Sand slit drainage vs Sand carpet: Key differences in drainage

Dec 10|Natural TurfBy Troy Fiscus

What are the differences between a sand slit drainage system and a sand carpet profile?

In our previous articles on sand slit drainage systems and sand carpet profiles the principle aim of both systems is to remove excess surface water. Doing so provides a dry and durable surface that has good recovery from wear and allows for a high standard of play. There is no substitute for a well-drained natural turf profile.

These two forms of improving drainage have some common elements but are in fact quite different systems. This article provides an outline of the differences between the two systems.

Differences between a sand slit drainage system and a sand carpet profile



A by-pass system installed into poor draining topsoils.

Consists of vertical channels of high drainage rate sands and gravels.

Drains intercept water as it moves across the turf surface.

Functionality is dependent on having sand to the surface in every sand slit.


 High sand content rootzone that allows for the rapid infiltration of water.

Combination of sand slit drains and a 100mm sand layer across the drains.

Water infiltration is uniform across the entire field.

Functionality depends on the drainage rate of the sand and the depth of the sand layer.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sand slits profile?



Useful for extending the short term life of a poorly drained sportsfield.

Lower cost compared to sand carpet.

Less work involved - requires specialised equipment and an experienced contractor.

Less disruptive and allows for a quicker return to play.

Only affects about 5% of the playing surface.

Not suitable for reactive soils.

Soil capping of the sand slit and loss of function.

Requires the turf to grow over the new slit.

What are the advantages the disadvantages of sand carpet profile?



Ideal for sites where:

  • Minimal excavation is permitted
  • Designated flood retention areas
  • Where there is minimal fall for sub-soil drainage systems 

Lower cost compared to full sand profile.

Less work involved - requires specialised equipment and an experienced contractor.

Can be added to an existing sand slit drainage system.

Shallower sand depth has reduced water retention and relies on grass roots growing into the subsoil.

Increased nutrient leaching.

If the turf wears out the surface will be less stable.



Tips and reminders for sand slit drainage vs. sand carpet profile

In making a decision about selecting between sand slit drainage and a sand carpet profile consider the following points:

  1. Is it the best option for the medium to long term improvement of the playing surface?
  2. Is it suited to the site conditions?
  3. What is the required standard for the playing surface?
  4. Do the calculations – calculate the drainage capability of the sportsfield with a sand slit drainage system versus a sand carpet profile. Compare this against the local rainfall patterns. Once this is done the system can be designed and more accurately costed.
  5. Understand the ongoing maintenance requirements and costs i.e. annual sand topdressing, periodic renovation of drains etc.

Sand slit drainage is a by-pass system that is a low cost option for improving the drainage capability of an existing sportsfield whereas a sand carpet provides uniform water infiltration across the entire playing surface. Sand carpet profiles are best suited to sites that have limitations such as; shallow grades or poor subsoil conditions.

Sand slit drainage is a less disruptive process though the sand carpet profile will have greater longevity. SPORTENG can provide a detailed evaluation of your sportsfields and assist in developing a strategy to improve the drainage rate of the field.

Contact us for more information.


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