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Artificial Turf 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Synthetic Grass

Get up to speed on all the basics of synthetic grass with this artificial turf 101 guide! Learn how it works, what makes a good
Artificial Turf 101-Complete Guide to Synthetic Grass

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In the quest for a lush, vibrant lawn that requires minimal maintenance, homeowners are increasingly turning to a game-changing solution – artificial grass. This innovative alternative to natural turf offers a host of benefits that make it a compelling choice for homeowners seeking a hassle-free, beautiful outdoor space.

We’ve put together this guide to provide a broad overview of artificial grass. From understanding the most important components and features to applications and maintenance practices and more. Say goodbye to the days of arduous lawn care and welcome a future of green, pristine lawns with open arms.

1. Understanding Artificial Grass

1. Understanding Artificial Turf

What is Artificial Turf (a.k.a. Artificial Grass, Synthetic Turf, Fake Grass)?

Artificial grass, also known as synthetic turf or fake grass, is a meticulously engineered surface that closely replicates the look and feel of natural grass. This innovative approach to landscaping eliminates the unpredictable growth of natural grass, providing a consistently picturesque yard. To achieve this, it’s comprised of several key components:

Fibers

Fibers

The foundation of artificial grass lies in its synthetic fibers. These fibers are designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor use while maintaining a lifelike appearance. Yarn comes in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and blade shapes to mimic specific species of grass. Turf fibers or yarn are manufactured using one of the following materials: polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon. 

Polyethylene

Polyethylene is the most popular yarn material because of its versatility. It also offers an ideal balance between durability, softness, and aesthetics. It’s the most realistic-looking grass available and behaves the most like real grass. Polyethylene is extremely resistant to water absorption, meaning it does not keep pet odors. If you are concerned about odors, this is the material you should choose. It’s softer than nylon but more durable than polypropylene, making it a good middle ground suitable for a variety of applications.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene is less durable and less expensive than the other two materials. When used in the blades of grass, polypropylene is the thinnest and the softest of the three materials. It has a relatively high melting point (320°-331° F), and it is most commonly used as a thatch layer.

Nylon

Nylon is the most expensive and durable yarn material. Its most important qualities are its strength, resilience, and heat resistance. It is best used in high-traffic areas or sports where tackling and sliding are not common. Good uses of nylon artificial grass include commercial applications like rooftop decks, as well as home applications like backyard putting greens.

Thatch

Thatch: 

Beneath the surface, artificial grass often includes a thatch layer. Thatch consists of shorter, densely woven fibers that mimic the layer of dead grass and organic matter found in natural lawns. The thatch fibers come in varying colors, weights, and textures that add volume and depth to the product. A thatch layer provides the natural look and feel of a real lawn and adds an additional layer of cushion for shock absorption. If you’re looking for a synthetic grass product for your front or back lawn, a product with thatch will get you the closest look to the real thing.

In addition to providing a realistic texture to turf, thatch also plays a role in the density of the turf. This is because thatch is included in face weight. In general: products without thatch are much denser at the top of the pile. Products with thatch have a more balanced density from top to bottom.

Backing

Backing: 

The backing of artificial grass serves as its foundation, providing stability and support. It is typically made of materials like latex, polyurethane, or a combination of both. The backing holds the fibers in place and allows for secure installation.

The backing on synthetic grass has two parts: primary and secondary backing. Both the primary and secondary backings work together to provide dimensional stability to the entire system. The primary backing is comprised of woven polypropylene fabrics that allow the artificial grass fibers to be tufted into the material in rows and facilitate seaming between artificial grass panels.

In other words, it’s the durable material that the grass blades/fibers are stitched to. The secondary backing is often referred to as the ‘coating’ and is applied to the reverse side of the primary backing in order to permanently lock the tufted fibers in place. Together, the primary and secondary backing make up the “back weight.”

Infill Materials

Infill:

Infill materials, such as silica sand or crumb rubber, are often added to artificial grass to enhance its performance. Infill improves stability, provides cushioning, and helps maintain the upright position of the fibers. Additionally, infill materials can contribute to efficient drainage and reduce odors, especially in pet-friendly environments.

The most common infill material used is silica sand, which is spread over the turf and then brushed until it settles between the turf fibers. The infill helps keep the individual turf fibers upright and acts as ballast to prevent the turf from shifting.

