Artificial or synthetic grass, made from high-quality plastic, has been a mainstay feature of indoor sporting arenas and stadiums for more than 50 years. Colourful and long-lasting, it has made a not-so-subtle transition from large-scale commercial applications to ones the average consumer would more easily recognize. Today, you will find fake grass installed in your neighbor’s backyard, the miniature golf course or putting green down the street, an indoor garden, and many other locations. Thanks to its durability and ease of maintenance, synthetic lawns are growing in popularity.
How Artificial Grass is Made
Did you know that artificial grass was first conceptualized in the 1950s? Or that it was first manufactured in the early 1960s by Monsanto? The revolutionary plastic “carpet” was named AstroTurf after the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, home of the Major League baseball team The Houston Astros. Synthetic grass, now blissfully manufactured by companies around the world, has come a long way since its infancy. But how is it made?
Depending upon the material chosen – Nylon, Polyethylene, or Polypropylene – the product is made by following slightly different methods. Each manufacturer likely has its own patented process, but artificial grass is made by following these steps:
- Artificial grass components are placed in a hopper and mixed; colors and chemicals are then added, giving the turf its signature color and making it immune to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
- The mixture is transferred to a large steel mixer to be churned even more until it has thickened to a pre-determined consistency.
- The green goo is then emptied into an extruder, where it is drawn out into long, slender strands that mimic the appearance of natural grass. Unlike natural grass, however, these plastic blades are fairly uniform in length.
- The strands are then rotated into a loose rope by a carding machine; afterward, the lax strand is tightened and woven into a yarn-like material.
- The “yarn” is then heated.
- The artificial grass yarn is then fed into a tufting machine, where the underside is pierced by hundreds of needles. The machine also feeds the grass into a loop and automatically makes hundreds of needles and rows of stitches into the product.
- The next step is to roll the artificial grass out and coat its underside with latex.
- Industrial ovens are used to cure the latex, giving it a recognizable sheen and texture.
In the last step, the synthetic grass is readied for shipment. The product is rolled into pre-determined sizes and packaged for wholesale and retail clients.
Why Choose Artificial Grass
Choosing artificial grass over natural turf is often based on circumstance and personal choice. You may live in a community with severe water restrictions, so installing natural grass that requires regular watering is not an option. Natural grass and all of its maintenance requirements are not a good fit if you travel regularly or are away from home and cannot care for it as needed.
Finally, you may simply decide you do not want to cut natural grass or maintain it as a personal choice. But there are other reasons to choose fake turf over its natural cousin: Artificial grass has lower maintenance needs; It is safe for the environments, pets, and children; Synthetic grass, with minimal care, can last for 10 to 15 years before needing to be replaced; Once installed, artificial grass can be used immediately as there is no need to wait for it to grow; Fake turf can be used for many applications besides your yard, and installed wherever natural grass could grow – children’s play areas, dog pens; patios; and decks; Artificial grass also can be cut to fit specific shapes and designs; Synthetic grass is less susceptible to weeds; Fake grass does not attract insects or small animals; Synthetic lawn is durable and will maintain its colour and appearance over time, even when subjected to regular use and high traffic events; Over the course of about six or seven years, a fake lawn costs about the same to install and maintain as natural grass.
Where to Put Artificial Grass
Artificial grass has become so ubiquitous it is almost easy to forget it is there. The next time you’re driving, watch for the nearest miniature golf course or putting green. Yep, you guessed it – artificial turf. How about the outdoor tennis court at that high-end fitness club you used to belong to? Fake grass, once again.
The beauty of synthetic grass is that it can be laid wherever real grass would normally grow. It also can be installed in places where normal grass would not. Fake grass has been installed in residential, commercial, and industrial environments for more than 50 years, as well as many locations you would never think of. Other common places ideal for fake turf?
- Airports, where solar-powered or fiber optic lights are installed in the fake grass.
- Ground-based transportation hubs (subways, buses, trains, taxis, fleet vehicles).
- Dog parks.
