How to Build a Cheap Tennis Court

You can build a cheap tennis court.
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Having a tennis court in your backyard is a luxury that tennis players dream about. If you have the space for a court, you may be concerned with the cost of installation as well as the upkeep of a court. Building any safe court is not cheap, but you can certainly do things to save costs without sacrificing quality.

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Cost estimates for tennis courts vary significantly. For example, concrete courts cost about 20 to 30 percent more to build than asphalt courts, but cost less to maintain and repair over their lifespan, according to GMB Architecture. The ConcreteNetwork, however, estimates that a post-tensioned tennis court can cost twice the price of an asphalt-based court.

Find a Foundation Contractor

It's best to hire a contractor to prepare and pour the foundation for your court. You can save costs by doing most of the clearing yourself, installing your own net posts and painting the lines. Be aware that many paving companies try to increase their revenues by installing tennis courts on the side. If they aren't familiar with the area's water drainage issues and ITF and USTA rules regarding tennis courts, you might run into problems.

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Climates where the ground freezes may necessitate more expensive foundation considerations, such as expansion rods that help keep the concrete from breaking apart after temperature changes. Concrete will condense when it freezes and expand when it heats up.

Visit the website of the American Sports Builders Association to find a qualified contractor who specializes in tennis court building. Just knowing the rules of tennis is important for making sure the spacing between courts and fences is correct. Tennis courts must even face the sun in a particular direction to be legal.

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You might be able to cut the cost of a contractor if you offer to supply your labor. For example, you can help with mixing the coating materials, bringing wheelbarrows full of material to the head builder, helping squeegee material onto the asphalt or concrete, measuring and painting lines and cleaning up afterwards.

Select a Surface

Tennis surfaces usually start with a sub-base of asphalt and concrete. There are other options other than a hardcourt, such as clay or grass, but to save costs, you probably don't want to deal with the maintenance of these surfaces.

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Grass courts can quickly become dirt fields when not adequately maintained. Clay courts require constant care to prevent divots, cracks and imbalances in the court surface. For a truly inexpensive tennis court, such as one that can double as a basketball or volleyball court, consider using interlocking plastic tiles you can lay down and set yourself.

Prepare the Area

Clear the area of debris, trees and roots that will affect the settling of the surface. If you have not properly cleared the area, you may have cracks with roots popping up in a few short years. Of course you can't control all ground factors, but you do want to avoid areas with extremely tall trees that have roots covering expansive areas that could reach under your court.

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Find Your Specs

Measure the area for the tennis court. The playing rectangle on a tennis court is 78 feet long and 36 feet wide. How much space you give yourself to run around outside the playing rectangle will depend on your space and the cost of adding surface area. To save costs, you will probably not make the court very wide outside of the playing area. Give yourself at least 8 feet behind each baseline and 4 feet outside of each alley.

Prepare the Soil

Level the area with a tractor. You will need a very slight grade on the tennis court that slopes from net post to net post approximately 1 inch for every 10 feet. This grade is essential to allow water to run off and not pool on the court surface. This is a step you can do yourself to save costs if you are familiar with tractor use and leveling.

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Lay Out the Dimensions

Frame the area out and lay your tennis court foundation. Concrete surfaces can have color mixed into the concrete, giving you the ability to make a green court with blue surrounding area. However, colors add costs, and so keeping the playing surface one color will save money.

Mark and set your net posts. Your posts should 42 feet across the width of the court. Find the center of the court and measure 19 feet to each side to mark where the post holes will go. If your court is 78 feet long with ten feet behind each baseline, you will have one post on each court side 49 feet from the top and bottom of the court. Dig the holes for the net posts and set the posts with concrete.

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Pour the Court

Pour your surface area. While you ideally want your foundation to be 5 inches thick, you can save money by making it a bit thinner. This will lead to earlier wear and earlier resurfacing. Allow the surface to set and do not seal it. Keeping it porous will prevent water from pooling on it. This will make drying the court easier after a rain so you can get back to playing faster.

Add Your Lines and Net

Measure your lines using a chalk line and paint the lines with a wheeled line painter. Keep the lines at least 2 inches wide but no more than 4 inches. Install your net. You can purchase a net from sporting good stores or tennis retailers. There should be tie grommets that attach the ends of the net to the post and a tension cord that runs along the inside "white tape" of the net.

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This should be pulled taught and attached to the eyehole on the outer part of the net post. Make sure the net is 39" tall at the ends and 36" in the center (adjusted with a strap that should come with the net).

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