A DIY Weekend Project
Let’s Put in a Tennis Court!
Throw down a slab of cement, paint on some lines, and put up a tennis net; how hard can it be?
It sounds easy doesn’t it? But before you grab your paint brush and rake, you need to do your homework, as there are many factors to consider when building a residential tennis court; playing surface, positioning, type of net, grading, excavation, and retaining walls; that’s the short list and doesn’t even scratch the surface. A DIY weekend project? Hmmm, maybe not.
“If a thing like this is worth doing at all, it’s worth doing right.”
Hunter S. Thompson
The best advice I can give you is to hire a good contractor and sit back with a pitcher of lemonade until the job is done! But if you insist, read on……..
Be sure all your legal ducks are in a row before you begin. Start with the planning commission in your city or county; they approve what is built where. Next stop, the building department; they approve how your tennis court needs to be built. If you have an HOA, be sure to carefully read, and follow, the CC&R’s and obtain necessary permissions with them as well.
Measure twice, dig once! A tennis court is 78 feet long by 36 feet wide for doubles matches and 27 feet wide for singles play. The service line is 27 feet from the net. You will also need clear space around the court, which brings the total space needed to 60 feet wide by 120 feet long. Before you bring in the bulldozer, make sure your acreage is sufficient to accommodate your court and anything else you may want around it, such as benches, lighting, cold running water for drinking, landscape, etc.
Here comes the sun! The last thing you want is the sun in your eyes when the ball is coming at you at 125 mph and if you’re building a tennis court in your backyard, yes, you are that good. A North-South positioned court will keep the sun’s rays at a minimum during mornings and afternoons, which are the most popular times of day to play.
Build a strong foundation; concrete, grass or clay?
Concrete hard courts are the least expensive choice as far as installation and maintenance costs. The US Open and the Australian Open are both played on a type of hard court. However, due to their inflexibility, hard courts are generally rougher on the human body than other surfaces.
Grass courts, on the other hand, are a much better choice when it comes to gentleness on the human body because of its pliability. The simplest type of court to install, grass courts were once the most common surfaces, but they are high maintenance when it comes to court care. You can always visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, which still utilizes grass courts today.
Clay courts are a bit of a dinosaur and for good reason. This specialized clay comprised of crushed stone, brick, or shale, needs to be maintained at a constant moisture level; if it is allowed to become too wet, it is mushy; if it is allowed to become too dry, it is dusty. Clay courts also need to be resurfaced after a certain amount of play, to level and smooth the court and to replace the clay that has been washed or blown away.The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to use clay courts.
- The best nets are made of braided net cord and typically have double the mesh at the top 6 rows, side pockets for fiberglass dowels (that help hold the net taut), and vinyl-coated steel cables.
- Braided nets are better than twisted because they’re stronger and absorb more energy. When a ball hits the net, it drops closer to the net instead of rebounding off it.
- Polyethylene and polyester make good net materials because they are resistant to fading from UV radiation and they weather well.
- Nets with polyester duck headbands are better for hard courts than for soft courts, where surface material can easily stick to and stain the fabric.
- Vinyl headbands are more common on soft courts because they’re easier to clean and more dirt resistant. However, balls can tend to skid wildly off vinyl headbands, which is less likely with a duck headband because the duck material absorbs the ball’s energy and doesn’t speed up the ball.
Last, but not least, esthetics. Not only do you want the best court to play on, and the best equipment to play with, you want the best court to look at from the kitchen window, and to, let’s be honest here, show off to your friends; and the DIY tennis court that we started with won’t exactly measure up.
Esthetics is all about planning. To add value to your property and create an exceptionally beautiful tennis court, you want to be sure your court complements its surroundings; the house, pool, landscape, fencing, and neighborhood.
Just a tad more work than throwing down a slab of cement, painting lines, and putting up a tennis net, isn’t it? I’ll bet sitting back with that lemonade is sounding pretty good right about now.
Photos: Net/Flickr/Hiestun – Concrete court/Flickr/timlewisnm’s – Residential tennis court/personal photo
Client: Do It Tennis