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Is the Grass Greener on the Artificial Side?
Here’s what artificial turf can do for your lawn By Joshua Nishimoto
Over the years, since the inception of Astroturf in 1965, man has struggled to come to grips with the ultimate question: Is the grass “greener” when it’s artificial? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of going with synthetic grass versus genuine grass to answer this question.
Artificial grass was first used in Major League Baseball in the Houston Astrodome in 1966, replacing the grass field used when the stadium first opened a year earlier. Artificial grass stands up to heavy use, thus the reason it’s used on many sports fields. It requires no irrigation or trimming. Domed, covered and partially covered stadiums may require artificial grass or turf because of the difficulty of getting grass enough sunlight to stay healthy.
As for the pros of installing artificial grass for your front and backyard spaces, most people use artificial grass because it requires little to no maintenance. Artificial grass stands up to heavy use. That is why they use it for many sports fields. It also requires no irrigation, trimming or gas-powered lawn equipment, and with growing concerns about water conservation and health-related issues surrounding fertilizers and pesticides, artificial grass is increasingly becoming the first choice for homeowners.
Dog owners can rejoice that synthetic turf is great at preventing even the most persistent puppies from digging, while being exceptionally stain and fade resistant. Not only does it stand up to pet abuse, but your lawn edges can stay crisp and look sharp over the years. Synthetic grasses come in different varieties of colors, lengths, densities and finishes, improving the aesthetics of your home while simultaneously upping your home’s curb appeal.
Another key advantage of artificial turf is the longevity and durability of modern synthetic grasses. Until recent years, the warranty offered on most turf products only covered a few years. However, with the recent developments in the artificial grass industry, warranties for the longevity of some lawns can reach up to 25 years. With the longevity and reliability of artificial grass, this home-use lawn product can come with a high-priced barrier of entry. On average, a homeowner will spend between $6 to $12 per square foot, versus 40 cents per square foot for traditional sod. You will also need to add infill to ensure that individual grasses stay upright and do not get matted down.
There are wide varieties of infills available including rubber, sand, Zeofill, Durafill, Envirofill and TCool Infill. The most widely used type of infill would be crumb rubber for most stadiums and sports arenas. Made from recycled tires, it provides good shock absorption qualities.
The second most widely used infill is silica sand. Sand is the least expensive infill and tends to be cooler in direct sunlight while absorbing moisture and eliminating some odors naturally. Silica sand infill is easy to come by and spread, while like any day at the beach the silica sand can be jagged and painful to roll around on. It may also just hitch a ride to the bottom of your shoes and make its way into your home.
Another popular infill that people use for their artificial turf is ZeoFill or ZeoLite Infill. This infill tends to be the least popular for its lightweight properties but most popular for eliminating pet waste smells. Zeolite is also very porous, which helps keep your turf cooler in direct sunlight when compared to most rubber and sand infill options. Regardless of which one you go with, they all have their pros and cons. If you have pets or children, you will most likely want to get an infill that keeps your grass cool, orderly and odorless to help keep your artificial lawn pristine.
While you may be conserving resources like water with an artificial lawn, synthetic grass will heat up exponentially in direct exposure to sunlight. While artificial grass is non-flammable, you don’t want it to be extremely hot to the touch. One solution to the problem is to use an infill designed to cool off your grass and make sure that it’s fine to walk on with your bare feet. Some infills (like the TCool Infill) are also designed with technology that captures water from rainfall, dew, or irrigation and stores it for later use. As the sun’s radiation heats the turf, an infill can help release moisture, keeping the surface cool for up to four days from a single moisture event.
While infill is a great way to keep your lawn looking its best, it needs to be replaced a few times throughout the life of the turf. The most infill can cost between $8 to $12 per bag, and one bag typically covers about 30 square feet. Replacing your infill can be done yourself, or you can use a service from a professional installer if time is more of an issue than money.
When considering the cost versus time and convenience of an artificial lawn, it can be a great investment that will outlast a traditional (organic) lawn. The amount of time it takes to take care of the soil, plant seed, or install a traditional lawn will be saved. Though the initial cost of installation may be higher than anything else you’ll find on the market, the pros of low maintenance and longevity of your lawn make the pros of purchasing an artificial turf lawn far outweigh the negatives of purchasing and installing your lawn.
With the onset of new and improved technologies, including processes to increase the clarity and vibrance of one’s artificial lawn, the grass might just be greener on the artificial side. Of course, you are free to make that judgment for yourself.