- Adult and child playfields.
- Major indoor sports arenas, especially American style baseball and football, and international football (soccer) and other sports.
- Large outdoor areas for concerts, weddings, corporate events.
- Residential settings, such as yards and patios.
- Areas with high heat and low rainfall, or where there are restrictions on watering lawns.
Because of its utility and durability, synthetic grass has also been known to crop up in out of the way settings, giving consumers a chance to showcase their creativity:
- An indoor garden.
- A mobile garden built onto a flatbed trailer.
- Furniture, including couches and chairs.
- Purses, handbags, and luggage.
- Table and floor runners.
How Artificial Grass is Installed
If natural grass refuses to grow on your property, or you do not have time to maintain it, then artificial grass may be the optimal solution for your needs. Assuming you want to install synthetic grass, follow these steps:
- Measure the area where the grass is to be installed, in square feet, then purchase the amount of artificial grass needed to fill the area.
- Collect your tools and materials: Turf cutter or a spade; weed-barrier; wheelbarrow; crushed stones, silica sand, or grit; utility knife with plenty of spare blades; flat board or piece of wood; level; shock-absorbent underlayment; optional adhesive; hammer; nails; lawn spreader for the sand; broom with a wide head and stiff bristles; bucket of warm, soapy water.
- Take out existing lawn, down to a depth of about two and one-half inches; fake grass will need to sit about a half-inch above edging or landscape stones.
- Cut pieces of weed-barrier to the right shape to fit the area for the artificial grass; you may need multiple pieces of moisture or weed barrier. Lay the weed barrier when ready.
- Cover the weed barrier with a layer of aggregate, like grit or crushed stone.
- Level the aggregate by placing a layer of sand on top to a depth of three-quarters of an inch. To ensure the surface is even, lay a piece of wood or flat board on the sand, then use a level to fix uneven spots.
- Add a layer of shock-absorbent material for cushioning.
- If you are covering a large area with fake turf that requires multiple pieces, you will need to apply adhesive underneath, along with the seams, to keep it in place.
- If the fake lawn includes a strip of the grass-free border, remove it as necessary.
- Align the artificial grass along a straight edge or corner; push it into the corner tightly so it will not move later.
- Use a utility knife to cut the fake turf to whatever shape is needed, such as along a walking path or flower bed.
- Drive nails into each corner of the artificial grass, then every additional 12 to 16 inches.
- Use the lawn spreader to apply a layer of silica sand to the fake grass. This will further stabilize the grass and keep it from moving.
Finally, brush the sand into the grass.
What Goes Under Artificial Grass
Artificial grass can be installed anywhere that natural grass would grow, as well as in areas where it would not – think concrete, wood, or other hard surfaces. In all cases, however, professional installers recommend that a sub-base be laid down. Why?
If you are installing synthetic turf over dirt or another natural surface area, the soil is expansive. When dirt becomes wet or muddy, it will move, creating uneven pockets that will rarely re-fill themselves. The dirt will then compact when it dries, which is another problem to be addressed. Artificial turf that is installed directly onto a hard surface could shift easily when in use, it is not comfortable to walk or sit on and will wear more easily. In both cases, you will first need to install a sub-base. A sub-base will make the artificial lawn more stable and durable.
The recommended approach is to first install a weed barrier in the area where fake turf will be laid. Then, apply a thin layer of aggregate – a combination of crushed stone and sand – to fill in any uneven portions visible through the weed barrier. The next step is to add a layer of sand, up to three-quarters of an inch thick, then make sure it is even by using a flat piece of wood and a level. More sand can be added if needed.
Once you are confident the sub-base is in place, add a shock-absorbing material on top. You are now ready to install the artificial grass.
