Artificial turf and synthetic lawns, used frequently for sports fields, are garnering interest as an alternative to grass. We asked Reed Libby, founder of Affordable Lawn Sprinklers and Lighting in Arlington, Va.
1. Synthetic lawns are different from sports turf. The artificial turf used on football, soccer and baseball fields is not the best option when installing synthetic grass in your backyard. For a field turf, safety is a predominant concern — especially shock absorbency for high-speed collisions. Because of this, athletic field turf is most often characterized by an extra-deep monofilament pile, because as a pile is taller the more shock-absorbent rubber infill can be installed. A residential turf, however, is geared more to aesthetics. The artificial grass for a residential backyard is designed to look and feel like natural grass. It is typically manufactured with subtler shades of green and more fiber with shorter blades. The result is a denser, plusher artificial turf that contains far less infill and a more pleasing texture on which to walk barefoot.
2. Installing a synthetic lawn is complex. A common misconception about synthetic turf is that it lays overtop native soil, similar to a rug on hardwood floors. The installation process is much more involved for turf. In general, most artificial lawns start with excavating three to five inches of topsoil, which is then compacted with a tamper. A sub-base of three to four inches of crushed rock is then used to form a solid, water-permeable layer for the top grass. This process can take two to four days, depending on the size of the lawn.
3. Synthetic lawns are easy to maintain. Unlike traditional grass lawns, artificial turf is virtually maintenance-free. Homeowners can save significantly on annual lawn care services such as fertilizer, mowing, chemical treatments, raking, edging, water, weeding, etc. To keep an artificial lawn in pristine and healthy condition, homeowners are encouraged to rake leaves and debris during the spring and fall months. Artificial grass also always looks lush, cool and inviting, no matter the weather.
4. Fake grass can be better than the real thing for the planet. Artificial grass has numerous environmental benefits. Water conservation, decreasing carbon emissions and eliminating the need for toxic pesticides and fertilizers, which are harmful to humans and animals as well as the environment, top the list. We’ve also seen an increase in climate-driven megadroughts in many parts of the country in recent years. One thousand feet of synthetic grass can save homeowners tens of thousands of gallons of water each year. Artificial grass also greatly reduces landfill needs as grass clippings are the third largest component of landfills, according to the EPA.
5. Synthetic grass has a long lifespan. Most artificial grass comes with a 10-year manufacturer warranty and has a life expectancy of approximately 20 to 25 years, depending on use.