Why Do Dartboards Bulge? – How to Fix It

About a year ago I noticed that my dartboard seemed to be developing a bulge around my 1 and 18 scoring areas. I wasn’t sure why this was and it wasn’t something I had ever come across before so I’ve done a bit of research to help you out if you’ve got the same problem.

The most common cause for a dartboard to bulge is deterioration of the sisal fibers (bristles) which make up the board face. When they no longer spring back into position it can cause your dartboard to start bulging.

When a dart strikes a bristle dartboard the tip of your dart pushes the bristles (made of sisal fibers) to the side and gets lodged between the fibers, this is what helps your darts ‘stick’ into the surface of the board.

The sisal fibers are wound really tight in a bristle board and under fairly high tension. This means that when the dart is pulled out of the board the fibers try to get back to the position they were in to start with. This is why you sometimes seem bristle boards described as ‘self-healing’ because the dart holes seem to vanish when you pull the darts out.

Over time these fibers gets stretches by constant dislodging when the darts strike and find it harder and harder to bounce back to their starting position, this can cause a clump of the sisal fibers to bunch up and start to create a bulge in the board face.

My bulge doesn’t seem to be caused by darts striking the board consistently, is there anything that can cause a bulging board?

Another common cause for a bulging board is if the board has been exposed to moisture or areas where the temperature can change frequently.

Moisture causes sisal fibers to stretch, this again makes them lose their spring and stops them being able to get back to their starting position when a dart strikes the board. This repeates the same issue as before where the sisal starts to clump together and cause the board to bulge.

Alternatively, if the dartboard is located somewhere where there is lots of temperature swings, for example if you have it in an unheated garage or keep your board outside, then the swings between hot and cold can have the same affect on the sisal fibers and the glue that binds them together. I would always recommend that your keep your bristle board inside where it should stay at a consistent temperature.

How to fix a bulging dartboard

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy fix.

Once the sisal fibers have become stretched and won’t bounce back to their original shape it’s the end of the road for your dartboard. If it’s starting to happen in one area of your board, it won’t be too long before other areas start to suffer the same affects.

This is why manufacturers recommend turning your dartboard regularly, this helps distribute the impact areas of the dart across more of your board (unless you’re a bad shot!) which increases the board lifespan.

As mentioned above, I would also recommend that you keep your board somewhere inside, in a room where the temperature will stay fairly consistent. This will stop your board being exposed to temperature swings which will stop deterioration of the materials in the board.

What dartboard should I replace my bulging board with?

The short answer is, it depends!

It depends where you want to keep your board and how often you’ll play. Tournament boards will always be bristle boards (this is dictated by the darts regulation authority – DRA) so if you want to play on something closest to what the pros will be using then you’ll want to get yourself a good bristle board and set it up at the correct height and distance from the Oche.

Bristle boards also have the benefit that they will last longer than most other types of board provided they can be kept in stable temperature and moisture environments.

If you want a board to use outside or that’s going to sit somewhere it can get cold and a bit damp then it might be worth considering a plastic board. Plastic boards won’t bulge in the same way as bristle boards but do have some downsides you need to be aware of:

  • Plastic boards generally have an increased bounce rate. This is because the holes in the board are already defined so there is a chance the dart can hit the plastic facing instead of striking one of the holes.
  • Plastic boards will quickly get damaged if you’re using hard tip darts. You’ll need to use soft tip darts with a plastic board
  • Plastic boards are generally electronic boards. Some people don’t like electronic boards and prefer to play ‘raw’ darts.

If you need to replace your dartboard because its bulging, here are my current two favourite options, one is a bristle and the other a plastic:

Winmau Blade 5

The Winmau Blade 5 is a bristle board endorsed by the British Darts Organisation (BDO). The board features top of the range spider technology and clear vivid colours to maximise performance.

Win.Max Electronic Dartboard

The Win.Max electronic dartboard is a fantastic addition to any family games room. The board keeps track of scores and even features a voice announcer so you can feel like your in the competition!

Is it bad to leave darts in a dartboard?

Yes. It is not recommended to leave darts in a dartboard for any long period of time. Darts left in a dartboard can cause the fibers to stretch and deform creating a bulge in your dartboard.

Steel tipped darts push the fibers in a bristle board to the side, if left in the board for a long period of time the sisal fibers which make up the board lose their spring and can’t bounce back to their original position, this causes the dartboard to bulge and the damage is irreversible.

With soft tip darts, commonly used with plastic boards, theoretically the darts could stretch the plastic in a similar way causing the holes in the board face to vary which can increase bounce rate or stop darts sticking into the surface. Whilst I’ve not personally experienced this, I know of friends who swear that leaving their darts in the board has damaged it.

I would therefore recommend to not leave soft tip darts in your plastic board either. Instead find a nice case or ledge to leave them on out of harms way and ready for your next match

Should you soak a dartboard with water?

People often ask me, why can’t I simply soak a dartboard in water – it seems to get the sisal back into the right shape so I don’t have to buy a new board?

Soaking a dartboard in water can look like it cures the problem at first, the sisal fibers get wet, lose their spring and can be pushed back into position, what’s not to like? Unfortunately, wetting the sisal can cause it to permanently lose its spring. SO while it might look like the board is fine on the surface, every time you subsequently use the board after you are further damaging the sisal. Its best to get a new board before you get to this stage.

Final thoughts

I hope you found this an interesting read, it certainly wasn’t something I was aware of fully until I started researching and asking some board suppliers. Hopefully it’s helped you out and its not too late for your board. Happy throwing!