Why Lay Artificial Grass on Sand
The artificial or synthetic grass is incredibly durable and versatile. While it can be cut and shaped infinite ways – making it ideal for complex or decorative landscaping – it also can be installed anywhere that natural grass can grow. Like natural grass needing a mix of healthy dirt and topsoil to grow, fake turn also needs a base before it can be laid down. In this case, and is a great choice. Because of its fine granularity, and can be used to level ground before the artificial grass is installed – and will easily fill in small cracks and crevices in the dirt or cover small rocks or tree roots which may interfere with how fake turf lays and appears.
Many experienced installers have their formula for determining how much sand should be laid, but a base that is about one and a half inches thick should do the trick. Apply the sand where needed and use a rake to distribute it evenly. If possible, use a tamp – a flat, square piece of metal attached to a long handle – to compact the sand. If you want to make sure it is even, place a flat board and then a level on top of that. This will tell you what areas need more sand. Apply more as needed. Besides serving as a base for the artificial sod, a layer of sand also gives rainwater or other liquids a chance to drain through the fake turf and disperse naturally. Sand also acts as a weed barrier.
What Adhesive Can You Use with Artificial Grass
There are many kinds of adhesive to use when installing artificial grass, but the choice depends on where the fake turf is going to be installed and what the turf manufacturer recommends. Some glue is better suited to bond with solid hard surfaces like wood or concrete, while others can be applied to loose rocks or dirt. Here are some things to look for before purchasing an adhesive for fake turf.
- Look for a good all-purpose adhesive which will bond to just about any sub-base you can imagine, like concrete, decomposed granite, wood, foam pads, rubber tiles or other shock-absorber, road base, and other sub-base materials.
- You want an adhesive designed for seaming together sections of artificial grass. In many scenarios, you will need to install more than one piece of fake grass, which means the seams will have to be glued together.
- Look for a product that can be used indoors or outdoors. Many consumers now install synthetic grass to accompany indoor play areas or inground pools.
- Choose an adhesive that is eco-friendly, non-flammable, solvent-free, non-toxic, and made from a non-hazardous formula. You should use glue that is children and pet-friendly.
Finally, select a product that holds up in extreme weather conditions and cleans up easily. Deciding which adhesive is “best” is a subjective decision, but popular name brands include Titebond, Bostik, Roberts, EasyTurf, Wildwood, Turf Claw, Loctite, Kraus, and many others. When in doubt, speak to an installation professional for a recommendation.
What is Artificial Grass Infill?
Today’s artificial grass has come a long way the last 50 years. Vibrant, durable, and having the appearance of natural grass – and in some cases, its texture – synthetic turf is manufactured, so the individual blades stand up on their own. The fake grass has a backing which makes the blades stronger, but they will still crumble when you walk on it, or when a soccer ball is rolled on it, or when your dog decides to roll over it. As a result, you will need an “infill” product to be installed on top of the fake grass to make it stronger and help the blades maintain their rigidity. The two main types of infill are silica sand or a rubber-sand mixture.
- Silica sand. Inexpensive and found at many home improvement centers, it is a good choice for areas where artificial grass has been installed, and experiences moderate traffic or usage, like balconies, hills, commercial or open, non-use fields, or even decks. Many landscape professionals recommend one or two pounds of silica per square foot or fake turf. One drawback to consider: Silica sand is known to retain pet odors, especially urine.
- Rubber or a rubber sand mixture is an even better choice. It is more expensive than sand but requires less per square foot of artificial grass – a 50-pound bag will be enough for 100 to 200 square feet. This type of infill is good in higher traffic zones: Playgrounds, lawns, athletic fields, and commercial applications.
In either case, the infill product you choose can be spread evenly on the fake turf with a plastic rake or soft-bristle broom.
How to Clean Artificial Grass
Artificial grass may not need water, fertilizer, or other care to grow, but it does need to be cleaned from time to time.
- The clean synthetic turf at regular intervals. Depending on where the fake turf is installed, it will accumulate its share of leaves, dirt, small branches, and other debris. For smaller items, use a leaf blower to blow the items into one corner of your property for easy collection. You also may spray the artificial grass with a regular garden hose – do not pressure-wash fake grass. A broom or plastic rake also can be used regularly to keep the plastic blades standing upright, giving it a more natural look. Brush or rake in the same direction; always against the natural grain.
