Sportsturf drainage machinery Available worldwide

Sports field drainage

Shelton specialise in the drainage of all types of sports turf and sports pitches. Advanced sports field drainage techniques can be installed quickly and with little disruption to the playing surface so you can ‘drain today and play tomorrow’.

Below is a guide to primary and secondary sports field drainage techniques to help you to identify your issue and how, with Shelton machinery and expertise, you can resolve it.

+ Primary Sports Field Drainage

The removal of excess soil water from a localised area on a fairway, football pitch or race course is going to require the installation of perforated land drainage pipes. The majority of piped systems today would be installed with the main drain off to the side of the playing surface or fairway with lateral piping connected to this main drain at evenly spaced intervals of 5, 7, or 10 metres. 

For primary drainage work the Shelton Supertrencher+ range and Chain Trencher range is ideal.

Things to consider when planning your primary drainage work:

Pipe spacing and size

  • Pipe spacing and diameter impacts upon the cost of carrying out primary sports pitch drainage work.
  • Main drain pipes typically measure 100mm – 125mm in diameter
  • Lateral pipes typically measure 60mm (in a 78mm trench) or 80mm (in 97mm trench).
  • More closely spaced lateral pipes mean that smaller pipes can be used.  This means that
    • The trench widths are narrower therefore less aggregate is required to backfill and the ‘healing time’ for the surface is reduced
    • The flow of water through the pipe is faster and this helps to keep them running clear

Aggregate choice

Where possible try to choose spherical aggregate material as they leave plenty of air spaces for water to flow through.  Angular gravels tend to compact over time reducing the airspaces resulting in less efficient drainage.  It is best to avoid aggregates with lots of fines as over time pipes can block, reducing the effectiveness of the drainage system.

Shelton recommends the use of Lytag® 

There are many benefits to using Lytag®, including

  • It can drain up to 10 times faster than an 8-10mm gravel
  • Full consolidation occurs as the product is placed resulting in no further compaction during service and therefore no reduction in water flow rates through the particles
  • It retains water in dry conditions which reduces striping which can occur over gravel due to lack of moisture in the aggregate
  • It is half the weight of gravel per volume so reduces the weight of material being carted across site
  • It shatters upon contact with mowers avoiding damage to the cutting blades
  • It carries no Government Aggregate tax

There are lots of things to consider when deciding what type of sports field drainage system is right for you.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your particular problem and drainage requirements.

+ Secondary Sports Field Drainage

If you need to speed up the flow of soil water from your sports pitch surface a secondary drainage system can be superimposed over a piped primary drainage scheme.

Shelton offer four different secondary sports field drainage techniques:

  1. Sand slitting/Slit trench drainage
    This is one of the most common forms of secondary drainage and involves the digging of 50mm wide gravel or sand filled slits spaced 1 – 2 metres apart. The slits are typically 250mm deep and are backfilled with 150mm gravel and 100mm of coarse sand.
    This is most suited to systems installed during drier conditions, and when the grass is still growing to knit over the trenches.
  2. Gravel Banding Drainage
    Closely spaced gravel bands (each approx 20 – 25mm wide) are injected in the playing surface by a vibrating channel opener.  As no soil is removed, surface disturbance is minimal and play can resume immediately.
    This is most suited to systems installed when the soil moisture is high usually during the winter months.
  3. System 25™
    System 25™ is a trenching technique where 25mm wide trenches are dug by a high speed wheel. The arisings are conveyed to a trailer running alongside and simultaneously gravel or Lytag® is vibrated into the open trench in a one pass operation.
    This is most suited to more sensitive areas like golf greens where minimal disturbance is essential and where recovery time should be as short as possible.
  4. Lightning Drain™
    Trenches are dug 35mm wide, with arisings conveyed to a trailer running alongside. A 25mm perforated land drainage pipe is installed prior to backfilling with Lytag® in a one pass operation.

    This is most suited to those areas that require the most efficient drainage coupled with minimal disturbance.


To help you to understand the differences between the various secondary drainage techniques and the cost implications, click here see the comparison chart

If you have any questions about your particular situation or require any advice please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Getting the job done – your options

There are broadly 4 options for getting your sports pitch drainage work done. The decision when carrying out work can depend on many factors including budget, existing labour and machinery resources. Please read the below to help you to decide which is the best route for you.

  1. Employing a contractor
    Sports turf drainage calls for specialist skills and machinery. Drainage techniques have advanced considerably in recent years and it is essential that you employ a contractor with expertise and specialist equipment to work efficiently and effectively. It is likely to be the most expensive option but should ensure a high quality of workmanship.
  2. ‘Self drive’ hire of specialist equipment
    It is possible to hire any of the Shelton range of trenchers, back fillers or trailers. Things to consider with this option are
    • a) Have you got staff skilled in the operation of this equipment?
    • b) Can you spare skilled staff for days or possible weeks away from their usual duties?
    • c) Have you got detailed plans of the drainage works to follow?
    If the answers to the above are yes then this is an option you should consider. 
  3. Partnership Hire with trained operators
    By hiring Shelton machinery and the expertise of our trained operators in completing sports pitch drainage work you can make considerable savings. It is important to note that this route means that the club is making the decisions, formulating the plans and directing the team of workers. Usually there needs to be a senior member of staff on site throughout the day usually with 2 or 3 skilled workers.
  4. Buying new or rebuilt equipment
    If you have a substantial amount of work to do, want to carry the work out at your own pace and have skilled staff at your disposal, then purchasing new equipment may be an option.  Plus, the equipment post use will have a resale value.
    Purchasing used or refurbished equipment may also be an option.  Initially this will be cheaper to purchase but there may be some reliability issues and therefore cost implications in the long run.
    There is a popular middle route – having the primary drainage system installed by a contractor or via partnership hire and installing the secondary drainage system in-house through machinery hire or purchase. 

When carrying out your own work it is important to consider the following points:

  • Remember to take precautions in the vicinity of growing trees or shrubs to prevent roots growing into land drainage pipes
  • One inch of rain on one acre of land is 22,610 gallons; can this be re-circulated?
  • Rats and other vermin can block pipes; ensure vermin guards are fitted
  • To avoid damage to irrigation pipes and control wires mark all underground services in the vicinity of the drainage work with a white line.
  • Check tyre pressures on tractors and trailers before commencing work to ensure they comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Remember to carry out a risk assessment.
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