Additionally, the infill provides a more realistic feel to the turf when you walk on it, as well as protecting the backing from sun damage. As the turf industry has grown, the number of infill materials has increased with some brands offering antimicrobial, anti-odor, or cooling properties. Different infill materials are best suited to different applications, so consult with your installer about what type of infill you should use.

Important Terminology

Important Terminology

Above you learned several important terms that you’ll hear quite a bit when discussing artificial grass like fiber, thatch, infill, and backing. Those are individual components that comprise an artificial grass system. Each component can be manufactured to look a certain way or perform a specific function. Below we’ll outline some of the other terms you’ll encounter that are used to describe different artificial grass features.

Pile Height

Pile Height

The pile height of synthetic turf refers to the height of the blades and how tall the artificial grass is. For an artificial sports field, outdoor dog run, or other high-traffic areas, a lower pile height of 3/8 to 5/8 inches is recommended. This will provide a more durable surface that still suits a variety of needs. For lawns, balconies, patios, and rooftops, a taller pile height of 1 ¼ to 2 ½ inches offers a luxurious and true-to-life feel.

Face Weight

Face Weight

The face weight of fake grass refers to the weight of the synthetic turf blades per square yard. This is typically calculated in ounces and will exclude the weight of the turf’s backing. Tall and dense turf materials will naturally weigh more and are often considered to be of higher quality. However, that is not always the case. Depending on your intended use, you may want to choose less dense and shorter grass to make your new artificial lawn simpler to clean. As a rule of thumb, we’d say stay away from artificial grass that has a face weight of less than 50 oz. (excluding putting green turf).

Density

Density

Artificial grass is stitched together, and the density is the number of blades that are stitched together per square inch. The higher the density, the higher the quality of artificial grass.

Drainage

Drainage (Permeable & Hole-Punch)

When referring to “drainage” on artificial turf, it’s in reference to the type of backing the turf is equipped with. Liquids like water and pet urine need to go somewhere, so it’s important that they are able to pass through the turf and into the sub-base below. In order to do that, the liquids must pass through the turf’s backing.

There are two types of backings or drainage systems: fully permeable and hole-punched. 

  • Fully-Permeable Backing: Allows water and pet urine to pass directly through any point in the turf. Commonly referred to as a “Flow-Through” backing this type of drainage is best for pet-friendly applications and areas where maximum drainage is required.
  • Hole-Punch Backing: Has drainage holes every few inches and is best for dry areas that seldom see excess runoff. Hole-punched backings are the most common type of drainage and has withstood the test of time.
Sub-Base

Sub-Base

The sub-base of artificial turf is essentially the foundation of your installation, which needs to be a highly compacted and slightly graded surface. The most popular material for the sub-base is class II road base, which when compacted still allows for efficient drainage. A properly installed sub-base is critical to a quality turf installation.

Attempting to install artificial grass directly on top of the soil will not end well. The soil expands and contracts with fluctuations in temperature, which will cause wrinkles and buckling in synthetic grass. For installations requiring maximum drainage efficiency, a layer of decomposed granite can be added on top of the class II road base.

As the best sub-base material, class II road base is also one of the most expensive options. Below are some of the other sub-base materials that installers use:

  • Class II Road Base
  • Decomposed Granite
  • CMB (Crushed Miscellaneous Base)
  • Crushed Aggregate Base (CAB)
Types of Artificial Grass

Types of Artificial Grass

Artificial grass comes in various types, each tailored to specific needs. From short-pile turf ideal for sports to longer, lusher varieties for residential lawns, the options are diverse. Some varieties even feature different shades of green, enhancing their natural appeal.

Whether you desire a backyard fit for a putting green or a soft, inviting space for relaxation, there’s an artificial grass type that aligns perfectly with your vision. These specialized turf products incorporate features and enhancements to address specific requirements:

Landscaping Turf

Landscaping Turf:

Landscaping artificial grass is designed for residential use. It offers a lush, natural appearance with a mix of blade lengths and colors to mimic real grass. UV protection ensures color longevity, even in direct sunlight. Some landscaping turf varieties incorporate antimicrobial protection, making them resistant to mold and mildew. Additionally, efficient drainage systems are integrated to withstand rain and pet use.

Sports Turf

Sports Turf: 

Sports turf is engineered for athletic applications, such as soccer, football, and golf. It features shorter, denser fibers that provide excellent traction for sports activities. High-quality sports turf is built to withstand heavy foot traffic and offers shock-absorbing properties, reducing the risk of injuries. UV-resistant materials ensure durability, even during intense outdoor use.