- If your fake turf has been victimized by stains or spills, they can be removed by blotting the area with a paper towel, using water and mild soap or detergent, or a knife or other sharp object to scrape off sticky substances. Tougher stains or spills can be removed with mineral spirits, but you will need to spray the area with water afterward.
How to Maintain Artificial Grass
Artificial grass will accumulate bacteria or mold over time, so it is a good idea to have a regular maintenance schedule to keep its appearance fresh. Fill a large spray bottle with a half-water, half-vinegar solution, then spray the area that needs to be cleaned. If you wish to clean the entire area, use a spray bottle attached to a garden hose. Each week, use a garden hose to spray the fake grass then brush off excess water; this also will remove small debris. If snow and ice build-up on your fake lawn during the winter, do not walk on it and resist the urge to remove it using salt or a snow shovel – which will damage it. Instead, wait for warmer weather for the ice or snow to melt naturally. Alternatively, a leaf blower could be used in the winter to blow the snow away, not to mention any small debris that has built up on the surface.
When to Lay Artificial Grass
If you have decided that your project – an outdoor deck, play area, or a backyard in dire need of something new – requires artificial grass, the best time to lay it is when the weather will allow. Laying artificial grass during fall or winter is not advisable, as the plastic could freeze or crack in extreme conditions. Nor can it be installed during heavy rain or wind. Beyond that, there are some things to consider:
- Convenience. Like so many other things in your life, home improvement projects – including landscaping – are often done when it is most convenient. This could mean a certain time of the year when you have more time, or when you simply feel like installing artificial grass.
- Timing the installation to avoid naturally occurring events, such as later in the year when leaves begin to fall, or a rainy “season” depending on where you live. If you have had problems with natural grass not growing and anticipate that happening again – then that is another good time to install a synthetic alternative.
- Money is perhaps the most important factor. Artificial grass costs about as much to install and care for a natural turf when you amortize it over six or seven years, but you still need the funds. You will have to buy the fake turf, as well as supplies and tools like sand, rakes, adhesive, and others necessary to do the job correctly. Is there a time of the year when you expect to have extra money on tap?
What Artificial Grass is Best
Artificial grass was developed in the early 1960s and came on the market in 1964, with its first application being a youth playground. Soon after, it gained enormous popularity when it was installed in a monstrous, indoor baseball stadium in Houston; Texas called the Astrodome. Within a few short years, fake turf was being installed on football and soccer fields worldwide.
Deciding on which artificial grass is the “best” really depends on personal choice. Some other factors to consider are price, pile height, color, size of the piece, drainage capability, and more. Any number of brands are available at retail centers as well as online stores, and each one will make a “pitch” to appeal to your taste and budget. No matter, all synthetic sod is made of plastic but here are three types:
- Nylon, a tough yet lightweight synthetic polymer. It has the stiffest pile of the different kinds of fake turf and is famous for its ability to withstand being stretched or exposed to environmental extremes. The drawbacks? It has a coarse texture and may not have the same appearance as natural grass and is expensive.
- Thanks to its life-like appearance, Polyethylene is a favorite choice for installing artificial grass in an area where natural grass once grew. Its blades are softer, look more natural, and are a deeper green. It also holds up well to the weather and regular use.
- Polypropylene is the least durable and expensive of three types of artificial grass. It has a fine texture but is not made for high traffic areas or constant use. Though it may be an attractive option if you are on a budget, also keep in mind it may need to be replaced faster or more often than synthetic turf made from nylon or polyethylene.
