Having real grass is a major commitment that involves time, money, water, and often chemical treatments. An alternative to grass is artificial turf, which is still a costly financial investment, but without the long-term time commitment. Artificial grass does require some maintenance, but not regular mowing and seasonal chemical treatments.
Over the years, manufacturers have made artificial grass look and feel like the real thing, making it a popular choice with homeowners around the country. But is it right for your home? Here's what you should know.
What Is Artificial Turf?
Artificial or synthetic turf is a manufactured product that looks like real grass. It's made of faux blades of grass set on a backing material that keeps the blades together. The product is usually made of nylon or polypropylene. Artificial grass and turf are the same things, but the type used in athletic stadiums usually has a shorter blade than what homeowners put in their front and back yards.
Pros and Cons of Installing Turf at Home
Installing artificial turf comes with many pros and cons. Before adding turf to your yard, consider the cost of installing turf and how it will change your lifestyle over the next five to 20 years.
Pros of Artificial Turf: No More Mowing
A major benefit of installing turf is that your mowing days are over. Many homeowners spend their precious weekends pushing lawnmowers up and down their yards when they could be doing something they enjoy. Those who don't have the time to mow pay landscaping experts to take care of their yards. When you install turf, you won't have to mow or shell out money for landscapers.
Pros of Artificial Turf: Ready for Playing
If you live in an area of the country with four seasons, the odds are good your grass yard is useless in the winter and spring. Yards get muddy in rainy seasons, and grass is covered by snow in the winter. However, if you have turf, your children and pets can play on it all year. Shovel off the snow, and the turf is ready to go. You can use a big broom to push water off of the turf after it rains. In fact, if your turf is installed correctly, you'll never have standing water on it.
Pros of Artificial Turf: Envy of the Neighborhood
A turf yard will be green and perfectly cut all year, making your yard the envy of your neighborhood. Your neighbors will also envy the fact that you never have to water, mow, fertilize, or aerate your yard.
Cons of Artificial Turf: The Cost
The price of installing artificial turf can be a major deterrent for many homeowners. The product averages about $12 per square foot. Then, you'll have to pay to have your yard prepped and drainage added so you don't have to worry about standing water. The price is relative, though, as you get to spend your free time doing something other than caring for your yard.
Cons of Artificial Turf: Some Maintenance
While you'll never need to mow or apply fertilizer, you will have some maintenance. You'll need to sweep debris off your turf, and you might need service to replace pieces that melt or seams that become exposed. After a decade, some of your grass might fade, so you'll need to replace sections that no longer blend with the rest.
Questions to Ask Before You Install Turf
Before you take the plunge and drop thousands of dollars on a low-maintenance turf yard, ask yourself and the installers a few questions:
- What is the warranty on the turf?
- What base and infill do you recommend?
- What is the best product for families with children and/or pets?
- What services do you provide after installation?
How to Install Turf at Home
Once you decide that artificial grass is right for your yard, you'll need to choose whether to hire a company to install it or do it yourself. You can save money installing it yourself, but the process is complicated and requires attention to detail.
Before you do any work, wander your yard to determine how it drains and what your soil needs to support a layer of artificial grass. The next step is to excavate your soil about three inches deep so you can remove obstacles and take care of drainage issues. You'll need to build a base about three or four inches deep, and many people use a compactor to harden the base soil. Your local garden center can recommend the best base material, and you'll need about an inch between the top of the base and the bottom of your artificial grass.
Then it's time to prepare the grass by measuring, cutting and laying it. Let the grass soften in the sun before you install it. Use a razor for precise cuts, then use seam tape to glue pieces together. After you've laid the artificial sod and glued it together, you'll need to secure the perimeter with a hammer and nails. Then, place the infill, sweep it and enjoy the look of your low-maintenance yard.