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Artificial Grass vs. Natural Grass: A Head-To-Head Comparison Guide for Home & Business Owners

Need help comparing artificial grass vs. natural grass? We put together a detailed head-to-head comparison guide to help you out.
Artificial Grass vs. Natural Grass - Comparison Guide

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As a home or business owner, you want to have the best of both worlds when it comes to your outdoor space; an aesthetically pleasing ground cover that’s also cost-effective and low maintenance. 

Artificial grass has become increasingly popular in recent years as a great solution for both residential and commercial properties. It looks like natural grass but requires little upkeep and is being used around homes for front and backyard lawns, dog runs, children’s play areas, and landscaping projects as well as business parks, doggy daycares, and sports fields to name a few.

When considering whether to opt for artificial grass or natural grass for your lawn, it’s crucial to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Both have their unique features that cater to different needs and preferences. But if you’re still on the fence about whether or not artificial grass makes sense for your property then this article is just what you need.

In this comprehensive comparison guide, we will delve into the advantages and disadvantages of artificial grass vs. natural grass, helping you make an educated and informed decision about the best ground cover for your home or business.

Benefits

Benefits

Artificial Grass Benefits

Artificial grass offers a slew of benefits that have contributed to its growing popularity among homeowners.

First and foremost, artificial grass requires minimal maintenance, making it an excellent choice for those with busy lifestyles. Unlike natural grass, which demands regular mowing, watering, and fertilizing, synthetic grass only needs occasional cleaning and brushing to maintain its appearance. This means more free time and less hassle in your lawn care routine.

Moreover, synthetic grass boasts a year-round appeal. It doesn’t wither during droughts or become brown and patchy in extreme weather conditions. Its UV resistance ensures that it remains green and vibrant even in the harshest sunlight. This consistent beauty is a significant selling point for homeowners who want a picturesque lawn without seasonal fluctuations.

Furthermore, artificial grass excels in durability. Designed to withstand heavy foot traffic, it doesn’t develop unsightly bald spots or turn into a mud pit during rainy seasons. Its high wear resistance ensures that it can handle constant use, making it ideal for families and pet owners.

Additionally, synthetic grass is allergen-free. It doesn’t produce pollen or host common allergens like natural grass, making it a safe choice for allergy sufferers. This feature is particularly important for families with children who enjoy outdoor activities without the risk of allergenic reactions.

Additional Reading: Top 16 Artificial Turf Benefits: Exploring the Green Alternative

Natural Grass Benefits

Natural grass, with its timeless appeal, also offers a unique set of advantages that should not be overlooked.

Firstly, natural grass provides unparalleled natural beauty. Its lush green appearance is soothing to the eye and complements any outdoor space. The visual appeal of a well-maintained natural grass lawn cannot be replicated entirely by synthetic alternatives.

Furthermore, natural grass contributes to oxygen production. A 50-square-foot lawn can produce enough oxygen for a family of four each day, playing a crucial role in improving air quality and creating a healthy environment.

Additionally, natural grass has several environmental benefits. It helps maintain soil stability, reduces erosion, and supports local wildlife and pollinators. A natural grass lawn contributes positively to biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Lastly, natural grass offers a natural cooling effect. Its thick foliage absorbs heat, making it comfortable to walk on even during hot summers. This cooling feature can significantly enhance outdoor comfort.

Durability & Longevity

Durability & Longevity

Artificial Grass Durability & Longevity

Artificial grass stands out in terms of durability and longevity, factors that make it a practical choice for many homeowners.

One of its most compelling attributes is high wear resistance. Artificial grass is designed to endure heavy foot traffic without showing signs of wear and tear. This is particularly beneficial for areas with constant use, such as backyard play areas and pet runs. It retains its pristine appearance, free from the bald patches often seen on natural grass lawns subjected to heavy traffic.