Pet-Friendly Turf

Pet-Friendly Turf:

For pet owners, there’s a specialized artificial grass solution. Pet-friendly turf, also referred to as K9 grass, dog grass, fake grass for dogs, etc. includes efficient drainage systems that quickly whisk away liquids, preventing odors and maintaining a clean, safe environment. These turfs often incorporate antimicrobial technology to combat bacteria, ensuring a hygienic space for pets.

Playground Turf

Playground Turf:

Playground turf is designed with safety in mind. It provides a soft, cushioned surface to protect children from falls and injuries. These turfs adhere to strict safety standards, ensuring they meet impact attenuation requirements. They also incorporate features like UV resistance to maintain their vibrant appearance despite constant exposure to sunlight.

Putting Green Turf

Putting Green Turf:

For golf enthusiasts, putting green turf offers the perfect practice surface for improving your short game. Turf products used on artificial turf putting greens replicate the smooth, uniform texture of a professional putting green, allowing for precise shots and consistent roll.

Synthetic turf products have become so versatile that golf greens can include built-in undulations and slopes to mimic the challenges of a real golf course. Below are links to some additional resources on golf and putting green turf.

Roof, Deck & Patio Turf

Rooftop, Deck & Patio Turf:

Roof, deck and patio turf are designed for urban spaces with limited ground areas. These turfs are lightweight and feature excellent drainage, preventing water accumulation on rooftops or balconies. They offer homeowners the opportunity to transform underutilized spaces into green retreats.

Each type of artificial grass is engineered to excel in its intended application, offering tailored solutions for various landscaping needs. Whether it’s the durability of sports turf, the pet-friendliness of specialized turf, or the aesthetics of landscaping turf, artificial grass products are designed to enhance specific outdoor environments.

2. Benefits of Artificial Grass

2. Benefits of Artificial Turf

Artificial turf offers home and business owners a number of benefits, especially when comparing artificial grass vs. natural grass. Below are just a few of the most significant benefits of artificial turf for residential and commercial properties.

Low Maintenance, High Aesthetics

Bid farewell to the relentless cycle of mowing, fertilizing, and weeding. Artificial grass provides a perpetually well-manicured lawn without the sweat equity. Its lush appearance remains unchanged, and it’s resistant to common lawn issues like bald spots, weeds, and pests. Imagine the joy of having a stunning lawn without the usual backbreaking labor, allowing you to reclaim your weekends for leisure and relaxation.

Year-Round Greenery

Unlike natural grass, which can turn brown and patchy in extreme weather conditions, artificial grass maintains its vibrant green hue all year round. It laughs in the face of scorching summers, torrential rains, and frosty winters, ensuring your lawn looks inviting in any season. With artificial grass, you can enjoy a picturesque, evergreen yard no matter where you live.

Water Conservation & Eco-Friendliness

Artificial grass is an eco-friendly landscaping solution that offers significant water savings. A traditional lawn can consume thousands of gallons of water each year, contributing to water scarcity in many regions. In contrast, artificial grass requires no regular watering. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, installing artificial grass can save up to 55 gallons of water per square foot annually, helping address water scarcity concerns.

It’s also an eco-friendly alternative to natural grass lawns. Synthetic grass doesn’t need to be mowed, trimmed, fertilized, aerated, reseeded, or watered. It eliminates the carbon emissions from landscaping equipment and the contamination of groundwater by pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

Durability and Longevity

Artificial grass is built to endure heavy foot traffic and the test of time. Its sturdy construction, combined with advanced UV-resistant technology, ensures your investment will remain intact and attractive for years to come. No more worries about worn-out pathways or worn-down patches; your lawn stays picture-perfect even in the face of everyday wear and tear.

Allergy-Friendly and Pet-Friendly

Artificial grass provides relief for allergy sufferers, as it doesn’t release pollen or allergenic grass seeds into the air. It’s also an excellent choice for pet owners, as it resists staining, odors, and digging. Cleaning up after your furry friends becomes a breeze, and they’ll enjoy a soft, safe outdoor environment that keeps both humans and pets healthy and happy.

3. Installation & Maintenance

3. Installation and Maintenance

Professional Installation vs. DIY

When it comes to installing artificial grass, you have two primary options: professional installation or a DIY approach. Professionals ensure a flawless finish, but DIY can be cost-effective for those with experience in landscaping.

