A Comprehensive Guide to Synthetic Turf

Synthetic turf landscape with hardscape edging

Artificial Grass: A Turf Alternative

If lawn maintenance is wearing your budget and patience thin, it’s time to consider alternative turf options.

For some, the suggestion of a synthetic turf lawn is laughable or simply out the question. But synthetic turf has come a long way since the mini-golf green carpets that you might be imagining.

Growing Demand for New Applications

Manufacturers have perfected production processes that result in a safe, high quality and natural looking turf. As a result, demand for synthetic turf has grown steadily.

In 2018, the artificial turf industry was estimated at 2.6 Billion USD and predicted to grow by 5.4% from 2019 to 2025.

That’s because synthetic turf is no longer just for athletic fields.

The top reasons businesses and homeowners switch to synthetic turf are:

If those reasons are similar to your landscaping goals, keep reading to find out how synthetic turf makes each of those aspirations a reality.

Low Maintenance Alternative to Grass

Reduced maintenance is one of the primary reasons homeowners and businesses install synthetic turf.

Synthetic Turf in backyard landscape
Image courtesy of Shawgrass

Whether you hire a professional landscaper or take care of your lawn on your own, there’s a lot of work to do. Most lawn care includes:

  • Regular mowing
  • Weed control
  • Leaf removal
  • Irrigation system maintenance
  • Seasonal seeding

Depending on the size and scope of your property, those tasks and the associated costs can really add up. (Keep reading for an estimated cost comparison).

When you install an artificial turf lawn, you eliminate mowing, weed control, irrigation maintenance and seeding.

Eliminating these chores saves you time and money but it also has an impressive environmental impact. Although an artificial turf lawn doesn’t require the level of maintenance a natural landscape does, it is important to note that there are several upkeep tasks.

By following these basic maintenance suggestions, you will keep your artificial turf in excellent condition for many years to come.

Maintaining your synthetic turf

Synthetic turf maintenance really comes down to a few basic principles:

  • Regular grooming
  • Clean up after pets
  • Promptly remove debris

Regular Grooming

To keep your synthetic turf in perfect condition, manufacturers recommend a semi-annual grooming to keep infill even and fibers strong and tall. If you want to do the grooming yourself, you can purchase a power broom like this one. Otherwise, many landscapers and turf installers can do this for you.

Pet Clean Up

Did you know synthetic turf is completely safe for pets and animals? In fact, synthetic turf has excellent resistance to digging and scratching because of the tough urethane backing. That means no more grass or mud tracked in the house!

However, if your pets are using your synthetic turf lawn, it’s important that you regularly clean up after them. Remove solid waste promptly but for obvious reasons, don’t spray it! Depending on pet usage, a daily or weekly spray down is recommended to wash down any residual contaminants.

Remove Debris

Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from synthetic turf to prevent organic matter from decomposing into the turf.

Artificial Grass is Good for the Environment

Synthetic turf is a favorable choice for many businesses and property owners that are especially concerned about their environmental legacy.

Installing artificial turf can positively impact water consumption, gas emissions and chemical pollutants.

Synthetic turf for playground
Image courtesy of Shawgrass

Water Conservation

Synthetic turf has become increasingly popular in the western U.S. where droughts and water restrictions are more common.

According to estimates, the United States uses more than 7 billion gallons of water per day to irrigate lawns. The average American household uses about 400 gallons of water per day. Of those 400 gallons, about 30% is for outdoor use like irrigation systems.

Now imagine eliminating the irrigation system.

That’s an estimated saving of 120 gallons of water saved per day and 43,800 gallons saved per year. Not to mention, thousands of dollars saved in utility bills and irrigation maintenance.

Because synthetic turf contributes to water conservation, residences and businesses may be eligible for tax credits or incentives if they qualify for LEED credits.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This credit system was designed and implemented by the U.S. Green Building Council to award homes and businesses for building more sustainable structures.

There are five different categories for LEED credits. Synthetic turf would fall under Water Saving and Conservation. You can more about the LEED accreditation process here.

Gas Emissions

In addition to water conservation, synthetic turf also eliminates the need for mowing. The EPA estimates that one hour of gas powered push mowing is equivalent to the nitrogen and organic compounds emitted by eleven cars, each driven for one hour.

Chemical Pollutants

In order to properly maintain natural grass, you need a basic fertility program that requires applying fertilizer and ornamental products for weed control. According to estimates, 2.4 million metric tons of fertilizer are applied annually for lawn maintenance.

Fertilizer, herbicides and other ornamental chemicals should always be applied according to application guidelines. However, following directions doesn’t prevent runoff from washing excess nutrients into the stormwater system. Although there are products that trap and filter these nutrients on construction sites and roadways, it’s likely that with every rain event, landscaping chemicals make their way into the stormwater system.