Moreover, synthetic grass exhibits impressive UV resistance. Most modern products are manufactured to withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight without fading or deteriorating. This ensures that your artificial lawn will maintain its vibrant green color over many years, regardless of the intensity of the sun.

In terms of lifespan, artificial grass offers a considerable advantage. With proper care and maintenance, artificial grass can last between 15 to 25 years or even longer, depending on the quality of the product and installation. This means fewer replacement costs over time, making it a cost-effective option for long-term landscaping.

Natural Grass Durability & Longevity

While natural grass has its own charm, it may not be as durable as its synthetic counterpart.

Natural grass is more prone to damage, especially in areas with high foot traffic. It can quickly wear out, develop bald patches, or succumb to pest infestations and diseases. These factors can result in the need for costly repairs and maintenance.

Moreover, natural grass’s durability is influenced by seasonal variability. Depending on your location, it may go dormant or turn brown during certain seasons, requiring extra care and resources to restore its lush appearance. This seasonal fluctuation can be a source of frustration for homeowners who desire a consistently green lawn.

In terms of lifespan, natural grass typically has a shorter life expectancy. A well-maintained natural grass lawn can last between 10 to 15 years, with the need for reseeding or sod replacement along the way. This shorter lifespan can result in higher long-term costs when compared to the durability of artificial grass.

Drought-Tolerance

Drought-Tolerance

Artificial Grass Drought-Tolerance

Artificial grass proves to be a drought-tolerant landscaping solution, offering multiple advantages in regions prone to water scarcity.

First and foremost, artificial grass eliminates the need for regular watering. Unlike natural grass, which requires consistent irrigation to maintain its vibrant appearance, synthetic turf stays green and lush without a drop of water. This translates into significant water savings, contributing to a more environmentally responsible landscape.

Furthermore, artificial grass provides a consistent and aesthetically pleasing lawn even during prolonged droughts. While natural grass tends to wither, turn brown, and develop unsightly patches under water restrictions, artificial grass remains vibrant and attractive. Homeowners can enjoy a lush, green lawn without compromising on water conservation efforts.

Additionally, the water-saving aspect of synthetic grass is often accompanied by cost savings. Reduced water bills can result in substantial financial benefits over time. Transitioning to artificial grass can lead to a noticeable reduction in monthly water expenses, ultimately paying off the initial installation cost.

Natural Grass Drought Tolerance

Natural grass, unfortunately, does not possess the same level of drought tolerance as its synthetic counterpart.

One of the primary drawbacks of natural grass in drought-prone regions is its heavy water dependency. To maintain its lush appearance, natural grass lawns demand consistent watering, which can be both expensive and environmentally unsustainable. Watering restrictions during droughts can result in brown, withered lawns that detract from the overall curb appeal.

Furthermore, during droughts, natural grass often develops brown patches and uneven growth patterns due to uneven water distribution. This not only affects the lawn’s aesthetics but also necessitates additional maintenance to restore its appearance.

Eco-Friendliness

Eco-Friendliness

When it comes to assessing the eco-friendliness of artificial grass versus natural grass, the facts may challenge your assumptions. Let’s delve into the environmental aspects of both options.

Eco-Friendliness of Artificial Grass

Artificial grass, despite initial impressions, stands as an eco-conscious choice for several compelling reasons. Notably, it significantly reduces your carbon footprint by eliminating the need for gas-powered lawn care equipment. This means fewer emissions and a reduced reliance on fossil fuels, contributing to a cleaner environment.

Moreover, artificial grass doesn’t require chemical treatments such as fertilizers and pesticides to maintain its lush appearance. In contrast, these chemicals, when used on natural grass, seep into the soil, contaminating groundwater and contributing to runoff pollution in streams and rivers.

Furthermore, synthetic lawns don’t demand regular watering, translating into substantial water savings. By choosing artificial grass, you can not only lower your water bill but also contribute to water conservation efforts by reducing daily water wastage from lawn irrigation.

