I recommend never leaving gaps between the panels when installing Shock Pads. Many believe that leaving 1/8 of an inch between panels for expansion will prevent the panels from curling when they expand. The padding will only expand when the ambient temperature is hot and direct sunlight is hitting the panels – this is normal. I recommend placing the shock pad early in the morning before it gets too hot. Make sure to have a big enough crew to help with installing the turf and immediately place in the infill for ballast. Once the infill has been properly placed, the entire system will have stability and thermal contraction/expansion will not affect its placement.
If you do not have the luxury to dodge the heat of the day, make sure you always place the infill for ballast early in the morning. The best time for placing infill is early in the morning when the temperatures are cool. This is when the Shock Pad and synthetic turf has settled to its flattened state and will allow easy placement of infill without wrinkles forming.
I have witnessed hundreds of failed Shock Pad installations and most of them were due to contractors leaving too large of gaps between each shock pad. It can just take a year of play to cause gaps to mirror through the surface of the turf and eventually lead to damage.
When this happens, the edges of the foam along with friction starts to cause separation of the backing, causing a “splitting fest”.
The project in the image above eventually will have damage at every gap opening and elevation difference that was left in the Shock Padding.