If you're updating your landscaping or building a new home, you may need to decide whether you would prefer to have a natural lawn or artificial grass. Comparing the pros and cons of artificial grass can be helpful in determining the best choice for your lawn based on your property and budget.
Learn what artificial grass is, the benefits and drawbacks of having artificial grass, and some things to consider before you decide whether artificial turf is the right move for you.
What is artificial grass?
Artificial grass consists of plastic materials made to look like living grass, which is used to cover the surface of a yard. Synthetic grass looks incredibly real when compared to the original AstroTurf of the 1960s and can provide the nice vibrant, lush lawn many homeowners desire no matter the season.
Benefits of artificial grass
Synthetic grass has come a long way since its inception in the '60s. It's now quite possible to install artificial grass without the fake grass look. With water conservation concerns on the rise and a growing awareness of the environmental impact and health issues associated with the fertilizers and pesticides that typical natural turf lawns require, it's easy to see why more people are receptive to the idea of swapping their turf grass for synthetic grass.
Some of the pros of artificial grass are:
- Attractive all year long (instead of brown grass in summer and muddy soil in winter).
- No watering need.
- No pesticides or fertilizers needed to keep synthetic turf looking good.
- No cutting, mowing, or trimming the grass.
- No issues "growing" in the shade, patchy spots from wear and tear, or pest damage.
- Elements are good for the environment, like the fact that it uses no water and that some artificial turf can be made from recycled materials.
- Can be installed quickly.
Disadvantages of artificial grass
While there are advantages to artificial turf, there are also some major disadvantages to take into consideration when choosing the right type of lawn for your home or property, including the following:
- Plastic turf fields can have high installation costs, as plastic grass cost averages $12.50 per square foot versus $0.40 per square foot for sod.
- Need to replace infill material and antishock layer every few years.
- Polyethylene plastic is a petroleum-based product that will need replacing in 15 to 25 years and is not biodegradable.
- Needs maintenance like sweeping and sanitizing, as synthetic turf can host bacteria if not properly sanitized.
- Some elements can be harmful to people or the environment, including the crumb rubber used for infill below the surface of the turf, which can contain harmful chemicals, and the runoff from materials can leach into groundwater.
- The surface gets hotter than natural turf, over 30 degrees warmer than the air temperature. The surface temperature of the synthetic turf was 37 degrees Fahrenheit higher than asphalt and 86.5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than real turf.
- Artificial turfs are rougher than live grass and could cause rug burn.
- The installation process kills off any soil life underneath the turf because of the infill process, making it nearly impossible to switch back to living grass or plants at a later time.
Instead of limiting yourself to debating between the type of grass, you might consider hardscaping or xeriscaping as an environmentally friendly living landscape when looking to install artificial turf. If the proper plants are selected, you can conserve water, reduce maintenance costs as well as the regular physical maintenance itself, and eliminate the need for chemicals, all while keeping your soil ecosystem intact to help with water retention.
Maintaining real turf lawns takes time and money. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that landscape irrigation accounts for a third of residential water use, which is approximately 9 billion gallons of water a day. Water usage is not something to be taken lightly, and with more and more municipalities implementing water restrictions, choosing an alternative lawn option may be the route for your property, based on its location and access to water.
Is installing artificial turf right for you?
As we head into the summer months, outdoor BBQs and the kids playing soccer out front are starting to wistfully make their way into our daydreams. But the muddy weed patch that's outside is not exactly what many of us envision spending our time enjoying. Installing artificial grass, although not cheap, can be done quickly.
Artificial turf can be a great alternative to a natural lawn, but it's not right for everyone. Consider where your property is located, your budget, and some of the advantages and disadvantages when determining whether it's a good fit for your home.
Keep in mind that all synthetic brands are created equal. If it's a lower quality material or if the artificial turf installation is not done by turf pros, it will likely show wear and tear much sooner, and the maintenance and ongoing cost for infill and leveling will likely be higher as well.