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A True Tennis Court Contractor is a Must for a Quality Finished Product
by Matt Graft, CTCB, Talbot Tennis, Marietta, GA

In the current lackluster economy, it seems that there is a continuing trend of general contractors bidding on tennis court projects. Just a few months back, our firm saw a company on a bidders list that we had never heard of before, so we decided to check out their website. Come to find out they were a home remodeling company. Apparently, business was slow, so they were bidding on anything they could find. Most general contractors see a tennis court project as something that is relatively simple that can fill in the gaps for their company until they land that large project. What they don’t understand is the precision and skill required to construct a tennis court properly. The majority of the time, companies like this have either limited experience, or have never built a tennis court at all. Typically, they will rely on the references of the surfacing company they propose to use as a subcontractor to complete the experience section of the bid package. References from the surfacing subcontractor and the ability to get bonded usually are enough to get them a contract for the project if they are the low bid.

During the bidding process these general contractors will rely on their contacts from previous projects and will call every tennis court contractor they can find on the internet or the phone book. When our company is contacted by a GC to give them numbers on tennis courts, we always give them one turnkey number for the entire project. Then without fail, we will get a phone call or an email requesting that we breakout the grading, base, asphalt, fencing, surfacing, and accessories into separate line items. To win the project, the GC will plug in the lowest number for all of the above referenced line items. The following paragraphs will outline the problems with this process for the owner, the architect, and all the contractors involved in the process, especially the surfacing contractor.

Inevitably, the GC will subcontract with the lowest numbers that come in the door on bid day. We worked with a GC on a project in southern Georgia a few years ago and were awarded only the surfacing and the accessories for the project. Our number for the base and asphalt was higher than the company that was awarded that part of the project. It would be very surprising to me if the base and asphalt contractor even looked at or understood the specifications. The first problem was the sub-base. There were many areas that were not compacted properly, but with pressure to “keep on schedule” they decided to move on and installed the GAB. The GAB was spread out and rolled in, but the specifications called for a laser grade. When our company confronted the foreman, he said “we never laser graded anything, don’t worry I’ll make sure the water flows off the pad”. He went on to tell me the majority of their business was paving parking lots. When the asphalt went down, the joints were not rolled in properly, the whole thing was wavy and out of tolerance, and there were very large depressions where the sub-base was not properly compacted. Paving a tennis court is very specialized and should only be completed by contractors with significant experience and references of similar size and scope. The next issue was the fencing installation. The subcontractor that installed the fence left dirt, concrete, and trash all over the asphalt that we had to clean up prior to surfacing the project.

As can be expected, our company had several concerns that needed to be addressed with the general contractor prior to surfacing the project. During an onsite meeting we showed him all the areas that were out of tolerance, wavy, and so on. Four times the normal amount of patch binder was required to complete the project that we never got reimbursed for. He told me to stay on schedule and get the job done. So we did the best job that we could with the surfacing and ended up barely breaking even on the project.

The problem with the scenario that was just explained is the surfacing contractor is the last person to be on the job site and everything that isn’t done properly falls squarely on the shoulders of the surfacing company. The graders, pavers, and fencing contractors are long gone and it is up to the surfacing contractor to fix all of their problems. The next issue is the warranty. In the scenario presented in this article, the general contractor called our company one week before the warranty was over. He explained the tennis pro on site had some concerns with low spots on the tennis court and we needed to get out there as soon as possible to fix the warranty items. The general contractor didn’t understand that the surfacing was not the problem, it was due to the fact the sub-base was not compacted properly and a bird bath formed over time in that area. Our firm explained that all items on the original punch list that related to surfacing were addressed and accepted by the architect and owner. All areas of the surface were within the tolerances set forth by the American Sports Builders Association. When there are several different companies all working on the same project, it is very difficult for the owner and the architect to identify who is responsible for warranty items. When these companies are contacted, the finger pointing usually begins. Everyone blames the other contractors that worked on the project.

After dealing with similar situations on various projects over the past several years, our company decided to come up with a game plan to make it easier for tennis court companies to win these projects. When a project comes out to bid, a representative of our company will call the architect and try our best to explain the benefits of having one true tennis court contractor complete the project from the ground up. We will then discuss the problems with many different contractors on one job site. The majority of the time they seem pretty receptive to the idea. We then explain how this would benefit the owner and would make their job much easier since they would only have to deal with one contractor. Our company then sends a follow up email with a written specification the architect can use in an addendum, as well as, for future tennis court projects they may be working on. On more than one occasion, the exact same verbiage that our company emailed the architect was inserted into the project manual. Obviously, this will not work all of the time, but it is one thing as tennis court professionals that we can do to educate architects and ultimately give the best quality product to the owner. In the following paragraphs you will find a sample of what our company has used in the past to get specifications inserted into bid documents. I hope that you have found this informative and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

© 2012 American Sports Builders Association 

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