Some of the top brands in the United Kingdom are:
- Tuda Luxury 30mm
- Berlin 26mm
- Namgrass Elise 27mm
- Banbury Heavy Density 30mm
- Now Garden 30mm
- Parkgate 37mm Artificial
- Namgrass Eclipse 25mm
- Buzz Grass Mat
- Prestige Artificial Grass
- Casa Pura Artificial Grass
In the United States, consumers flock to a variety of top brands, including:
- Pet Zen Premium Turf
- custom rug Outdoor Turf
- Global Syn-Turf
Which Artificial Grass is Best for Dogs
One of the reasons many consumers choose artificial grass is because it is durable and maintains its deep color and lush texture for many years, with only minimal maintenance. Contrast that with natural turf, which must be cut, watered, and cared for with fertilizer; you may even need to maintain the soil on which it grows by adding special nutrients for root health. Though synthetic grass is durable, it has a natural enemy in dogs who treat it as they would real grass – as a place to play, poop, and pee. If you own a dog, artificial turf is a go-to choice for many reasons.
- Synthetic turf deters digging. Dogs are smart and know the best spots to dig in your yard. As a result, your rich, deep green lawn may be rife with bald spots, holes, and little mounds of dirt to cover what they may have buried. And, of course, dirt will end up in your house. But with an artificial lawn, little Fido will soon learn he cannot dig into it the way he could with your other grass.
- Natural grass is under constant attack by dog poop, which causes damage in the form of brown or yellowed grass that will eventually die and turn to weeds. With artificial grass, that threat is greatly reduced. Poop can easily be cleaned up, and plastic grass cleaned with soap and water.
- Dog urine is the big offender. Because it is nitrogen-rich, it can destroy grass by seeping into the roots and creating dead spots. And it smells, too. While dog urine will seep through the weed barrier, it will pass harmlessly into the sand and soil beneath without killing anything along the way.
- Any time dog feces are left behind; it invariably attracts all sorts of nasty critters like flies and parasitic organisms. A fake lawn is ecologically friendly and is known to repel fleas, ticks, and ants, but also snakes. If you clean up after your pet dog, you should not have to worry about flies or other invaders from nature.Assuming you have a dog or are soon to be a dog owner, then you want to look for an artificial lawn best suited for your four-legged friend. Dog-friendly fake turf is manufactured with features which make it appealing to your situation.
- It is made from polyethylene or polypropylene material and comes with a porous backing ideal for drainage.
- It should include anti-microbial properties to defend against odors and toxins.
The dog-specific artificial grass is infill-free and airs well. Turf that includes infill retains moisture, which fosters the growth of toxins and odors.
Which brand is best for dog owners? There are many to look out for, including SynLawn, Pet Zen Garden, Golden Moon Pet Grass, Perfect Turf PetGrass, Pup-Grass, and many others. Your local veterinarian may have suggestions for specific dog breeds.
Finally, stay away from artificial grass marketed toward dog owners if the product includes infill, or foundation filling – the turf’s built-in drain system – that is made from decomposed granite, pea gravel, rubber, or mulch.
Where to Buy Artificial Grass
Synthetic grass, with all its varieties and applications, can be bought at literally hundreds of retailers in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere. In some cases, consumers have the option of purchasing direct from large-scale manufacturers, small “mom and pop” sod farms also selling fake turf, and major brick and mortar and online retailers such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menards, Homebase, LazyLawn, Amazon, Wickes, and many others. Local lawn care and landscaping companies also may sell artificial turf products or could make a recommendation based on their own experiences and customer preferences.
If you are committed to buying artificial grass, research the options and become knowledgeable about what is available the cost, and other factors that could influence your purchase decision.
Artificial Grass Installation on a Deck
With homeowners staying in their residences longer and seeking to get the most value from what they have, many choose outdoor improvement projects to expand usable green space for eating, relaxing evenings, or gatherings with family and friends. One of the most popular outdoor improvements is adding or refurbishing a wooden deck.
If you have a wooden deck and have grown weary of the faded color of the planks or are sick of stripping and refinishing it every few years, topping it with lush, durable, artificial lawn is a great option. Synthetic turf can be laid on a wood deck – here is what you need, and the steps to follow to make it happen.