Natural Grass Eco-Friendliness

While natural grass has its charms, its eco-friendliness comes under scrutiny when examined closely.

To begin, maintaining a natural grass lawn demands a considerable investment of time and energy. On average, homeowners spend 70 hours each year tending to their lawns. This equates to a significant amount of time spent on lawn care, often involving gas-powered equipment like lawn mowers and trimmers. These machines emit pollution at rates comparable to multiple cars, resulting in significant carbon emissions.

According to the EPA, a push lawn mower emits the same amount of pollution in one hour as 11 cars, and the riding mowers used on larger lawns emit as much as 34 cars. Let’s say for argument’s sake that, conservatively, half of the 70 hours of maintenance time is spent mowing, so 35 hours. In those 35 hours, a push lawn mower will emit the same amount of pollution as 385 cars!

The environmental impact extends beyond emissions. Grass clippings, frequently discarded in landfills, contribute to municipal solid waste. In fact, grass clippings rank as the third-largest component of municipal solid waste in landfills. Unless you compost your clippings, your “natural grass lawn” effectively becomes a source of pollution.

Additionally, the use of fertilizers and pesticides on natural grass can have detrimental consequences. These chemicals have led to issues such as algal blooms, fish deaths, and adverse health effects in pets and children. While a natural grass lawn may seem like an eco-friendly choice on the surface, its environmental impact is more significant than meets the eye.

Pet & Kid-Friendliness

Pet & Kid-Friendliness

Artificial Grass Pet & Kid-Friendliness

Artificial grass is an excellent choice for households with pets and children due to its cleanliness and safety features.

One of its primary advantages is cleanliness. Synthetic grass doesn’t become muddy, ensuring that pets and children can play without tracking dirt inside the house. This feature is particularly beneficial for homeowners in regions with frequent rainfall or pet owners who want a pristine yard year-round.

Moreover, synthetic grass is non-allergenic. It doesn’t produce pollen or harbor common allergens, providing a safe and allergy-free environment for both kids and adults. This can be a crucial consideration for families with allergies or asthma.

Furthermore, artificial grass offers easy cleanup of pet waste. Unlike natural grass, where pet waste can create unsightly brown spots and odors, synthetic turf allows for quick and convenient waste removal. This not only maintains the aesthetics of the lawn but also reduces the potential health hazards associated with lingering waste.

Natural Grass Pet & Kid-Friendliness

Natural grass can also be a suitable option for families with pets and children, provided it is maintained correctly.

One of the advantages of natural grass is its natural feel. Children often prefer playing on the soft surface of natural grass, and it’s gentle on their skin. This tactile experience can enhance outdoor playtime for kids.

Moreover, natural grass encourages outdoor play and interaction with the environment. It provides a connection to nature that can be beneficial for children’s physical and mental development. Spending time in a natural environment has been linked to reduced stress and improved cognitive function in children.

Additionally, with proper care and maintenance, natural grass can be pet-friendly. Regular cleanup of pet waste and a well-maintained lawn can create a clean and safe play area for both children and pets. However, it’s essential to note that natural grass may require more effort to keep it clean and free of pet waste odors.

Aesthetics

Aesthetics

Artificial Grass Aesthetics

The aesthetics of artificial grass can be visually stunning when installed and maintained correctly.

Foremost, synthetic grass provides consistent beauty throughout the year. It remains uniformly green and lush, offering a manicured appearance that is both inviting and appealing. Unlike natural grass, there are no mower tracks or uneven growth patterns on artificial lawns. This consistent, pristine look enhances the overall curb appeal of a property.

Furthermore, artificial grass allows for creative landscaping designs with minimal maintenance. It can be customized to fit various shapes and sizes, incorporating features like hardscaping, pathways, and gardens. This flexibility in design offers homeowners the opportunity to create a visually striking outdoor space without the constraints of traditional lawn maintenance.

Natural Grass Aesthetics

Natural grass has a timeless beauty that many homeowners find inherently appealing.