Be sure to weigh the pros and cons before deciding, ensuring a smooth start to your artificial grass journey. Whether you choose professional assistance or embrace the DIY route, the result will be a stunning lawn that requires minimal ongoing maintenance.

How Do I Find the Best Artificial Turf Company Near Me?

You’re in luck, because you don’t have to go far to conduct your search. The Turf Network’s growing directory of artificial turf companies has over 2,500 installers, suppliers, manufacturers, odor-removal services, and more. Click below to find artificial turf companies in your area.

Find Artificial Turf Companies Nearby.

Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

Maintaining your artificial lawn is easy and stress-free, saving you time and effort. Regularly remove debris, leaves, and twigs to keep it clean. A gentle rinse with a hose will help maintain freshness. In case of stubborn stains or odors, specialized artificial grass cleaners are available. Occasional brushing to keep the fibers upright also helps maintain its lush appearance. Enjoy your free time while your lawn stays effortlessly beautiful, and leave the worry of labor-intensive upkeep behind.

4. Cost Analysis_ Is It Worth It

4. Cost Analysis: Is It Worth It?

Upfront Costs vs. Long-Term Savings

While the initial investment in artificial grass is higher than natural grass, consider it a long-term investment in your quality of life. Calculate the savings on water bills, lawn maintenance equipment, and maintenance services over the years. Artificial grass often proves more cost-effective in the long run, allowing you to redirect your resources to other aspects of your home and life. The upfront costs pale in comparison to the enduring benefits and savings it provides.

The initial cost of installing artificial grass can vary depending on factors like the size of your lawn and the type of artificial grass you choose. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $5 and $20 per square foot for installation. While this upfront cost is a lot higher than natural grass, the long-term savings are substantial.

Consider that maintaining a natural grass lawn involves ongoing expenses such as lawn mowers, trimmers, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the average annual cost of maintaining a natural grass lawn can range from $700 to $2,000. Over the years, these costs add up significantly.

By switching to artificial grass, homeowners can recoup their initial investment in a few years, thanks to the elimination of ongoing maintenance costs. Additionally, artificial grass can increase property value, providing an attractive return on investment (ROI).

Return on Investment (ROI)

Artificial grass can enhance your property’s value and curb appeal. A beautifully landscaped, hassle-free yard can make your home more attractive to potential buyers, ultimately leading to a higher resale value. It’s an investment that pays off in more ways than one, both in terms of convenience and property appreciation. Investing in artificial grass is a smart decision that adds long-term value to your property.

5. Environmental Impact

5. Environmental Impact

Reducing Carbon Footprint

Artificial grass significantly reduces the carbon footprint associated with lawn maintenance. Gas-powered lawnmowers are a major source of air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), traditional gas-powered lawnmowers emit as much pollution per hour as 11 cars. It’s the equivalent of driving a car for over 1,100 miles. By eliminating the need for these emissions-producing machines, artificial grass contributes to cleaner air and a healthier environment.

Recycling and Sustainability

Many artificial grass products are recyclable, and manufacturers are increasingly focused on sustainability. Some brands use recycled materials in their production processes, further reducing the environmental impact. When it’s time to replace your artificial grass, inquire about recycling options, ensuring your commitment to environmental responsibility continues. By choosing eco-conscious products, you actively participate in a sustainable cycle, reducing waste and conserving resources.

Minimizing Chemical Use

Maintaining natural grass often involves the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. These chemicals can leach into the soil and groundwater, posing risks to the environment and human health. Children and pets, who frequently play on lawns, are especially vulnerable to these chemicals. Artificial grass eliminates the need for these harmful substances, creating a safer outdoor environment for families.

Conserving Water Resources

Water conservation is a pressing concern, particularly in warmer climates where drought and water scarcity are significant issues. Natural grass lawns demand regular watering to stay lush, leading to water waste. In contrast, artificial grass requires no irrigation. 

According to the EPA, the average American household uses 320 gallons of water per day. 30% of that is used for outdoor purposes, including lawn watering. Every day an average of 9 billion gallons of water is used on residential lawns in America. That’s an average of 27 gallons of water per person, per day. By switching to artificial grass, homeowners can make a significant contribution to water conservation efforts.

6. Common Myths & Misconceptions

6. Common Myths and Misconceptions

Debunking the “Fake” Grass Myth

This may have been true of the plastic-looking fake grass first introduced in 1965. Today, advancements in material technology and manufacturing techniques have produced synthetic turf that is indistinguishable from real grass, even up close. You can enjoy the beauty of a pristine lawn without compromising on aesthetics, and your neighbors will marvel at the natural allure of your yard.

