The Benefits of Calcined Clay for Safe, Playable Fields

slideAs the population has increased in the past decade, we have seen higher interest in sports and a dramatic increase in the number of new athletic fields. The resulting jump in athletic participation and field usage has also heightened the demand for safer and better playing surfaces. Long gone are the days when a baseball game was organized by laying out four big rocks on a vacant lot!

The design, management and maintenance of athletic fields have also changed dramatically. Many field managers, coaches and volunteers are often left wondering, “Without the staffing and the budget of a major league team, what’s a person to do?”  

One of the product categories that has helped improve field safety and playability the most is soil conditioners. As a broad group, soil conditioners are designed to serve as moisture management tools. Specifically, they are used to help maintain moisture deep in the infield mix and to help remove excess moisture in wet conditions.

There are many material types that are identified as soil or infield conditioners. Crushed aggregates, vitrified clay (shale), brick dust, diatomaceous earth and calcined clays are all marketed as infield conditioners. There are no specifications or minimum standards that must be met to be classified as an infield conditioner, so essentially any product that can absorb water or have water adhere to its surface can be marketed for this use.  

While each of the above product types has an impact on moisture management to varying degrees, they are in fact vastly different. Variances in material composition, stability, weight and ultimately performance are pertinent. This is where calcined clay products clearly separate themselves from all others.  

Managing Moisture

managing moistureTurface® is recognized as the leading calcined clay product and most widely used infield conditioner in the industry. Turface calcined clay is a moisture management tool, used in conjunction with sound management practices to prevent fields from becoming oversaturated and slick, as well as dried out and hard. Many people ask, “How can a product be used to dry a field and at the same time retain moisture?”

It’s best to envision the calcined clay particles like tiny sponges, full of small pores or internal storage sites. Turface boasts 74% internal porosity and can absorb its weight in water. When Turface particles are exposed to water, the moisture is absorbed into the internal storage sites.  

So when it rains, excess water is sucked away from the infield clay and absorbed inside the Turface particle, helping to eliminate rainouts. This will continue until a balance has been reached between the moisture in the infield mix and the moisture inside of the Turface particle.  

As time passes and the field begins to dry, the Turface particle gradually releases the stored moisture back into the surrounding infield mix. Turface helps keep the moisture level at just the right amount, and for a longer period of time than other mixes. When Turface reaches “field capacity” or can’t hold any more water, it allows the excess to drain through. In fact, Turface drains faster than sand. The result is a product that can be added to the infield mix to help manage water and store moisture deep in the soil profile, time and time again.

Weight vs. Volume

weight vs volumeIt is important to recognize that conditioners are added by volume rather than by weight. Even though the materials are sold by the ton and packaged in 50-pound bags, product is incorporated by the 5-gallon bucket, a wheelbarrow full, by the loader bucket or by the cubic yard. For this reason, it is important to consider the bulk density of a product. In other words, how much does it weigh per given unit?

This allows for the calculation of the cost of an item on a volumetric basis or cost per cubic yard. It is especially important when comparing products that have different weights. Infield conditioners have varying bulk densities. Vitrified clay and crushed aggregates are heavier than calcined clay – twice as heavy in some cases. So if it takes one bag of Turface to fill up a wheelbarrow, it will take two to three bags of vitrified clay or aggregate to fill the same wheelbarrow. Even though Turface calcined clay may be more expensive per pound, it ultimately costs less to fill the wheelbarrow.

As all infield conditioners are different, there are also many variances within the calcined clay category. Turface has a lower bulk density, up to 40% lighter in some cases, than other calcined clays. That means that you need to purchase 14 bags of a competitive calcined clay infield conditioner to equal the same usable material (volume) of 10 bags of Turface.

Product impurities and contaminants in all lesser quality conditioners can lead to higher bulk densities. Not only do impurities and contaminants increase the product weight (reducing the usable material per bag), they also negatively impact the performance of the product by reducing its porosity.

Only Turface provides the industry’s leading rate of water absorption for superior moisture management and ultimate value.