One of the primary advantages of natural grass aesthetics is its lush greenery. A well-maintained natural grass lawn exudes natural beauty and charm, with its deep green color and soft texture. The aesthetic appeal of a natural grass lawn is often linked to feelings of tranquility and connection to nature.

Additionally, natural grass offers a variety of grass species, each with distinct shades and textures. This diversity allows homeowners to choose the grass type that aligns with their aesthetic preferences, creating a personalized and unique outdoor space.

Moreover, natural grass provides a dynamic landscape that changes with the seasons. Many homeowners appreciate the natural progression from vibrant green in the spring and summer to warm gold and red hues in the fall. This seasonal variation can add depth and character to an outdoor space.

Safety & Cleanliness

Safety & Cleanliness

Artificial Grass Safety & Cleanliness

Artificial grass is designed with safety and cleanliness in mind, making it an attractive option for families and pet owners.

Firstly, synthetic turf provides a stable and non-slip surface. This reduces the risk of accidents, especially for children and the elderly. The even, low-pile surface of artificial grass offers traction and stability, making it a safe choice for outdoor activities.

Furthermore, artificial grass eliminates the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides, which are often used on natural lawns. This reduces the potential exposure to harmful chemicals for both humans and pets. It promotes a healthier and safer outdoor environment.

Artificial grass is actually safer and cleaner than real grass for both children and pets. The advantages of synthetic grass regarding safety and cleanliness are numerous:

  • Prevent injuries from falls by absorbing & cushioning impacts
  • Provides a smooth and even surface to play on
  • Eliminates mud and dirt
  • Efficient drainage system allows water and pet urine to pass through the turf’s backing
  • Eliminates bugs, pests, and insects
  • Equipped with antimicrobial protection (Introduced during manufacturing. Prevents build-up of bacteria and odors)

This combination of features results in artificial grass products that are safer and cleaner for both children and pets.

Natural Grass Safety & Cleanliness

Natural grass also offers a safe and clean outdoor environment when properly maintained.

One of its advantages is the natural feel of the grass, which is gentle on the skin and reduces the risk of injuries during play. The soft texture of natural grass provides a comfortable surface for outdoor activities.

Moreover, when managed sustainably, natural grass eliminates the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides. Organic and eco-friendly lawn care practices can maintain a safe and clean outdoor space without the use of harmful chemicals.

However, it’s essential to note that regular maintenance is required to ensure the safety and cleanliness of natural grass. Regular mowing, pest control, and cleanup of pet waste are necessary to maintain a pristine lawn. Failure to do so can result in an unkempt and potentially hazardous environment.

Installation Costs

Installation Costs

There is a significant difference in the installation cost of artificial grass vs. natural grass. To make the comparison apples-to-apples, we’re going to use a 1,000 sq. ft. lawn and compare the installation cost of artificial grass vs. natural grass.

Average Cost for Artificial Grass

Artificial Grass Installation Costs

When it comes to the installation of artificial grass, the key difference is the upfront cost. While this initial expense may seem substantial, it’s essential to view it as an investment that pays off over time through reduced maintenance and watering expenses. The disparity between the initial installation costs is significant, but I urge you to bear with me until we get to the ongoing care and maintenance costs outlined below.

Typically, artificial grass installation costs between $6.00 to $18.00 per square foot for labor and materials. For a 1,000-square-foot area, this translates to an installation cost ranging from $6,000 to $18,000.

Importantly, the break-even point for artificial grass installation versus natural grass usually falls between 4 to 6 years. Beyond this point, the savings become more pronounced. There are a number of factors that influence the cost of installing synthetic grass, outlined below:

  • Project Size (Sq. Ft.)
  • Type of Turf (Turf Prodcut)
  • Site Prep. (Pre-Installation)
  • Removal & Dumping Fees (Shrubs, Trees, Rocks, Soil, Sod, Etc.)
  • Infill Material
  • Bender Board in Linear Feet (Optional)
  • Drainage Tile/Membrane (Optional)
  • Special Requests

A 1,000 sq. ft. installation of quality artificial grass will likely cost between $8 – $12 per square foot. For those not mathematically inclined, you’d be looking at $8,000 – $12,000 for a 1,000 sq. ft. artificial grass installation.

