The Evolution Of Artificial Turf

Once a sacrilege in the Green Industry, is artificial grass earning its place?

By Rubi Cornejo
From the February 2024 Issue


Landscaping is evolving from what it once was. Emerging technology, climate change, and shifts in consumer preferences are reshaping the Green Industry. One innovation, in particular, has garnered attention, sparked debate, and stricken the heart of turfgrass aficionados: artificial turf.

Characterized by its durability, low maintenance, and evergreen appeal, artificial turf is becoming an increasingly popular choice for home and business owners. However, its adoption by the Green Industry has been challenging. To evaluate artificial turf ’s potential, dissecting and addressing criticisms head-on is essential.

artificial grass, artificial turf
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Pelayo)

Environmental Concerns & Benefits Of Artificial Grass

One of the most vocalized concerns about artificial turf is its potential contribution to the urban heat island effect. Critics argue that artificial turf exacerbates this issue due to its heat-absorbing properties. And while it’s true that older generations of artificial turf could become significantly hotter than natural grass, technological advancements have substantially mitigated this concern.

Several manufacturers now offer heat-reflective turf products. Brands like HydroChill have developed cooling technology to reduce surface temperatures by 50 ̊ or more. HydroChill works by evaporating water stored within the turf, mimicking transpiration in live grass.

Recyclability is another environmental concern. Given its synthetic composition, artificial turf is seen as contributing to landfill waste at the end of its lifespan. This is a valid point; however, the industry is making commendable strides in addressing this as well. Several manufacturers are investing in research and development to produce recyclable turf products. For example, FieldTurf’s EcoSense product is made from a single-type polymer and is 100% recyclable.

On the flip side, artificial turf ’s significant role in water conservation is an often overlooked environmental benefit. With water scarcity becoming an increasingly pressing issue, especially in drought-prone regions like California, artificial turf creates an alternative. The Synthetic Turf Council estimates that using artificial turf resulted in conserving between three to six billion gallons of water in 2010 alone. With the rising trend of artificial turf usage, this figure is likely much higher today.

Having an anti-artificial turf stance could be problematic as water resources become scarcer in some areas. Artificial turf provides a viable solution for allowing green spaces to withstand changing climate conditions and increased use without requiring intensive maintenance and water. Instead of viewing artificial turf as a threat to traditional landscaping, try thinking of it as another tool to complement natural landscapes. With a diverse range of products available, landscapers can combine natural and artificial elements to create sustainable, low-maintenance spaces that meet client needs and today’s environmental challenges.

Why We Decided To Offer This Service

At Advanced Pavers & Landscape, headquartered in Elk Grove, CA, our decision to add artificial turf to our repertoire was made over time. It was a strategic move prompted by market trends, customer demand, and our ambition to innovate. We began to notice a surge in customer inquiries about low-maintenance, all-season lawn solutions. Market research from Grand View Research corroborated this trend, showing steady growth in the artificial turf market, projected to reach $3.8 billion by 2025.

While the cost of artificial turf installation might initially seem steep when selling the service to clients, a deeper analysis reveals a significant return on investment. Given the longevity of artificial turf — between 15 and 20 years, according to Synthetic Grass Warehouse — the upfront cost to clients is offset by long-term savings in watering, mowing, and fertilizing. And while this loss of maintenance revenue may seem a negative to landscaping firms, HomeAdvisor says the average cost for artificial turf installation ranges from $6 to $20 per square foot, depending on the turf type and installation specifics. This is significantly higher than the average cost of installing a sod lawn, which ranges from $0.30 to $0.80 per square foot. Therefore, companies offering this service can anticipate higher project values, while still performing maintenance activities on other aspects of the yard.

Types/Brands Of Artificial Grass

The artificial turf market is broad, diverse, and continuously evolving. It offers various products catering to various uses, from residential lawns and commercial landscapes to sports fields and golf courses. Understanding the critical differences among types and brands is vital in making informed decisions.

A crucial differentiating factor among artificial turf types is the material used in their manufacturing. The three main materials are Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), and Nylon. PE is the most common, known for its soft and natural appearance. While less durable, PP is typically cheaper and often utilized for aesthetic installations like patios and balconies. Nylon is the most durable, making it suitable for high-traffic areas or sports applications.

