With all the rewards my family and I have enjoyed since we first took up the sport, last year, my wife and I set out to build a pickleball court in our backyard.
We are not builders, but we love pickleball and weighed all of our options carefully. Along the way, I chronicled my experiences so that you, our readers, could benefit from my experience, learn from my mistakes and make informed decisions pertaining to your own circumstances. The numbers and figures presented in this article may vary from state to state, but after countless hours of research and planning, I’d like to share what I learned to help you decide if building a home court is for you.
PROS OF HAVING YOUR OWN COURT
Travel Time. There is no travel time to get to your game when the court is in your backyard. While some players have the luxury of walking a few blocks in their RV community, or others drive to a community parks, many pickleballers travel up to an hour to get to a court. Now, the game can come to you.
Choose Your Own Partners.
Another benefit to having your own court is that you can invite anyone you want. If you’re a 3.5 player, and you want to have a 3.5 game, invite three of those friends to join you. On the other hand, if you want to bring in a group of friends who are beginners, there’s no better place to practice and give instruction than the privacy of your own home.
Make New Friends. As you introduce people to pickleball, you will make new friends. We all have friends we like to pair up with in the mixer games. With your own court, you will make many new friends as you travel down the pickleball road.
No Booking Required. By having your own court, you can set the schedule or, better yet, have no schedule at all. You are no longer confined to times between volleyball practices and tennis games.
Practice. Many private court owners have a ball machine. The Pickleball Tutor is a
popular choice and
can be attenuated to feed anything from soft dinks to driving- hard groundstrokes. If you want to work on a particular aspect of your game, a ball machine on a private court is the way to go.
Parties and Social Gatherings. We’ve all been to the parties enjoying a game of corn hole, horseshoes or volleyball. Well, now you can get the party started by introducing your guests to pickleball. Family and friends will have another reason to look forward to coming to your house.
Also, even if your weekly scheduled game is too small to be classified as a party, you can still have a barbecue on the patio and enjoy a couple beverages while playing your favorite game.
Permanent Lines and Net Posts.
It may sound trivial, but for many of us the hassle of lining courts and setting up nets is exhausting. It’s
a labor-intensive task that no one enjoys. Even if your courts are pre- lined, they may be competing with confusing white lines on a tennis court. Basically, a court designated solely for pickleball is more fun to play on than one that’s not.
No League or Rental Fees. If you travel around, you’ll find prices ranging from $5 to $20 per three-hour pickleball session. Even in the places that are free, there’s usually a community recreation fee. While you might never justify the cost of a pickleball court, you need to look at it as an investment in a new sport and social lifestyle.
CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE YOU BUILD A COURT
Space. The pickleball court dimensions are 44 feet by 20 feet, but that doesn’t include the out-of- bounds areas. A well-planned court will have at least 8 feet behind each baseline and no less than 6 feet on each sideline. Therefore, the minimal required space will be 60 feet x 32 feet. In a perfect world, having 10 extra feet on each side (64 feet x 40 feet) would make a perfect court. For many people, this could eat up their entire backyard.
Cost. While having your own court provides many conveniences and other benefits, it comes with a price. The cost of a court can vary tremendously depending on location, land and the contractors you select. Here are some factors that go into court construction and a rough idea of what you can expect to pay.
BUILDING YOUR COURT
STEP 1. SITE SELECTION, DETERMINE MATERIAL and PERMITS
Once you’ve determined you have space for a court, you’ll need to measure your yard and check your easements. If you have sewage, utility or other local government easements running through your yard, you might not have the available space to put in a court. Some towns might allow you to build on top of the easement if you sign a letter granting them the power to dig through the court if there is a utility problem. Your locality may also require a zoning variance to install a court, which will mean taking property line setbacks into account as well. If space is tight, you might be required to have a survey conducted and architectural drawings made. Most local governments will also require work site permits.
If you have the available land and your municipality approves the court, the next question is access and material. You will have construction equipment in your yard. They will rip a 12-foot wide path through your yard and do not travel well down elevated slopes. If this is going to be a problem, you’ll want to look into the option for pumping in concrete.