Natural Grass Installation Costs

For natural grass lawns, you typically have two choices: planting grass seeds or sod installation, both of which require irrigation or a sprinkler system.

Planting Seeds & Growing Grass Cost:

Planting grass seeds comes at a lower initial cost, with expenses between $0.09 and $0.18 per square foot. Additionally, the installation of a sprinkler system adds to the expense, with costs ranging from $0.46 to $0.79 per square foot. That sprinkler system is going to be put through its paces for the first 8 weeks of growing a natural grass lawn from seeds. 

To cover a 1,000-square-foot area with 1” of water would require 620 gallons. For grass seed germination, it takes about 40” of water or 24,920 gallons. This accounts for the 8 inches of moist soil needed before planting, 4 inches of moist soil immediately after planting, and 2 inches of moist soil twice a day until the seeds sprout. One inch of water soaks about 6 inches of soil.

The cost of water varies significantly from state to state and even within states. To keep things simple we’ll say that the above volume of water costs $200. Now let’s add up the associated costs of planting seeds and growing a natural grass lawn.

$660 for sprinkler system + $135 for seed + $200 for water = $995 total

It’s crucial to consider the long-term maintenance costs when comparing installation expenses. Natural grass lawns require ongoing care and maintenance, which we’ll explore in detail below.

Sod Installation Cost

Laying sod on a 1,000-square-foot area typically costs between $900 and $1,800. Newly installed sod is going to need a lot of water every day. In order for newly planted sod to take root and have the best chance of thriving, it will need to be watered regularly. The day it is planted it will need at least an inch of water per square foot, which adds up to 620 gallons. Over the next two weeks or until it’s taken root, it will need daily ¼-inch waterings.

This works out to be around 2,804 gallons of water for a 1,000-square-foot yard, or $10.50. Using middle-of-the-road pricing, the cost of installing 1,000 square feet of sod including water usage during the establishment period will look something like this:

$1,350 for sod + $600 for sprinkler system +$10.50 for water = $1,960.50 total

This is a very generic, middle-of-the-road estimate for installing sod. The total cost of installing a sprinkler system and sod grass lawn will be influenced by:

  • Type of Sod
  • Temperature
  • Site Prep
  • DIY vs. Professional 
  • Type of Sprinkler System
  • Grade of Yard
Care & Maintenance Costs

Care & Maintenance Costs 

It might be tempting to dismiss artificial grass after seeing the disparity between the installation costs. I suggest you hold off on passing judgment until you’ve seen the even greater disparity between the ongoing care and maintenance costs of artificial grass vs. natural grass. To ensure we’re providing a balanced representation of the costs we’ll look at three time periods of 5, 15, and 25 years as our timeframe for calculating the care and maintenance costs.

Installation & Maintenance Cost Comparison

Artificial Grass Care & Maintenance Costs

Artificial grass proves to be remarkably low-maintenance. The costs associated with its care are minimal and showcase a significant return on investment. Here’s an overview of the annual care and maintenance requirements for synthetic grass with the associated costs:

  • Spraying with Hose: $6 per month (0.25 inches bi-weekly)
  • Power Brushing: $175 annually
  • Replenishing Infill: $100 minimum annually

For a 1,000-square-foot artificial grass lawn, the yearly maintenance cost totals $281

  • 5 Years = $1,405
  • 15 Years = $4,215
  • 25 Years = $7,025.

Natural Grass Care & Maintenance Costs

Installing natural grass sod or planting grass seeds is much less expensive than synthetic grass, at least initially. It’s the ongoing care and maintenance requirements of natural grass lawns that add up to significant amounts over time. 

