situation and aren’t sure on how to proceed. Ask us. Chances are we have dealt with it before.

Are there any other items you think need to be addressed regarding painting a synthetic turf field?

Something we get a call about frequently is the need to “Green out” lines. This is the practice of painting the inlaid lines of a field green to make them appear like the rest of the turf. Then lines for a different sport are usually painted over the top.  We can take a few fibers from your field and match them to our current color list. Then you will have a paint that is closely matched to your field.  This is a big undertaking, so reach out to your supplier for guidance.

The most important thing about painting, is have fun. It doesn’t always have to be the same ol’ lines.  Except for soccer, school logos and other markings are usually allowed. If they are, then do logos for a special event, or add to the current school logos on the field.

Have a questions we did not address? We are happy to get you that answer. Email or call us here.