While accessibility may determine whether you go with concrete or asphalt, the other big consideration is price. Asphalt is significantly less expensive than concrete and requires
less preparation, but it doesn’t last nearly as long, as it tends to dry out and crack over time. You can expect to get about 20 years from asphalt, whereas a properly installed concrete court will last 50 years or more. The price difference to build a concrete or asphalt court does not simply come down to the cost of the two materials. It also comes down to the different production processes for each.
The third factor in asphalt vs. concrete is the hardness. Asphalt is a little softer than concrete, so consider this if you have ankle, foot, knee or hip problems. With either material, you can always choose to apply a rubberized cushion surface. California Sport Surfaces makes a multi-layer rubber coating that offers the best cushioning for concrete and asphalt surfaces. The surface costs a few thousand dollars in material and application costs, but can be well worth the investment for your body.
STEP 2. EXCAVATION and PREP WORK
To price out concrete and asphalt properly, you need to include the excavation work required. The process starts with providing a compacted dirt base with a 1% slope—ideally from one side to the other.
After the base is firm and dry, you can install any retaining walls, French drains, or heavy landscaping you plan to have done. Once the court is built, you don’t want heavy machines to be riding on your court.
Now that the covered base is firm and dry, place 4 to 8 inches of 2B stone and compact it with a roller—maintaining the 1% grade for drainage. When this is complete, cover the stone with a heavy moisture vapor barrier.
If you are building a concrete court, you’ll want to install 2-inch metal chairs and a heavy wire mesh. The concrete will eventually fall between the mesh, making it a much stronger and stable material. Chairs and mesh are not used with asphalt.
The final step in prep work is measuring out the court and, in the case of concrete, forming the borders.
STEP 3. COURT CONSTRUCTION and FINISHING
Now it’s time to pour your concrete or roll your asphalt. The process takes only a few hours. If you will
be painting your concrete court, make sure they apply a medium broom finish to the surface for better adherence. If you are using asphalt, the surface is porous enough that there will be no need to apply any texture to it.
Once the asphalt is rolled, or concrete is poured, the court will be ready for the permanent net posts and net strap holder to be installed. For the net posts, holes should be cut into the surface 2 feet by 2 feet. We recommend the 10-S NeverRust Pickleball Post Set. Dig 18" down and place a 3-inch commercial PVC pipe into the hole. When leveling the PVC pipe, first make sure it is level, then angle it away from the opposing net post by half a level bubble. Fill around the hole with fast-setting concrete. When dry, cut the excess pipe that sticks out above the court. The removable net post can slide in and out of the PVC pipe and has a metal band on the bottom keeping it the perfect 36-inch height.
For the net strap holder, make sure it’s centered between the two net posts and then cut an 18-inch square hole in the concrete. Dig down 18 inches, install the net strap holder and fill around it with concrete.
Next, for a concrete court, cut expansion joints on the court and then fill with an epoxy or a flexible rubberized sealant. This is not necessary for asphalt.
If you are going to paint the asphalt court, wait 3-4 weeks for curing. For concrete, you have to wait four weeks for the concrete to cure and to wick out moisture. After that time, brush on muriatic acid (diluted with 4 parts water) to remove impurities from the concrete. Four gallons should cover one court. Then powerwash
off and you’re ready to paint the next day. We recommend paints by California Sport Surfaces. Their paint comes in a variety of colors and is the industry standard for quality and reliability, and is used for pickleball courts around the country.
Costs can vary tremendously by your municipal rules and the layout of your property. Site preparation and permits will be similarly low for concrete or asphalt. The big question is whether or not you will be required to submit architectural drawings and a survey. These fees can range from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars.
Next, excavation services can vary from $1,000 to $10,000 if extensive dirt moving is required.
The actual concrete pad should be around $10,000 to $12,000 whereas the asphalt will be around $6,000 to $9,000.
You’ll require 24 to 72 gallons of paint, depending on the number of coats and the paints used. Again, we recommend California Sport Surface’s brand. Expect to pay $2,000 to $2,500 for the product alone. You can install it or pay a professional a few thousand dollars to paint the court.
All in all, you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $25,000 for an asphalt court or $17,000 to $34,000 for concrete. Aside from the court material, the biggest variables will be in the required drawings and excavation work.