Health and Safety Concerns

Artificial grass is safe for both humans and pets. It is non-toxic and free from harmful chemicals. In fact, it can be a healthier choice since it reduces exposure to pesticides and allergenic grasses often associated with natural lawns. You can create a safe, worry-free environment for your loved ones, free from health concerns and the need for harmful chemicals.

7. Choosing the Right Artificial Grass

7. Choosing the Right Artificial Grass for Your Home

Comparing Features

Now that you have a better understanding of artificial turf, you’ll be able to fully understand what you’re looking at when differentiating your favorites. There are many specifications that will vary as you compare and contrast different options. The following are the most noted differences: 

  • Thatch & Fiber Color 
  • Type of Drainage 
  • Antimicrobial Protection
  • UV-Protection
  • Height, Density, Weight
  • Application or Intended Use

For a more detailed breakdown of the many aspects of synthetic turf, the most important features and components, and so much more, we’ve got you covered. Check out “How to Choose the Best Artificial Grass for Your Space: A Complete Buyer’s Guide.”

Factors to Consider

When selecting artificial grass, consider factors such as the intended use (e.g., landscaping, sports, or play areas), the local climate, and the desired appearance. Texture, color, and durability should align with your specific needs, ensuring you get the perfect fit for your outdoor space. It’s all about customizing your lawn to match your vision and lifestyle.

Selecting a Reputable Supplier

Choose a reputable supplier with a track record of quality products and professional installation services. Research customer reviews, ask for recommendations, and request samples to ensure you get the best value for your investment.

Partnering with a trusted supplier sets the foundation for a successful artificial grass installation, ensuring a hassle-free experience from start to finish. The following are some areas to focus on when researching suppliers or installers to work with:

  • Reviews
  • Portfolio
  • Product Samples
  • Pricing
  • Warranty
  • Financing Options
  • Installation Process
8. Wrapping Up Our Artificial Turf 101 Guide

8. Wrapping Up Our Artificial Turf 101 Guide

As we conclude our exploration of artificial grass, it’s evident that this innovative solution is redefining the way homeowners think about lawn care and outdoor living. With its low maintenance requirements, eco-friendly attributes, and aesthetic appeal, artificial grass is more than just a substitute for natural turf—it’s a green revolution that enhances the quality of life for homeowners. Embrace the future of landscaping and enjoy the many benefits artificial turf brings to your home and lifestyle.

If you’re interested in learning more about artificial grass, then you’ve come to the right place. The Turf Network is not only a directory of artificial turf companies in the U.S., but an artificial turf information hub. We’re proudly 100% independent and are not beholden to any artificial turf installerturf supplier, or turf manufacturer. Our aim is to educate consumers about all things artificial grass. We want to empower you with the information needed to make the best and most informed decision for you, your family, and pets.

9. FAQ Answers to Your Common Questions

9. FAQ: Answers to Your Common Questions

Is artificial grass suitable for all climates?

Absolutely! Artificial grass is designed to withstand various climates, from hot and arid regions to cold and rainy ones. Be sure to choose a type suitable for your specific climate for the best results.

Can I install artificial grass on uneven terrain?

Yes, you can install artificial grass on uneven terrain, but it may require some groundwork to ensure a smooth and level surface. Professional installation is recommended for challenging landscapes to achieve the best results.

How long does artificial grass typically last?

The lifespan of artificial grass varies depending on factors like quality, usage, and maintenance. High-quality artificial grass can last up to 20 years or more with proper care, providing years of enjoyment and value.

Is artificial grass safe for children and pets?

Certainly! Artificial grass is safe for children and pets. It’s free from harmful chemicals and allergens and provides a soft cushioned surface. It also resists staining and odors, making it a pet-friendly option that creates a safe outdoor environment for your family.

Can I install artificial grass over my existing lawn?

No! Regardless of the application, artificial grass needs a solid foundation to be properly installed. Soil expands and contracts with fluctuations in temperature, which causes dimples, wrinkles, and loose turf. Additionally, regular soil doesn’t drain liquids as efficiently as the materials used to construct the sub-base that most turf is installed on. The one exception is when installing turf on an already solid and level surface like concrete.

This can be done by using “AirDrain” panels placed on top of the concrete. The drainage tiles create a gap between the turf and concrete allowing air to circulate and water to drain away.

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