Now, let’s delve into the diverse brands offering these products:

  • FieldTurf: A pioneer in the industry, FieldTurf is recognized for its high-quality artificial turf products used widely in professional sports. The ‘Classic HD’ is an eco-friendlier choice among its offerings. It’s a slit-film product that uses 60% less material in its design.
  • EasyTurf: EasyTurf, a FieldTurf company, offers residential and commercial solutions. Their products are designed to mirror the natural look and feel of grass, featuring proprietary MaxxFlow technology for 100% permeability. This technology eliminates deodorizers and ensures optimal drainage, a critical requirement for pet installations or regions with heavy rainfall.
  • SYNLawn: Known for its wide range of applications, SYNLawn offers a selection of over 25 different varieties, each designed to meet specific needs. A standout is their SYNRenew product, which combines soy-based polyurethane with sugarcane to create bio-based artificial grass. This turf utilizes renewable resources while maintaining high performance, durability, and a natural appearance.
  • ForeverLawn: ForeverLawn has carved out a unique niche within specialty turf products. They offer DuPont™ ForeverLawn® Select Synthetic Grass that provides a natural appearance and a unique three-layer backing system for superior strength and durability.
  • For pet owners, they offer K9Grass, artificial grass designed specifically for dogs, featuring antimicrobial protection and a knitted flow-through backing for easy cleaning and optimal drainage.
  • EcoGreen: As its name suggests, EcoGreen prioritizes sustainability. Their products are free from lead and other potentially harmful chemicals, and they employ a fully recyclable backing.
  • Turf Factory Direct: Offering affordable options, Turf Factory Direct sources their artificial grass directly from the manufacturer, eliminating the need for a middleman and reducing costs. Their variety includes options suitable for landscaping, pet areas, playgrounds, and sports fields.

Artificial turf’s progression over the years is impressive, with companies investing heavily in R&D to improve aesthetic and functional characteristics. From reducing water consumption
to adopting renewable resources, these brands are trailblazing toward a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future for artificial turf.

Artificial Grass: Equipment & Installation Basics

Transitioning to artificial turf installation requires an investment in specialized equipment. Some essential tools include: turf cutters to remove existing grass, power brooms to fluff the installed turf, and seam rollers to ensure a flat surface. Depending on the size and complexity of your projects, you might also need a drop spreader for infill distribution and a sod cutter for larger installations. These investments can be significant, but as outlined above, the potential for increased profitability makes it a worthwhile consideration.

Here’s a basic guide to artificial turf installation:

  1. Clear and prepare the area. This involves removing existing turf or vegetation and leveling the ground. Consider the final desired level of the lawn taking into account existing features like paths or patios.
  2. Lay a weed-proof membrane. This step is crucial in preventing weed growth.
  3. Spread a layer of sub-base material—typically crushed rock or sand—over the area. This base is compacted and smoothed to provide a solid foundation for the turf.
  4. Roll out the artificial turf, matching the grass fibers’ direction. Cut the turf to fit the area, leaving a slight excess to tuck the edges neatly.
  5. Secure the turf using U-pins or adhesive, ensuring the surface is taut and smooth.
  6. Finally, distribute a layer of infill—usually sand or rubber crumb—over the turf to provide stability and help the fibers stand upright. A power broom is then used to evenly distribute the infill and fluff the fibers for a natural look.

Artificial turf’s place in the future of landscaping is promising. As technology progresses, we anticipate further improvements in artificial turf’s environmental impact, aesthetic appeal, and cost-effectiveness for landscape company owners. Embracing this green revolution could open doors to new business opportunities, client segments, and revenue streams.

artificial grassCornejo is a dedicated Landscape Specialist and writer at Advanced Pavers & Landscape, headquartered in Elk Grove, CA. Cornejo merges her knowledge of landscape design with landscaping techniques. Her writing breaks down complex topics, promoting accessible and eco-friendly practices in the industry. Outside work, she enjoys hiking and tending to her garden.

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