Artificial Turf Lawns: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Artificial Turf Lawns: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Although my focus is, and has always been golf applications for synthetic turf, I have a long history of installing artificial grass as a replacement for natural grass, without a golf element at all.  Admittedly, this was difficult for me to get on board with.  What I have come to realize over the last 24 years of being in the industry is that there are many uses for artificial grasses where the benefits seem to outweigh the cost but, there are drawbacks to the product which I hope to outline for you in this blog.

Pros of Artificial Turf Lawns:

1.     Low Maintenance: One of the significant advantages of artificial turf lawns is their minimal maintenance requirements. Unlike natural grass, artificial turf does not require mowing, watering, or fertilizing. This can save you a significant amount of time, effort, and money on lawn care. Additionally, artificial turf remains green and lush throughout the year, regardless of the weather conditions.

2.     Water Conservation: In regions facing water scarcity or areas where water usage is restricted, artificial turf lawns can be a viable solution. Since they do not require regular watering, they contribute to water conservation efforts and reduce your overall water consumption. This eco-friendly aspect makes them an attractive choice for environmentally conscious individuals.

3.     Durability: Artificial turf lawns are designed to withstand heavy foot traffic and adverse weather conditions. They are typically made from durable materials that can withstand constant use, making them an excellent choice for areas where natural grass may struggle to thrive. Additionally, artificial turf is resistant to pests, such as insects and weeds, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides.

4.     Aesthetics: Artificial turf lawns can provide a consistently vibrant and well-manicured appearance throughout the year. Unlike natural grass, which can turn brown or develop patches during periods of drought or harsh weather, artificial turf maintains its lush green color, providing a visually appealing landscape all year round.

5.     No Chemicals: Without the need for herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers, there is a level of stormwater run-off that would be spared from chemical contamination.

The lawn is not the focal point in this landscape - it has simply allowed this homeowner to enjoy their garden as opposed to fighting watering restrictions, chaffer beetles, and other challenges.

Cons of Artificial Turf Lawns:

  1. High Initial Cost: One of the primary disadvantages of artificial turf lawns is the initial cost. The installation expenses, including materials and labor, can be significantly higher compared to natural grass lawns. While it may save you money in the long run due to reduced maintenance requirements, the upfront investment can be a barrier for some homeowners.
  2. Heat Retention: Artificial turf tends to retain heat, especially in areas with intense sunlight and high temperatures. This can make the surface hot to touch, making it uncomfortable for pets or children to play on during the summer months. However, advancements in technology have led to the development of newer artificial turf products with improved heat reduction features. Regardless, I have found that temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius requires the need for shoes or a sprinkler to give the lawn a cool down.  Below 25 degrees tends to be easy on the feet.
  3. Limited Environmental Benefits: While artificial turf lawns offer water conservation benefits, they may lack the environmental advantages provided by natural grass. Natural grass helps in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, contributing to air purification. Moreover, it helps in maintaining a healthy soil ecosystem and supports biodiversity, which artificial turf lawns cannot replicate. There is also the environmental costs of manufacturing itself, transportation and limited recyclability options at the end of the products life.
  4. Potential for Odor (Pets): If not properly maintained and cleaned pet waste can accumulate on the surface, leading to odor issues. Regular cleaning and disinfection are necessary to mitigate these concerns and maintain a hygienic environment.

Artificial turf lawns present a range of advantages, including low maintenance, water conservation, durability, and year-round aesthetics. However, the decision to opt for artificial turf should consider the high initial cost, heat retention, limited environmental benefits, and the need for proper maintenance. Ultimately, the choice between artificial turf and natural grass depends on your priorities, lifestyle, and specific requirements for your outdoor space.  I have personally found that the best uses are in small, shaded areas that do not get a lot of sun as well as spaces with poor drainage and yards belonging to pet owners.  These spaces all have the highest value for a natural grass replacement.

I have established my own principles to help keep the yard “breathing” where applications of artificial grass are concerned.  If we try and create a space where 50% of the surface area of the landscaping is still natural (i.e. gardens, trees, plants, etc..) then we accomplish two goals; 1. Make the yard look as lovely and natural as possible, and 2. Continue allowing your yard to breathe through photosynthesis.  This will allow the homeowner to play in their gardens while taking a major component of yard maintenance out of the equation.

I would never try and trick the public into thinking these products are “all good” and it is foolish to think blanketing rooftops or other large spaces is part of a “green movement” but, in my opinion, there is functional, practical uses for the material that can allow homeowners and businesses to focus on the parts of nature that they are happier to interact with.

I hope this helps shed some light on the pros and cons of artificial turf.

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