When you install a synthetic turf, there’s no need for weed control and thus no need for herbicides, fertilizers and other landscaping chemicals.

Create a More Unique Landscape

We agree, a well-kept natural lawn is a beautiful sight. But synthetic turf opens up a world of options for residences and businesses to create more interesting landscapes that look just like the real thing.

Synthetic Turf for cornholl

Recreation areas for homes and businesses

Are you a golfer?  Set up a little short-game area to practice putting in the comfort of your own backyard.

Are you a game loving family? Some of our customers have installed synthetic turf for corn hole and bocce ball.

Outdoor bars and restaurants are also installing synthetic turf to create an inviting atmosphere that’s more interesting than the concrete alternative.

Synthetic turf has excellent wear resistance so it can withstand the traffic and stress of games and crowds.

Endless design options

Like we mentioned before, synthetic turf has come a long way. Now you can pick from dozens of variations of turf that each has its own pile height, color, thatch and fiber.

Turf Varieties:

  • Bermuda similar in texture and appearance to the coastal turf variety
  • Rye thick, full and slightly more olive than the true green of Bermuda
  • Classic a universally popular choice for residences and businesses alike
  • Active for that backyard putting green
  • K9 pet friendly and perfect for dog parks

Learn more about the weight, color and pile height of these turfs on the product page.

Once you choose your turf, you’ll need to select an infill to mix with the sand fill.

Infill Options

GeoFill is the more standard option for synthetic turf fill. This soil-like option is filled with coconut fibers and is resistant to mildew and mold.

If you’re worried about your synthetic turf getting too hot, you should consider choosing HydroChill®. This patented infill is tested and proven to lower surface temperatures by 30-50°F.  HydroChill® has a precoat that is activated by moisture. When the fill is activated it releases moisture through evaporative cooling. Think of it like your body sweating to cool you off when you’re hot. For maximum results, Shawgrass recommends to re-treat your turf with HydroChill® every two years.

Synthetic Turf Cost Analysis

One of the biggest barrier to entry for customer considering synthetic is the initial cost. If cost is a deciding factor for you, consider the following table provided by our manufacturer:

Synthetic vs. Artificial Turf Cost Analysis
Click for PDF. Courtesy of Shawgrass

The installation of synthetic turf is more expensive than natural grass by several thousand dollars. However, natural grass requires consistent maintenance which equates to consistent spending.

Synthetic turf, on the other hand, simply requires a semi-annual grooming. You can do this grooming on your own after purchasing a power brush.

But let’s say you hire a professional to do that grooming for you.

We’ll estimate that costs $100 per year.

Pet owners, like we mentioned before, have a little more maintenance.

We’ll estimate that regular spray down to half the cost of irrigation. That’s $15 per month and $180 per year.

Assuming you’re a pet owner that wants to hire a professional landscaper for grooming, the annual cost to maintain your synthetic turf is $450.

That’s still $1,356 less than the annual cost of maintaining natural grass!

The math speaks for itself.

Synthetic Turf Installation Process

In order to make sure your turf drains properly and looks perfect, we recommend you hire a professional landscaper that is familiar with the installation process.

Here’s the basic steps of what you can expect with your turf installation.

Step One Synthetic Turf Installation

Step 1

Once the area is graded, install a geotextile fabric. Generally speaking, woven fabrics will be used to stabilize soft soils like sand. Choose a nonwoven fabric for projects than need to improve drainage and separation.

Step 2 Synthetic Turf Installation

Step 2

Cover the geotextile fabric with 2-6 inches of #8 stone or a similar aggregate.  The installation pictured here used a #8 stone. Avoid using pea gravel because the round stones will cause the turf to slip and shift.

Step 3 Synthetic Turf Installation

Step 3

Grade the area again to make sure the turf will be installed on an even surface. Compact with a vibratory plate compactor.

Step 4 Synthetic Turf Installation

Step 4

Unroll the turf and trim excess material with a utility knife. Anchor the turf into the sub-base with sod staples.  If anchoring into concrete, you’ll need to use screws.

Step 4 Synthetic Turf Installation

Step 5

Add infill to weigh down the turf, prevent matting, and improve drainage. You can spread the synthetic turf infill with a broadcast spreader.

Step 6

Use a power broom to evenly spread infill and make the turf stand up straight. Turf has a tendency to lean so use a power broom or rake to brush the turf in the opposite direction to restore the plushy green appearance.

Ready to make the switch to synthetic turf?

We’ve covered just about everything you need to know if you’re considering a synthetic turf lawn.

If you are interested in incorporating synthetic turf into your landscape, stop by our Virginia Beach office to take a look at samples and talk project details with a salesman.

If you’re not in the area, you can send us your project details. One of our helpful salesmen will contact you to discuss your project needs, send you turf samples and provide a quote for material.

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