Most lawns require weekly cutting for at least 6 months out of the year. You also have to deal with a few extra, intermittent chores like leaf blowing, edging, and weeding. According to LawnStarter, lawn mowing prices range from $29 to $65 per visit for mowing and edging. Using middle-of-the-road pricing, we can assume a price of $47 per visit

With a weekly mowing scheduled for the six months out of the years that it’s necessary in most locations, mowing and edging alone will cost $1,222

That’s just for mowing and edging, there are a number of other costs associated with maintaining natural grass lawns. Here’s an overview of the yearly maintenance cost ranges along with their average costs for natural grass, according to LawnLove.com:

  • Mowing/Edging: $1,222 annually ($47 per week for 6 months)
  • Spring/Fall Clean-Up: $175 – $375 ($275 Avg.)
  • Fertilizing: $120 -$480 ($335 Avg.)
  • Aeration: $75 – $225 ($145 Avg.)
  • Weed Abatement: $65 – $170 ($110 Avg.)
  • Sprinkler Repair: $180
  • Leaf Cleanup: $155 –  $460 ($280 Avg.)
  • Watering: $567 (based on 623 gallons per week for 1,000 square feet for 6 months)

For a 1,000-square-foot natural grass lawn, the yearly maintenance cost is approximately $3,114

  • 5 Years = $15,570
  • 15 Years = $46,710
  • 25 years = $77,850

While natural grass may have its allure, the environmental costs, time, and expenses associated with its maintenance should not be underestimated. Artificial grass, despite the upfront investment, offers an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative that pays off in the long run. Ultimately, the choice between the two hinges on your priorities, budget, and environmental consciousness.

Long-Term Cost Comparison

Long-Term Cost Comparison [25 Years]

Artificial Grass ROI

When comparing the long-term costs of artificial grass and natural grass over 25 years, artificial grass often offers a favorable return on investment.

One of the most substantial cost-saving factors is water savings. Reduced or eliminated water bills contribute significantly to overall savings. The minimal maintenance requirements, including cleaning and infill top-ups, further reduce long-term expenses.

Additionally, the durability of the best artificial grass ensures that it can last between 15 to 25 years or more with proper care. This longevity minimizes the need for replacement, resulting in additional cost savings over time.

Natural Grass ROI

Natural grass may have a lower upfront cost, but it can prove more expensive over 25 years due to ongoing maintenance and water expenses.

Water expenses, which can be substantial, are a primary factor that impacts the long-term cost of natural grass. This is especially true in drought-prone areas like California where water restrictions are imposed. Additionally, the need for regular maintenance, including mowing, fertilizing, and pest control, adds to the overall cost of maintaining a natural grass lawn.

Furthermore, the shorter lifespan of natural grass lawns, typically between 10 to 15 years, may necessitate resodding or reseeding, incurring additional expenses.

Artificial Grass vs. Natural Grass_ Which Should You Choose

Artificial Grass vs. Natural Grass: Which Should You Choose For Your Lawn?

In conclusion, the choice between artificial grass and natural grass hinges on various factors, including your priorities, location, and budget.

If you prioritize low maintenance, water conservation, and long-term cost savings, artificial grass is the ideal choice for your lawn. It offers benefits such as reduced water bills, minimal maintenance, and long-lasting durability, resulting in a favorable return on investment over time.

On the other hand, if you value the natural beauty, oxygen production, and environmental benefits of real grass and are willing to invest time and money in its upkeep, natural grass can provide an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally conscious lawn.

Ultimately, the decision should align with your specific needs and preferences. Consider your local climate, available resources, and your desired lawn aesthetic to make an informed choice that will provide you with a beautiful and sustainable outdoor space for years to come. If you’d like to explore your options, the Turf Network can help connect you with a local artificial turf installer or artificial turf supplier to discuss your needs.

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