- Supplies and tools: Deck cleaner, garden hose, scrub brush, pump sprayer, artificial turf, utility knife and spare blades, synthetic grass adhesive suitable for the outdoor application, turf seam sealer, notched trowel, measuring tape, work gloves, lawn roller.Like building the deck itself, installing it on wood takes a bit of preparation. In advance of laying the artificial grass, you must do the following:
- Clear off the deck, removing all furniture and other objects.
- Use a garden hose to wet the deck.
- Follow a 1-to-1 ratio and mix water and deck cleaner in a pump sprayer. Once the sprayer has been pressurized, spray the deck liberally and allow the cleaner to seep into the wood.
- Use a scrub brush to clean the deck, and spray extra cleaner as necessary. Tip: Do not use a brush with steel bristles, as this will damage the wood surface.
Rinse the deck, making sure all the cleaner has been removed. Repeat as necessary but wait 48 hours before installing the artificial turf. Warning: the deck must be dry beforehand, so the weather conditions must be optimal.
With the deck dry and clear skies above, it is time for the installation of your new artificial grass. Here is what you must do:
- Artificial turf needs time to “cure” before being installed, so be sure to unroll it and let is lay on a flat surface for at least an hour.
- Using a tape measure, record the dimensions of the deck where the turf will be installed, but an extra 2 inches to all sides. Then, use a utility knife with a good, sharp blade to cut the fake grass to match these dimensions.
- Before laying the turf, you must first apply a synthetic grass-friendly glue onto the deck beginning at the back end of the area to be covered. A notched trowel is suggested and should be used at a 45-degree angle while applying the adhesive.
- As you lay the first piece of synthetic lawn, make sure it overhangs the deck edge the full 2 inches. Press the turf into the glue.
- Follow step 3 if you need to add more adhesive for additional sections of turf, and be sure the seams between each section butt into one another. At this point, it is recommended using a special sealer for the seam between the sections.
- Once you have laid all the turf needed, you can begin cutting off the extra 2 inches along the edging.
- The fake grass needs to set for 24 hours before the deck can be used, but use a heavy roller to ensure the turf backing is compressed into the adhesive.
Can Artificial Grass Be Repaired
A common question that prospective buyers ask when considering artificial grass is, “Can it be repaired?” Synthetic turf is very durable and long-lasting, but that does not mean it is indestructible. It is conceivable that spots can wear out from excessive use, from a sharp object piercing it through to the backing, from a heavy object sitting in one spot for a long time, from an animal digging orbiting it, or any other number of scenarios.
If your backyard has a significant amount of fake turf that is damaged, it is probably a good idea to call in a professional to examine the affected area and help you make an informed decision. There is nothing wrong with getting help for a large job. In this case, a full-scale replacement may be in order.
If you have a small section that is damaged, the best choice is to cut out the bad part and replace it with a new section. To do so, follow these steps:
- First, put on heavy work gloves.
- Using a utility knife with a sharp blade, gently begin cutting out the damaged area all the way through to the weed barrier beneath. Cut out a larger section than what has been damaged, as this will give you room to work.
- Cut a new piece to fit the section of artificial grass that was removed.
- Apply adhesive to the back of the new piece of artificial turf and press it firmly into the opening where the bad section was removed from.
- Let it cure.
When repairing artificial turf, the biggest stumbling block is finding a matching piece. Getting the shade of green to will be challenging. If you cannot locate an exact match, find the next closest color that you feel comfortable with.
What are some types of damage to avoid? Cigarette burns, hot coals from a charcoal barbecue, punctures from sharp tools, and sunlight filtered through glass directly onto the surface of the artificial grass – though that applies to fake turf that has been installed inside, near a window.
The thought of replacing natural lawn with artificial grass may have never crossed your mind before, but depending on your situation it is an option that cannot be easily dismissed. Beautiful and life-like in appearance, fake turf is durable and will last for years with minimal maintenance. If you are tired of constantly mowing your lawn or otherwise keeping it healthy, then a synthetic lawn is one of your best options. If you have questions, contact your local retailer or lawn care professional for answers.