The Complete Guide to Artificial Grass

By Deanna Kane

A low-maintenance alternative to grass, artificial grass can be a major time saver for homeowners with the right materials and proper installation. Replacing natural grass with synthetic turf allows you to eliminate the stress and time spent mowing, watering, fertilizing, and weeding the lawn, all while maintaining a beautiful yard. If the time and costs associated with your lawn maintenance has become too high, artificial grass may be the perfect solution.

Pros and cons of artificial grass

As with any home improvement project, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before committing to an investment. Assessing these ultimately comes down to the individual homeowner’s specific needs and preferences.

Pros of artificial grass

Requires less ongoing lawn maintenance

Synthetic grass doesn’t require regular mowing, watering, fertilizing, weeding, or edging, however it does still require some level of care. To remain in top shape, it needs to be regularly swept or brushed and the heat levels needs to be regulated.

Additionally, any unsanitary debris like animal waste or food spills that collects on the surface needs to be manually removed. These messes won’t be naturally absorbed back into the lawn and can cause health risks.

Saves you money on lawn services

If you outsource your lawn care, installing artificial grass can generate major cost savings over the long term. Depending on your level of care, this could save your household several thousand dollars a year in lawn service fees.

Reduces your ecological footprint

Because artificial grass doesn’t require water, it can reduce a household’s water usage, resulting in a significant environmental advantage. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling almost nine billion gallons of water per day. Installing artificial grass can contribute to lowering this number and is therefore a more eco-friendly alternative. Artificial grass also eliminates the need for using chemical pesticides, which are related to health and environmental risks.

Presents a pleasing visual appearance

Unlike the weeds, bare spots, and disease potential that real grass is plagued with, artificial turf boasts a consistent, rich hue, an even surface, and a plush expanse. It’s also protected against excessive foot traffic and color fading and it’s known to repel pests.

Safe for children and pets

Because artificial grass doesn’t require any fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides, it can be a safer surface for children and pets to sit and play on. There’s no risk that they may get these hazardous chemicals in their mouths or absorb them through their skin.

Cons of artificial grass

Unable to regulate temperature

Artificial grass can’t regulate temperature like real grass can, which can result in an extremely hot surface, becoming a concern for children and pets. However, there are solutions to regulate the temperature of the artificial grass in areas with extreme heat. Irrigation systems, which come at an additional cost, can be installed to lessen the heat impact of artificial grass.

Possible neighborhood restrictions

Depending on your community’s exterior requirements, your homeowners association may prohibit you from replacing your existing lawn with artificial grass. If you want to pursue an artificial lawn, it’s important to check with your HOA first to avoid any costly mistakes during or after installation.

Use of artificial materials

Because artificial grass is made from a synthetic material (the padding is typically made with recycled tires), it doesn’t produce oxygen and improve air quality like real grass does.

Artificial grass cost

Installing artificial grass can come with a hefty price tag and end up becoming a major home improvement project. You’ll need to factor in what materials need to be purchased, how much it will cost to remove the existing grass, and the cost of labor. Additional costs may include drainage and irrigation systems, which will control the water runoff and temperature of the grass. On average, the cost to install artificial grass is $3.70 per square foot.

Risk of injuries

Due to the heat risks of artificial grass, there’s a greater risk of friction burns if someone falls. Artificial grass also needs to be regularly disinfected to prevent infection in the event that someone breaks their skin during a fall.

Types of artificial grass

Understanding the different types of artificial grass is important when planning out your new surface from a cost, appearance, and longevity standpoint. For example, the type of artificial grass you use for a small putting green will be different than the type you use for your lawn.

Here are the three main types of artificial grass:

  • Polypropylene—While this is the most affordable option, it’s also the least durable. Polypropylene has a low melting point, which can present heat risks. This material is best in smaller spaces, like on a condo balcony or in between pavers.
  • Polyethylene—While more expensive, this option has a more natural look and feel and is more durable. Polyethylene is the most realistic option if you decide to replace your lawn with artificial turf. This option is suitable for larger surfaces, like an entire backyard.
  • Nylon—The most durable option, nylon can stand up to heavy wear and tear, as well as high temperatures. Despite its durability, nylon is the most costly option. Instead of residential artificial grass, we recommend nylon for soccer fields or putting greens.

How to replace your lawn with artificial grass

The first step you should take when installing artificial grass is to determine if you want to tackle it on your own or hire a professional. For both options, you should start by removing the existing grass, weeds, and ground cover, and preparing the ground for the installation.

The installation process may also include installing an optional drainage system and irrigation system. Both of these will increase the cost and the time it takes to install your artificial grass. However, they could pay off in the long run when you have a properly draining lawn and a temperature regulating surface.

Note: Installation time shouldn’t take longer than three days, but the final time will depend on the size of the area.

Is this a DIY job or do I need to hire a professional?

While installing artificial grass on your own will save you money, there’s the risk of installing it incorrectly (especially in yards with a larger square feet) and ultimately paying a professional to redo your work. There are also costs like delivery fees and soil removal fees—all costs that would typically be absorbed by the installation company. Not to mention, choosing to install artificial grass on your own can take significantly longer than a professional installation.

Ultimately, installing artificial grass on your own will be less expensive, but it may end up being the most costly option if the installation doesn’t go as planned.

Alternatives to artificial grass

If artificial grass isn’t the solution for you, there are many other natural alternatives to consider.

  • Groundcover—This option will grow outward to cover the ground, but it won’t grow vertically. It’s low maintenance, as it doesn’t require mowing or much watering. 
  • Ornamental grasses—This option results in a more organic look, as these grasses grow like wildflowers. They also don’t require frequent watering or mowing.
  • Native perennial plant garden—Planting a garden could mesh nicely with your existing ecosystem and requires minimal maintenance.
  • Edible garden—If you have a large plot of soil you want to cover up, an herb or vegetable garden can command the space, help you save on grocery bills, and provide a colorful backdrop.
  • Mulch or wood chips—Extremely low maintenance, this low-cost option can cover a large surface area and inhibit weed growth.

Is artificial grass right for you?

Artificial grass is a terrific alternative to real grass if:

  • you’re looking to eliminate traditional lawn maintenance
  • you live in a moderate temperature climate
  • you want to maintain a lush, deep green lawn
  • you want to spruce up your apartment/condo balcony

This type of grass can be purchased at home improvement stores, warehouse membership stores, local garden stores, online, or through a professional lawn services company.

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